Category Archives: Quality

It’s Tick Season

Tick, public domain photo from the CDC

Tick, public domain photo from the CDC

I hate these things.  Its tick season, and I’ve been doing a lot of hiking with the dogs, which means that I’ve brought a few ticks home with me.  Getting a tick bite is a pain, and removing a tick does take some skill.  However, its better to avoid the bites because you can become infected with lyme disease.

So, I’ve taken to dropping my outer clothes on the porch (not visible to the neighbors), and doing an inspection when I get home.  I’ll shake out the clothes then go inside.  I also work on preventing ticks in the first place.  When the trail offers a choice between one with tall grass vs one without, I’ll take the route without the grass. (I tried to work a road lesser traveled reference, but the words didn’t come to me).  Recently, I found out about Permethrin, an insect repellant/insecticide that I can treat my clothing and it will keep the ticks off of me.

Now, I have multiple layers of protection. First layer is preventing the bugs in the first place, next is inspection to find the bugs before they bite, and finally, skills, methods and equipment to remove the bugs if they do bite.

Why am I writing about ticks?  Recently, I was sharing my point of view on Quality Engineering Leadership – and articulated this exact mindset:

  • Find & fix the bugs (hopefully before the customers find them)
  • Even better, Find and fix the bugs earlier in the development cycle
  • Best, prevent the bugs from happening in the first place.

As testers, we are pretty adept at finding bugs on completed software. Great question to ask ourselves, what can we do to find them earlier in the cycle (before they bite), and even better question, how can we prevent bugs.

Dragons, Ponies, and Unicorns: Testing TESS

On Monday, April 16th, NASA will launch TESS – Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which will search for nearby planets over the next 2 years.  This is a follow on to the Kepler mission, and pre-cursor to the James Webb Space Telescope.  What a time to be alive.   You can follow the launch at NASA’s live site.

The TESS Spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

The TESS Spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

One interesting tidbit, the TESS orbit is optimized to be able to observe the stars, and its not a near-Earth orbit. This means that the team needs to get it right, there won’t be an ability to fix the satellite after launch, like we did with Hubble.  This means the team needs to get it right the first time.

MIT has produced a short (10 minutes) documentary about the making of TESS.  This shows several interesting tidbits about testing:

TESS has 4 cameras, each with a test setup named after dragons.  They used a simulated star field for each.  For the cameras to operate correctly, each environment is in a vacuum chamber cooled down to -75C, and the ambient light is blue to minimize light pollution.

Testing the optics required the a team at the University of Geneva to invent “the most stable light source on earth”. (link) This light source had to be 10x more stable than the camera sensors.

Integration testing shows how the cameras are each mated to an assembly which holds all 4 cameras, then mounted to the main spacecraft.

The test team is predominately women, who are obviously passionate about this mission.

These videos, and the TESS program, are a great distraction from the other things happening in the news.  We wish them luck.



New venture for me…

After 32 years working for some of the top corporations, I’ve decided to go on my own. I’m my own boss.

Blessed in life, with a supportive family, and numerous people that I’ve worked with and admired, I’m going to try my hand at making a living by doing just my favorite parts of my job. These include:

  • Coaching engineers and managers to help them become great leaders at the Software Leadership Academy
  • Helping organizations apply Quality Engineering practices
  • Transform test organizations into Quality Engineering Organizations
  • Bring customer focus into the software development life-cycle with Customer-Driven Quality
  • Accelerate testing by reducing or eliminating long regression cycles and moving to a continuous delivery model
  • Help investors understand the developer productivity and testing tool/service marketplace.

I’ll be sharing more about my plans in the coming weeks, including a product launch for the online leadership course. You can watch progress at

Wish me luck!


Leadership Lessons from the Latest Episode of Game of Thrones

Winter has come, and Game of Thrones fans enjoyed the first episode of season 7. This episode had a couple of good leadership lessons. By the old gods and the new, there are spoilers ahead, so read at your caution.

Jon Snow leading the North in Winterfell

Jon Snow leading the North in Winterfell

Jon Snow is an inclusive leader, which will expand his influence. He embraced the wildlings earlier in the show and most recently the next generation of the Umbers and Karstarks. These moves build his collation, expand his influence, and will aid in the battle with the white walkers.

Most organizations have an “enemy” to help focus their strategy. The most successful organizations focus their efforts outside, towards beating a competitor or changing the status quo in the marketplace. I’ve seen places that concentrate, instead, on infighting between departments. These places don’t exist anymore.

Jon Snow focuses instead on the outside threat, the white walkers, which puts the North in the best position to survive.

Secret Information in the Citadel Library

Secret Information in the Citadel Library

We see Sam Tarley in the Citadel, the greatest library in Westeros. All kinds of information that is vital to the humans is literally locked up in the Citadel. The maesters there are keeping the “memory” alive, but not making that useful information available.

Be transparent with your information, don’t horde it. You never know who needs that data to help them do their job.