Inspired by International Women’s Day last month, we’re highlighting the contributions and expertise of the many talented women in the testing community. For the first post in this series, we interviewed Ashley Hunsberger to learn about her experience. Ashley is a key contributor to the community, speaking frequently at events like SeleniumConf, Agile Testing Days, SauceCon and more.
With a background in various testing roles dating back to her first job out of college, Ashley Hunsberger is Director of Release Engineering at Blackboard. She leads teams building the frameworks, tools and processes that enable others to go from idea to production as fast as possible, with the highest possible quality.
We sat down with Ashley to ask her about her experience as a woman in this field. Here’s what she had to say.
First off, what does it mean to you to be a woman in technology, specifically testing?
I think being a woman in tech means I bring a different perspective to the job, which is critical for software. We build products for people. Our users aren’t all the same demographic, so why should our teams be? I’m glad I’m able to offer up my experiences and different ways of thinking to help solve interesting problems.
For testing, specifically, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when it comes to my teams and my network. I feel it’s probably one of the most diverse—and welcoming—fields in tech that I’ve experienced. I have found that being a woman, and in particular a mother, has prompted me to ask questions I probably would have never thought to ask to test designs, assumptions, and more.
For example, I remember a time where I was in an accessibility workshop. We were talking through the design of a mobile app, and I said, well, I have a kid in one arm, so I can only use one hand to use the app. It was really interesting reflecting that my experience as a parent prompted that thought, and led us to talk about design for everyone.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I’m proud of a lot of things, but still what probably resonates the most is my work to get our tests into the CI pipeline, and gated—meaning we prevented code from moving further downstream if the tests failed. It was the first time I can remember that we had UI tests running on every commit, much less being reliable enough to be gated.
I can’t say my approach is very creative - I think about my hypothesis, design experiments, and fail fast! I’m also a very visual person, so to really understand where we thought tests needed to be run, I love using the straw man drawings to just get started, knowing it can iterate and change over time as we build towards that model.
Who have you learned the most from in this industry?
There are too many to name! Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin, to start. If you haven’t read Agile Testing, or More Agile Testing, you really should. Of course, Angie Jones is always dumping buckets of knowledge on us for anything automation. Maaret Pyhäjärvi, Lisi Hocke, and Alex Schladebeck especially come to mind for exploratory testing, and Amber Race and Marit van Dijk for testing microservices. Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim for their work in DevOps research and continuous delivery. There are so many, I could go on for days! We have a wonderful and supportive community.
What advice would you give your younger self… or someone you were mentoring?
Oh, this is a good question! First off, I’d say that it’s ok to mess up. I know it doesn’t feel like it. I always put a lot of pressure on myself as a kid, even early in my career. I felt like I had to be perfect. But that doesn’t teach me anything. Failing will help you learn, and grow. Second? Never, ever read the comments. Trust me.
Thank you, Ashley! We enjoyed learning about you and your experience.