James Thomas

James is a candidate in the board elections for 2019.

Q1: Why are you an AST Member?

When I first became a tester I sought out resources to help me learn what testing was. The first book I bought was Lessons Learned in Software Testing and I found that the way it described testing was the way I naturally wanted to test. I researched the authors and their other work which led me to Rapid Software Testing, joining AST, and completing the BBST Foundations course.


I remain a member of AST because of its integrity, its dedication to the testing craft, and its commitment to a strong code of ethical conduct for testing.


The other people I know who are members of AST are, like me, passionate about testing. Sadly, not everyone I know who is passionate about testing thinks the AST is relevant to them.


Q2: How do you intend to promote diversity within the AST? How could AST promote diversity, of all kinds, within our own organization and within the wider testing and technology communities?

The AST’s code of ethics expects its members to respect diversity of cultures and not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, disability, national origin and so on. From the outside, taking the speakers at CAST 2019 as an example, the organisation appears to be demonstrating that it doesn’t believe older white men are the only people who have something useful to say about testing.


I’d try to promote diversity in and by the AST by encouraging it to seek out people who do not already engage with it and find ways to help them to engage. This might be by making AST relevant to them, by moving AST geographically closer to them, by making AST financially accessible to them, or something else.


Q3: What do you think the AST board has historically done well, and what do you think needs to change?

With only a small number of volunteer staff, I think the board has done well to keep the organisation running, grow and extend its conferences and webinars, and maintain a high level of commitment to testing as a craft and high-quality testing education. 


A significant challenge for AST is that it can seem dry, academic, and a bit dated. Worse, for me, it’s not at all obvious what AST think the point of being a member of AST is.


Q4: If you are elected to serve on the board, what is your vision for the future of AST and what do you hope to accomplish as part of the board?

I’d like to see the passion and dedication that the AST has for testing be more visible and be expressed in more accessible ways. Working out how it wants to coexist with other organisations in the testing space is key.


Simon Sinek suggests that projects should start with the why and I’ve found that to be good advice in software and other projects. I’d encourage AST to understand why it exists before it starts to make any changes.  


Part of that reflection must include an acknowledgement of the current context where there are test conferences popping up all over the place and groups such as the Ministry of Testing doing a brilliant job of promoting testing. 


Q5: Many people come to be AST Board of Directors candidates through a long history of community involvement. This community involvement usually involves teaching, creating and running peer conferences, creating and running regular conferences, and working with commercial entities.

Q5A: These are all wonderful and valuable activities, but they might create conflicts for board members. One problem is that a board member spending time helping a personal conference to thrive means less or no time spent on AST events. The other problem, and the more important one, is that knowing program and financial information of a personal event will affect decisions made for AST events and initiatives and vice versa.

Q5B: Please describe any current initiatives you participate in that might affect your ability to serve on the AST board, and serve the AST membership

Once or twice a year I help to organise CEWT, the Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing, a small peer conference for the testing community in Cambridge, UK. I regularly attend and support the Cambridge Tester Meetup and its sister Testing Clinic, and I blog regularly at Hiccupps.  


I don’t believe that these activities will get in the way of AST business.


Q6: What is your vision for the future of AST’s training program?

When I talk to people about the AST’s training program they refer to its depth, breadth, and quality … and also to it being a really significant commitment of both time and effort. My own experience of BBST left me with a similar perspective. I’d add that having a cohort studying the same content together over a constrained time, with dedicated and knowledgeable instructors, is a great motivation to learn and an aid to learning well. It makes BBST stand out from other online learning.


It isn’t cheap to create training this valued and valuable — and as important to the reputation of AST — so alterations or extensions would need to be carefully considered. I’d want to understand where the AST thinks its niche is (see previous answer) and then align the training program with that.


Q7: (Optional) Would you like to provide a short (250-400 word) introduction to go on your candidate page?

James is one of the founders of Linguamatics, the world leader in innovative natural language-based text mining, and over the years he’s had many roles in the company including web site admin, tech support, and dev manager. He is currently the test manager, a position in which he strives to provide an environment where his testers have an opportunity to do their best work. 


He organises CEWT, the Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing, which has covered topics such as testing ideas, when testing went wrong, why we test, and the values of both testing practice and testing theory. He’s active in the Cambridge testing community, regularly attending, presenting, and promoting its activities.


At EuroSTAR 2015, he won the best paper prize for his talk and essay Your Testing is a Joke, on the relationship between testing and humour. He’s also spoken at UKSTAR 2017, where he described his personal definition of testing and how he arrived at it, and Softtest 2018, about the two-way benefits of testers getting involved in customer support, a topic also covered in his Ministry of Testing ebook, When Support Calls


He’s on Twitter as @qahiccupps and blogs at Hiccupps