PNSQC Talks with 2020 Keynote Speaker Jenny Bramble on Mental Models, Cats and the Future
We recently asked PNSQC 2020 Keynote Jenny Bramble a few questions about her work, her team, her thoughts on the future of testing, and, of course, her adorable cats who often make a guest appearance on her talk slides.
Jenny Bramble is a Senior Software Test Engineer at WillowTree, knowledgeable mushroom hunter, talented back-bending enthusiast, and one of the most lauded PNSQC presenters two years running.
PNSQC: Your upcoming Keynote, “Test Engineers are the Connectors of Our Teams” will discuss team dynamics and improving communications. Could you tell us about a time when you experienced developers and QA not at odds with each other and how that relationship impacted their project/product?
JB: I gotta say, I love working with developers and testers who aren’t at odds. When we make software in a collaborative way, we make better software. I like to say that everyone has an expectation for what we’re building. When we can talk about those expectations and agree on them, everything is better.
Just this week, I messaged one of my devs and said “I don’t really understand why the app leaves me on the ‘edit category name’ screen after I have added a new custom category.” He explained to me that since the app isn’t accepting traditional inputs (it’s operated with head tracking!), navigating back if you’ve made a mistake is harder so we opted to leave the user on that screen. This wasn’t something I’d been aware of at all on the project and if I’d had an adversarial relationship with him, I would have gone ahead and put a defect in. The time to resolve it would have been much much longer.
PNSQC: What would a day as one of your testers look like?
JB: One thing I love about my job is that each day is a little different.
I work for a client services company, so every project I’ve been on has been wildly different from the others. This month, I’ve been on an app that does head tracking in order to let people who are paralyzed communicate.
Getting into the mindset of a user who is very far from my day-to-day experience has been really intense. This is one of the reasons automation is so important on this project — being able to focus on the user experience instead of regressing all the features has made a huge difference in our ability to provide a useful product.
PNSQC: This year’s conference looks to the future of testing. What are we experiencing right now that you think will carry on in upcoming years?
JB: It’s incredibly important that we as testers keep our eye on the future and make sure that we’re utilizing all the tools available to us. If you think about it, we are creating the foundation for what software will look like in 5, 10, 15, 20 years! Being able to look at what’s coming next and get involved with it is what makes testers valuable and important.
I love the idea that automation gives us more space to be human — when we let computers, AI, and automation take on the busywork and act as our safety nets, we have more time to explore applications, or learn to play an instrument, or hang out with friends and family. Especially these days, making sure we have some time to be human is really important.
PNSQC: Do you have a mental model for testing? Please explain.
JB: It’s a mind map! I imagine myself standing in the middle of all the decisions a user could make and I put on a “hat” that represents a user.
Maybe she’s performing a particular task, or he has a particular set of expectations, or they are a malicious user. I think to myself “what’s the most authentic action this user will take?” And I walk down the mind map nodes until they split again, and my persona needs to make a different decision.
PNSQC: Managing is sometimes referred to as herding cats. You have cats! What “testing” capabilities do you cats exhibit?
JB: Heh, I like this one — my cats would both test very differently.
Dax, the younger Siamese, is a little ball of chaos. This is a great thing for testing, because it pulls in some of the randomness that you can see from users. Maybe someone gets distracted and comes back to a task later. Does your application handle that?
Dante, on the other hand, is much more methodical. He is pretty lazy, so it’s important to him that everything is done efficiently. Again — awesome way to test. Proceeding through the paths, starting with the most impactful, lets you make sure everything important is covered first.
Thank you, Jenny! Don’t miss Jenny’s Keynote at PNSQC 2020, this October 12-14. Register now to hear from her and other leading software quality professionals.