Multiplying the Odds Masterclass further discussion

I thought it would be useful for attendees of the masterclass to have a place for further discussion after. If you didn’t get a chance to have your question answered or you have more questions after it why not add them here?


I enjoyed the talk, though I think there was some confusion around the direction it would take. I thought it would highlight likely upcoming changes to our jobs and what we should do to prepare/adapt more than “where are we now”. Still valuable and listening to Fiona is always time well spent. Thanks!


Right! That is the question I asked, but since questions didn’t get read until after the presentation, my post had no context. I thought it this discussion would be more forward focused as well.


Hi Gabe. I was a bit constrained for time, so I didn’t talk as much as I expected about one of the trends I see (and which I’ve heard others, like Bill Matthews, talk about) which is increasingly complex software in some domains. Testers are going to need to increase their ability to grasp and deal with complexity, and to think strategically about how to test complex systems. For many, especially those who work on teams where they test only small increments of functionality, this will require new skills.


Hi Carol,

The other forward focus I see – that I maybe didn’t express clearly enough – is for testers to look around them and see what they can do to add value in an organizations. Forget the standard ideas of the tester’s role. Instead ask what job does your organization need you to do, and how do you make the best use of your skills to invent that job?


I appreciated that point (“look around and see what is needed”). This is why I’ve preferred small companies (and Agile-y environments) where roles are by nature fuzzier.

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Thanks Fiona for the great, inspirational talk! For me the talk was exactly what I have expected. I wanted to hear more about testing career paths, skills and possible improvements, and it was in the talk.
Could you please say something more about persuading skills? How to persuade managers about how much software quality is important if the company just wants to sign as much as possible contracts and deliver software as soon as possible? Thanks.

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Well, me too generally, Gabe. Though oddly, when I was managing testing on IBM projects – including as a program test manager on some very big programs – I always did the job exactly as I thought it should be done. That was quite differently from how other IBMers managed testing, but nobody at the IBM Kremlin ever tried to stop me.

A lot of it is in obviously wanting the project/product to succeed and in doing your damndest to make that happen. Not everyone appreciates it when you ignore the boundaries, but there are lots who do.


Hi Fiona, thank you for your presentation. As someone who’s finding their feet when it comes to testing I really appreciate how you broke the subject down. If it’s possible, please could you share the slides? I think they’d be a really useful reference to keep going back to.
(Sorry if they’re already posted somewhere and I’ve missed them…)

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Hi – is it Olga?

That’s a hard one, because it’s our stakeholders who get to decide what’s most important to them, not us. If they decide getting more sales is the most important thing, that’s up to them, no?

I suggest that you might want to pick your battles based on risk. Don’t try to get everything you want from a quality point of view. For each release, what are the 2 or 3 (or so) bugs or design issues that you believe might hurt customers the most? What are the areas where it’s really important to focus good testing? Because those are the things that are most likely to hurt your company’s sales.

Research similar products and be sure to look at issues that your customer support people are dealing with, so you start to know what customers really care about.

You might not succeed at first. But if you think something is critical and then customers begin complaining about it too, you will earn credibility with your management.


Hi Alison,

Glad you enjoyed the presentation. The webinar was recorded, so the slides will be available soon in the Dojo.

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That’s great, thanks again!

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Yes, Olga goes as well! :blush:

Thank you very much for thorough reply and for great advices!

Yes, that’s true, but if you advocate quality and are aware (and detect) of a lot of defects, from which a lot of them are not fixed, hard to stand behind of that kind of software, isn’t it? At least it was for me, maybe I need to develop more flexibility which you have mentioned and to simply understand that we are not quality owners and just to go with the flow.

Hey Fiona,

for arguments sake, lets say I have the soft skills you covered nailed down, I’m excelling as a tester and general technology professional. What’s the next level after your talk? I was expecting more tangible advice in terms of completing action X will offer you a great deal in terms of learning and increase your standing with your employers.

