Meeta Prakash has been involved in testing for twelve years. In this installment of the From One Expert to Another interview series, Anne-Marie Charrette speaks with her about her testing experience, coaching, and the importance of understanding the different cultures with which you engage.
Dr. Meeta Prakash is an intelligent, thoughtful coach and mentor, and her enthusiasm for testing is infectious. In this interview, we discuss many aspects of testing and coaching.
Anne-Marie Charrette: How did you get involved in coaching in testing?
Meeta Prakash: My experience with coaching started during my PhD program with A. K. Tripathi, my mentor and guide, and my initial jobs at engineering institutes as a professor. But, then it was lost somewhere as I stepped out into the IT industry. It was revived in 2006-2007 when I joined the first online black box software testing (BBST) instructors program with Cem Kaner. My first experience of giving online coaching was the BBST course which, today, the AST regularly provides online. I had the opportunity to work with Karen Johnson, Scott Barber, James Bach, Ben Simo, Cem Kaner, and many others when the course was initially launched. This experience set the stepping stone for me into the world of coaching in testing.
My other memorable experience of a more personal form of coaching was from Michael Bolton. For the first time in my life, I sat through a session from morning to night without even batting so much as an eye. His approach was unconventional, using lots of examples and magic tricks and then relating them to day-to-day activities in testing. It was an interesting session to attend for exploratory testing and a real eye opener.
I have had the opportunity to constantly improve myself through multiple learning lessons with Tripathi, Kaner, James Bach, Jon Bach, Bolton, and others including my peers and reportees.
Of course, there’s also the weekend testers, where I was involved as a mentor. Today, the weekend testing phenomenon has taken off and is practiced around the globe. It has predominant recognition, and so many seniors from the testing industry step in to provide mentoring to aspiring testers. It was a wonderful way for me to be able to give back to the testing community when I joined the wave, but I also learned a lot from the sessions. They opened my mind to new ideas and extended my concept of testing. Even now, I try to join the sessions whenever possible either as a participant or as a mentor.
Anne-Marie Charrette: Where do you think the testing industry is going?
Meeta Prakash: Up until now, many people were confused about what testing is. They used to see it as drab and boring—a job in IT that had a low status. But, that’s changing. Kaner runs a major course at the Florida Institute of Technology. There are initiatives like the weekend testers that help testers improve their skills. Stalwarts like James Bach, Kaner, Bolton, and many others are available and easily approachable to resolve and mentor aspirants.
Testers are discovering that testing is a journey. You may start off following a similar path to other testers, but soon you will find new discoveries—different paths from those before you. By sharing the journey together, we help improve for everyone how we test.
I will never forget a weekend tester session I was part of. The focus was on tester pairing. One tester, though, wanted to try a different approach. Instead of pairing, he wanted to maintain individuality by first testing alone and later pairing to compare results. During the debriefing, it turned out that his approach had found a critical defect. What’s more, because it was during a weekend testers session, many people benefited from this learning experience.
Today, testing stands strongly independent and is important, but there is still much to be worked on to gain