What I do – the new version

Part of our rhythm of business at Microsoft is setting yearly commitments. Technically, we do these in July for the fiscal year, but we were in the middle of shipping, so I didn’t get to my commitments until recently. On one hand, I don’t like commitments, as in many cases they don’t allow for change or intangibles, but if you’re careful – and have a good manager, you can work around the shortcomings. It’s also perfectly ok to update the commitments throughout the year, so one can adjust if work projects take a right turn.

I’ve shared my work commitments in the past, but now that I’m working on software again, as you’d expect, I do different stuff. If you’re curious what I do – at a very high level, read on.

First off, there’s the test evangelist part of my role. Internally, I’ll give a few large scale test talks, and a handful of intact team talks. I speak at our new employee orientation a half a dozen times a year and speak with customers a few times a year at our Executive Briefing Center. I also chair our test architect group, and a larger internal group of senior testers. Externally, I’ll do a few conferences in fiscal year 2011 (fy11), write a few articles, and talk with some Lync customers about testing.

I’m working on a bunch of stuff around test design. I have some ideas (some would say wild ideas) about changing our test design approach to put customer needs a bit more front and center. Part of this effort includes adapting some research from customer support and user research into practical application – all of this will include experiments and pilots. Also included in this “bucket” is some testability work – this includes working with development to make sure they’re writing testable code, as well as some guidelines and coaching for testers on how to review specs, designs, and code for testability.

I also own a big chunk of our overall test strategy – this includes how we test better and how our testers grow. I’ve talked a bit about this in the past and done a lot of the research and thinking already – the big task in front of me is to ensure that we make progress on the strategy.

I also provide as much mentoring and coaching across the team as I can. I hold myself accountable for growing the careers of as many of the testers on the team as I can. This includes 1:1 mentoring, coaching or leading virtual teams, as well as more subtle shifts in organizational change.

I’ve translated all of this vague sort of stuff into SMART goals that outline the execution plan (but that would be way too boring to share). If you’re internal to MS, I’ll post these on my //my site in the next few days. The rest of you will have to find another way to satisfy your curiosity (seriously, don’t you have something better to do)? Princess


  1. Alan,

    I am looking forward to learning more about your new thoughts on test design and putting customers more front and center. It reminds me of the keynote presentation you gave at StarEast: you’re the first testing expert I’ve heard who used A/B testing examples. I’m of the view that a software tester’s could easily extend to helping to design, implement, and analyze A/B tests and MVTs. Among software testers, I’m virtually alone in this conviction. Some people I respect that I’ve mentioned this idea to disagree with it violently.

    Whether or not you’ll be including A/B testing in what you’re working on, I’ll be interested to see what thoughts you come up with. I’m sure they’ll be good.

    – Justin

    1. My overall view is that testers can do anything they want – and should. I think software suffers when we put hard lines on what programmers and testers are allowed to do. Everyone’s job should be “do the right thing to make a great product that customers love”. Within that context, people can do the work that best matches their skills and growth areas.

  2. Alan,
    Great to see the objectives shared here. i would like to catch up with you again sometime, I am interested to chat around 2 points you have mentioned here – (a) customer centered test design and specially how to map this into test automation and defect phase containment (b) strategy around growing testers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.