Thoughtworker Spotlight: Darrell Grainger

Thoughtworks Canada

Thoughtworks Canada

April 14, 2023

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Two photos of Darrell smiling at the camera

Teacher, learner and explorer. Darrell Grainger is always on an adventure, whether he is in the world of software testing and quality assurance, or racing on his motorcycle. While Darrell did not end up becoming an elementary school teacher (find out more about his career path below!), as a strong advocate for education, you can still find him teaching and sharing his deep knowledge of the world of quality assurance and automation with fellow Thoughtworkers.

When he’s not flying a plane to new heights or scuba diving deeper depths, you can find him making a difference as a QA Lead Consultant, ensuring teams are producing quality software by sharing his insights, and helping clients reduce defects with the correct and high quality tests in place. Finally, can you guess what his favourite product is? Hint: This product helps Darrell conveniently troubleshoot his queries and he would probably need it to listen to his very clever choice for question #7. Find out in this week’s Thoughtworker Spotlight.

Tell us about what you do in 50 words or less.

As a QA Lead Consultant, my goal is to ensure the team creates quality, working software. I aid the developers in producing such software by sharing my knowledge and experience.  Additionally, teaching and creating manual and automated tests to verify that the software works while improving everyone’s skills.

What’s the most interesting challenge you’re working on?

One of the most interesting challenges I have worked on recently is helping a client know their tests are high quality or the correct tests. Many believe more tests will assure quality but this usually does not guarantee quality and often leads to an unmaintainable test suite, which is the leading cause of test automation failing.

In reality, measuring defect escape rate is the best way to measure the quality of your tests. Defects are often found during the creation of test automation. The simpler the test automation, the less time wasting finding the defect and the easier the test is to maintain.

Finding defects when you are creating unit level tests would be ideal but if you need to find the tests later in the software development life cycle (SDLC) then keep them as simple and easy to maintain as possible. 

If customers are reporting defects then you don’t have the correct tests in place. To ensure you do have the correct tests in place, I recommend writing the most simplest tests possible which will find the defect. Only once you have the correct, failing test in place do you correct the defect. This is the first step towards Test Driven Development and relatively easy to implement.

What inspired you to have the career you have today?

I started my career as a software and hardware developer but always wanted to be a teacher. After teaching university courses, I decided to get a degree in teaching at the elementary level. Unfortunately, due to a mix up in my paperwork I had to wait a year to re-apply to teachers’ college. 

During the year, I started working as a software tester at a company which produced development tools (IDE, compilers, etc.). Within a few months I started automating tests, creating test labs and establishing best practices. I found a place I could really make a difference. It has been almost 25 years and I continue to work in the field of software testing and quality assurance.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

This is a really hard one for me to answer. I’ve never really celebrated my wins. I’m always looking forward to what I can do next. Everything I’ve achieved has allowed me to be where I am today. There isn’t any one thing I can put my finger on.

If you could go back in time and give yourself career advice, what would it be?

I’ve been asked numerous times if I could go back in time and give myself career advice and to be honest, my career has worked out really well. I think if I did anything differently, I might not be where I am today. And where I am today is pretty awesome.

What do you love to do outside of work?

I love to learn. I bought a motorcycle; I learned to race motorcycles. I took a ride on an airplane; I got my pilot’s license. As a kid, I learned small engine repair, welding and mechanics then turned my Radio Flyer wagon into a go-cart. When I was a teenager, I saw a personal computer in a department store; taught myself how to program and later got a job working at a software/hardware company.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what album, movie, and book would you take with you?

Album – Tom Williams Desert Island Survival Podcast 🤣
Movie – Robinson Crusoe 😛
Book – Anything on how to build a boat or survival book. 🙂

And finally, what’s your favourite product and why? 

My favourite product, at the moment, is my Android phone. There always seems to be an app for whatever I’m trying to do or at least access to the Internet where I can look things up.

Image on the left is three people in scuba diving gear smiling at the camera, middle is Darrell wearing a red parka standing next to a frozen tree, and the third image is Darrell and another man holding a trophy for Diver of the Year.

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