Matt Heusser – 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?

I’m personally for equal opportunity for all – and that includes increasing access and availability for the historically disadvantaged. Testing is a job that someone smart but under-trained can pick up on quickly and excel at. For example, there are a lot of “bootcamp” programs that are producing junior-level programmers that don’t really have the skills  to be full-stack programmers yet. With a little work, however, they could become entry-level testers – and programs like BBST and WHOSE could give them the self-study needed to become mid-level testers. As a board member, I’d be interested in partnering with such programs, along with programs like SpeakEZ, which I’ve worked with in the past with some success.

As testers, we are fantastically good at making unclear language more precise. For example, are we really interested in diversity of all kinds? It’s a tough issue that I don’t think AST should be afraid of addressing. We have the opportunity to make a vision and business case for diversity that is compelling.
Finally, it’s worth a look to see if we have any systemic issues that prevent equal opportunity, like access to computers, the internet, time or money – and if we can remove those barriers. At one time, AST was pursuing the academic world, to get college students to attend CAST. It might be better to put CAST in a big city and invite some of the coding bootcamps, and make an effort to connect entry-level people willing to move with hiring managers.
2. Please share your vision for the future of the AST’s BBST program.

BBST is great. A lot of people complain that BBST is “old”, that the examples are “tired.” I suspect those people have never tried to put together a full course on software testing, or understand the huge investment of time required.

As I understand, BBST continues to have more people sign up than we have instructors to teach the course. I don’t see a burning need to change much.

AST could hire someone to re-skin the course materials and come up with more modern examples. This would likely be more of a cosmetic change. We could get it priced.

We could also produce a foundations of test tooling course. I believe there is a market for that. I expect we’d need to hire someone, or a few people, to do it.

I picked test tooling for a reason. Usability, Security, these sorts of things are already covered well by the market. What I don’t see is anything realistic about test tooling with the same sort of appeal as, say, a BBST, an RST, Rob Sabourin’s JIT, etc.

Honestly I’d do a funded peer workshop, like we did with WHOSE, given a mandate of creating a compelling vision for BBST. Then we might have to fund it. More on that in section three.

3. What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?

The AST board has kept the lights on, running CAST, BBST, the grant program, and a few other things. They’ve increased the cash reserve of the organization and kept it on firm footing. Also, I want to say, over the past few years, there has been a distinct effort to turn AST away from the conflict-loving, lets-fight-about-it culture of the 1990’s toward something with a little more mutual respect. Those are all good things.

In the process of straightening the ship, I wonder if we’ve lost a bit of our way. Not in a big way, though I will talk about a bigger opportunity below. More in that I’m not exactly sure what AST stands for anymore – at least how it is differentiated from other voices in the world of software testing. As the content at the conference becomes more broad and technical, it’s a bit harder and harder to tell CAST from the other test conferences.

That isn’t bad. It just means we need to put a stake in the ground and talk about who we are.

The question includes what needs to change. I’d take a hard look at the budget and the war chest and consider a strategic investment in making CAST a must-see conference. No, I don’t want to have a conference on a boat. That’d be fun, but I’m talking about something that would make industry take notice – like hiring Steve Wozniak as a keynote speaker. I’ve done the math before, I think we can afford it. Likewise, we could do a major initiative to add a course module to BBST, which I mention above. Personally, I’d like to see a mid-year open space style conference. Two or Three days – likely two plus tutorials – with a single keynote, selected at the end of day one by the attendees, speaking on the topics relevant to the attendees by the end of day one. We could call it WinterJam. Or something.

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?

I believe that AST is at a crossroads. Founded at the Association for Software TestING, we are in fact more like the Association for Software TestERS. Meanwhile, I see the industry moving more towards an “everybody tests (at least in theory) (and badly)” model. AST has the platform to be influential in actually accomplishing it’s mission – making skilled testing something that academia and industry realizes actually exists.

Notice I said skilled testing. That is, an activity that can be done better or worse, and can be practiced to improve.

The world needs to hear a compelling vision for test that allows for the possibility of test specialists and the possibility that everyone can be involved. Both of these visions can exist side by side. AST is poised to help tell the world. I have the skills and energy to help tell that credible story with influence to adjacent communities, and the track record to prove it.

If you can find a better candidate, vote for them.

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.

I write a lot, I speak a lot. There is no single organization that has my professional loyalty in a way I can see conflicting with AST at this time. I’m probably most closely aligned with Trendig, the organizers of Agile Testing Days, but I’m not in a position to influence policy or make decisions in that organization.

6. (Optional) Would you like to provide a short (250-400 word) introduction to go on your candidate page?

Matt Heusser has been an active member of AST for eleven years, and has attended every CAST since 2010. In that time he has held nearly every role at CAST, from speaker to logistics to program chair – limiting his speaking to three years to give others a chance. Matt served on the AST board from 2011-2013, again stepping back to focus on helping grow other leaders. During his time on the AST board, Matt designed and helped implement the grant program, which continues to this day. He served as lead organizer and product owner for WHOSE, the Workshop on Self-Education in Software Testing, which is the only professional quality document AST has published. ( https://www.associationforsoftwaretesting.org/programs/workshop-on-self-education-in-software-testing-whose/ ) While on the board Matt organized the Test Coach Camp, which was sponsored, and from 2013-2017 ran TestRetreat, a self-sustaining conference located and timed near CAST.

Matt has also been doing testing and helping others do it, along with development and continuous improvement, for his entire adult life. He is currently the managing director of a small consulting company called Excelon Development (http://www.xndev.com) .

Matt is also an outside advisor on the RST course. This is what James Bach has to say on his web page about Matt:

Matt is another independent consultant. But he’s kind of a special case. He writes a LOT. He organizes things. He coaches a lot of talented testers. He’s a community builder.

With an ambition reminiscent of Cem Kaner, Matt has big plans and an emerging grand vision of the craft. I don’t know if he would agree, but that’s how it looks to me.