BLOG

Speakers’ Spotlight: Adam Leon Smith

Speakers’ Spotlight: Adam Leon Smith

Warm welcome to our speaker Adam Leon Smith from Piccadilly Group. Following, you can read an interview to find out who is Adam, how he defines QA and what he will speak about at Quest for Quality Conference.

 

Who is Adam? 🙂

 

A technology generalist, who’s been hacking around with tech since he was a toddler.  He remembers learning BASIC programming fairly early by typing in several pages of code from a computer magazine, spending a few hours debugging all his typos and trying to save his work on a cassette.

“I think I must have fixed thousands of Syntax Errors before I knew what Syntax even was”, says Adam. “Later I grew into QA and Testing, which I’ve always loved as I can use a large range of skills in the same role, as opposed to being aligned to a specific technology.  Now, I’m lucky enough to live in Barcelona and run Piccadilly Group’s technical arm there. Moving to a different country to work is a really fulfilling experience which I think everyone should at least once try in their career!”

Out of work, Adam enjoys food and drink while spending time with friends. He is a vegetarian, which means sometimes he can be bit fussy about the restaurants, but it’s fairly easy now in Europe, he says. Adam has always traveled a lot for both work and pleasure, which makes him feels very lucky – except when it’s 4am and he’s getting up for another flight! 🙂

 

What is your personal definition of QA and testing in the light of today’s?

I don’t think the definition of QA and Testing has changed at all, but I think there is a huge split between people who work in product development and typically work in an agile fashion, and people who work in the implementation of software, who work quite differently.  I don’t think people necessarily think in these terms and they tend to think of the “other” type of tester negatively.

I also think there’s a whole range of challenges coming around how we test machine learning, and artificial intelligence.  There’s a re-skilling necessary and I don’t really see it happening to any significant degree.  Ultimately, risk drives the agenda with testing, and there’s a whole load of new quality risks we need to get our heads round.

How was the last 12 months? What worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?

The last year has been professionally very challenging, we’ve brought our first product to market which means I’ve had to learn a lot about managing a product development team, but also about sales and marketing.  At a small company senior managers need to wear a lot of hats, and sometimes it feels like the more successful you are, the more personal development you need to do.

I’ve also started a part-time law degree this year, which with retrospect may have been over-ambitious, at least based on my assignment scores!  It has (obviously) informed me a lot more about the law, and this has contributed to my interested in ethical technologies.

Where do you see yourself in the coming years? What are your career aspirations?

I love to help firms address their business challenges and foster collaboration and innovation in a world that is constantly changing.  The tech industry is changing hugely, so much I don’t think we’ll even refer to it as the tech industry in a decade.

The role I want to play over the coming years is to help the tech industry, and especially the testing profession, to make the shift.  We need to start thinking about ethics and artificial intelligence as non-functional requirements, and learn how to test software which is becoming more human.

What will you be talking about at Quest for Quality?

I’m going to be talking about testing for algorithmic bias.  There’s a lot of talk about AI ethics at the moment and there’s some really thorny issues to solve. I’m raising awareness of algorithmic bias and talking about really practical things testing & QA staff can do to identify and reduce risks.

What inspired you to attend?

I’ve heard really good things about last year’s conference and I’ve never been before!  I also love Dublin, it’s a beautiful city.

What is inspiring me to do the talk is different, I’ve been researching the topic for about six months and recently started working with the IEEE and a various academics to try and figure out how we should deal with algorithmic bias.  I’m really keen to get more input from industry, so I wanted to bring the conversation to some relevant events.

Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?

I’m a massive twitter fan, I find it amazing to find people interested in specific topics.  It can also be the worst place in the world, in particular if you delve into the comments on tweets about politics.  Luckily, the trolls and bot farms stay away from software testing threads on twitter!

Notable QA/testing influencers I follow on twitter include:  @docjamesw, @jamesmarcusbach, @alanpage, @techgirl1908, @gojkoadzic

I also consume a lot of content from Hacker News, Medium, Curiosity, and Reddit.  I read a lot 🙂

How can people find out more about what you are working on?

Following me on twitter or connecting on LinkedIn is a good way, you can also email or DM me.  If people are interested in the testing for bias conversation I have a mailing list where I’m encouraging a collaborative approach to developing the project.

Anything else you would like to add?

This year I’ve been really enjoying looking at how emerging technology is changing the way we build and test software.  I’m a member of the European AI Alliance advising the European Commission, and the IEEE’s standards development group working on some of these topics.