Women in Testing: Gwen Diagram

Mar 6, 2020

Gwen Diagram speaking at an event

Inspired by International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting the contributions and expertise of the many talented women in the testing community. For this post, we interviewed Gwen Diagram to learn about her experience. Gwen is a key contributor to the community who speaks frequently at industry events and looks for ways to give back.

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Gwen Diagram initially wanted to be a hairdresser. She ultimately decided that wasn’t for her, and ended up getting a job in IT Support. After watching her cube neighbors in Application Support write SQL code (and peppering them with questions about it), Gwen parlayed her interest into her first testing job in 2011—and the rest is history. 

Since that first job as a tester, Gwen has taken on many different roles, including Scrum Master, DevOps, and Engineering Manager. However, she still fundamentally considers herself a tester, and even recently left her full-time Engineering Manager role because she missed hands-on testing too much. 

In addition to her day-to-day testing responsibilities, Gwen organizes the Leeds Testing Atelier, is working with Elizabeth Zagroba on a Testing Study Escape in Scotland, and she’s on the Programme Board for Agile on the Beach. She loves to travel and talk to people about technology and testing. 

I asked Gwen about her experience being a woman in technology. “Being a woman in tech, it’s important to lift other women up with you, and make sure you are shouting about what your female colleagues and friends in tech are doing,” says Gwen.  “Sometimes you need to shout a little bit harder to get heard. It does feel like you need to work harder as a woman—but you do get a lot of opportunities as well. Conferences are working very hard to get a gender balance now, and this has opened up opportunities for me. It’s important to see other people like yourself speaking at conferences so you can think, ‘hey, I can do that someday.’ I’d like to see this push for other minorities as well, sometimes the focus seems to be so much on women that we forget about helping other minorities!”

Something Gwen is particularly proud of over her career is working on an identity system that had a disjointed set of tests, written in six different frameworks for three applications. “We built up a strategy on how we could reduce the frameworks and implemented an acceptance test framework using Gauge and pure Java for a set of APIs. I worked really closely with the Principal Engineer to sell the idea to management. It was so much fun! The framework really worked, it caught issues, it didn’t slow down deployment and it was great documentation on how the application should work.”   

Her advice after this experience? Design the solution as a team, sell it well—and have fun doing it! If you’re interested in learning more, check out this video where she talks about the details.

I asked Gwen who she has learned the most from in the testing industry, and she had a long list. She appreciates Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory and says “They are my complete role models. They *really* know their stuff around Agile Testing but they are also the kindest humans in tech.”  She also names Rosie Sherry and the entire Ministry of Testing team as a key influence, as well as Noah Sussman, Eli Goldatt, Angie Jones, Kent Beck, and Alice Goldfuss. She says “Follow Alice on Twitter for constant engineering jokes and to see someone who speaks out when things aren’t as good as they should be.  When I’m coming across sexism, I try to channel Alice and think about how she would stand up for others.”

 Thank you, Gwen! We enjoyed learning about you and your experience. If you enjoyed this post, check out the others in the series: our interviews with Ashley Hunsberger, Allison Wilbur, and Abby Bangser.

Written by

Rebecca Cramer

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