In gesprek met Janet Gregory

Afgelopen November was Janet Gregory in Nederland voor het evenement “Agile testing as a team: Hot-or-Not?” dat werd georganiseerd door Sioux Embedded Systems op 9 november in Eindhoven. Namens TestNieuws kon ik haar onderstaande vragen stellen.


Janet Gregory is the founder of DragonFire Inc., an agile quality process consultancy and training firm. Her passion is helping teams build quality systems. For the past ten years, she has worked as a coach and tester introducing agile practices into both large and small companies. Her focus is working with business users and testers to understand their role in agile projects. Janet’s programming background is a definite plus when she partners with developers on her agile teams to implement innovative agile test automation solutions. Her experience as a QA Manager both in a traditional and in agile environments gives her an understanding of the issues faced by most teams. She practices Lean principles, Extreme Programming, and SCRUM. Janet is a frequent speaker at agile and testing software conferences, and she is a major contributor to the North American agile testing community. She is co-author with Lisa Crispin of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams.

Last November she was in the Netherlands for the event called “Agile testing as a team: Hot-or-Not?”, which was organized by Sioux Embedded Systems on the 9th of  November in Eindhoven. I had the change to ask here the question below.

1. Hi Janet, can you introduce yourself?
Hello, I am Janet Gregory and I’m an independent consultant with DragonFire Inc.  I live in Calgary, Canada, but love to vacation and see how people live in different parts of the world.  My last major trip was to Bali and Vietnam.

2. Can you tell us how you got involved with testing?
I started my career in programming after I graduated from Computer Science. I was very fortunate that my first job encouraged us to test our own work. In my next job, my manager came to me one day and asked if I would like to start up a test team since I was the one who complained we didn’t do a good job on our testing. Since I have a very strong belief that if you complain, you should be willing to do something about it.  I accepted the job and never looked back.

3. Can you share with us your passion for helping teams build quality systems?
I think that if you want to do something, you should do it right. That said, quality has many meanings, and we need to be aware of what the customer is expecting and considers valuable.

4. Is there a special reason why your firm is called “DragonFire” ?
One of my favourite genres is fantasy, and “The DragonRiders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey is one of my favourite series. A not so well known fact, is that I have a dragon tattoo.  I wanted a fun name, so I chose something that meant something to me.

5. In the Wikipedia Agile is called a lightweight method? Do you agree on that?
Lightweight refers keeping documentation and process to a minimum; keep it simple. The biggest problem I see is people misinterpreting this statement to mean no documentation and no process. Agile is actually very disciplined so we may not chose to create huge process documents, but that doesn’t mean they are not there.

6. Many say that Agile and testing is a hard combination. Isn’t testing made for Agile? Or are testers not thinking in the Agile way?
I don’t think it is a hard combination at all. Testing is part of agile – it is an activity done throughout an iteration instead of a phase at the end. Testers who are transitioning to agile often have a hard time because they don’t understand their new role. They need to understand how much more rewarding it is to be part of the team and collaborate with the programmers and customers to prevent defects instead of detecting them.

7. Can you explain why a lot of people think Agile is something from the last few years?  The early Agile methods have been around for a long time already. Such as Scrum (1995), Crystal Clear and Extreme Programming (1996).
Many agile practices have been around for many more years that that.  XP, Scrum, etc. put names to the practices and made it visible as an alternative. The early adopters with small companies without a lot of media presence. In, the last few years, larger companies have started adopting it so it has become mainstream. It is the first time many of these people have heard of it.

8. You often hear testers say that Agile testing is not structured enough? What is your opinion on that? Or is structured testing not Agile enough?
I think testing can be as structured as it needs to be. There is nothing in the agile practices that say it can’t be structured.

9. Beck, Boehm and Turner say that Agile is for small teams, smaller than 10 persons. Do you agree? And if not can you explain why also big teams can use Agile?
The sweet spot for agile is small co-located teams. No one as far as I know has ever contested that. When you scale agile, you run into many of the same issues such as communication issues that you do if you use a phased methodology. Large teams have to develop strategies to deal with those types of things and it adds overhead, but the basic practices and values still hold. I have worked with several successful large teams who use agile. They needed to respond to market changes and felt agile would allow them to deliver business value on a more frequent and reliable timetable and made it work. I was working with one organization last week that had 17 separate teams all working on the same code base and delivering every month. They hadn’t had a severity 1 issue in production for over a year.

10. What is your opinion about Agile testing on this moment and how do you see the future of Agile testing?
I think there are still many organizations that don’t understand agile, or how testing fits into the process. However, at every testing conference I attend, I see more and more interest, and more practicing agile testers who share their experiences. The future – I could guess, but I think we’ll figure it out when we find our next problem.

11. Did you visit some real Dutch tourist places during your stay in Holland?
Not this time

 Janet Gregory