(Not Such) A Hard Day’s Night

(From the Archive – 1/13/06)

It occurred to me that I don’t spend a lot of time here talking about what I actually do for Microsoft on the Flight Simulator team. It has occurred to a number of people, especially my unbelievably dedicated and vaguely effluvial next door neighbor, self-appointed Blogstleutnant Jason, not to mention my patient-yet-eager audience of teeming several, that I don’t spend a lot of time here period.

Sorry about that, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.

Anyway, I’ll try to offer some more detail in upcoming posts, especially now that the cat we affectionately call FSX is officially out of the bag we call  . . uhh . . . well, we don’t have a name for it, and thus another metaphor dies.

My official job title is Software Test Engineer (not “Professional Blog Avoider” as some might suspect.) Well, that’s really just one of my titles – you can see two more here, thanks to my generous and patient friend and Flight Sim MVP Nick Whittome. Others include former police officer, raconteur, bon vivant, Renaissance man, Uncle Hal, Rubberhead, the Piffle, and cutey-pants.

Some people, even some pretty esteemed colleagues in the still nascent software testing industry, will tell you that what I do as a Test Engineer, or tester, is to break software.

I don’t agree, not even a little. I say it was broken when they gave it to me, and it was my job to point it out. I suppose I just don’t like the image of testers as a finite number of monkeys with a finite number of hammers, inelegantly bashing away, when, in reality, my job requires too much research, creativity, and peculiar expertise to be accomplished through brute force. To put it another way, I think I am a very special monkey, with a damn fine hammer.

I can write a little code here and there:

10 PRINT “Heckfire!”

20 GOTO 10

30 REM OR DON’T

but I’m not a developer. In fact, I’m not qualified to even say the word “code” in the presence of people like Susan, Tim, Steve, the rest of our development team, or the guy who restocks the famous free drinks in our office kitchen.

I can mess around a bit in Photoshop (see my self-portrait below) a little bit and use phrases like “bump mapping”, “anisotropic filtering”, and “that is so gauche – ooh, is my beret crooked? ” without sounding like a complete imbecile, but I am not an artist. I sit in awe of the work of people like Jason, Adrian, non-bloggers Aaron, Kevin, Pete, John, etc. Many of them are even proficient in multiple media, which blows my mind – one of our walls at home is proudly adorned with a Waskey original, in oil. (Jason, on the other hand, does not have a framed bug report of mine on his wall. As far as I know.)

In addition to Developers and Artists, we have writers like Brian and Mike, Designers like Paul and Justin, Geo-Data specialists like Bill and Travis, Marketing people like Jerret (seen sitting next to Amy Grant in MY episode of “Three Wishes”), Program Managers like Mike, Mike, Kevin, and Eric, business planners like Scott . . . I can’t do what any of them can do, at least not nearly as well as they can do it.

But I can take their work, the work of some of the smartest, most talented and creative people I’ve ever known, much less had the pleasure to work with, and I can . . . help them make it better.

And sometimes, I don’t even need a hammer.

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