Author Archives: Brian Whaley

About Brian Whaley

Technologist, Digital Transformation Professional, User Experience Champion, Landscape & Macro Photographer, Avid World Traveler, Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver, Enthusiast of Home-Cooked Food

The Challenges of Working Remotely in the face of COVID-19

The situation with COVID-19 changed quickly, and we all needed to adapt with it.  We and our families are working from home in the face of safety and security.  In order to make this work as best we can, here are some tips, tricks, best practices, lessons learned, and gotchas that I have learned, tried, or heard about from team members over the last two weeks while working remotely.


  • A comfortable, quiet work environment where you wont be disturbed, and where you won’t disturb others.
  • A desk with enough room so you can spread out.
  • A chair that is comfortable, even hours after sitting in it.  I have found the chairs designed with mesh on the back and seat to be the most comfortable to me.
  • Ideally you should have a view of the outdoors.  People are more productive when they can see the sunlight and the environment outside.
  • Be sure you have breakfast and lunch, possibly prepared beforehand, or are easy to make.  Skipping meals is not good.
  • When you get dressed in the morning, wear comfortable but work-video-conference-appropriate clothes.
  • Set rules about space with the people at home.  When you are available to talk, when can’t you be disturbed, when are your breaks, and the same availability times for your new work-from-home officemates.  Signals like doors or flags can be a big help.


  • Enough bandwidth at home to accommodate you and your other family members in parallel while you are working.  Remember children and spouses will all be competing for bandwidth.  FIOS Gigabit Connection might be available in your area.
  • Robust wifi network for sustained usage – strong AC or AX router like Asus RT-AX88U, or even better – upgrade to mesh, like the Eero Pro.
  • Get a great set of comfortable bluetooth headphones, able to be used wired and wireless, and usable while charging.  I like the Bose 700 but they are real expensive.  I bought the Apple AirPods Pro. on sale on Amazon Warehouse and they are great.  But working at home, I really like the Jabra Elite 85h.  I got those via Amazon Warehouse, too.  Price isn’t everything – Anker SoundBuds Slim+ and Anker SoundCore Life P2 are just as good.   And I still have my trusty wired Bose Soundsports for emergencies.
  • Wireless mice, trackpads, keyboards, etc.  I like the Logitech MX Anywhere 2S, and (i know it’s strange) the original Apple Wireless Keyboard.
  • A second monitor is a blessing.  Particularly if you are going to be sharing your screen all the time on video conference calls. There are a LOT of them out there.  Pick a budget and find the best one you can for yourself.
  • If you are going to have all those devices hooked up to your computer, a USB hub might be a good idea.  I just bought the Vava USB-C 9-in-1 Hub.
  • Get all the chargers, cables, adapters, etc. for all your devices.  I like this particular multi-charger cable on Amazon – it can charge Lightning, Micro-USB, and USB-C devices.
  • Ensure your VPN is properly configured and is working as expected.
  • If your desktop or laptop doesn’t come with a video conference camera, then the Logitech HD Pro C920 or C922 will work great.
  • Video and Audio Conferencing software is installed and working as expected on your machine from home.  Most companies use WebEx.  If so, use Brady Bunch mode, to see your team all at once.
  • Slack or Microsoft Teams are a staple in communication.  Ensure it is connected on multiple devices and ready to go.
  • The whole world is connecting to work via VPN, using WebEx, and turning on their video cameras.  Put WebEx on your phone, and disconnect from Wifi.  Be prepared to use it as a backup if VPN and WebEx are slow, or crash.
  • If you are a software developer, you may need to pair program.  VSCode Live Share can do this.  You can also use Tuple if you are on a Mac.


  • You need to actively connect with your team.  People don’t walk by or bump into you in the cafeteria any more.
  • Schedule more one-on-ones, even if they are only 5 to 15 minutes.  Consciously interact within your circles.
  • It may be good to schedule virtual water cooler time with your team, just to ensure communication and camaraderie still happens regularly.
  • Someone on my team scheduled a virtual Happy Hour.  Everyone brought their own drinks, and hung out around the video cameras at the event.  They laughed and carried on and had a great time.
  • Teambuilding events are a great way to break the monotony, get peoples’ minds off work and the news for a while, and interact with their team members.  There are lots of things you can do remotely.  I will be doing a follow-up post on this.
  • Be sure to prioritize communication and collaboration.  Over-communicate if necessary, on multiple communication channels.  Reward people who come up with creative and resourceful ways to keep interaction levels high.


