Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I bet you didn't know ...

When I started this blog in 2010, I was somewhat unsure about how my employers at the time would take my writing and my views, especially as I use a level of humour which can easily be misread. In fact if you've read Yabber Dabber Don't you will understand my reasons for taking on an identity and assuming a level of anonymity.

As my writing here and in magazines such as Teatime With Testers and Testing Circus has been so well received, I've bit by bit removed some of that anonymity. In fact today my current employer thinks it's a boon to have someone who is so passionate about his job that he is always seeking to write about it and ways to do it better in his spare time (there's commitment for you).

Because of this, I thought it would be fun to just cover a few facts about me which are perhaps not common knowledge …

My name is Mike Talks

Yes that's my real name. And in answer to the question that's haunted me through school – yes I do like to talk a lot. Our family genealogist tell us our line comes from Norway and we were originally called Torgesen before migrating to Scotland where the name became successively Anglicised.

I come from a proud line of engineers

My father is a world famous metallurgist and tribologist (someone who tries to reduce corrosion and wear in machine) who worked originally in the mining industry and still works today on submarine parts. Meanwhile my grandfather worked all his life in mining safety mainly at the Sneyd and Chatterley Whitfield mines in Stoke-on-Trent.

In talking to other testers, I've become aware how useful it's been to be brought up in a culture which so values engineering and which have provided such fine role models. In particular I'm lucky to have heard so many of my grandfathers “war stories” about the mining industry, which often involve trying to persuade and influence management away from potentially disastrous courses of action.

Although the name is TestSheepNZ, I'm actually from England

I emigrated to New Zealand in 2009 with my family, and really enjoy it over here. Wellington where I live is a beautiful city without being too large.

I've moved around a lot in my life – my home town is the brewery capital of the Midland, Burton-upon-Trent. During my life I've lived in Sheffield, Keighley, Colchester, Jena, Liverpoo, Weymouth, Farnborough. I might be related to gypsies.

I've tried my hand at quite a few careers and interests

I actually graduated with a degree from the University of Sheffield in Physics and Astronomy, and ended up becoming a teacher of science for a while. I then did further research into lasers and then intelligent sensors, where I picked up about programming (I owe a lot to Software Engineering by Michael J. Pont for that).

I worked in mathematical modelling and computer programming for many years before ending up in software testing. I was always a good programmer, but I excelled when it came to testing. I put this down to having a similar approach to testing as to my scientific research – it's about trying to prove things, often from first principles.

I have a similar eclectic set of interests at home – I share a passion for history with my son who's 14, and am particularly interested in the period of the English Civil War which I believe in many ways was about holding the government of the time accountable and ensuring certain freedoms (such as the right to choose your own religion). Likewise I have interests in psychology and mental health which I picked up from my friend Violet.

I played until recently both cricket and rugby, but injuries and age have meant I'm doing less of that. I still keep at the gym where I now do a lot of dance activities. Back in England I used to be a Morris Dancer.

All this diverse passion is why I'm really keen on working in Agile teams, which seem to thrive off diversity in the team over having people constrained in pigeon-holed job titles. In particular I like how the dynamic seems to be one in a good team where boundaries are sought to be challenged.

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