By Bernie Berger

The ninth meeting of the Software Testing in Financial Services workshop (STiFS) took place on Sunday & Monday May 19-20 at the NYC headquarters of Liquidnet.  With 11 participants from 8 different financial organizations and traveling from 5 different US States, the atmosphere was warm and the discussions focused.

Our theme was “Organizational Structure Models for Test Groups at Financial Firms”, and in typical STiFS form, the agenda was balanced between experience report presentations, facilitated open season questioning and discussion, and participatory group activities.  We heard enlightening ERs from our presenting participants about their experiences, both positive and otherwise, with various structural reorganizations…centralized testing groups to decentralized, and back again.

There was lots of energy behind the open season questions as well. In fact (and not surprisingly) in one case the Open Season took longer than the ER presentation itself, with follow up questions and deep-dive discussions about culture shifts, metrics, and outsourcing models.  In another case, following an ER, we may have heard a new term being coined: “Reorg Fatigue” – describing how people felt after numerous corporate restructure transitions.

The biggest takeaway, though, may have been the results of a brainstorm session “what needs to be in place for a successful transition?” Some key points that were mentioned included: top-down support and bottom-up trust; willingness to experiment and tolerance for failure; clear objectives and contingency plans; and well-defined new responsibilities.  And, oh yeah, beer.

Lastly, one of the most fascinating aspects from the perspective of the workshop organization and facilitation, was lunch.  As folks were finishing their food, people were milling about and chatting in the hallway, and the conversation made its way to “finding superstar testers in financial services”.  Starting out with just a few people standing around, the circle got wider and wider as more people joined the informal conversation.  At some point, everyone went back inside the workshop room, where the hallway chat magically transformed into a structured, facilitated discussion – even though the topic – recruiting – only tangentially fit with the workshop theme. Kudos to our facilitator, Eric Proegler, for picking up on this and for doing a great job in general. The seamless change-over from hallway to facilitated conversation epitomized the culture of STiFS (and likely other LAWST-inspired workshops as well)…we follow the energy, wherever it may take us.