Have you ever read a technical blog post and wondered how a developer made their way into writing? Are you curious about the backgrounds, inspiration and motivations of practitioners churning out blogs?
For us, it’s simple. We know by experience that our practitioners come from diverse backgrounds. Not every developer wants to write about their work (unless it is code in GitHub). There’s certainly a fear that comes with putting one’s voice out into the world. The ones who do intrigue us. So we want to share our practitioners’ stories.
With that, I’d like to introduce you to Greg Sypolt. He doesn’t just believe in quality — He is responsible for engineering it into every product.
Tell me about yourself. Your name, where you live, where you are from, your job/company, your area(s) of expertise.
Well, I’m Greg Sypolt. I was born and live in Northern Virginia — about 33 miles from Washington D.C. My dad was in the military, so we moved around. I mainly grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia. I’m Director of Quality Engineering at Gannett | USA Today Network. We own and operate >150 digital sites across the US. My areas of expertise — Well, I’m a software developer who stumbled into testing. I’ve always worked on quality. That means everything from automation, continuous integration (CI), DevOps, and QA was aligned under Platform as a Service. Two and a half years ago I took on the challenge of CI infrastructure and handover to dev teams.
What motivated you to become a developer in test?
To me it is about being proactive in building quality into the application upfront. I don’t like Waterfall — It’s slow, it doesn’t take into account how the user will interact with the software. I like to develop tools that enable developers to get faster feedback — reduce the size of the feedback loop. I never want my team to be the bottleneck team. The innovation part of being a developer in test is not easy. I need to make the test more reliable, easier to write…
What motivated you to start writing about test?
I started going down this path at my former company, Blackboard. I had started presenting, but I was scared to. I began with my colleague at the time, Ashley Hunsberger (another Fixate practitioner contributor), and we started out by presenting what not to do — Really, just to help people learn from our mistakes. Well, it was popular. We got great feedback from a Selenium developer, Dave Haeffner. Chris Riley (Fixate co-founder and senior analyst) heard our talks or heard about them and asked Ashley to write, and she brought me in to write, too. Then Ashley and I really started to create a personal brand for ourselves in quality and test.
How did you find out about Fixate?
Chris found Ashley and me. He really found Ashley — She’s the better speaker and writer [laughs].
Why do you write for Fixate?
It keeps me relevant. I’ve written a handful of blogs where the topic was pretty new to me, and it has forced me to get relevant. It’s forced me to learn topics more deeply. Self-branding is also a factor. My writing gives me great exposure. I also get an enormous amount of satisfaction when people ask me questions — It starts a lot of good conversations at conferences. I’m very passionate about quality and doing it from an engineering standpoint, and I enjoy sharing my passion. I have a lot to say about how we can continue to evolve in quality and test to make it easier for devs to do work.
Perhaps most importantly, writing lets me showcase how my team pushes the envelope.
Can you point to something meaningful that has happened for you personally or professionally as a result of writing for Fixate?
Personally, it’s been great for me, because I am becoming a better writer.
Professionally, it’s really helped me in the sense of my reputation — People kind of respect my opinion. I have also spoken at a few conferences. But I feel like the combination of Fixate and that first conference kick-started it for me. I tend to write about the cool stuff we are doing at USA Today Network. If it helps us attract talent, helps Fixate, helps myself, helps USA Today, that’s all good.
It’s kind of like when I first started — It was really scary putting stuff out there. Because you are kind of putting yourself out there. Having taken the risk and done it — It’s built my confidence. Over time I’ve gotten validation, and gotten more confident about the content that I’ve written. I feel really satisfied when I see people retweeting my stuff.
What makes you interested in a client content project for Fixate?
I’ve always been really focused on Sauce Labs. They really like my content — It gives them a lot of traffic. They also give me the flexibility to come up with an idea. Writing for a client that lets me write about what I am really interested in feels great.
How do you stay current yourself in terms of your profession?
You know, it’s a challenge. I read blogs. I read a lot. I go to conferences. A lot of thinking — How can I create a solution for a USA Today pain point? A lot of that is putting it to the team, and they educate me about it. That allows them to grow, and it allows me to grow as I move up in leadership. I haven’t coded for about a year. Trying to stay relevant is pretty challenging now. Things are changing every day. The best examples are where we were using Chef, and we moved to Docker containers and Kubernetes, or when we moved from AWS to Google Cloud. Some of it is on-the-job training.
The one thing I love about where I work today is that my company is trying to create cutting-edge technologies to be at the forefront — to be the best at delivering news to their consumers. That has definitely put me on the forefront of technology. I love learning new stuff, especially around technology.
What new technology are you most interested in/learning about?
To me, it’s learning about new technology that will take the burden off the developers. That means automating the automation. Being a developer in test, for me what is really interesting is how to take all the data we’ve provided the system and take machine learning and AI to make educated guesses on what we should be testing. We’d like to create an algorithm that learns from how users are consuming news and feed that into generating tests. Then I think we will feel more confident as we release new products because we are following in the steps of our users. I’m interested in so many technologies — anything that is lightweight, like Kubernetes or Docker. I’m curious about containerizing apps — How do we continuously build and test those, take existing tools and make it better for developers?
What have you written that you are most proud of and why?
My last blog post (for Sauce Labs). I say that, because whatever I’ve written, I can’t take the full credit. It’s really my team. This post describes how our team built this application, and changing the mindset of how to test an app. It’s model-based testing. The team spearheaded it with my guidance, and my blog is all about how to do it, and showcasing what our team did. Starting that conversation so we can help other teams is what I’m most proud of with my writing. This recent article about model-based testing, which expands test coverage, showcases so much of the cool stuff that my team is doing. I just love sharing things that my team is building, and it’s the cool technology that I’m excited about today.
I’m also proud of “Building the Agile Process Playbook for Software Testing.” It’s all about focusing on what your testing plays are and how to create a unique game plan for your specific product and situation, when we are all using the same playbook.
One last message for our audience?
I have a website that I share with Ashley — QualityElement.com. Check it out! And, if you see me anywhere at a conference, I don’t mind geeking out about testing, so come talk to me!
It’s not every day that you can talk to someone about quality and testing and feel like it is the coolest thing on Earth, but that’s how I felt after a few minutes of talking to Greg. He’s a quality and testing evangelist, and through his work and writing, a kind of developer advocate. Why? His greatest goal is to help developers create their highest-quality product as they develop, minimizing the stops, starts, and do-overs. His game plan: Implement innovation in test. His writing keeps him relevant, showcases his team, and helps developers. Give me a G-O-Q-U-A-L-I-T-Y.
C’mon. I heard you shout it with me.