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  • Ahead in the Cloud: The Joy of Software Testing with Deb Costello of Spark New Zealand

    September 25, 2023
  • Deb Costello, Domain Chapter Lead – Release and Automation Testing at Spark NZ talks about product testing. Deb explains the difference between scripting and coding automation and how Spark works with data and cloud.

    Hosted by Chad Watt, researcher, and writer with the Infosys Knowledge Institute.

    “I would have developers realize on mass; code is only good when it's working for the customers. So therefore, you guys should test your code more.”

    “A tester's job is not to find defects. That's the outcome of what we do. So, we do find a lot of defects, but that's because we're interrogating software all the time to find the weakness before our customers find it.”

    “You must use that critical thinking mindset that testers bring to be able to do that deep dive and interrogate and also keep up. Keeping up with new technology is hard, so we spend a lot of time learning and researching.”

    - Deb Costello


  • Spark is the biggest telco in New Zealand. And we are homegrown, so we came from the post office into what was telecom and now is Spark. And we play a big part in our community. So we truly believe that everyone in New Zealand should have digital equity.
  • We make the customer experience amazing by ensuring that the product that we build works.
  • We work really closely with architecture and development. We go, "What are the changes that we are making? What are the weaknesses? What's the risk profile?" Then we behave like customers. We do anti-pattern. And then we just keep trying to find the weakness in what we want to show our customers. And then eventually, the business and testing and development all agree that we've got to a good place, and then we launch to the market.
  • Scripting means still you need to press the keys; you still need some manual work to be able to run the test. Testers can't automate to write tests, but they're usually heavier maintenance. They turn out to be quite brittle. And not everyone can run them anytime, anywhere.
  • We are in the business of data centres, as well as being a telco. But we live in a hybrid world, so we still use the big cloud providers. We use our own infrastructure. We still have bare metal. So when we write tests, we have to take into account how they are run and when they are run. By automating, it allows us to run many frequently.
  • When we started treating our automation as code, we were able to put it in our pipeline. And we are now able to run our automated tests on any of our environments, and anyone can run the pipeline. And we don't need someone on their laptop pressing keys to do it. So now, our people aren't doing test execution. They're doing test design, test leadership, test thought management. The actual physical running of the test is done by a machine.
  • When a company is excellent at testing, you have happy customers, because the products that they're buying from you work. You have happy shareholders because the customers are buying the products. You start being seamless. Code is created and deployed. Everybody's working together. Everybody is talking about quality, about the customer experience. And it's no longer a throw-it-over-the-fence mentality. It's, "We're all in it together."
  • When an enterprise has neglected its testing capabilities and is lousy at testing, the customers are leaving because the products that are being delivered are buggy. You've got a bit of a blame culture. Remember, testing's an activity, not a role. So, if you've got developers who aren't even doing testing, imagine what that code would look like. It could be quite scary.

Show Notes

  • 00:06

    Chad introduces himself and Deb.

  • 00:38

    Deb gives her explanation of testing.

  • 02:30

    Deb tells a little bit about Spark New Zealand's reputation and missions beyond connectivity and communications.

  • 03:03

    At Spark New Zealand, what are you testing right now, and why is that important?

  • 03:02

    In the telecom world we live in today, the products that you send to your customers are not boxed and shrink-wrapped and mailed. What is the nature of these products, mostly?

  • 06:03

    So moving beyond, for lack of a better word, manual testing, how do you bring automation into testing to keep up, keep pace, catch up?

  • 07:44

    Talk to me a little bit more about the difference between scripting your automation and coding your automation.

  • 08:53

    How critical is that when we talk about companies that have shifted things to cloud, companies that have multiple cloud providers and cloud systems interoperating in the background, do you account for that as well?

  • 10:07

    How do testers keep up, and how do you capture as many errors as possible?

  • 11:30

    How do you find the best quality in new places that are constantly changing?

  • 13:01

    What is at the cutting-edge right now? What are you learning and researching about?

  • 13:49

    How should companies think about their data, and what's changed about that in this move to data everywhere, data on demand, and data being passed from system to system?

  • 15:36

    What does it look like when a company is excellent at testing?

  • 16:17

    What does it look like when an enterprise has neglected its testing capabilities and is lousy at testing?

  • 17:06

    If I give you this testing magic wand, what's the one thing that you would change, perfectly and completely? Where do you point that wand?

About Deb Costello

Domain Chapter Lead – Release and Automation Testing

Deb Costello

As ‘Domain Chapter Lead – Release and Automation Testing’ at Spark, Deb leads the teams that build and maintain the lower environments for testing, prepares and manages releases from development to production, and carries out end-to-end as well as performance testing. She is also key in leading out on Spark’s automation framework and strategy.

She has over 25 years testing experience, with 20 of those in the telecommunications industry including 16 years at Vodafone, and time spent at Telecom. She has also previously worked in testing at Orion Health.

Deb considers people to be the most important part of any team and believes that successful leaders allow their teams to grow beyond themselves.