Lee Hawkins – AST 2018 Board Candidate Questions and Answers

1. How do you intend to promote diversity within the AST? How could AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology communities?

Diversity within the AST starts with the board and the potential membership is impacted if the board does not show itself to be diverse and representative of the broader IT community. I’d like to see the board membership be less North America focused, this being one of the reasons I’ve nominated myself this year.

In my volunteer work, I assist the Speak Easy programme which is aimed at improving the diversity of speakers at tech conferences. I also volunteer my time to run a software testing training programme for young adults on the autism spectrum, called the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA), with my friend Paul Seaman. We have learned through that programme that neurodiversity is an aspect of the diversity debate that seems to be much less considered than other aspects such as gender. I would like to see the AST reaching out to the neurodiverse community, where there is great potential for genuinely different thinkers and a natural aptitude for testing (based on my experience running ETA). AST conferences should make a concerted effort to attract those from the neurodiverse community (as an example, we offered free attendance at CASTx18 for ETA graduates), as well as advertising their various wares to the widest possible range of communities.

2. Please share your vision for the future of the AST’s BBST program.
While the BBST seems to have a good reputation, it is not broadly known in the industry in Australia and is very rarely seen on job advertisements, for example. The significant time commitment might be an issue for some, but the relatively isolated nature of doing such a course (albeit with the excellent remote support offered along the way) could also be an obstacle to wider interest especially in a timezone-challenged geography such as Australia/New Zealand. It would be worth trying localized groups taking part in BBST together, actively organized by the AST, so at least the participants have some genuine social interaction with other people attempting the course, as well as interacting using less direct means with others around the world.
3. What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?

The AST has done well to maintain a good level of membership and continue to run a high-quality and ethically sound conference in CAST. I’ve been impressed by the recent foray into international markets with the establishment of the Australian AST conference and look forward to building this conference in Melbourne in my official capacity as co-organizer.

While the AST seemed to be a relatively strong voice in the context-driven testing community in the past, this no longer feels like the case and I’ve rarely seen public comment from the AST on significant and important topics, such as challenging the ubiquity of ISTQB certifications and the ISO 29119 standard. I think there is a very relevant place for the AST in differentiating its beliefs around good testing from the louder voices in the space. The board should be unafraid to let the world know what the AST is and what it stands for, on behalf of its supportive members.

4. If you are elected to serve on the board, what is your vision for the future of AST and what do you hope to accomplish as part of the board?

The AST should strive to be the voice of reason when it comes to the role that good testing plays in modern software development. Countering the regular “testing is dead” calls (because of agile, DevOps, <insert next tech trend here>) is important and the AST has both the solid history and strong membership to offer a compelling case for the benefits of considering testing as a craft requiring skill and yielding great benefits.

The low attendance at recent CASTs is a concern and some new thinking around the conference is required if it is to survive long term. The conference needs to aim at more tech-friendly locations, improve its speaker compensation (to be on par with the newer conferences) and be promoted more widely (and, yes, this means spending marketing dollars). Taking on responsibility for co-organizing the Australian arm of AST conferences, my aim is to build a brand here and make the AST’s event the conference of choice for testing professionals in Australia.

5. Many people come to be AST Board of Directors candidates through a long history of community involvement. This community involvement usually involves teaching, creating and running peer conferences, creating and running regular conferences, and working with commercial entities.
These are all wonderful and valuable activities, but they might create conflicts for board members. One problem is that a board member spending time helping a personal conference to thrive means less or no time spent on AST events. The other problem, and the more important one, is that knowing program and financial information of a personal event will affect decisions made for AST events and initiatives and vice versa.
Please describe any current initiatives you participate in that might affect your ability to serve on the AST board, and serve the AST membership.
Outside of my work commitments, I regularly blog and write for various publications. I typically speak at conferences once or twice a year as well as at the occasional meetup or within a company. My major commitments are running the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA) and organizing the AST’s Australian conference, both of which are joint endeavours with Paul Seaman. ETA is a 12-week software testing course (for young adults on the autism spectrum) we run twice a year, with one two-hour session per week during each run plus the work involved to organize it, build and refine content, and so on (note that we give our time as volunteers throughout). Organizing the AST’s Australian conference is an ongoing commitment of time throughout the year, with inevitable peaks and troughs dependent on what phase we’re in. It is my opinion that neither of these commitments conflict with the AST or my ability to commit a meaningful amount of time to serving on the AST board (and I would not have nominated myself for the board if they were).
6. (Optional) Would you like to provide a short (250-400 word) introduction to go on your candidate page?

Although I’ve been in the IT industry for over twenty years, my real passion for testing was ignited by attending Rapid Software Testing with Michael Bolton in 2007 (I have since also attended the same course with James Bach). Since finding my passion, I have become more and more involved with the testing community and with the AST.

I co-founded a testing meetup group in Melbourne and co-organized a testing conference, before taking on the role of Program Chair for the AST’s CASTx18 conference. I am now the co-organizer (with Paul Seaman) of the AST’s annual Melbourne testing conference.

I also co-present the EPIC TestAbility Academy, a software testing training programme for young adults on the autism spectrum.

I write testing-related articles in international testing magazines, speak at local and international testing conferences, and blog on testing at Rockin’ And Testing All Over The World. When I’m not testing, I am an avid follower of the UK rock band, Status Quo; hence my Twitter handle @therockertester.