  • Begin and end the day around the same time as much as possible.  Ensure you create a balance between work and home, just as you do when commuting to the office.
  • Ensure you also create the transitions to and from work.  When commuting, that was naturally created on the train or in the car.  You still need that transition.  Get dressed, get your coffee, have breakfast, make a to do list for the day, start slow with email.  Develop the same kind of routine to break away from work – check off your to do list, ideas for tomorrow, take a short walk.
  • Build in time to get up, walk around, take a break, possibly go for a stroll outside.  My peers share photos from their walks and snack times with each other to keep the spirits up and break up the routine.
  • Remember that in the face of COVID-19, services like childcare, pet care, food shopping, etc. are going to be much harder, and teammates may need to dedicate work time towards those things.  Be sure to be accommodating.
  • Don’t forget that you need to take a break, and vacation days and sick days / mental health days are still critically important.  Don’t hesitate to take them as you need them.

Wrap Up

These are just some of the experiences that me and my colleagues have had over the lat two weeks as we adjust.  i am sure there will be many more, and lots of opportunities to learn and improve.

Scott Hanselman has been working remotely for a very long time, and writes quite often about it.  You can read his tips, tricks, and best practices for working remotely.  He has written a lot of other good articles about remote working, and he dropped some of the links right on the blog post.  Lots to learn for all of us in these articles.

Here is a group of 21 Thought Leaders On Remote Work.  Also lots of great articles on best practices, culture setting, meeting best practices, time zone management, and more.

I am sure you have your own ideas about what works and what doesn’t.  Leave comments below about your experiences.

Graduation is Over… What Next?

Recently, I was a speaker at an event at a local Bootcamp.  The cohort I spoke to was focusing on front end development.  They had other speakers, all focusing on technology topics.  I thought I would change it up, and spoke about the hiring process – what a company is looking for, what you are looking for in a company, and how to find a good match.  The topic was very different for the cohort, and they were very interested.  I got lots of questions after the session, and even for weeks after, and have stayed in touch with many of the students.  Most of them have been placed.  The ones that did not, had one universal question – “What do I do next?”  Here is a quick review of what I covered in my talk – 1) what are you looking for in a new job, 2) what are you looking for in an employer, 3) remember why people leave, and 4) what a good company looks for in a new employee.  Then I dive into next steps – 1) introspection, 2) search for companies, 3) search for jobs, 4) apply, apply, apply, 5) prepare like it’s your final exam, and 6) follow up.

Am I A Match – A Quick Review

What are You Looking For in a New Job?

Everybody is looking for a great job… but what does that mean to you?  A big salary?  More responsibilities?  Working with a new skillset or the newest, best technology?  Or is it cool projects that are in the public eye?  Maybe it is working for big brands or large Fortune 500 companies.  Knowing what it is in a job that excites and motivates you is important.  There is no right answer.  But there is more to it than just that…

What are You Looking For in an Employer?

For me, I take pride in the work I do.  There is lots more to a job than the roles and responsibilities.  Part of that is where I work, the product I am a part of, what my employer stands for, how we give back.  Some other things that matter to me are the work itself, my future career growth at the company, opportunities for continuing my education, the cultures and behaviors embraced, work life balance, management support, and employee empowerment.  You have heard the phrase before – “Do what you love and you never work a day in your life.”

Remember Why People Leave

It is important to know why people leave their current job… you should focus on these for your new company, or you wont be any happier than you are now.  This is based on this article.  People leave their current job because of 1) a lack of trust, respect, or autonomy, 2) not being appreciated or recognized, 3) a lack of opportunities, challenges, growth, or development, 4) they are underutilized, 5) that have a bad manager or poor upper management, 6) they are overworked, stressed, or a poor work life balance, 7) a toxic, negative, unfocused culture or coworkers, and 8) you don’t have the room to breathe, do things your way, or try new things without blame.

What a Good Company Looks For  in a New Employee

I have been a hiring manager for a long time.  Each company I have worked for has their own strategy for hiring.  Smaller companies have looked at the short game – hire what we need to deliver our current projects – skillset, smarts, speed.  Larger companies keep their sights on the long term vision.  My current mantra is “raise the bar” – hire people that are better than our current pool of developers.  Someone the team can learn from and grow as a group.  When evaluating candidates, I look for 1) experience and current skills, 2) are they a technologist or just a coder, 3) is there a culture fit, 4) are they a disruptor – will they come in , question the status quo, ask questions, and improve our current environment, an 5) are they an innovator, staying on top of new technology, trying new things, and have an arsenal of tools for new situations.

