Today was day two of the Microsoft Engineering Excellence and Trustworthy Computing Forum, which is a rather verbose way of saying an all-day conference for Microsoft employees to discuss changes in the field. I went to two sessions today, Communicating for Success and Why don't more Vice Presidents come from Test?
Both talks were interesting, but I'd like to go into the one about Vice Presidents coming from Test here today. Before I registered the session I thought the answer was obvious: because most testers, like myself, aren't cut out to be Vice Presidents. My gut reaction was dead-on, but I appreciate the explanation from the presenter, Carl Tostevin.
There is a clear disconnect between Test and buisness. I don't view my job as making a 'product' for 'customers' to buy, but rather making sure that the next version of Visual Studio kicks ass. It is enough to make sure that my features are well tested and of high-quality; that an outstanding product will simply sell itself, right? Unfortunately that isn't the case - and what I fail to see is, unfortunately, what doesn't make me a good candidate for VP.
The session explained that there is more to Test than customers and quality and schedules and features. The entire software industry cannot be summed up in four words. What about the product vision? How does Visual Studio 2005 carry on where Visual Studio 2003 left off? What about prodcut timeline? Lots of people are still using VB6 (for good reason), do we consider that when proposing new featuers?
I learned that Microsoft doesn't have an anti-Test agenda. That Program Managers and Marketers aren't the only people skilled enough to be a VP. Test traditionally has a very focused role in software development here at Microsoft, and - at least for me personally - have tried to avoid all of that annoying 'buisness stuff'. Yet in order to be a Vice President you need to concern yourself with not just making outstanding products, but think about where those products are going to be five years from now.
So although I still don't feel like I would make a good candidate for Vice President, at least know why now ;)