I am a passionate believer, thinker, tester, and yes, specifically prioritized in that order. I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, USA, where I still live today with my wife and three children. I work for an automotive technology company as a quality and testing evangelist across divisions within the organization. My passion is ultimately to help others think critically about testing, which I believe is something that can be awoken within someone when it is dormant, but cannot be created. My related passions include the study of heuristic-based testing, metrics and measurement, testing mnemonics, oracles and other various strategies and tools that aid in the pursuit of helping myself and others become better testers.
My formal education is in the form of a bachelor’s degree in ATEC from The University Of Texas at Dallas, where I took just enough programming classes (six) to realize that the fun I had writing code since high-school was about the extent of my desire to create code. I still like coding from time to time, but mostly to aid in testing or as a personal challenge, but not in contribution toward a customer-facing product.
With my formal testing experience beginning around 2005. I have worked in the entertainment, security, financial and technology industries in my career thus far, with ad-hoc testing in other fields of study. I am an avid believer in the Improvement Continuum, which basically says, in a nutshell, ‘one can never unintentionally plateau in learning’. I believe that the pursuit of this learning is key to continually getting better at the skill-craft of testing, so that we can move the testing community out of its infancy.
An aside: At the beginning of my testing career as a tester, I saw myself as a ‘product gatekeeper’ of sorts. This provided me a false sense of entitlement as I felt it was my responsibility to make the final go/no-go call for a release. This was mainly a product of working in an environment of under five people, where we all wore multiple hats, but as I matured in my understanding of what it meant to be a tester, I realized that I was missing the mark. I’ve been through the muck and mire, but have been blessed to have strong mentors along the way that aided in my growth as a tester. I had to realize that learning was the key to my continued growth as a tester, the first step involving becoming humble enough to realize that I did not have things figured out. It has been my experience, that the best learning comes from working with people you respect so that you can let your guard down and become a better listener.
I am also an involved and zealous member of the context-driven testing (CDT) community always seeking to improve my understandings of both established and new testing concepts. I have found my interactions with others in this community to be extremely beneficial and rewarding over the years. There’s a popular phrase that goes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohr. While I believe my mentality in how I approach life and testing specifically, is the average of the five people from which I’ve gained the most on-earth learning: Grant Gassiott, Kyle Carper, Brian Kurtz, James Bach and Michael Bolton. Thank you, and all of those in the community that I interact with daily; you’ve had an immense positive impact on my life.
On a lighter note
Now yes, I have a life outside of testing. I have a wife and three children, two boys and a girl. I live to spend time with them. If someone came to me today and said, “I’ll pay you to stay home with your family all the time,” then I’d do it in a heartbeat. My parents still live in the Dallas area, and you can thank them for this blog, as they are the ones mainly responsible for me arriving at this point in life. They were the strong moral foundation I had growing up that kept me centered in Christ. I also have an older brother who was my role model growing up. He always looked out for my best interests, even when he had much better things to worry about. As a younger brother by five years, I annoyed him plenty more than my fair share, but he took it in stride and loved me through it. I do not have much memory of my early childhood, but I vividly remember one time when in the middle of an argument with me, he turned to the side and firmly planted his forehead into the wall next to us. This was unlike him, as he never lashed out of showed anger; however, this was a way of getting his frustration out on an inanimate object instead of giving me the pummeling I deserved. He took a sizable chunk out of the sheetrock, at which point both of us looked at each other and whatever we’d be arguing about didn’t seem to matter at all. We knew instantly that he’d be in big trouble for that, but I still do not remember receiving any trickle-down anger or collateral damage or backlash that I definitely deserved for driving him to such an extreme. Every now and then we’ll run across the old audio cassette tapes in storage from the early 80s and pop them in the player. You can hear me making baby noises, and Dustin saying, “My little buddy, my little buddy,” talking to me in a loving voice, which remained the foundation for the tone of our friendship as brothers as we grew. I miss my brother, a lot these days, especially since we live on opposite sides of the country, but we do our best to get our families to meet up every now and then and have good times making more memories.
I am a Troop Master for a Trail Life USA troop that I founded in 2014 at my church, where I also serve as a deacon and play guitar in the Sunday-morning worship team. I use to write programs for TI-calculators in the 90s, when I was in high-school, and hey look, a few of the programs are still around. I enjoy all kinds of music, from Bob Schneider and needtobreathe to fantastic female vocalists like Alizée and Taylor Swift (no shame). I have a soft-spot in my heart for the Indian culture, everything from their cuisine to their cinema, but really it’s their people that have made me feel most loved. While, I could stay up all night eating the spiciest Vada Pav and watching cheesy Bollywood movies, it is through strong personal relationships with some fantastic Indians that I have come to love the culture. One day I will get to go to India, but that’s another story. Other loves include gaming, road-trips, rock-climbing, camping, hiking, exploring, driving without a destination in mind, having deep discussions with total strangers, and when he is having a “good day”, time with my old dog, Pete.
On a even more personal note: Everything I do as a tester rolls up to my thinking, while that thought process is firmly rooted in my definition as a believer. A believer in what? Christ, my savior. My morality comes from God, thus the decisions I make in how I go about testing and interact with others in my various environments is directly dictated two things: my tacit and explicit knowledge of testing (of course) and what I have learned from God’s word.
I have been asked, “But Connor, why are you so open about it? Can’t you just stuff that away, and focus strictly on testing like everyone else does?” Sure, I could do both you and myself a disservice by hiding that, but it is not my intention to mislead the community. First, I found out a while ago that I have a hard time producing good work when I attempt to mask part of myself to simply cut to the chase or get the job completed. These switches are linked, and cannot be separately flipped without some detrimental compromise. Since my morality affects everything I do, which includes my testing, then my decision making within testing comes from my roots which are based in my faith-value system as a Christian. There are ethics and morality, even within testing, yet few people, even in the CDT community, actually discuss this topic. While I am a believer in the scientific approach to testing, I do not pretend to be blind to the fact that my morality does have an impact on the work I do. Secondly, it is not my intent to convert anyone when we are discussing testing. I am able to separate the two, and have simply objective and logical discussions. This background is simply to give you context behind my writing as well as how I will engage with you in a discussion.
I also believe that precision of language and avoiding weak agreements can lead to people treating each other in a way that is less than acceptable. It is possible to hold your ground and have a discussion with someone in a mature and respectful fashion, without cutting them off or ridiculing them. Tact plays a role into how successful a conversation will be. You goal within a conversation should be to teach as well as learn from the other. I try my hardest to intentionally arrive at each conversation with the awareness of my possible misconceptions. This allows me to still deliver my knowledge, but be open to listening to anything that might positively influence and address those misconceptions, so that the discussion can be mutually beneficial. I also try often to speak to my experience, so as not to dictate to others what will work for them. It is my hope that other parties can hear what I have to offer, harvest information from the discussion that is of us to them and discard the rest.
So, there’s simply no harm in explaining my background, in order to give you that perspective. We live in a community where context is king, which inherently means there’s a value-add in individual transparency about who I am as well. This partially plays into identifying each others’ testing biases, so the more you know about me, then the more likely you will be able to point them out. In recap, to pretend my roots are in my career as a tester alone and only based on my experience and knowledge, is to completely ignore the influence of my morality, thus misleading.
I seek to tell the full story about who I am, so that the why and how of what I do makes more sense. How can we understand the output of a system if we do not understand the system? This is my brief attempt to explain who I am and how my system operates.