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Peter Spitzer: Test Engineer of the Year 2013

-January 30, 2013

On Tuesday,  January 29th Peter Spitzer was awarded the Test and Measurement World’s Test Engineer of the Year Award for 2013. A member of the TRICENTIS team since 2008, Peter is currently the TeamLead in TRICENTIS Test. He is responsible for the quality assurance of the TOSCA Testsuite, including creation/ planning and implementation of test concepts and 
reporting the test results to all stakeholders. He is also responsible for creating, implementing, and optimizing the company’s test portfolio, which is what led him to this award. Peter flew all the way from Austria to join us for the awards ceremony, and I commend him on his achievements and his willingness to travel halfway around the world to celebrate with us! It was a great pleasure to meet Peter and get to know him. Here are some of the questions I’ve asked him since we were first introduced.

How/why did you get started in engineering? Did you always want to be one?

Actually, I never heard a kid say "When I grow up I want to work as a test engineer." To be honest, every kid wants to become an astronaut, policeman or firefighter. So no - I didn't always wanted to be a test engineer.

In 1993, when I was 10 years old, I was influenced by my uncle. He worked as a test manager for many years and gave me my first desktop PC. It was great fun for me (and still is) to solve problems with hardware and software. I guess this first professional contact blazed the trail for my career. From the ages of 15 to 16 I quickly discarded my dreams of becoming a policeman and decided that I want to work in the IT business. Finally the testing part of my job just happened.

Tell me a bit about your professional history, where you've worked, what areas, how you got involved in test/measurement.

I studied at the Technical University of Vienna for 4 years and am still studying Medical Information Systems at the university.  During this time, I have been focused on software and hardware for the medical sector having to learn anatomy, biology, and chemistry.  The focus of my studies is on expert medical diagnostics and emphasizes the latest in innovations from both the medical side of the house integrated with expert systems.

I first worked for a large pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH & Co KG on internal support and software testing and then joined TRICENTIS in 2008. My first assignment at TRICENTIS was as a software consultant to test TRICENTIS’ own TOSCA Testsuite prior to release roll out. Since then I was promoted to Senior Consultant, and two years ago I became the Test Manager, leading a team of nine expert software testers working on the latest and greatest solutions for TRICENTIS.

What do you find interesting/intriguing/fascinating about test?

There are endless interesting and fascinating things about software testing, test automation, and test management. One of them is the variability in terms of what needs to be tested. Testing as a profession is never straightforward. It's not that you have the ultimate formula to test software or hardware such as: "Follow these 100 Steps and you are done." You always have new situations where you have to adapt your skills, methods, strategies, and even tools. In my projects, I've never seen the exact same situation twice. I wasn't born to do repetitive work again and again. This is why I enjoy solving the redundant testing with test automation and finding ways to increase efficiency and improve effectiveness. I love the challenge, the competition, and solving tricky puzzles.

Another point that fascinates me is the never-ending learning that comes with software quality assurance. I never go to work without learning something new. There are new hurdles that I have to overcome, and this motivates me every day.

When I started as a test engineer in 2008, the most intriguing facet of testing was the sheer endless variety of options and methodologies to develop and execute tests and all the different flavors of test tools and methods in the market. What impressed me about TOSCA is that the tools are not just ways to automate but can also enable testers to take a risk-based approach and test the right things in the right priority order.  This is critical to improving the test coverage of an organization.

Evaluating the best test execution strategy is great fun. For example:
•    What kind of tool is useful for data driven testing?
•    What's the best test automation strategy for an agile process?
•    Should I use Kanban? (a best practices scheduling system)

What surprised you while you were redesigning the TRICENTIS test portfolio?
At the beginning of 2012 we faced an issue: the test team was not able to execute the tests within the given timeframe. This was the result of the rapidly growing number of features implemented and a wide variety of different testing environments and operating systems needed to test across the different technologies including: databases, SAP, UI, non-UI, crossBrowser, and web services only to name just a few.

Our test team couldn't keep up with the working speed of development and had less slack time for exploratory testing. Quickly we realized something needs to be done, so we performed an in-depth analysis of possible solutions and came up with the idea of totally reassessing our test strategy and test portfolio. TRICENTIS works with some of the largest banks, insurance, government agencies, manufacturers, and companies in the world. These customers are relying on TOSCA Testsuite to test their most critical business applications from end to end.

This reorganization/optimization of our tests was our number one target. Throughout the years our test portfolio grew to a size of about 40,000 test cases for 23 different technologies and the number of technologies was, and is still, growing exponentially.

First, in cooperation with other internal TRICENTIS teams, we created a risk-based requirements-structure for all of our tests. As a result, we were able to categorize our tests and eliminate multiple redundant test cases while keeping the same high test coverage of 93%.

In a second step, we identified our manual tests to be the most time-consuming activity. With the extensive features of the TOSCA Testsuite we were able to automate an additional 65% of our tests which lead to an overall automation level of nearly 90%.

In a last step we introduced Kanban, which is a best practices scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) production, and it is widely used in agile development. We introduced Kanban in order to better visualize and steer the cognitive test cases and to provide transparency of the current work in progress to other departments including development, business analysts and executives across the company.
Next: Challenges

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