Testing the Limits With James Bach: Part II

In part II of our latest Testing the Limits interview with James Bach, we tried something a bit different this time, crowdsourcing some ojamesbachf the questions from our uTest Community members. Additionally, James shows us his lighter side and which of his picks won the World Cup — of his heart. 

Be sure to check out Part I of our interview, if you already haven’t.

What is the biggest hurdle to testing you see testers struggle with? (Jeff S.)

JB: The hurdles that come with having no credibility. Gain credibility, and every external hurdle gets a lot smaller. If you ever find yourself saying, “I want to do good work, but my manager insists that I test in a stupid way, instead,” then probably the issue is that your manager thinks you are incompetent. Fix that. Then when you politely tell your manager to mind his own business, he will let you get on with your work in the way you see fit.

Do you see the tide changing for development teams modernizing their testing philosophy? Or is entrenched thought winning the day? (Jeff S.)

JB: I don’t know, really. I don’t do polls or anything. I can say that business is good for me and my colleagues, right at the moment.

Which area or skill is best to focus on first as a tester to build a solid foundation or understanding of testing? (Frank B.)

JB: I would say: general systems thinking (GST). See the book Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Jerry Weinberg. Within the realm of GST, I suggest: modeling. It’s vital to gain control over your mental models of products. Models are a prison from within which you test.

Was there ever a time where you wanted to quit the testing field and move onto other ventures? (Marek L.)

JB: All the time. What stops me is that this is the only way I know to support my family while also feeding my hunger for intellectual puzzles, service to society, and teaching. If someone bought my company for forty million dollars (which I think is about one hundred times what it is worth), I would retire from testing entirely and become a consulting philosopher.

What do you do when there are times people start to throw sticks under you, and make your job really challenging…sometimes impossible to continue? (Marek L.)

JB: Well, first, I find out what’s going on. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding. I have often found that strong-minded people can be made into friends.

If I can’t solve the problem softly, then what I do is threaten to quit. That is a pretty powerful tactic, since I only accept work from people who know and respect me.

And if that doesn’t work, I quit. This is a viable option because I have organized my whole life around being able to quit (beginning with having a wife who knows I can’t work with people I don’t respect).

uTest: Now that our community members have asked some insightful questions, let’s get into some lighter ones now. What’s on Your iPod, iPhone or MP3-like device right now?

JB: You mean what music? It’s been a while since I added any music. The last thing I listened to was a set of lectures from the Teaching Company about the history of the American Supreme Court.

But I do like the Scala version of “With or Without You.”

uTest: Did you watch any of the World Cup? If so, how did your “pick” end up doing?

JB: My pick was the USA. I saw a little bit. I have been in Australia and New Zealand the whole time, and the games were on while I was working. Result: the USA team won the World Cup—of my heart.

uTest: Newest gadget you’ve picked up or are most looking forward to?

JB: I need a new computer. Is that considered a gadget? I’m conflicted, but I’m leaning toward getting a Mac for the first time in a very long time.

uTest: Do you “binge watch?” If so, what’s your poison on Netflix?

JB: Most recent was Derek. I love the work of Ricky Gervais.

uTest: If you had to pick a superhero, which one would you be?

JB: The Big Bad Wolf from the Fables comics. That’s me. Son of the North Wind, baby. Good family life, too.

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