“I like Planit’s approach to testing, people and how to support customers, so when the opportunity came to work for the UK branch, it was quite simply a no brainer.”
Geoff Thompson, UK Director of Testing Services, Planit
20 odd years ago, Geoff Thompson was leading a renewals processing department which collected payments from customers. One day the organisation decided to build a new system to do it automatically for the department.
“I casually mentioned that I wanted this solution to work properly from the start, so I was made responsible for its testing,” Geoff says. “This happened one week before it went live, even though it was a two-year project.”
When the solution went live, it created a myriad of problems for the department and organisation. With few resources and little time at his disposal, Geoff admits he didn’t do the best job of testing it.
“I was told I would never work in testing again,” Geoff says. “But it eventually turned out to be a problem in development and not test, so I was then asked to establish the company’s first full-time testing team.”
Although Geoff was initially pushed into testing, he soon realised that this was something he wanted to do and remained in the space for the next decade. It was around this time he started to think about how we should work as a test team, and there should be a solid structure around how to do it.
“I went into the marketplace to see what was out there in the way of process, and every training provider I spoke to used a different process, which was not very helpful,” Geoff says.
Through his network, Geoff discovered that the Information System Examination Board (now known as the British Computer Society) was in the process of developing its ISEB Software Testing Foundation course, which aimed to standardise an approach to testing.
“I thought it would be a good idea to be involved in that, since if I could get my people certified and using the same processes, it would help me do a better job as a test manager,” he says. “Little did I know that this one opportunity would lead to my involvement in several other testing-related activities outside of my day job.”
These activities put Geoff on track to become the Vice President of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), founder and chairman of the UK Testing Board (UKTB), a founding member of the TMMi (Test Maturity Model integration) Foundation, and vice chairman of British Special Interest Group for Testing. These industry contributions and more earned Geoff the European Testing Excellence Award in 2008.
After overseeing a lot of Y2K testing leading up to turn of the millennium, Geoff left the industry for a while and went into program management. The career switch was to gain insight into what it is like to manage a whole project, and the issue that come from development and test.
“In the end, I realised that we’re all trying to do the same thing and produce successful software,” Geoff says.
Geoff ventured out on his own and established a company together with his friends, and successfully ran it for over a decade. After Planit opened its UK office in 2014, Geoff came on board as Director of Testing Services.
“I had watched Planit grow across Australasia for many years with interest,” Geoff says. “I liked its approach to testing, people and how to support customers, so when the opportunity came to work for the UK branch, it was quite simply a no brainer.”
With the help of Geoff’s leadership, the UK branch has now grown to a team of over 100 people doing testing for numerous high-profile clients throughout the UK.
“My focus has been on structure, enabling people to work together, and making sure this common approach is used by everyone,” Geoff says. “At the same time, I want everyone to be enjoying, understanding and learning about efficient testing processes.”
Looking back at his career in testing, Geoff says the one piece that was missing for a long time was training. It was five or six years into the job before Geoff was taught some testing best practices.
“Because we think testing is simple and everyone can do it, we don’t always do it properly at first,” he says. “So I think the most important thing is to get some training as soon as possible to properly learn the basics of testing.”
Geoff says the downside of no training is that there is the risk of testing too much. Since you don’t understand the law of diminishing returns, you end up doing more testing than necessary.
“Get some training and a basic understanding of testing so you do not just start pushing buttons,” Geoff says. “Once you have that solid foundation, you can then start to develop your own approach to testing.”