As part of her Talking Testing blog series, Gabbi Trotter caught up with Chris Thacker about his journey into testing, his advice for software testers applying for a new role and the names in the industry you need to be following:
Hi Chris, Can you please introduce yourself and give us a brief overview of your current role….
Hello I’m Chris Thacker, Test Manager at MoneySuperMarket. I work in our Insurance and Home Services Vertical so am responsible for Quality on our Insurance channels and Energy in a nutshell. We run product focused squads so my day is spent ensuring we’re doing the right things in terms of delivering software fast but safe. I’m lucky I’ve got a really good team who make my job easy and everybody at MSM understands that quality is everybody’s problem so we have a good culture in terms of releasing software.
You’ve had a busy career! Following graduation you joined Cybertill as a Web Analyst, how did this lead you to a career in Testing?
I found that job on the way to play Snooker with a mate actually, he popped into the job centre and I just had a check on the computer to see if anything was around. It was a 5 minute walk from my house and was a really good start into the world of work, I got exposed to so many things because the company was so small. Accenture came calling and I was a Java Developer, they had a follow the world development model (dev teams in America, Europe, Philippines) so they started to only do Design and Testing on shore, so I fell into testing as it was the gap they had at the time (lol). I was writing scripts which prepped test data so straight away understood the benefits of automation and not even just for writing tests.
Was it a planned move, or did it just happen organically?
Completely organic, I could have gone back to being a Developer I suppose, but I enjoyed Testing. It’s a bit like the Wild West, it’s still forming as a career and industry and I love that.
You have worked for some big names over the years! Who in your opinion got Software Testing right?
Everything I do has always been about the context. The way we worked in LateRooms for instance would have wrong for Raytheon but LateRooms was a really good example of a great place to work and really helped develop my ideas around software development in general. At it’s heart, Testing to me is about managing risk and to do that you need to understand the business and be pragmatic about what we’re doing to mitigate that.
As the current Test Manager at MSM you must get involved with recruitment. If you were looking to hire a Software Tester for your team – what characteristics would you look for?
My number 1 trait is curiosity. I’m a huge believer in personal development. I always ask about conferences, blogs, books, people you follow etc. If you have that trait, it covers up everything else for me. I’ve no issue if you don’t know the latest automation framework if you have passion to go and learn that. Too many times I see people who’ve become “stuck” in their career and aren’t trying to improve their skills and knowledge.
What can be a red flag for you when reviewing a Software Testers CV?
Over-egging your skillset. I think there’s a strong push to Automation these days and I feel it’s gone too far. Automation is extremely useful but if all you carry around is that hammer, everything you see is going to be a nail. If you’re starting that journey into Automation be honest about it. I see CV’s with about a dozen languages mentioned in the skills section and I think are you really proficient in these? Remove the ones you don’t use and you’ll find a better fit in terms of job or company.
If a budding Tester approached you and ask what events, blog, online resources they could use to learn more, what would you recommend?
Get on Twitter and start following people. If you start with Vernon Richards, Dan Ashby and see who they interact with you won’t go far wrong. Richard Bradshaw’s done some really good resources for testers as well. Find a local meetup, Ministry of Testing can probably point you in the right direction. Also don’t just stick to QA events, go to Dev ones, agile ones etc. I think a big gap we have at the minute is we’re focussing on predominantly QA events, get into other events and see what happens serendipitously.
In your opinion are we doing enough to excited and educate Grads about a career in Software Testing?
No we’re probably not. As part of Liverpool Tester Gathering with Leigh Rathbone and Duncan Nisbet we organised an event at Edge Hill to speak to them about testing. It’s a tough problem to solve, we need to get in front of the students and show them this different career path. Probably involves using industry links and changing one university at a time frankly.
From your point of view, what is the best thing about a career in Software Testing?
Variety. So many things to do that can contribute to improving quality in a product. I love that.
Finally, if you hadn’t ever got into Testing what job do you think you’d be doing now?
Something in financial services, could have retired by now if it had gone well ha.