Next Steps


Now is the time to decide what it is that you are looking for – in a position, in a company, and in your career.  Short term, long term, needs and wants, for you and your family.  Make a list of what you are looking for, and list them in priority order.  You will need this to evaluate your happiness and fit.  Once you have an offer in hand is way too late.

Search For Companies

Once you know what you are looking for, you can find companies that match.  Do your own research.  There are a lot of resources to use in your search.  The ones I like are Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, and Google News.  You can also look at the research that someone else has done.  This may or may not be a good fit for you, so take these with a grain of salt – Fortune 500 list, Fortune Best 100 Companies, GlassDoor Best Places To Work, Forbes World’s Best Employers or Forbes America’s Best Employers, and LinkedIn Top Companies List.  I am sure there are many other lists that may be important to you – best companies for families, best companies for women, best companies for innovation, and many others.  The point is, do your research, and make a list.

Search For Jobs

Now that you know what you are looking for, and you know what companies fit your criteria, you can start to look for job opportunities that match.  I like to use LinkedIn and Indeed, but you can use Dice, or Monster, or any other job board.  I recommend completing the profiles or online resumes for each of the job boards you use, as this will help them find you a matching position.  You can also look directly on the web sites of the companies you prefer, but this will take longer, and most job boards scrape them all anyway.  Sometimes you will come across a great job opportunity that is not for the companies you have researched already.  Be sure you find out more about them, to see if they fit what your expectations are.  If they do, that is great!  If they don’t, then start a list of companies you are not interested in, and do not apply.

Something else that you can do is reach out to some of the large consulting companies and staffing agencies for a job.  if this fits the kind of work you are looking for, this can be a great way to get variety, exposure, and experience.  Some of the larger consulting companies I have worked with in the New York Area are Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG, Bain, Cognizant, and more.  There are also staffing and placement firms, like McKinsey, Harvey Nash, Spencer Stewart, TEKSystems, Matlen Silver, and many others.  Reach out, meet with them, and let them help you find a great position.  They work with their account companies to get a percentage cut, so they will make out by placing you at a great gig.

Something you should not discount is networking to find a position.  There are networking events where you can meet other professionals in your area.  You can also go to tech meetups or local user groups to not only keep your skills sharp, but meet new people and hear about open positions.  And don’t be afraid to use your existing contacts to get references inside their companies, or make additional connections to other influential people who might have a job, too.  Remember the game “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon”?  Time to play “Seven Degrees of Job Offers”.

Apply, Apply, Apply

Time for you to apply to all those jobs that were a match.  Use your profile to automatically apply, or if that doesn’t work, complete the application manually.  Customize your cover letter and polish your resume to the position, as much as possible.  Do your best to address the cover letter to the recruiter or hiring manager.  Make sure you read up on how to write a resume – be results focused, use active tense verbs, keep it to a page or two, and make it easily readable by ATS software with tools like .  Your mileage will vary, depending on the level of the position, demand in the market, connection to your network, and countless uncontrollable factors.  Do not be discouraged.  You will most probably complete 10 to 20 applications to get an interview, and complete 10 interviews to get an offer.  But stay diligent, and those offers will roll in.  And now that you have identified what is most important, you should use a rubric to compare each offer to each other, and to what is most important to you.

Prepare Like It’s Your Final Exam

You have been scheduled for an interview.  It could be a discussion with HR, or an over-the-phone interview, or an on-site in-person interview.  This is your chance.  You have to be prepared.  Get a good night’s sleep, be sure to eat beforehand, bring copies of your resume, dress for success, and be positive.  But there is more to it than that.

Research the company – size, market cap, products, history, culture, reputation, competitors, strengths, weaknesses.  Know the job description.  Do mock interviews. Practice the tech, situational, and culture questions.  Have some situational stories from your experience ready in your mind to answer questions  And remember – this interview is two-way.  While you are there to be interviewed, you are also interviewing them.  Look for the good signs, and the red flags.  And come with a list of questions, focused on what is important to you.  I would also come to the interview with the questions written out, practice asking them, don’t shy away from the tough ones, and list them in priority order.  If you run out of time, you asked the most important ones.

Follow Up

did you submit your resume, and didn’t hear back?  Did you talk on the phone, but no on-site?  Idd you go to an on-site interview, but have not gotten an offer?  Don’t be afraid to follow up.  Don’t bombard them, but don’t shy away from finding out where they are in the process.  Ask for feedback all along the way – you will constantly learn and improve yourself.  And don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out.  Rejection is tough.  But finding out now that you and the company are not a match is loads better than finding out after you have accepted an offer, started the job, and have not been set up for success. Stick with it, and you will find the right company and the right job for you.


