Live Blog: Doubt builds trust – Elizabeth Zagroba

Okay, let’s do this. I don’t know if I mentioned beforehand, but this is my first live blogging experience. I’m excited!

Elizabeth is up now, after a lovely intro from Vernon. Her talk is called “doubt builds trust”, and she’s promising dogs in her talk. That is relevant to my interests.

She’s starting off by reminding us that we are all people. So we’re fallible, have biases and are forgetful. Oh, we’re also beautiful. Thanks!

To get to doubt – we need to be have doubt specifically because we are human and are fallible. When we’re testing, we need to have doubt so that we can ask questions.

Instead of talking about doubt and trust in products, Elizabeth is going to focus on interviewing. As an interviewer, she needs to find out what candidates bring – and whether she’ll be able to build trust in them to accomplish the work they’ll have – and she needs to do that in a short space of time in an interview.

The definition of trust she is using is this:

Trust: choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to someone else’s actions: Charles Feltman, the thin book of trust

Distrust is then: what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (same source).

These definitions helped her with the interview process – can we trust this candidate?

The problem with this in interviews is that candidates want to make themselves look as good as possible. They want to get the job and probably don’t feel safe saying when they are unsure.

Instead of working with a fear-based game, they wanted to have hope and curiosity with their candidates. So the first thing they changed was to sit on the same side of the table as the candidate – and pair test with them on an application.

Using the application, she would ask the candidate to walk her through their steps / or help her find out whether the application can be released. That caused a conversation to happen.

The next model that Elizabeth is presenting is from Frances Frei: Authenticity, Logic and Empathy.

For authenticity – this means not hiding who you are. That might mean that someone who has done mostly database testing might not think of checking things in the UI. And that’s fine – that can be taught. But it’s important to know.

The second pillar is empathy – for customers and stakeholders. Quality is value for some person (Jerry Weinberg), so she was looking for the candidates to identify problems and who they might affect, or who they might be relevant for. Does the product owner need to know, is it analytics, is it customer support? It’S fine if people don’t know who to go to exactly – that’s doubt!

The third aspect is logic: in communication and quality. Elizabeth would ask questions such as “what does this do?” – the best candidates could express their doubt, articulate observations, choose words intentionally and also show curiosity to find out.

Being able to separate observations from inferences is part of safety language and allows us to separate what we know from what we don’t know (personal note: I love this! I’m having a lot of fun separating facts from beliefs at the moment!). This is important in a candidate, because they need to be able to show their work and talk about it.

The best thing that candidates could ask was “is this what you had in mind” when an area of the website was taking a very long time to load. Expressing this kind of doubt meant that the candidate was being authentic (describing their feelings), was being logical (should we spend more time on this) and being empathetic to the feelings of the interviewer.

Elizabeth finished the talk by saying that doubting and being vulnerable are good things that stop us being fake and make us better testers.

Wow! What a great talk! And yay! I managed to get (I think) most of the stuff down! Elizabeth has a great way of telling stories and makes great points.


What a cool idea to actually pair test an application in the interview.
Thank you, Alex and #Oktobertest organizers, for this live blog.


This the first time I hear about live blogging, and it sounds cool, and you did a very good job here :clap:

Regarding the topic; I like the approach of pair testing and how it can build trust. I’ll make sure to propose it on our next hire.

Thank you :wink: