Q and A Guest Blog with Duncs Nisbet

Duncs Nisbet Q and A Headshot

Duncs Nisbet

Software Tester

Duncs Nisbet bio.
Duncan Nisbet is a tester who believes development teams and the larger business can be smarter at working together. He coaches Testers, Programmers and Business folk on how they can help each other communicate and collaborate in order to deliver software which will actually help solve the problem. His efforts are focused both during the everyday development or in team workshops which he facilitates. Duncan operates through his company Testagility.com, sporadically blogs at www.duncannisbet.co.uk and lurks on Twitter @duncnisbet.

1. Hi Duncs, thank you for making the time to talk with us today. Your career in IT looks very impressive; can you tell us what first prompted you to a career in the tech space?
Like so many others, I fell into software testing with my first job out of university testing games on set top boxes.

I’d been playing computer games for years on PCs and consoles, so this seemed like a great way to start my career!

2. Can you tell us a bit about your early career as a software tester
Sure. As I’ve previously mentioned, I started out testing games which were effectively simple web applications.

From here I moved onto testing games for Sony PlayStation on such titles as “Singstar” “Killzone” and “The Getaway”.

Testing “Singstar” was hilarious – 6 “geeky” guys were locked away in a room far from the other testers to croon their way through songs from Elvis Presley, Westlife and George Michael. Needless to say we soon worked out how to achieve a perfect score without having great singing voices!

Following this role, my career has largely involved testing web applications.

3. What are the day to day challenges you face in your role?
This is a complex question to answer as it depends on which role I am fulfilling. Currently, I’m in a testing role, so I’m facing what could be called ‘typical’ testing related challenges such as understanding the problem we’re trying to solve with the software, what testing can be achieved in the allocated time, understanding the system being developed and learning the tools being used on the product.

In my role as test coach, my challenges tend to be mainly around ensuring I am keeping abreast of the latest experience reports from the testing community including tools, techniques and processes.

In both cases, my biggest challenge is ensuring that I am providing the service that my client expects and if not, understanding what I need to do in order to improve the service I deliver.

4. Which parts of your role do you enjoy the most?
Bringing other testers on and helping them to develop their skills further to enable continuous improvement.

It took me far too long to realise how important self-education and development is – I like to help others come to that realisation far quicker than I did.

When they do, I’m here to help them get the most out of their training and development in the form of mentor, coach or even just a friendly ear. 

5. If you were to offer advice to those starting out in software testing, what would it be?

Unless there’s a good enough reason not to, don’t stop exploring, don’t stop asking questions and don’t settle for the status quo.

In the 10 years since I’ve recognised myself as an active software tester, I’ve yet to find a suitable answer that has prevented me from doing any of the above.

6. Which techs have you seen recently that inspired you the most to learn more about them?
There seems to be a new JavaScript testing framework out every week – I’ve been keen to pick one and deep dive into it. My logic being if I understand one of the frameworks deeply, the knowledge I gain can be applied to new frameworks in the future.

The product I am currently testing is built with the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, Node.js) so essentially this need to understand it has inspired me to learn about it.

I’ve also been looking into tools to help cross device testing such as BrowserSync and Ghostlab.

7. What do you think about testing in an Agile development team?

For me personally, we need to forget about adhering to the different variations of “Agile” development and focus on short feedback loops where testing can provide information back to decision makers sooner rather than later.

The longer a misunderstood prerequisite or an incorrect implementation is left in the code, the trickier it’ll likely be to unpick at a later date.

Testers need to be involved throughout the entire development cycle to enable them to question the product in the stakeholders head to help determine that the team is developing the right thing. Which may lead to the question, does the problem even need a technical software solution?

8. Which advancements, in any tech areas, are exciting you the most currently?
The shift in focus from testing being automated towards tools assisting testing is a current, exciting development. Yes, automated checks have helped us close the gap between what was asked for and what was delivered, as well as providing that information sooner, but they still haven’t (and arguably can’t) inform us about behaviour we haven’t told them to look for.

Similarly, automated can’t tell us if we have developed the correct solution for the given problem. That process still requires human intervention and the right tools can provide great assistance in making that judgement.

9. In the past, how have you found new jobs?  How would you approach seeking a career change given current technology and market conditions?
In the past, I have used aggregated job search engines to discover who was recruiting in my area however I didn’t necessarily apply for the jobs on the site.

As my experience has grown I started to find recruiters I rated and I would look to them to find me new roles as my current position was starting to come to an end.

My focus has shifted now and I largely rely on networking events, such as the Liverpool Tester Gathering, to meet fellow testers and companies looking for new testers in order to see if there is a way I can help them develop great software that actually solves the problem.

10. We’re sure 2016 will bring us additional new and innovative trends and gadgets, which are you most looking forward to?
I want to start looking more into the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it can simplify my ever increasing complex life!

If I can find gadgets and software that can actually improve my work/life balance then I like to experiment with them to discover if they can and do actually help me, or if they will actually cause me more stress!

11. If you were invited to create a new app, what would it be for?
My wife is a teacher and unfortunately they have to work with software which, in my opinion, is not fit for purpose.

One website she has to use is so un-usable that I have created an MS Excel spreadsheet which she can import when it’s needed.

Other stuff that bugs me is the amount of repetition she has to do across all 30 of the children she teaches, we would definitely create a tool to assist us if we had to complete that volume of work in a software development team!