Category Archives: My year in review

2019 in review

It’s almost unbelievable that it’s time to close out my blogging for the year already! I published 13 blog posts during 2019, right on my target cadence of a post per month but down in number from 2017 and 2018. In terms of traffic, my blog attracted a very similar number of views to 2018 and I closed out the year with 1,000 followers on Twitter for the first time.

If there are particular topics you’d like to see me talking about here (especially to encourage more new readers), please feel free to reach out.

Working at Quest

I reached a milestone during 2019, notching up twenty years at Quest! It’s been an amazing journey since I started here in 1999 as a new migrant from the UK to Australia and I continue to enjoy a varied role working with dedicated people around the world. I travelled extensively again during the year and visited our folks in China, Austin (Texas) and the Czech Republic. The regular opportunities to travel and work with people from different cultures remains one of the most enjoyable (and sometimes most challenging!) aspects of my role.


I spent more time through 2019 helping teams to improve their agility, while still assisting widely around testing. As Quest modernizes both in terms of its products (e.g. new SaaS offerings) and processes, there is plenty to keep me busy helping the teams to deal with the different demands of more frequent delivery.

Conferences & meetups

I had another quieter year in terms of conference and meetup attendance. While I didn’t speak at a conference in 2019, I was lucky enough to co-organize the Association for Software Testing‘s third Australian conference, Testing in Context Conference Australia 2019 (TiCCA19). Working with Paul Seaman, we put together an excellent programme and the fifty-or-so delegates gave very positive feedback on what we offered. Although we had hoped to continue the TiCCA event as an annual conference, our small delegate numbers and ongoing challenges in attracting sponsorship unfortunately made it impossible for us to commit to the continuation of the event. It’s sad that we couldn’t build a sustainable true context-driven testing conference in a city as large as Melbourne, but Paul and I are happy to have tried hard with both CASTx18 and TiCCA19 providing great content for our local community.

The only other conference I attended was a non-IT event and something very different in many ways, the Animal Activists Forum in Melbourne. I contrasted the experience of attending this conference against the typical testing/IT conferences I’ve attended in my blog post, A very different conference experience.

I made it to a couple of meetups, the first being a pre-conference meetup we organized around TiCCA19. This meetup was enjoyable to organize and attend, featuring an excellent presentation by Aaron Hodder and a panel session with four TiCCA19 conference speakers – in the shape of Graeme Harvey, Aaron, Sam Connelly and Ben Simo – ably facilitated by Rich Robinson. The second meetup I attended was one of the high-quality Software Art Thou? series and saw the UK’s Kevlin Henney talking on “What do you mean?” (which he quickly modified to “WTF do you mean?”).

Community work

It was disappointing to learn that EPIC Assist had decided to pull out of the Melbourne market during 2019, resulting in the end of the software testing training course Paul Seaman and I had been delivering through them, the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

We would still love to share our knowledge and experience of software testing (and IT more generally) in a community setting and we continue to look for a partner organization to make this happen.

Other stuff

I’ve found myself reading a lot more books during 2019, a very welcome return to something I really enjoy and a useful way to reduce screen time (yes, I’m a physical book reader!). Many of the books came from the library and we are blessed with an excellent service in Melbourne (they purchased a number of books I requested through the year). Some of the books were purchased and shared with others in my office. I didn’t read testing books per se, but I became very interested in the subject of algorithms, AI and so on, reading a number of books in this area. Other areas of focus were leadership and knowledge acquisition.

I’ve also been spending more time to educate myself around animal rights and veganism, plus contributing in small ways to animal rights advocacy. It’s been an interesting change of tack to read books on these topics and also to see the reactions to my posts, tweets, etc. when this is the subject matter rather than my usual content! A handy summary of my thoughts around some of this can be found in my post, What becoming vegan taught me about software testing.

I hit another milestone early in 2019 when I acquired my first smartphone! I still find the form factor challenging and it seems unlikely I’ll ever become addicted to my phone, but I admit that it can be very handy when out and about – and Google Maps on the go during our travels made life a lot easier (though I was surprised offline maps don’t work in China, not a huge issue as we don’t drive there and taxis are incredibly cheap).

It felt like I had a much heavier workload during 2019 as well as some hefty stints of travel, so my outside projects didn’t get as much attention as in the previous few years. But I was glad to have the opportunity to organize the TiCCA19 conference as well as turning some work travel commitments into enjoyable holidays to see some new and interesting places. This time last year I was hinting at a new (personal) testing-related project that I hoped to kick off in 2019 and, while this didn’t eventuate, the project is still alive and I fully expect to get it up and running in 2020!

