Systems testing is underrated and undervalued, says Chris Carter (right), managing director of systems testing company Planit. “Many organisations have a cavalier attitude to testing, which leads to a poorly functioning system, which impacts business performance,” he says.
Mr Carter, 41, is also chairman of the ANZ Testing Board and secretary of the International Software Testing
Qualifications Board. He is also a university drop-out.
Studying pure economics at the University of Kent in Britain, Mr Carter decided he “wanted practical learning in the workforce”. At the Midland Bank in 1988 he discovered software testing, where he could get involved in both the business and technical sides of systems. He found he enjoyed building “bridges between technical and business people”.
Travelling all over the world was also a big drawcard, says Mr Carter, who came to Australia from Britain in 1997 to set up Planit, originally a subsidiary of a British company until he bought it a couple of years later.
Testing systems also offers exposure to a wide range of interesting technologies. “Never rest on your laurels,” Mr Carter says. “If you want to be effective, you have to be abreast of technology.”
But he believes technical skills only get you so far. To be really successful you need to develop behavioural skills – the ability to communicate effectively. You need to be able to speak to the business user (as well as) speak the technical lingo.” You also need an excellent support structure with people you can trust, says Mr Carter. He once employed a couple of people in his management team who didn’t share his vision of the business. “They were not bad at their job but I spent time trying to win them around. It would have been better to put the business before the people and move on.”
People set up businesses because they have ideas. “It’s wonderful to have advisers but you’ve got to be prepared to back your own judgement,” Mr Carter says. He loves his company and enjoys building it up – from three employees to more than 180. “We’re still scratching the surface in what we can do,” he says. The future is in security testing.”