To be blunt I found this evening far too general and almost common sense. You mentioned lot of testers don’t have the skills you covered, which I agree with, however your webinar is outside work hours, I’d argue those making the time are likely to not be those testers you were considering.




Hi Nick,

Great that you’ve nailed it all! (You may be the first.)

Seriously, though – I take your point. The talk is motherhood for some. Yes, it’s common sense. But isn’t that what career development is all about? That, and a very few specifics.

For me, the skills/learnings that will take you to the next level are:

  1. becoming an expert on the business risks in your business domain
  2. dealing with complexity and becoming an expert strategist for testing very complex systems
  3. inventing your job and adding value wherever your skills and knowledge allow

But maybe you’re already there?

Re employers, I really can’t say what will increase your standing with your employers. I don’t know them (or you) or what domain/risk level you’re working with. Some employers will greatly value those 3 skills and for others they will simply not be relevant. Attempting to invent your job will delight some employers and annoy others.

One of the biggest problems I see for testers is that the workplace is still predominantly hierarchical, so that career advancement is still a matter of moving into – or higher in – management. That has always been something of a glass ceiling for testers. Even if an organization still has and appreciates test managers, how many CIO’s do you know whose careers as practitioners were as testers?

Maybe there is no appealing next level for people at your level in testing. Maybe the next level is actually another job, or a consulting role. Or another domain with different/more difficult challenges.

Apologies if this response seems random. I don’t think it’s possible to say, “do x and it will get you y”. There are no certainties. There never were, but that’s even more obvious now than before.


Thanks again for the talk Fiona. Picking up on your comment, ‘…There are no certainties. There never were…’, I think that’s where we’re all in agreement, and perhaps the source of some of the frustrations.

As has been said, the ones invested enough in their profession to attend a talk outside of work-time, that they’ve found out about by generally reading about testing beyond the work environment, these are the ones who most likely already ‘get’ a lot of this stuff. We all feel this uncertainty, and perhaps were hoping for someone to come in and blaze a trail for us, or shine a light and say ‘THAT’S where we need to go; testers, follow me!’. Unfortunately in an uncertain, complex world, not only is that not going to happen, but anyone who does do that is likely a charalatan - the type of person who thinks a tester can be adequately certified on completion of a 40 question multiple choice exam :smile:

What I would like to get your input on though, is James’ question. I can’t remember it word for word, but it was along the lines of how to push back against the management vision of ever increasing automation as a magic bullet, and if there are any technical, but non-coding skills we can look to acquire.

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Interesting discussion! I’m sorry I missed the Masterclass.

Here’s my opinion on how testers can shape a bright and interesting future in the field:

What we need to realise and be able to vocalize is that there’s a whole spectrum of testers.
The dichotomy of manual and automation isn’t helpful at all.
Take the most code minded person you know. Someone that doesn’t even know there’s another medium to interact with the code other than his or her unit checks. (this person doesn’t necessarily exist)
This person is one end of the spectrum. On the other end is a business specialist who has no idea about the inner workings of the software, but knows what it should do and has dreams of what it should become.

The distance in mindset and focus between those two people is huge. But they are both extremely valuable to a team.
Additionally, the distance between those two leaves room for an incredible variety of testers. Testers that know different businesses, testers that can interact with REST services, testers that inspire & coach their co-workers,… and any combination of useful skills.
There’s testers that aren’t necessarily called testers, except that they are.

Development work has many different flavours of workers. Back-end, Front-end, UX, Data, architect,…
There’s opportunities for testers in each of these systems to serve as a counterpart. (Ashby’s law of requisite variety comes to mind)

We need to be able to vocalise how we, in our own personal flavour, can add value.
To effectively do that, you need credibility, passion, influencing skills,…

I haven’t figured out exactly how to do this, but I do know that I’ll have to learn to do it myself. :slight_smile:
Hopefully, we can change the perception of testing little by little.

