test IO specializes in Continuous Testing in an agile development process. This form of software testing combines automated and human testing. With its test management system – offered as a 100% Software-as-a-Service – test IO provides support across the entire development process of a project.
Please tell us about yourself. What are two interesting things about you that people might not know?
My name is Philip Soffer, and I am new to this job! I’ve been here at test IO less than a month. I moved to Berlin from the Bay Area where I’ve worked in the tech industry for almost 20 years in a variety of areas including engineering management, product management, marketing, and operations.
I have usually been more “behind the scenes,” so there are probably many things people don’t know about me. One interesting thing that is testing related: I came up through product management in my first company, and I always made it a point of pride to find the most bugs and the best bugs in our products. At one company I once won a bug finding competition, and was awarded a Malaysian Stick Nymph under glass (it’s about 6 inch long), and I still have it and cherish it (although I am not sure I will ship it here to Berlin. :))
Not only did you do a BA in History – you also continued to a PHD?
Almost! I was getting a PhD in history before I dropped out to join the Internet world.
That was back in 1997. I wrote a database app to keep track of my dissertation notes and I found myself spending nights working on this and not on my dissertation.
I didn’t think about it for years until in 2011 someone contacted me to ask if I could recommend a replacement for the application I’d written — 14 years later! It seems that she couldn’t find a computer that would run it any more. I guess if something is useful, it will last.
I was programming before most of my colleagues were alive. My first exposure was back in 1979, on the Apple II. I learned how to crack games and program bulletin board systems and that sort of thing.
Then when I studied in college, the topics became much more theoretical – computer science as a branch of mathematics rather than a “hacking” thing, as it had been for me as a kid. I was never going to be the best at that. So I studied the thing I most enjoyed, which was history. Fast forward a few years and I was writing this database app. At that moment the job market for humanities was terrible and I didn’t want to leave Berkeley, which is a great place to live, so I decided to jump ship. And sure enough, until moving to Berlin for test IO I’ve lived continuously in the same neighbourhood I lived in as a grad student.
2. Can you please tell us a little bit about your company? What sets you apart? What makes you great?
We specialize in continuous human QA. That is, we can take a rapid development process and integrate human testers very efficiently, performing the kinds of tests that meet the customer’s needs and that people are best positioned to perform. Through our SaaS platform, we’re very good at translating our customer’s needs into tests that human testers can carry out, and then translating the testers’ output into something that is actionable and useful for the customer.
These days with agile development and continuous delivery, code bases are moving rapidly, so the need for continuous testing has never been higher. Our best customer is one who wants to move faster, has made a commitment to test automation and also knows what its limitations are.
3. Let’s assume that I’m a company that is not using your company’s services. What are three things that I’m missing?
- You are missing the ability to unblock the QA bottleneck and move faster. If you’re ever gating a release because you “don’t have QA cycles,” that’s lost time and money.
- If you are building a product that is available on many devices and supported through a lot of browsers and you’re doing this though simulators, you’re missing the ability to have a continuous real-world customer experience test of your software.
- You’re missing on a lot of high quality insight into your software. Our testers are professionals with fresh eyes for your product. As someone who’s just started a new position, I know that a fresh-eyed perspective lets you see things that people who’ve been staring at the problem for a long time don’t see.
4. Even though you are new to testing- one thing that interests us is to see what people are thinking about the future – what will be interesting and different:
- When I look at the way the industry, broadly speaking, is moving, the most interesting developments are in deep learning and artificial intelligence. The ability of a computer to learn human behavior is something that will have a profound impact on software development and software testing. I don’t know what form this change will take, but I’m sure computers will be able to help test themselves in ways that they can’t currently do.
- On the other hand, computers will be doing a lot more things that attempt to mimic human behavior, and humans need make sure what they’re doing makes sense. By definition, only human beings can grade the Turing Test, so if we’re trying to build software systems that respond as humans do, we will need people.
- I am also quite taken with the idea that a very good chess player and a decent chess computer, working together, can beat more powerful chess computers. I think there’s a powerful lesson there about the way people and computers can complement each other when working on hard problems.
Anything else that you would like to share?
I encourage engineering leaders to think about the role of testers and continuous human testing in their strategy.
Test automation is important and wonderful as far as it goes, and we need to think about ways to continuously improving our software – not just by checking whether things work as expected, but by learning more about the software each time it’s tested.
The great news is, we work better and work faster at the same time.