Dan Hammond – Senior Technical Test Analyst
I didn’t set out to be a software tester…
Like many testers of my generation, I didn’t set out to be a software tester.
It’s not something I was even aware of until I came across a job advert in my mid-20s, but it’s ended up providing me with a good career and an opportunity to moan for a living!
Initially, after taking my A levels I decided to go straight into the big wide world of work and started as a trainee at a large accountancy firm in London in their Insolvency division. The work was varied and had me working on everything from a small local chain of pubs all the way up to international banking firms.
Sports & Leisure
After a year I decided a career in accountancy/insolvency was not for me so I decided to go to university to give myself some more time to maybe work out what I wanted to do for a living. I enrolled in a BA Sport and Leisure Management degree at Staffordshire University, leading to frequent references from my friends to me being the new Mr Brittas.
It allowed me to keep my options open and study a wide range of areas like physiology, economics, coaching, accountancy, nutrition, sociology, psychology, law, business studies etc.
Having completed my degree in 1999 I realised that a lot of sports and leisure jobs would probably involve working at weekends which is when I actually liked to play and engage in sports and leisure, who knew? So it was back to finding a normal job.
Time for a Normal Job…
I had a brief stint as a Pensions Administrator before joining an investment company in 2000 as a Unit Trust Dealer. It was at this time that I had my first experience of the AS400 (now known as IBM i) as a user.
In 2001 I decided I would have to move sideways within the company before I could continue an upward career progression. While looking for opportunities I came across an internal job vacancy for a Testing Technician. Its list of pre-requisite skills matched up perfectly to my skillset e.g. methodical, logical, attention to detail, problem solver and inquisitive. I applied and got accepted.
The testing department at that stage was just me and the Senior Tester. This meant right from the start I was directly involved and had responsibilities in all areas of the SDLC, from requirements gathering, design decisions, scheduling, user training, testing, defect tracking and reporting to management. We were also responsible for all business/product support. A great introduction to the working of the AS400 and software development.
After only a year into the role, a decision was made by the company to outsource the IT systems to a 3rd Party. Fortunately, my role was transferred to the 3rd party whose core system was also based on the AS400. The scale of the test teams here was a lot larger, there were numerous test teams across different specialist areas including some offshore teams.
A whole different ball game to the 2 man band I had started out in.
The business model for this company at that time was to rapidly grab as much of the market as possible, it would pick up outsourcing contracts and migrate newly acquired client’s databases onto their single core administration system. It was here I first started to be involved in web testing and writing/running automation test suites.
After the aggressive growth of the company, a period of rationalisation occurred and a number of voluntary redundancies were offered.
I grabbed the chance of a career break as an opportunity to gain some new experiences.
I used some of my redundancy pay to help fund the building of a school in a remote village in Ghana.
Ghanaians were known for being one of the happiest African countries which was cemented by the fact that the village we were helping was located in between two towns called Ho and Hohoe!
The building of the school was led by the villagers, and as a volunteer group, we went out there for a couple of months to physically help and be part of the labour force.
It was hard and hot work Monday to Friday but at the weekends we got to travel around the local region and mountain roads in rickety battered old mini-vans called tro-tros where half the fun was actually wondering if we were going to make it to our destination in one piece.
It was a fantastic experience all round.
When I came back from Ghana I decided to go contracting. The first opportunity that came along was a 6-month contract based in Dublin for a Life and Pensions firm.
As I had no commitments and Guinness was already my preferred drink of choice I immediately shipped myself over at the start of 2006 and dived headfirst into the Irish lifestyle and became an accepted regular barfly in the local pub.
The work was initially mainly on CAPSIL (AS400) and then later split with some work on PAXUS as groups of policies were migrated between the systems.
I thought the contracting life would mean I would be chopping and changing jobs every 6 months but my first contract ended up lasting 4 years. That’s longer than any permanent job I’d ever had up to that point.
Along with the migration work I was also involved in testing a new web-based enquiry system which had to retrieve and display data from 6 different legacy systems.
After this contract came to its natural conclusion I realised that contractors are like pack animals, and when work finishes at one firm you quite often all end up moving on and working for the next firm, sitting next to the same people you worked with before. I managed to follow the herd and pick up a new contract for another Life and Pensions firm where I was mainly testing their PAXUS system.
The main achievements in this role were fully testing a PAXUS upgrade project and taking control and maintaining a large suite of automation tests which were run as part of regression for all major projects.
Adventures on the Water
While living in Dublin there used to be an annual Maritime festival where a handful of tall ships would be moored along the River Liffey. After looking around a few of these ships I found out that you could actually go on voyages on some of these beautiful ships.
My inner Columbus/Drake/Captain Pugwash perked up, and I booked myself a place in a tall ship race from Kristiansand in Norway to Hartlepool.
The voyage was organised by the Jubilee Sailing Trust which runs the only tall ship in the world designed and built to be sailed by a truly mixed-ability crew, including people with a wide variety of impairments and disabilities.
When you book on a JST voyage you are not going as a passenger, you are a working member of the crew no matter what your level of ability/disability.
Split into 4 watches, you are responsible for the daily running of the ship 24/7, under the direction of a handful of experienced permanent crew. Each day involves setting/stowing the sails, helming, cleaning, maintenance and helping the galley team prepare 3 square meals a day for the 40 hungry crew members.
I had the time of my life and have now done 8 or 9 more voyages/races both as a paying crew member and others in a volunteer role of Cooks Assistant.
It was on one of these voyages, around the Canary Islands that I met my now wife, Anna, and on another 40-day voyage sailing from Singapore to Australia is where we got engaged during a shellback ceremony while crossing the equator.
Kingfisher Associates (KFA Connect)
It was after returning from the Singapore to Australia trip in 2013 that I picked up a new contract to work for KFA Connect (Kingfisher Associates), where I have continued to test and expand my AS400 and test automation knowledge – predominantly on Vodafone projects.
I was enjoying working for KFA so accepted an offer to become a permanent member of staff after a couple of years.
I have now been at KFA Connect for 10 years. The work can be challenging at times but that can keep things interesting and encourages me to continually progress and learn.
The Adventures Continue…
I still have an adventurous side and have more recently taken part in the Round the Island yacht race and completed a number of long-distance hikes and challenges for charity and some just for fun.
These include the Height of the Isle of Wight and the whole of the South Downs Way a couple of years ago – in aid of AFK.
I completed all of them with my wife who uses a powered wheelchair due to having Friedreich’s Ataxia, which obviously adds a little extra challenge to the adventures.
Dan HammondSenior Technical Test Analyst – KFA Connect
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