Meet our new Senior Quality Assurance Engineer, Michael Larsen who is ramped up to ensure that our customers receive the very best products and features. And we literally mean ramped up maybe to level 11. This former 80′s hair band rocker has since acquired a long line of experience in this field that has given him the tools to trap the bugs before they are released and make the user experience roll like a ballad and at times an Indian Pow Wow. Since the beginning of his career he has become a full blown “Testhead,” teaching and sharing expertise inside the office and beyond. He is excited to bring his testing acumen to Socialtext and we can all attest to just how excited the team is to have him testing away.
What were you doing prior to joining Socialtext?
That depends on how far back you want to go (this could take awhile).
My story starts as an aspiring rock star in training in my late teens and early twenties, which corresponds to the late 80s and early 90s. I mention this because, in the process of performing with, promoting and managing a number of bands, most of my software and technical skills were developed here.
I discovered the Silicon Valley culture through an assignment from a temp agency. They sent me to Cisco Systems in March of 1991 when I was 23. My contract got picked up by the Release Engineering team, the division the software testers called home. I worked as a cable monkey to set up their various labs, and learned enough along the way to become their full time lab administrator. After a couple of years, the growing software testing group asked me to join their ranks, and so I did. Thus, I became a software tester and have been one ever since. I worked for a decade at Cisco Systems and then spent 2001 and beyond working for decidedly smaller companies, usually in the capacity of a “Lone Tester.” That often meant I was the only tester on a project, but more often it meant I was the only tester at a company.
I’ve tested switches, routers, network management apps and content delivery systems (Cisco Systems), virtualization software (Connectix), human capacitance touch devices (Synaptics), video games in all their various shapes and sizes (Konami Digital Entertainment America), immigration and employment law software (Tracker Corp), and a large entertainment portal to keep track of what you watch on TV (Sidereel). Through it all, I’ve had one common thread, and that is the fun of going through and finding what is not working in all of those environments, getting it fixed and keeping potentially irate customers happy when their experience is problem free.
What will you be doing for Socialtext?
Well, I can say what I won’t be doing (and I’m actually glad)… I won’t be a Lone Tester any longer. One of my goals was to work with a team of testers so we could learn from each other, mentor each other, cover more ground and develop more and better ideas than we would on our own. Along with that, I hope to bring a history and passion for software testing to Socialtext. I already know I have huge shoes to fill and expectations to meet based on good friends who are Socialtext alumni (Chris McMahon and Matt Heusser, respectively).
What are 3 words you would use to describe yourself?
Enthusiastic, engaged, high-spirited (I’m cheating, that’s four words, but I’m pulling a technicality with the hyphen).
What do you do in your free time?
I’m actively engaged with the broader software testing community, and have been for several years. This involves producing podcasts on testing topics, writing about and speaking about software testing (TESTHEAD is my software testing blog), and teaching/mentoring other testers (as well as being taught/mentored by other testers). Outside of software testing, I enjoy snowboarding, hiking, mountain bikes and Scouting. I’ve been a Boy Scout leader for nearly 20 years; my son is an Eagle Scout and my older daughter, who just turned 14, has joined Venturing. I’m also a big fan of Native American culture, especially Native American dance. The Stanford Pow Wow is a must attend event for me every year.
What’s has been the most fun moment working for Socialtext so far?
Diving in and learning as much as possible about the Socialtext product. Additionally, getting to work directly with Ken Pier (Sr. Director of Product Quality) has been a high point. Ken is a guy I’ve only heard stories about and interacted with socially for the past few years in the broader testing community. I’ve heard a number of software testers I respect say that Ken is a force of nature. I’ve now seen it first hand !
What gets you fired up about working for Socialtext?
“I guess you could say that I am having a Sy Sperling moment here… “I’m not just an employee, I’m also a client!” I’ve been actively using and working with Socialtext for the past several years. I worked with a number of software testers to write the book “How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing.”
Where did we write, edit, and review the material to be included in the book? Socialtext!
Many of my blog posts have also been crafted and reviewed by other testers before publication on my blog here in the Socialtext wiki.
I interact with a number of people who, along with me, edit audio files so that they can be mixed down and published as podcasts. Where do we communicate and manage that work? If you were to say “Socialtext” you would be right again!
In short, I get to work with, influence and get deep into the guts of an app I already work with pretty extensively. Even with that, I’m still just scratching the surface of what the product can do, as has been amply demonstrated to me these past couple of weeks.
I’m fired up because I get to work on something that I use, and rely on, every day. To also see that Socialtext itself works the same way, and actually uses the product it creates, to perform and manage its work, is also awesome. It’s great to work with a company that does its best to practice what it preaches.