Sunday 10 October 2021

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

 I used to read books about software testing.

And when I moved to Product Management, I started reading books about Product Management.

But last year, when the whole world changed upside down because Covid-19 and I got fired, I was unable to read anything work related.

The only thing I could read was Terry Prachett's Discwork books.

I started reading them for my kids as bedtime stories, and as they grew up and didn't want bedtime stories anymore, I continued reading them for myself. I found very pleasant to read about Discworld, it would allow me to catch sleep in very difficult times, and I got over the first 20 books in one year.

Sam Vimes it has been a pleasure meeting you, but I really feel like going back to reading about software testing, and quality, whatever that is.

This is the second time I read this book. The first time must have been around 2009, when we started writing blogs and learning about testing and quality. It's fun to observe how different the book feels when you read it for the second time, 13 years after, since the book has not changed, it must have been me!

The book is an autobiographical story about a bike trip that Robert M. Pirsing went to across United States in 1968 with his 11 Year old son riding a small Honda.

I like riding motorcycles, and last month we went for a 3 day trip with my wife and out 13 year old kid.

What might have changed in 50 years of motorcycle road trips according to this book ...

Pirsing did his trip in a Honda CB 450, a medium sized bike that would do 180 kmh with his 43hp twin engine.

We did our trip in a couple of Honda CMX 500, a low seat cruiser that has a 47 hp twin engine, and whose top speed I'm not aware of, since I never bothered to test.
On paper, you would say both motorcycles look very similar.

They are not.

Pirsing depicts how he would service the bike, change oil, adjust carburation, tighten valves, weld a loose chain guard and perform several other maintenance tasks.
I did none of that. These newer bikes require a service every 12.000 km, this means I could ride from Valencia (Spain) to Moscow, ride back home, and then do the whole trip again before needing a new oil change. Motorcycles have gone a long way when it comes to maintenance.

Now we have fuel injection, so we don't need to adjust the carburator needles when reaching higher grounds, we have ABS so we don't worry about riding in wet weather, we have bluetooth comms so we communicate from rider to rider the whole trip.

Of corse you need to take care about things when you are riding. You still need to get fuel, food and rest when tired, those things remain the same.
Your intercom devices need recharge and they don´t like getting wet, your mobile phone can run out of signal or battery, so you better know where you want to be riding, just in case your Google maps is not able to tell you where you are.

To became one with the landscape, to be part of it, to get cold when crossing long tunnels and high peaks, to get burnt by the sun and to become amazed, when a road suddenly opens to a landscape you did not expect.

To feel alive, to understand that 11 months of working from home are worth if you can ride one week out in the wild.

This has not changed in 50 years, and I hope it does not for the time I will be around.

I think that the same thing applies to Software Testing.

Yes, the tools are evolving, we now automate a lot of the setup, the testing, the monitoring, our systems require a lot less of maintenance than before, and are able to scale way better.

But yet, it is about the people who are working on a project, it is a matter of the relationships we have inside the team and the company.

It is about describing problems, helping others understand the risks and what coices we have.

Yet we have not figured out quality, we are not able to bake it into the product, it can not be created afterwards, it has to be the most important thing to consider when building a product, or it won´t be.

I might get back to this book some years from now. I plan to continue riding, and to make software testing a living for a while.

And to ride with my kids.

Friday 22 January 2021

Looking back to 2020

Yes, a lot of things happened, but since we're going to forget many of them, let's review a few worth remember.

European Testing Conference.

I was invited to Amsterdam to give a talk explaining my journey from Tester to Product Owner.
The conference went fine!
I had the chance to de-virtualize people I knew for a long time, to meet new people and to see old friends.

The talk went quite well, and somebody thanked me for waking up their tester soul.

Hey, that was a nice praise! and that was a great last European Testing Conference.
I want to express my gratitude and admiration for all the people involved in running those 5 events, and for letting me help a bit along the way, it's been a pleasure.

And yes, somehow we turned this conference trip into a family adventure, but this is how we like doing these kind of things.

MoT Tour.

So, my good friend Tomislav came up with a fun idea, how about delivering 3 talks in 3 days in 3 cities?
Of course, I accepted, and there we went. 
We delivered three talks in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia in 3 days. I got the chance to meet a lot of people and had a great time, even that I finished quite tired at the end, but as Bon Scott once said, it's a long way to the top.

Family time.

As the situation evolved, and quarantine was imposed, I moved to work from home, and the kids moved to study from home as well, so we got a lot of time together.
We have been playing games, watching movies, discussing life and finding ways to adapt to this ever changing situation, and it didn't go bad, at least we made it through the year, one day at the time.

My wife and I we have been together for 20 years now, and one thing we been doing more often this year is going for a ride.

As Keith Klain well said, the road is the journey, and there are plenty of roads out there waiting for us.


Summer came and we didn't have any plan. With all the situation evolving, there was no way to make plans, let alone going for a road trip like we have been doing since 2013.
But then, things happened, and Iberia announced a discount for healthcare workers, and in a couple of weeks we went from not having a plan, to flying to Tenerife and spend a week in this wonderful island.

Good times never come alone, you need to plan for them, but sometimes plans come together in unexpected ways.


I'm back to testing!
I never went too far away, but starting in July, I joined the Voicemod team as a Software Tester to help with the testing thing. 

You know, make questions, evaluate requirements, test working software, write bug reports and test session reports, have fun with the team, automate tests, learn about software, processes, infrastructure, tools, users, competitors, grow as a professional, be a professional skeptic, all things I love from this job.

I got lucky that we also hired BelĂ©n, and that together we have been building an interesting automated test suite that is helping the team to achieve the levels of quality we're searching for. She even wrote an article about it. 

Good things will come out of this team, just wait and see.


My former company made it to the news, but this time it was because they decided to do a layoff due to COVID and the change in the business context.

It was not the first time I saw this happening, but the perspective of being one of the laidoffs was new and interesting for sure. 

As it happens in any spaceship, it turned out that I didn't have my astronaut suite, I was part of the fuel.

But hey...

Pradeep Soundararajan wrote a book, The buddha in testing, this book helped me understand that it was just a business as usual.

He also wrote an article with a new job description, Product Owner's Testing Assistant, and featured me, along with Jon Bach as somebody that would fit in that job description.

I'm very grateful to Pradeep, for helping me understand many things, for many years, in different ways.

And I'm grateful as well to all the flymates, for these good years we had.

As Johnny Cash sings...

"Now I been out in the desert, just doin' my time, Searchin' through the dust, lookin' for a sign
If there's a light up ahead well brother I don't know, But I got this fever burnin' in my soul
So let's take the good times as they go, And I'll meet you further on up the road"

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