Most Influential People in Software Testing
  March 07, 2014

Throughout my career in software testing there have been many obstacles that I've had to overcome to get to where I am today. Earlier on I struggled with testing effectively; however, through trial and error I was able to become more efficient.

On my first testing job, it was a challenge to garner the respect of the developers who were far more technical than me. Of course, I was still wet behind the ears, but through persistence and the support of my superiors, I was able to slowly gain their respect and become more technical myself.

Within the past few years, I began to slowly come into my own as a tester and it was mostly due to the help provided by other influential software testers in the space. Having worked mostly in silos and never really researching how other software testers took on the trade, I had very little exposure to the testing community and the thought leaders of the testing space.

With their guidance, traveling to testing conferences, and reading their articles and books, I have become more confident in my testing skills and have found new ways to approach software. These thought leaders of the testing industry helped me see software testing in a new light and to find the practice extremely rewarding.

So, I've made a list of the most influential software testers based on my education of software testing over the past few years. I even have gotten feedback from others in the space on who has influenced them in their testing careers. By no means was this an election nor was it a popularity contest. I believe it is important to understand who and what influences us in our careers, basically as a retrospective in order to make us stronger individuals in the future.

Mostly, I hope this list finds its way into the hands of those new in the software testing field, so that they can learn from these people as I have over the past few years. I think it's safe to say that I would have gotten much further earlier on if I had their resources available to me.


I had to put this in here first, because some of the most important information on how to help your perspective on software testing derives from the great philosophers in human history. Software testing is not only a way of thinking; it’s an art and science.

Aristotle takes the cake since he was not only one of, if not the greatest, philosopher to ever live, but he made his mark on all aspects of science. His way of thinking over two thousand years ago has led to much of the way of thinking in the science and the arts today, which includes software testing.

James Bach

James may be the most outspoken person in the software testing community. His views and ethical code may be hard for some to chew, but his passion is unmatched. He speaks from the heart and stands for what he believes in.

His views are based on ethical code in software testing and finding understanding in the context of each and every scenario in which testers face. The testing community is a divided one, and having advocates such as him may be the key to unifying testers into one.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with his views is not the point. He knows that through conversation and argument we can learn more from one another more than if sit back and refuse to engage. This is what he has taught me, which is why I hold his perspective, articles and books in high regard.

Some material by James Bach that I recommend every tester takes the time to read:

Cem Kaner

You can’t find a person with more knowledge in the testing space than Cem Kaner. Beyond testing, Mr. Kaner is a doctor in psychology, has a law and psychology degree and has been a programmer and test manager. He is one of the founders of the Association of Software Testing. To be honest, you might be hard pressed to find something that he hasn’t done.

Much of testing, as you might imagine, is an exercise of the mind, so you can see were the psychology and philosophy degrees can come in handy, but obviously, I can’t speak for Mr. Kaner. I hold all of his material I’ve read in high regard. I do have a couple of his books on my to-do list that I need to read--I’ll be getting around to that soon enough. His interests range from metrics to the law of software quality.

Lisa Crispin

Since I began to understand Agile practices and how working in iterative workflows decreases the amount of time to test, Agile testing has fascinated me.

I worked in a bit of a hybrid waterfall/Agile workflow when I was a tester, so Agile is still fairly new to me. At my previous testing position, I had fairly long iterations to deal with due to the lack of development resources—we were a very small knit group working remotely from one another. So, when I first started learning about testing in Agile environments, I ran into some of Lisa’s (and subsequently Janet Gregory's) work on the subject.

Lisa Crispin is an Agile Testing Practitioner and Coach. She has a couple of books out on testing and her website is a great resource to learn something new from her own experiences as an Agile leader.

Griffin Jones

I’ve never worked in a regulated industry and after hearing about some of the horror stories, the idea gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve heard those stories of testers and developers being sued millions of dollars because of a software defect messing with the stock market or even being the cause of death, for example, a medical device defect. Imagine if your bank app had a defect where your information could be stolen and used against you; you’d be waiting on a check from that bank.

Testing in regulated industries is no joke, and Griffin Jones knows that better than most. If you have questions about regulatory compliance, whether it’s FDA compliance or finding and building good evidence to protect yourself and your company from liability issues down the road, he’s the person to ask.

The List Goes On

To be honest, I could mention quite a few other people who have influenced how I approach software testing that I couldn’t fit here. For those who are new to software testing, these experts are a good place to start. For the more experienced testing professionals, there is always something more to learn, so keep digging and hopefully you can continue to learn something new from a different expert each day.

Feel free to let us know who has been most influential to your testing career.

See also:


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