Thanks to my readers here and also followers on other platforms, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, and I hope you enjoy my posts to come through 2020. (And, remember, please let me know if there are any topics you particular want me to express opinions on, I’m happy to take suggestions!)

2018 in review

I’ll briefly look back on 2018 to close out my blogging for the year. I published 19 blog posts in 2018, down a little from 2017 (with 22 posts). My target cadence remains one post per month so I feel like I’ve done “enough” over the year and hopefully provided some valuable and interesting content along the way. The stats indicate almost exactly the same number of views of my blog as during the previous year, but with a slight increase in the number of visitors. If there are topics you’d like to see me talking about here (especially to encourage more new readers), please just let me know.

Conferences & meetups

It was my quietest year in a long time in terms of conference attendance. I made it to just two conferences (both specific testing events), co-organizing one and co-presenting at the other.

My first conference of 2018 came in February with the Association for Software Testing‘s second Australian conference,  CASTx18 in Melbourne, for which I was Programme Chair and local organizer. The conference went really well, with a great programme (well, I would say that!) and lots of good vibes from the delegates. The Langham Hotel was a fine venue for the event and the success of the conference led the AST to commit to the 2019 conference (and beyond) – more on that below!

My only speaking gig of the year came in October up in Sydney, co-presenting with Paul Seaman at the inaugural TestBash Australia conference. This sold-out conference featured a good single-track programme and it was great to meet up with so many friends from the testing community there. Our presentation went well and the topic (our volunteer work running a software testing training course for young adults on the autism spectrum) seemed to resonate with many people in the audience. It was an enjoyable gig all round and we appreciated the opportunity to broaden awareness of the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

In terms of meetups, I only made it to those running alongside conferences. I organized a meetup before the CASTx18 conference and Katrina Clokie drew a good crowd, with fantastic hospitality courtesy of the Langham. The pre-TestBash Sydney Testers meetup in Sydney saw a presentation from Trish Koo and a decent bunch of testers turned up at the impressive Gumtree offices in the CBD.

Work stuff

Quest under private equity ownership continues to do well. I again managed to visit our major Engineering locations during the year, namely in China, California and Czech Republic (those three locations within about two months actually!), and the opportunity to travel and work with people from different cultures remains one of the most enjoyable (and challenging) aspects of my role.

I was promoted during the year, to “Director of Software Craft” (previously “Principal Test Architect”), giving me a broad remit to help the Engineering teams across the world improve the way they build, test and deploy their software.

Community work

My community efforts through 2018 were directed in two main ways, viz. the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA) and the AST’s conference.

ETA – a software testing training course for young adults on the autism spectrum (in association with the not-for-profit disability organization, EPIC Assist) that I present together with Paul Seaman – continued in 2018 after the good start we made in 2017. Although we originally planned to run the course twice during the year, we only managed to run it once and I was absent for a large portion of it due to work and personal travel commitments (with Michele Playfair doing an outstanding job of covering for me). For the first time, we had a couple of students finding placements at the end of the course actually doing software testing so that was incredibly rewarding. We hope to continue with ETA in 2019 if EPIC Assist can find a way to staff and fund the programme.

At the CASTx18 conference, I was asked by the AST to more formally take on responsibility for the ongoing organization of their Australian conference. It was not an easy decision to take on this responsibility, but I was honoured to be asked and decided to accept on the basis of jointly working with Paul Seaman to organize their conference from 2019 onwards. Paul and I decided to rebrand the conference and so “Testing in Context Conference Australia” (TiCCA) was born. We enjoyed coming up with a theme, inviting our keynote speakers (viz. Lynne Cazaly and Ben Simo), running a call for proposals, and selecting our speakers. Registrations are ticking along and we’re looking forward to running the two-day conference at the end of February at the Jasper Hotel. (More details on the conference and registration packages can be found at the conference website,

Other stuff

I got the opportunity to appear on two different podcasts during the year, something I’d never done before. The first one was for the New Zealand-based SuperTestingBros podcast where I talked about neurodiversity and ETA with Paul Seaman.

The second one was a long-distance affair, chatting with Johan Steyn from South Africa for his Careers in Software Testing podcast.

These were both good experiences, quite different in flavour but hopefully of general interest and I look forward to opportunities to do more podcasts in the future.

