Liveblogging TB Brighton #7: The Surprising Benefits of Exploring Other Disciplines and Industries by Conor Fitzgerald

The Surprising Benefits of Exploring Other Disciplines and Industries

By Conor Fitzgerald @conorfi

Conor starts his presentation with a Magic Trick! He jokes: ‘let’s hope I am better at speaking than I am at magic’

When Conor entered the industry: there was a lot of checking (known unknown) and then automation entered and everything needed to be automated. Exploratory testing focuses on finding unknown unknown bugs.

Conor’s story starts at a place that could be names as the 3Cs. Controlled, Conservative and Checking. Part of his role was writing TPS: Testing Procedure Specification. There was a dress code even for the Friday drinks.

He moved to a different company that could best be defined as 3Es: Energy Empathy and Exploring. Conor could focus on what the biggest risks were. This company was a huge success – they tripled the value of the company in three years

His next company he dubbed the 3As: Automony, Anachy and Automation. This company saw steady growth and is well funded.

Conor’s fourth company was another 3C company: Controlled, Conservative and Checking.

Both of the 3C companies had large project failures.

So, Conor started reflecting and researching how the culture of a company impacts the quality of testing and what he could learn to become a better tester.

He came across the concept of Context Driven Testing and particularly liked the fourth principle: “Projects unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable.”

Conor researched different industries to find what he could learn from them.

The first industry he examined was the aviation industry. The lessons from this industry: checklists can help prevent failures and fresh eyes find failures. Psychological safety is important: do we dare to speak up when we see something go wrong? (Does the copilot speak up or defer because they assume less seniority than the pilot) Conor highlights the Etsy blameless culture principles.

His second industry that he highlights is the health care industry. The concepts of heuristics and oracles are important here. Heuristics are a fallible means of solving a problem. They usually include a lot of tacit knowledge. Oracles are our resources, our sources of truth. Finding out our oracles can help us identify the root cause behind our problem as it forces us to examine deeper.

Conor took a business degree in the night hours and found a lot of useful information from the fields of marketing, economics and more that immediately applied to his day job in IT too. He highlights the principle of unintended consequences and diminishing returns:

Unintended Consequences: “small changes don’t necessarily manifest immediately, but compound effects can be huge”

Diminishing Returns: “will these tests costs more to execute than their answers will be worth?”

Concepts from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Yoga apply to testing too. Mindfullness and reflecting help you be in the moment. At those reflection moments, you can open your mind to the cognitive biases that you are faced with. Be kind to yourself.

Ultimately, culture is essential: people, not methodologies make people successful – stated by Lisa Crispin

Conor names the 5Cs for successful cultures:

Critical Thinking


(and 3 more that I missed… so hopefully someone will add those below!)

Conor encourages us to explore what we bring to the industry and what we have learned in other disciplines.

Thanks so much Marianne, the 5 Cs were.

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Curiosity
  3. Communication
  4. Collaboration
  5. Creativity
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