Review: Driving While Driven: The Way of the Skilled Tester

Posted by Albert Gareev on Jun 24, 2015 | Categories: Context-Driven Testing OnlineReviews

I attended a webinar provided by Association for Software Testing.

I took notes and organized my review in a structured form: Purpose – Attendance – Content – Experience – Cost – Organization – Location – Time. Or PACE COLT, if you like mnemonics (as I do).


The headline of the webinar was “Driving While Driven: The Way of the Skilled Tester”.
Invitation from the organizer, Association for Software Testing, suggested the following.

Join James Bach as we discuss what it means to be context driven, the role of skills in your development, and how you can become part of the CDT community.

We have received a very good coverage for “what it means to be context driven”, “the role of skills in your development” was also well-addressed.
James Bach and Keith Klein also talked about becoming a skilled tester, and a context-driven leader.
We haven’t got as far as “how you can become part of the CDT community”. I think this theme is worth addressing, and I’ll add on it myself after my review.


I didn’t see any official or unofficial numbers
Based on my observations (of Twitter discussions) all spots were taken. Some people had to call in because the connection was maxed out. (I wonder was a high volume the reason of session instability and crash at the end of Part I?)
Attendees were an active crowd. People tweeted, discussed, commented, asked questions.


James Bach presented key points on the theme, with explanations and examples. They discussed each with Keith Klain. There were also answers to the questions asked (including mine).

Driving While Driven: The Way of the Skilled Tester

By James Bach.

  • Testers often don’t “get” the CDT principles.
    • As well as hiring managers and clients.
  • Context-specific vs. context-driven.
    • Context-specific – whatever you practice works well for you; because it just happened so. You don’t know why.
    • Context-driven – making it work. Knowing why it works. Being able to experiment and work out the approach that works.
  • CDT people are in charge of their skills, tools, and the approach. They are adaptive, learning, and evolving.
  • Context-imperial approach. Example: Agile. Forcing the context to be the way you want to be.
  • “Best practice” driven approach. Irresponsible mentality.
  • Factory School approach. Procedural. “Create document” is a response for everything. They often confuse process document with the process itself. Heavy formalization that limits abilities to find and solve problems.
  • CDT people assert that testing is a process of learning the truth about a product, in every way that matters to their clients.
  • CDT people practice deconstructing their practices and experimenting with alternative ways of working.
  • CDT people are systems thinkers who study failure as well as success, and question what failure and success mean.
    CDT people are adaptable. We try to make the best out of what we have.
  • CDT people are self-reliant. We collaborate and we learn from each other but we do not surrender our judgment to persons not present and not responsible for our work.
  • CDT people are non-authoritarian. We support the free market and the level playing field, so that people and ideas may compete honestly with each other. We therefore oppose pseudo-standards and pseudo-certifications.
  • CDT people question authority; question tradition; and develop the skills of responsible debate.
  • CDT people show up to the debate. We not only question others, but we ask others to question us.
  • CDT people are humanists who respect diversity because people are the biggest part of any context we deal with.
  • CDT people strive to behave ethically – and that means not allowing appearances to deceive their clients.
  • The legitimacy and reputation of a leader in CDT rests partly on their generosity toward and patience with junior practitioners. This is because we know that technical skill and judgement are difficult to develop.
  • To test better, look up about Designing of Experiments.
  • Unfortunately, testing is easy to fake. This is why some poor testing may seem acceptable.
  • Good testing provides actionable information. It’s not necessarily some artifact. This is one reason why CDT has a marketing problem: absence of artifacts may be confused with absence of job done.

My Question

Question from Albert Gareev. Toronto, Canada.
In part 1, James Bach mentioned that many clients don’t get testing and want irrelevant things (TC artifacts, scripts, so on).
In my opinion, they still deserve a professional testing service. How would you advise to engage and educate them?

Thank you!


James Bach

  • If the client has unreasonable demands you are free to choose another client.
  • If the client is open for dialog, approach with patience and skills. Let them feel safe. Suggest an experiment, a pilot project, a one week trial – so that they can see the difference and judge by results.

Keith Klain

  • “Deserve” has nothing to do with the business.
  • Context-Driven Leader is a doctor helping sick people. So approach with sympathy and patience. Learn why they’re doing this or that. Don’t go “you’re wrong; you’re doing it wrong”.
  • But also mind your agreement. Sometimes you are there to consult and improve things. Sometimes you have a specific task to fulfill.

James Bach also added to the doctors analogy: doctors are not drug dealers. What people want and what they need are not necessarily the same. Unfortunately, some consultancies take advantage of uninformed or misled clients just as drug dealers do.


I had a positive experience overall, enjoyed the webinars and will keep an eye for future series. I’m thankful for friendly and useful answers to my question.

I’d say this event was a success in terms of meeting of the purpose, organization, and performance. My thanks to AST, James Bach, and Keith Klain for their tireless community work.


The webinars were free to participate.
And time cost was well worth it.


Without exposure to the back stage, I judge the final results.

  • The announcement was posted with a reasonable advance.
  • I received a confirmation with instructions upon signup.
  • Instructions were concise, accurate, and helpful.
  • Communication was done through email and Twitter.
  • Encountered problems were handled effectively and graciously.
  • The webinars were recorded and timely posted.


This webinar got a dedicated page on AST web site. Now when it’s done and registration is closed, keep the page for historical reference and put links to the recorded video/audio, as well as hand-out materials given by James Bach, and resources he mentioned.


  • It was a webinar through GoToWebinar service of Citrix.
  • I found Web browser based access quite capable and convenient. However, the session, especially during Part 1 with high attendance, was somewhat unstable (audio lags) and it ended with audio loss and termination. Part 2 had no such issues.
  • There was also phone line access which I hadn’t tried.
  • Keith Klain was a great host who also actively participated in the discussion.


  • There were 2 parts scheduled to be one hour long.
  • It was a bit of a challenge for me to make it because it was 2pm-3pm in my time zone. Needed to arrange a break at work for quality participation.
  • Each session’s time was planned so that last 15 minutes were reserved for Q&A.
  •  Each session started on time.



How to become a part of the CDT community?

  • Be an active, thinking, practicing tester. Do it on your own and in collaboration with testers online and locally.
  • Follow CDT leaders on Twitter, engage in discussions. To begin with, “follow” @JamesMarcusBach, @MichaelBolton, and @KeithKlain accounts, and “follow” accounts that they followed. Then stay involved and use your own judgment. Author’s account is @AGareev.
  • Join Association for Software Testing. Follow the news; read blog posts they aggregate.
  • Join Software Testing Club. This is not a CDT specific community but it’s an international community of testers with rich resources and options for engagement.
  • Actively participate in the nearest – by time zone – chapter of Weekend Testing.
  • Become an engaged member of your local CDT community. Check out on Ask online if there is one. Start your own if there’s none (this is how author went).
  •  Take hands-on testing courses. Author recommends BBST as an online course and RST as a live workshop.



Recorded Webinars

Part 1

Part 2

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This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.