We always say that we are proud having such amazing CGMers working here. But we are not surrounded only with amazing CGMers, but also with great friends and partners. And Bas Dijkstra is one of them. Bas is an independent test automation consultant and trainer, living in The Netherlands, and working in this field for over 16 years. Last year, we contracted him for some Advanced Automation courses for our Automation Testers, who simply loved the interaction with Bas and all the knowledge that they have learned during these months.
So, we wanted to get to know Bas better and find out more about him. And after the interview with him, the conclusion is this: you will love him too, and you will surely want to work with him as well.
Like so many testers, I sort of accidentally stumbled into the testing field, in my case because it was the most common field of work at a company that I wanted to work for back in 2006. I then discovered test automation and, having an education in Computer Science, thought this was a good match for my interests and skill set. I haven’t really looked back since.
I started working as an independent consultant in 2014. I’d been working with two different consultancy companies before that, and I saw a lot of people around me ‘go solo’. And when the opportunity presented itself, I made the jump. In hindsight, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire career. I love the independence and the ability to decide what I want and do not want to do.
My training career started a couple of years later, I think around 2016, with a half-day workshop on REST Assured I did at a local conference. Before that, I did what most freelance consultants do: work for a single client for 40 hours per week. That’s great, but I always felt that was a bit boring, really. There were so many other things I wanted to do, including training, public speaking, blogging and so on.
Running that workshop was one of the ways I was trying back then to diversify my work, and it grew from there. First with more workshops at conferences, then pretty quickly also in-house with clients. I’ve been lucky to have been able to run courses now with a lot of clients, often in the Netherlands, but increasingly often in other countries in Europe and even outside of Europe, as well. Sometimes online, but also in person, which is a great way to occasionally scratch my travel itch, too. A win-win, really.
There have been a lot of lessons I have learned over time, from large to small and everything in between. It’s impossible for me to choose what the best ones are, but here are two related to testing and automation, that I think are really important:
And here are two lessons that are much more generic but no less valuable to me:
What I love the most about my job is the fact that, as a consultant and trainer, I get to meet and work with so many people from different backgrounds, cultures, levels of experience and parts of the world. The occasional opportunity to travel and get paid to do so is the icing on the cake.
In my case, that resemblance is very clear: I always wanted to be a computer programmer. And while writing actual code isn’t the only thing I do (it’s a relatively small part of my working hours), teaching others to do the same and helping teams and organizations do better in that area - with the obvious focus on test automation - is pretty close to the vision I had when I was a child.
Oohh, that’s a difficult one, because I don’t think that ‘the tester’ exists. However, I’ll give it a shot anyway:
The tester is that person advocating for quality, that person always asking questions about risks, working with the team to continuously improve the quality of their products, no matter what’s the title on their business card or LinkedIn profile.
The modern tester, in my opinion, should have a wide range of skills, including but definitely not limited to an ability to keep a critical distance from the product development process, a healthy dose of creativity to come up with valuable ideas and experiments for testing, as well as being comfortable around code. That last one is important not just because it helps them to write automation, but also to read product code and have meaningful discussions with developers about the product, how it is built and how it can and should be tested.
It's a pretty wide range of skills, but that’s what keeps testing interesting.
My sons are 9 and 7 right now, and like so many kids their age, they are really into gadgets and gaming. My oldest has just started to learn a little bit about programming, which is really interesting and fun to see.
My advice for them, and anybody at the start of their career, is to try out different things to see what really sparks your interest, and don’t be afraid to step away from something if you don’t enjoy it. Life’s too short to be stuck in a boring job.
I really enjoyed working with the two groups of CGMers I’ve met. They’ve been curious, eager to learn, not afraid to speak up when they have a question or disagree with something I say, which really is a blessing as a trainer.
Oh, and they can stand my bad jokes, which is no mean feat either 😉
The training is labeled ‘Advanced Automation’, but it really is a mix of a lot of different topics. The target audience is testers, automation engineers and developers with a few years of automation experience and writing code under their belt.
In the course, we cover things like fundamental object-oriented programming principles, applying those to UI automation with Selenium, API testing, API mocking, contract testing and building Continuous Integration pipelines. As I said, a wide range of topics, but with the common denominator that all of these are relevant to modern testing and automation.
You’ve probably all seen the following dialogue somewhere online at some point:
Manager 1: “What happens if we train our people, and they leave?”
Manager 2: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
That really sums it all up. To keep pace with rapid developments in the IT industry, your people should be continuously upskilling themselves, too. Formal training is one of the many ways to do that.
If a company does not facilitate and actively promote that, people will leave in search of companies that do. Especially in these times, where there’s a lot of demand for skilled IT people and not enough supply, talent will choose the companies that allow them to grow and learn.
Can I pick two?
The first one is object-oriented programming, because it is such a fundamental skill for every tester, automation engineer and developer alike. Being comfortable around code is a skill I think every tester should have in their bag these days. Knowing what encapsulation and inheritance are, for example, and how to apply them in your test code, is going to do wonders for the quality, readability, and maintainability of that code.
The other one is contract testing, since it’s a technique I really believe in, and I’ve seen it solve the issues it promises to solve firsthand. For those reading this who don’t know what contract testing is: without diving too much into details, it is a technique that helps you address the puzzle of integration and end-to-end testing in large-scale distributed software systems, for example those developed using a microservices-based architecture.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Romania four times now, but all of those visits were to Cluj-Napoca: twice for the Romanian Testing Conference, twice for in-company training sessions.
My first ever visit to Romania was supposed to be to Iași, but that unfortunately did not happen. I don’t know a lot about the city, to be honest, other than that’s it’s a city with a university, it’s one of the IT hubs in Romania and that it’s really close to the Moldovan border. I definitely hope to learn more about Iași when I get to visit the city someday.
What I know about Romania is what I’ve seen so far (which isn’t much), but you definitely have very friendly people and lots of good food! I would love to explore Transylvania one day, but the list of places I want to travel to is long.
I’m definitely not going to recommend technical books, because I don’t read those very often, if at all… Plus there’s plenty of recommendations on LinkedIn, for example. I read mostly for pleasure, but I also like to read investigative journalism books.
Here’s a (pretty random) list of books from different genres that I recently read and gave five stars on Goodreads:
• Walter Tevis – The Queen’s Gambit. It’s even better than the Netflix series, which is already really good.
• Ken Follett – The Pillars of the Earth (or the entire Kingsbridge trilogy, really). Historical fiction at its best.
• Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism. Lots of good tips in there for people struggling with information and stimulation overload (like me).
• For nonfiction / investigative journalism, I can’t choose between The Missing Cryptoqueen, Bad Blood, The Cult of We, Empire of Pain and American Kingpin. Maybe you should read all of them!
What motivates me as a trainer and consultant is working with people, teaching them something new, learning from their questions and their solutions to my exercises, and seeing them grow throughout the course or the consulting engagement. I’ll probably never get bored of that.
You can find more about Bas on his website, where you can read not only about his training and consulting offer, but also read his blog with really interesting articles on the Automation Testing area.