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Yes, this is a real product you can buy. 
And yes, it is VERY disturbing.  It also dances.  Yeah.

A bit off topic today.  Fridays are like that sometimes.  Let’s call this Friday Brain Food.

SQLRockstar’s Masterpiece

SQLRockstar, aka Tom LaRock,  has written something awesome on his blog.  It deals with interview questions and hiring and is one of the most insightful things I’ve read in a long time. 

It’s a short post – go read it now and then come back for my commentary.

My Reaction:  DBA’s and Software Testers

That post seems so out of place on a SQL blog.  It needs to be a NYTimes editorial or something.  Bravo Tom, but if you decide to make a habit of being this insightful all the time, I will frankly find it hard to be around you Smile

The part that lit me up the most, by far, was that last part:

If a person says that they are typically thought to be red but they don’t really know what color they are because they have never met Santa Claus then you have someone that is not only open to new ideas but will likely want to test those ideas thoroughly. My guess is that maybe 1 in 20 people would respond in this manner. Most folks don’t like to be the pain in the ass that points out the obvious facts to others around them.

(And not to belabor the point, but here’s the link, you really should read his post.  Oh, and Tom has grown sensitive to plagiarism over the years so I figure, why not over-link to him to be safe?  He’s been plagiarized a million times this year alone.  Go copy/paste some text off his blog into Word or anywhere else and see what happens.  Seriously, something funny does happen.)

OK, why did that part crack me up?  Because I have met these people.  And they are much more rare than 1 in 20. 

In my 13 years at Microsoft I really only met two people like that.  And they were both amazing software testers.

Thanks to a college recruiter with a particular quota to fulfill, I was miscast as a software tester at Microsoft for my first year in Redmond.  Actually, I realized in my very first WEEK that I had been routed into the wrong job, but it took a year (and some serious luck) to escape.

You see, to be a truly great test engineer, you have to come to work every single day with a belief that the product is broken.   That your coworkers who built it failed to do a good job.  You have to be contrarian to the core…  but still be able to work with others.

Two Different Flavors of Contrarian

If you know me personally, you might be thinking “well hey, Rob is QUITE contrarian,” and you have a point, but that’s a different flavor.  I have no problem with ideas and thoughts that are unpopular, and I’m less afraid to share those thoughts at times than perhaps I should be (I sent some unsolicited investment advice yesterday that comes to mind), but fundamentally I am a VERY optimistic person.  I believe things work.  I believe in the people around me.

I found it VERY difficult to be a software tester.  My biggest problem, every single day, was motivation.  Telling myself that my job actually made a difference.  Because hey, the product worked!  And more importantly, there was serious CREATION going on!  The thrill of creating things was everywhere, and I wanted to be on THAT side of the equation.  I was constantly trying to create, by disguising new product ideas as “bugs” and entering them into the system.

I still did pretty well at it, but honestly, I never sunk more than a solid hour of real work into actual software testing each day, like the guy in Office Space.  And I suspect that was true of many of the test engineers on my team.

But then there was Lawrence.

Lawrence Landauer was head and shoulders above everyone else on that team.  When Office 97 was done, he had found four times as many bugs as the person in second place on the team.  Lawrence worked LONG hours, but he never seemed to be straining himself at any particular point.  The bug tracking system (called RAID at the time, before lifesucking corporatism took hold and gave us Product Studio, and then later Team Foundation Services) was like a word processor for him.  And I am absolutely POSITIVE that if we asked Lawrence what color Santa’s pants are, he would laugh and say he’d never met Santa. 

Honorable mention in this category goes to James Rivera.  I give James a 50% chance of answering that way, depending on the day.  Oddly, James came up this week when I was talking to Bill Jelen (Mr. Excel).  And naturally, he came up because he had been the bearer of bad news.  Still got it after all these years James! Smile

Are DBA’s Testers, or Vice Versa?

Tom closes his article with the following thought:

Most folks don’t like to be the pain in the ass that points out the obvious facts to others around them.

Then again, most folks aren’t DBAs, either.

I watch DBA’s talk to each other in Twitter a lot.  And mostly what they do, as their primary means of social interaction, is complain.  Complain complain complain.  Mostly about their coworkers, or clients.  Things like “no you can’t have admin privs on the database mr. developer” but usually things that go over my head like “look at this query the previous schmuck wrote that I have to clean up.”

But in person, these are all VERY nice people.  I meet them all the time at SQL Saturdays in particular.

The software test teams I worked on in my first year at Microsoft were just like that.  So are DBA’s really just software test engineers who have moved a bit toward the “create” side of the spectrum?  Are test engineers really just DBA’s who haven’t realized it yet?

Building, growing, and maintaining a good quality assurance organization is a huge ongoing challenge for most software teams, and I think that is mostly due to the psychological challenges involved.  There are simply not enough Lawrence and James types running around.  Understanding and embracing that may be critical to success.

Rob Collie

One of the original engineering leaders behind Power BI and Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, Rob Collie founded a consulting company in 2013 that is 100% devoted to “the new way forward” made possible by Power BI and its related technologies. Since 2013, PowerPivotPro has rapidly grown to become the leading firm in the industry, pioneering an agile, results-first methodology never before seen in the Business Intelligence space. A sought-after public speaker and author of the #1-selling Power BI book, Rob and his team would like to help you revolutionize your business and your career.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Rob,

    Rum and cokes on me next time I see you, thanks.

    [And no, by “on me” I *don’t* mean we are going to be shooting some low-budget porno where I “accidentally” spill drinks all over myself and have to take off my shirt like that creepy guy in “Ghost”.]

  2. I asked one of my partners at Pivotstream this question, because I had a hunch she might have an interesting answer. And she did:

    “I don’t believe in santa claus, therefore there are no pants”

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