I feel like the year has been a good mix in terms of developing professionally while also giving back via a couple of community-focused projects in ETA and TiCCA. I’m sure 2019 has challenges in store and I have a new (personal) testing-related project hopefully kicking off early in the New Year, so watch this space for more details on that!

In the meantime, all that remains for me to do is wish you all a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, and I hope you enjoy my posts to come through 2019.

2017 in review

It really is that time again as another year comes to a close and I take some time to look back on 2017.

In terms of this blog, I wrote 22 posts in 2017, coincidentally exactly the same as 2016! This remains well in excess of my (internal) target cadence of one post per month and my blogging was much more regular in 2017. The stats indicate that Twitter was again the main driver of traffic to my blog and it received about the same number of views in 2017 as in 2016, so if there are topics you’d like to see me talking about here (especially to encourage new readers), please let me know.


I made it to four conferences during the year: two specialized testing conferences and two agile-ish ones, and I presented at two of these four.

My first conference of 2017 came in February with the Association for Software Testing‘s first conference outside North America, in the shape of CASTx17 in Sydney. This was a good testing conference and was successful enough for the AST to bring their conference back to Australia in 2018, more on that below! A review of this conference appears in a previous blog post.

It was another trip to Sydney for my next conference in June, the enormous Agile Australia event. There was no testing-related content in sight here, but there were some decent talks (especially the keynotes) that made it worth enduring the mass commercialism of this conference. I blogged about my experience of attending Agile Australia here.

My first speaking gig of the year came at the end of June, co-presenting with Paul Seaman at the LAST (Lean, Agile, Systems Thinking) conference in Melbourne. This community-focused event had a massive range of speakers and talks over two days and it was a good chance to share our story of building and running a software testing training course for young adults on the autism spectrum (much more on this to come below). It was an enjoyable gig and marked the first time I’d co-presented, so also served as handy presentation experience (see a previous blog post for details).

My last conference of the year in August provided my second speaking gig, at the AST’s main event, CAST held in Nashville. This small conference was very enjoyable to attend, with a lot of great talks from people with an interest in context-driven testing. My talk – A Day in the Life of a Test Architect – went well with a very active “open season” of questioning following my presentation. It was also great to catch up with so many familiar faces including my mentor, Rob Sabourin, and the chance to explore this part of the US some more after the conference was too good an opportunity to miss (including experiencing the total solar eclipse from the Great Smoky Mountains national park). My experience report of attending and presenting at CAST previously appeared on this blog.

I only made it to one testing meetup during the year, that being the Sydney Testers event held around CASTx17. This well-attended meetup was a great experience and the large membership base of this meetup group continues to reflect a vibrant testing community in Sydney.

Work stuff

It’s been a good year following the sale of the Dell Software group to Francisco Partners. We’re back under the name of Quest and our first year as a standalone company has gone well with my role thankfully not really changing as a result, so I’m still lucky enough to get to work with some amazing people all around the globe. Our big pockets of testers continue to be in China and the Czech Republic with a few others in the US and Australia. I expect to visit most of our overseas offices during 2018, having only been to the Zhuhai (China) office once in 2017.

Community work

My community efforts through 2017 were all directed to a new venture, offering software testing training to young adults on the autism spectrum with the help of the not-for-profit disability organization, EPIC Assist. Together with Paul Seaman, we have built the EPIC TestAbility Academy and completed our first run of the 12-week course. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, with a lot of learning opportunities both for us as presenters and the students on the course.  We both give our time for free and it’s nice to give back and share our knowledge in the hope of securing meaningful employment for some of these young people. We’re also looking forward to running the course again, starting early in 2018. The programme has received a lot of interest and Paul & I have been happy to present about it at the LAST conference, within the offices of Seek and Locomote, and also at an ANZTB SiGIST event.

Other stuff

My community work on the EPIC TestAbility Academy led to a couple of co-authored articles with Paul Seaman during the year. The first appeared in Women Testers magazine and the second in Testing Trapeze magazine, so thanks to these two publications for the opportunity to share our story with the broader software testing community.

In May, I was offered the chance to be Program Chair for the AST’s second conference in Australia, CASTx18 in Melbourne. I was very happy to accept their invitation and it’s been a busy few months organizing the call for papers and ultimately selecting a programme from the submissions we received. I announced the programme in November and it’s an excellent collection of local and international talent, all headed to Melbourne for the event running on February 28 and March 1 at the Langham Hotel on Southbank – I hope to see some of you there!