This is the basic routine I followed when I was on the hunt for a new job.  Research the companies I liked; find the jobs I thought I fit; apply, apply, apply; prepare for the big day, follow up, and be positive throughout the process.

I am sure there are details I have missed out.  What else do you recommend?  Leave a comment and let me know.

400 Level Testing – 20 Advanced Topics

Now that we have walked through the basics in my posts on Testing 101, 200 Level, and 300 Level testing, the number of bugs in your production environment should be falling. To continue to eliminate the nasty bugs, it is time to dig deep, get creative, and use skills from other fields. Here are some out-of-the-box ideas to continue the momentum and focus on quality and stability of your software products.

  1. Shift Left – this is the general principle to find bugs as soon as possible in the software development process – write automation tests to find bugs in QA, write unit tests to find bugs in development, use TDD to find bugs before you write code, architect testability into your platform before you even create the solution.  TechBeacon has a great article about Shift Left.
  2. Crowdsource Testing – sometimes you need to get a fresh, new perspective on testing.  Using the general public can help you get there.  I have used a  company called uTest, and they were great.  They have all kinds of purchase options.  There are lots of other crowdsource testing companies to choose from.
  3. Fuzzing – I have done this before and never knew it was called fuzzing.  Build automation tests that randomly generate characters (ISO-8859-1 and UTF-8) and submit forms, to test positive and negative cases you never thought of.  Run it thousands of times, and you are bound to find some errors.  Read F-Secure to learn more about fuzzing.
  4. Innovation – When most people think of innovation, they think of a bolt of lightning, striking randomly. While this may be true some of the time, that isn’t always the case. There are methods to developing and trying new ideas, and that kind of innovation needs a culture to support it. This great article from The Medium outlines some of the methodologies to use to find innovation.
  5. Design Thinking – Over the last few years, I have been working with Rutgers on their Advisory Board for their Design Thinking certificate program. I stay on top of the subject, and tweet a lot of great articles to read on the topic. When I came across this article on DT and Software Quality, I knew I needed to share it.
  6. Bug Bash / Bug Hunt / Bug Day – Make finding bugs a social event. Invite your team, or other teams, to find bugs in your product. Set aside an afternoon, order some pizza, plan some prizes, and find some bugs! Read more about how to run a Bug Hunt.
  7. Quality Hackathon – another way to generate ideas about new approaches to testing and quality, you could hold a hackathon, one that focuses specifically on testing. Are there new ways to automate? New tools to try? New approaches to testing? Challenge your team, set some parameters, pick some judges, give away some prizes, and make it fun!
  8. Apply Gamification to Testing – In World of Warcraft, there are monsters to kill, skills to learn, reputation to gain, equipment to discover.  You can do the same thing with Quality and Gamification – each person on the team has a QE Score, and gets points for bugs found, classes taken, Tech Talks conducted, junior teammates mentored.   Define a reward system, how to grow, and publicly praise the growth – different levels, badges, and achievements to earn and the steps to get there.  Read more about gamification on
  9. Machine Learning and Testing – Can we teach a machine to find bugs in software that humans write? Or identify what sections of our software systems will most likely have the most bugs? Or what sections of code are the most complex? Maybe we should give it a shot
  10. Measure your Test Maturity – According to CIO Magazine, “The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process and behavioral model that helps organizations streamline process improvement and encourage productive, efficient behaviors that decrease risks in software, product and service development.” Initially developed by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in conjunction with the DoD and U.S. Government, CMMI is currently administered by the CMMI Institute as a process improvement tool for projects, divisions or organizations. CMM defines 5 levels of maturity – (1) Initial, (2) Repeatable, (3) Defined, (4) Managed, and (5) Optimizing. If thought of in a different way, this maturity model could be specifically applied to software quality and testing, and used to measure current state and set goals for improvement.
  11. Think Different – While this may be the slogan for a famous ad campaign for a large tech company named after Newton’s fruit, it is also a technique to help people solve problems by taking a different mental approach – Creative, Analytical, Critical. Concrete, Abstract, Divergent, Convergent, Sequential, and Holistic thinking.  Read more about software testing and different thinking types on
  12. Complexity = Errors – Exploit the correlation between complexity and errors. A rule of thumb is that one component should do one thing, and do it well. Make complex classes smaller. Break monolithic services into micro services. Break database tables into multiple, smaller tables. The same is also true for tests. Make unit tests smaller. Test smaller sections of the user journey. And aim your spotlight of testing onto complex areas of your application – UI, services, or data, integration points, service signatures, common failure points.
  13. Wear different Thinking Caps – It’s a common enough expression… “put on your thinking cap.” The 1985 book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono promotes multi-dimensional thinking by mapping different colored hats to different cognitive styles – blue for an overview, white for facts, red for emotion, yellow for optimism, black for risks, green for creativity. Put on different thinking caps, and innovate in whole new ways.
  14. World Quality Report – “The World Quality Report is the only global report analyzing software testing and quality engineering trends. It presents an analysis of developments in agile and DevOps, artificial intelligence, automation, test environments, data, security and budgets, showing once again the importance of quality, and of the measures that are put in place to maintain it.” – sogeti (part of capgemini)
  15. Online Resources – Things change, evolve, improve. It is our obligation as technologists to stay on top of those changes. There are a lot of resources that can help you do that. Training, conferences, certifications, and industry trends are some ways to stay on top of those changes. Sometimes it is just staying on tho of the news as it happens. While doing research for my blog posts, some of the best resources for me were Ministry of Testing, Software Testing Help, StickyMinds, InfoWorld, and Software Testing Magazine.
  16. Training – Continuing your education as a technologist and quality engineer is critical. There are lots of online video training resources available online. Pick your favorite and keep learning. Two of my favorite are Udemy (and their class on Software Testing and Innovation): and Lynda (and their class on Exploratory Testing).
  17. Conferences – Learn about new techniques, hear from industry experts, plan for future innovation, look at products from vendors, continue your education. Check out a list of conferences from TechBeacon and .
  18. Certifications – Certifications are more than just a test and a score. They are managed by a company with resources, continuing education, advanced certifications, and a community of professionals you can tap into. Check out a list of certifications for Software Testing professionals.
  19. Industry Trends – Remain on top of industry trends allows you to adapt to current challenges, leverage new tools and techniques, and benefit your skills and your company. Read more about quality assurance trends in 2019.
  20. Beyond The Bugs – What I have focused on in these last four posts is how to find bugs in your code. Ones that would functionally prevent users from using your site. But there are lots of non-functional ways to test your site. Security testing, penetration testing, performance testing, reliability testing, efficiency testing, maintainability testing, portability testing.. and plenty more I am sure. Keep on expanding your knowledge, wide and deep.

