Tell Me You Want to Fail

I’m in the process of looking for a position as the one I was at was eliminated because of the company’s financial issues that they had thrust on them by a bigger client.  It isn’t exactly the most pleasant of experiences for anyone involved, yet it happens. I loved that job and the company and the people I worked with and all the rest, but it was time to let it go and just go look for the next cool opportunity and keep going.  On a side note, it proves the pint that the things written on this blog are my personal experiences and thoughts, and not my employers, because this post is written while I don’t have an employer.

The other day I had an interview with a hiring manager of a company that I am going to think of as a good company despite her telling me she was planning to fail.  No, she didn’t tell me she was planning to fail with the words “I/we plan to fail”, instead she described the job of the soon to be hired test automation engineer, and told me all the things in her plan that equaled a recipe for failure.

No existing automation

She told me that the currently there was no automation and that they wanted to have automation for the next version of the product.  In doing so she is telling me one of the biggest problems with automated testing, namely that it is an afterthought for an organization.  the best software efforts I have been involved with start with testing and automated testing in particular as a primary goal of the initial effort.  This isn’t to say that many or even most successful projects haven’t overcome the idea of test automation after the fact, it is just that when you start with success in mind and part of that picture is to use your tools wisely , you reduce the effort you need for repeated testing  and give yourself an advantage in achieving success, and let’s not forget that every little advantage helps achieve success.

Technologies already decided

This particular hiring manager went on to tell me that while she knew nothing about test automation that she already admitted didn’t exist was going to be done in technology X. I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to remind her in an interview setting that one of the first rules of solving programming problems is to find the best technology for the job at hand, not to force the problem into the favorite technology.  None of us in our personal lives thinks for a minute that using a word processor is the appropriate tool for managing our finances, yet on a professional level we seem to forget this most basic concept. We pick tools, we pick our favorite language, and we shove the problem into the solution, ignoring the needs imposed by the problem itself.

No commitment to automation

The last thing this hiring manager told me that the role would be divided up into manual and automated testing.  This is the same automated testing that she explained didn’t exist and that would need to be built by the new staff member.  This person would also been doing some manual testing.  I said that in order to automate well, one often needs to understand that application under test, and that manual testing is often an excellent way to acquire the requisite understanding.  She then explained that they were sprint driven and that automation could only be written in sprints that writing automation would be approved in, and that the manual testing would take precedence.  I am not sure why it was not as obvious to her that automated testing was never going to happen under these conditions as it was to me, yet it was painfully obvious to me that it wouldn’t.  She might as well have told me that she wanted to have automated testing, but didn’t want to pay for it or put the effort in to acquiring it, but if she could have it for free it would sure be nice.

You just told me you wanted to fail

As I listened to more and more of the development, testing and soon to be automation was second in importance to the process I was amazed at how clear of roadmap to failure was being expounded to me.  She might as well have said that she and her organization were planning to fail, and while she did stop short of using those specific words, it was very much what I heard.  I think I am a fortunate man in that when the pontification ended, I was asked point blank if I was still interested in the position. I didn’t want to waste my time, so in as polite and professional a manner as I could muster, I simply said “No, I don’t believe I am interested at this point.”