It’s been a busy year professionally and no doubt 2018 has some exciting opportunities in store. In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope you enjoy my posts to come through 2018.

2016 in review

As another year begins, it’s a good time to look back on the last one and 2016 was another busy year for me professionally.

I managed 22 posts on this blog in 2016, well in excess of my (internal) target cadence of one post per month. My blogging was irregular, though, with not much activity in the last few months while I was travelling (more on that later). I’ve tried to focus on quality of posts over quantity and it’s pleasing to note that my blog received three times as many views in 2015 as it did in 2016, so hopefully I’m doing something right. (If there are topics you’d like to see me talking about here, please let me know.)

Community events

The testing community worldwide seemed to blossom during 2016, which was great to see. More and more meetups and other opportunities for testers to meet and discuss their craft can only be a good thing both for the industry and for the professional standing of testers too.

The first half of the year again saw me heavily involved in the TEAM meetup group here in Melbourne. Although I am no longer contributing to the group, it’s great to see how far it’s come from humble beginnings in 2015 to now being a very active and well-attended meetup. I hope it continues to provide an avenue for testers in Melbourne to come together and talk testing. (I blogged about these TEAM meetups here, herehere, and here.)

I also had the chance to attend an overseas meetup when I found myself in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in October. It was a warm welcome at the Belfast Testers Meetup and this young meetup group showed a lot of enthusiasm and passion for testing. (I blogged about my time in Belfast here.)

My last community event of the year saw me taking part in the invite-only Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing (CEWT) in November. I was lucky enough to be in the UK at just the right time and readily accepted James Thomas’s invitation to be part of their peer conference. I always enjoy these small peer conferences as they allow for deep discussion and have always resulted in me making new connections with interesting testers from around the world – and this event was certainly no different in that regard. (I blogged about my attendance at CEWT here.)


2016 was a relatively quiet year for conferences for me, at least on paper, with just two testing conferences and one agile-centric one.

First up was the inaugural Australian Testing Days conference in Melbourne, for which I was a co-organizer. It was a huge amount of work pulling the conference together but also a lot of fun along the way and I’m proud of the great event that transpired in May. (I blogged about the experience of organizing this conference here.)

Next up was my first non-testing conference for many years, the Agile On The Beach conference held in Cornwall (UK) in September. It was interesting to hear talks of a more general nature and also on very different topics – and any conference with its group party event held on a beach has to be worth attending, right?! (I blogged about attending this conference here.)

Finally, it was over to California in October to attend and present at the massive  STARWest event. As my only conference speaking commitment of the year, I was really pleased with how the talk went and it was an enjoyable week at the Disneyland Resort taking in everything this enormous event has to offer. (I blogged about attending and presenting at STARWest here.)

Other stuff

I was pleased to be asked to act as guest editor for Testing Trapeze magazine for one edition in 2016 and it was an enjoyable experience bringing the articles together, getting them reviewed, and then finalizing the content in the magazine. Katrina Clokie has put a great team in place to ensure high quality in every edition and hopefully “my” edition added to its legacy in a positive way. (I blogged about my guest editor role here.)

Apart from my usual business and conference travel, I based myself in Europe for the last four months of 2016 and this gave me the chance to do some of the UK events I’ve noted above as well as catch up with friends and family in the UK. There were also some Status Quo gigs and the tragic loss of our rock and roll hero Rick Parfitt during this time (but that’s a story for another blog post).


Here’s to a successful and healthy 2017 – Happy New Year to you all!

My year in review

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how I’ve spent the year.

My conference season kicked off in May, with the ANZTB Test conference in Sydney, Australia. This was a one-day affair of around 200 people, organized by the Australia/New Zealand arm of the ISTQB, and its theme was “Advancing the Software Testing Profession”. It was pleasing to see an acceptance of and changing mindset towards testing in agile, as evidenced by the ISTQB starting an agile testing certification. In talking with folks during the breaks, though, it was very clear how far many organizations have got to go in terms of ‘keeping up’ with changes in the testing world, even with something as mainstream as agile. I maybe shouldn’t have been but I was surprised by the lack of awareness of the context-driven approach to software testing, at least as indicated by a straw poll conducted by Rex Black during his testing schools talk. The talk of the “schism” between CDT and other schools seemed to have resulted from Twitter wars between Rex and some members of the context-driven testing community, and it was interesting in itself that he chose this forum in which to air his opinions so strongly. A short but interesting start to the conference year for me.