I’m Beren and I’m somewhere on the Testing spectrum.
I’m confident that I can add value to any software project and so should you. :wink:


Hi Fiona,

thank you very much for taking the time to respond. As mentioned, I did prefix with ‘for arguments sake’ so I don’t believe I have nothing to learn in terms of soft skills, but I learned nothing new from your webinar. Increasing my skill level here is a matter of practice I believe and the same is applicable to many who took the time to listen last night.

Honestly, I’m not sure, hence why I was tuning in to listen to you last night. You have an absolute wealth more of experience than I do in the field and as such I expect you know these things MUCH better than I do. I suspected there may be interesting viewpoints you would have that I have not been exposed to or had the chance to learn yet, that said if you believe this is the case then I find that very interesting and perhaps need to double down on my efforts with soft skills. One piece of feedback I would offer here is that it didn’t come across in your talk like this, perhaps you need to make it abundantly clear that you feel this is the key to career development above all else or emphasis it further.

For those next level learnings, again I would consider them very generic but once again, the fact you highlight these over more specific testing skills is interesting to me in its own right. So perhaps I need to assess where I am in those, I wouldn’t say I’m already there but certainly feel those are items I try to establish with every new position I take on.

I appreciate you cannot tell me what will be good for MY employers, the question was meant generically to those in testing roles who made time to listen to your webinar. You of course couldn’t possibly know the context in each workplace but given your vast experience I thought you may have noticed over time some patterns which meant some testers succeeded, whereas others did not, perhaps even personal stories of your journey would be interesting here. That said, maybe your highlight of the generic things is exactly the patterns you’ve noticed, which again are valuable insights, but I don’t think you highlighted this point well either.

I totally agree with regards to hierarchy, I’m lucky I work in organisations where this tends to be less of a problem but even there I’m pushed to management or ‘Test Architect’ (which I feel is a nonsense role.) I also agree with regards your CIO comment, I believe Keith Klain has made similar comments in the past.

Maybe you’re correct with regards my next level, I’d be curious, what do you see as YOUR next level? You have huge experience so even with consulting at this point I imagine it’s a case of solving the same problems repeatedly or are you still finding enough variety? Even with complex systems, is it not a case of cracking the best way to test them, getting CI set up for them and build on the basics?

No need at all for apologies, I appreciate it’s a difficult area with few specifics that can be held up and applied to a huge audience. That said, I would have been more interested in, ‘I did X recently and found it was accepted by the business with great rapture.’ Or I introduced pipelines testing against Pull Requests rather than post commit and found we saved X amount of time, however the business were not so taken with this. I see your experiences as extremely valuable and interesting, last night I didn’t feel I got them, I felt like it was boilerplate ripped out of a poor careers book.

With that said, it’s a difficult topic to take on and you were the one presenting, not me, it would be unfair to sit on the sidelines and criticise. I hope you see my feedback as constructive as that is my intent. In the end I attended purely because I saw your name and I know the impressive array of career experiences you have had which dwarf mine. There are millions of things I could learn from you, unfortunately for me, last night fell flat and ultimately I expect more of someone with your knowledge.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and deliver the webinar in the first place, your additional points have helped me see me use in some of your original thoughts, I just think more emphasis on those is required and more of your own interesting personal experiences need brought to the table.


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First of, I did not watch the master class as it was family time. But I do remember seeing the same material from @fionaccharles at the European Test Conference (PDF) and looking into it while preparing for the MoT copenhagen meetup on the shifting testing roles > Where are testing roles shifting to?

We are all feeling the water boiling, change is rocking the traditional values - but we WANT to continue to add value. So we have to move… What @andersdinsen and I try is to label some of the movements (there are more than shift-left). So that we can recognize the patterns and co-create new testing and test coach roles.

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Large companies usually have expertise levels, also for testers and test managers (junior, senior, principal…). I have helped coining them for to orgs so far. If project managers and consultants can have these levels, so can we. In both cases it was a grass root activity, where we “the test team” split the levels wrt. training, size of projects etc. Never the less HR actually was glad we came with it, because they couldn’t do it. :smiley:

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