Expert Game

Twelve years after I started my testing career, I still feel like a student.

That’s why I felt so honored last week in being asked to give the Commencement Address for ITT’s spring quarter graduation ceremony.

One of their career advisors had seen me give a guest lecture to a software development class and thought I’d be a good fit, and I knew right away what I wanted to say to them.

I mean, I imagined a few rows of graduates in cap and gown, tassles ready to be turned, ready to party. What could I possibly say to them that had any hope of getting their attention?

What came to mind was something that helped me when I first got started.

I decided to tell them this:

“In programming, there’s a concept known as an If / Then statement. If condition A is met, THEN do instruction B. The code is compiled, it runs, it looks for the condition, and executes some kind of algorithm when it finds the right condition.

But in my career as a test manager, Ive learned that humans are programs, too. We are only as good as our programming. We get tired, nervous, moody when certain conditions are met.

So I offer this snippet of code to add to your existing programming in case those conditions occur. This is that If-Then statement:


  • you are able to get important things done
  • you are seen learning things on your own
  • you are seen trying to do things even though you don’t know how
  • you don’t hide your ignorance, but also don’t rest on it
  • you share freely the things that you know
  • you honor what other people know
  • you know more often than not how to find out what you don’t know
  • you know how to ask for help
  • you offer help to people ON THEIR OWN TERMS


  • no one will care whether you succeed by learning or succeed by already knowing
  • no one will care if you mess up occasionally because they assume you learn from it
  • no one will care if you forget (or don’t know) any given fact or method at any given time

… and you will be treated as if you’re smart and useful, even though everyone knows you have a lot to learn

This is a formula that has been true for me, a journalism major, author’s son, and autobiographer philosopher who is now considered an internationally recognized expert in exploratory software testing.

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