Just a week after the ANZTB conference, I was flying halfway around the world to attend a very different kind of conference, viz. Let’s Test in Stockholm, Sweden. I was joined by around 150 in a stunning location to live and breath testing for three days, under the theme of “Raising the bar” – and I was also presenting at this conference (on my experience of developing an offshore context-driven testing team in China). As a first timer at Let’s Test, I loved the vibe of this event and got the impression that the context-driven testing community is strong, passionate, engaged and highly vocal. It also become clear to me that being challenged to use clear language and justify what you say is a confronting but very effective means of learning. My experience of presenting at Let’s Test was both fun and rewarding, even if my natural introversion means that the lead up to such presentations is still a stressful time – however, being surrounded by supportive, passionate people really helps, so thanks to all who made my time in Sweden so enjoyable and rewarding (and also thanks to the programme committee for selecting my proposal in the first place).

My next conference trip in August was another very long journey for CAST in New York City. This was a big one in the Big Apple, 250 folks gathered under the theme of “The Art and Science of Testing”. This was my first time at CAST and the programme was amazing, as was the location in the heart of Manhattan. The size of the conference was a clear indication of the strength of the CDT community and how it is shedding its “vocal minority” image. It was also pleasing to see that, as a community, we’ve moved on from ISTQB certification bashing as our main focus and that’s great as we have such compelling stories of our own to tell about what makes great testing. The development of a significant software testing capability in New York via Doran Jones and the Per Scholas scheme to encourage on-shoring of testing in the US was very inspiring too. I’ve blogged previously on how I saw a real turning point for the CDT community happening – the movement against the ISO 29119 software testing standards that started at CAST, we’re finding a voice and using it. My first CAST was full-on, interesting and made all the more enjoyable by the location in the heart of the amazing city that is New York. A truly memorable experience.

It was finally time for a more local affair in September with the short trip to Let’s Test Oz in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. This first-time full conference under the Let’s Test banner attracted a keen crowd of around 80 to the beautiful Blue Mountains for a retreat-style total immersion testing conference experience. The good attendance was a clear indication that the CDT community in Australia and New Zealand is strong and growing, and the conference committee did a fine job selecting some top presentations and attracting both well-known and new talent. ISO 29119 was a continuing topic during this conference and the displays of critical thinking around this standard were a delight to see. I also noticed a shift – perhaps thanks to James Bach’s keynote here – towards making CDT, as a community, more inclusive and I see this as a very good thing. We should be welcoming those with an interest to educate them and show the value of context-driven thinking. This was a very socially active conference for me as I knew many of the participants from previous events around Australia and it was also a great chance to renew overseas acquaintances as well as meeting new people with a passion for testing. An excellent first Let’s Test for this part of the world, hopefully this one becomes an annual event on our testing calendar.

To round out my conference season, it was another trip back to Europe in November, for EuroSTAR in Dublin, Ireland. As usual, it was a big one, with around 900 gathering under the theme of “Diversity, Innovation, Leadership”. The programme was extensive with lots of well-known names as well as plenty of newcomers, so it was good to see diversity across the presenters too. There seemed to be a real focus on testing in agile environments, which was perfect fodder for me and I got lots of great takeaways. Although the CDT community was not strongly represented at this conference, everyone I spoke to seemed to have a genuine passion for good testing. I had the good fortune to sit next to James Christie at the excellent conference dinner (held at Croke Park Stadium) so it was good to talk ISO 29119 and other less testing topics with him. An enjoyable end to the conference season, with Dublin proving to be a very hospitable host city.

I get the feeling that the value of attending conferences is underestimated by many and we should encourage more testers to experience conferences and local meetups, both to share their stories and hear the experiences of others.

Apart from conferences (and the day job of course), I’ve been busy spreading the context-driven testing message wherever I can. And I also managed to see Status Quo live a couple of times during the year, in fine form they were too as they march on into their sixth decade!

I’m currently planning my 2015 conference season and writing proposals over my Christmas and New Year break. I’ve been lucky enough to already secure a speaking slot at Nordic Testing Days in Estonia in June so I’m very much looking forward to visiting another different country and sharing another testing story.

Thanks as always to Dell Software for their incredible support of my conference attendance and willingness to consider context-driven testing as a way to help us produce great software.

I look forward to hearing inspiring stories from the testing community in 2015 as well as continuing to share my stories (via conference talks and this blog) as a way of giving back to the fabulously supportive community I’m lucky enough to be part of.