In the list above, I just scratch the surface on each one of these ideas. Spend time researching each of them, dig deeper into the ideas, or come up with your own. Have an idea, technique, or best practice I haven’t covered? Leave me some comments and let me know.

300 Level Testing – Test Case Design Techniques

Leveraging a process is the basis to defining and executing a test strategy.  This allows the development team to focus on repeatability, stability, speed, and results.  While researching the landscape of test design techniques, I came across three very good articles that outline a clearly defined set of test design strategies (articles from Invensis, Art of Testing, and Test Automation Resources).  These articles outline techniques based on static code and compiled dynamic code; manual and automated testing; black box, white box, and experience based testing.  Below is a breakdown of each of the test design techniques.  Some of these have been discussed in my articles on Testing 101 and 200 Level Testing.  Below is a summary of each, but follow up with each of the original articles to get more details, as well as examples.

Static Test Design Techniques


  • Walk through – a formal step by step review of all the features and documentation by the authors to better understand the software.
  • Informal review – as stated, these are more informal discussions to gather information without the documentation or code.
  • Technical review – more of a peer review of the application.
  • Audit – a formal review comparing code to documentation by an external source.
  • Inspection – a formal review by trained moderators, documenting defects in code and documentation through a detailed process.
  • Management review – a review of the project documents – project plan, budget, metrics, objectives and results, etc.

With Help of Tools

  • Analysis of coding standards (using compiler) – comparing the code against a set of rules, conventions, and standards defined within a tool or document.
  • Analysis of code metrics – analysis of things like cyclomatic numbers, complexity, nesting, lines of code, code coverage, etc.
  • Analysis of code structure – an analysis of the application by following the flow of data or paths through the code.  Also analyzes the structure of the data and the code itself.

Dynamic Test Design Techniques

Specification-based or Black-Box techniques

  • Boundary Value Analysis – test all field input values at the boundaries – highest, lowest, etc.
  • Decision Table Testing – Also called Classification Tree Method, build a decision tree for the logic of the application, and write tests for each of them.
  • State Transition Diagrams – test each of the states of the application, particularly workflow steps.
  • Equivalence Partitioning – reduce your number of tests by determining ones that test the same thing, and return the same results.
  • Use Case Testing – define scenarios based on business functionality or user functionality.
  • Combinatorial Testing – Randomly selected values, all possible values, each choice in at least one test, all-pairs or pair-wise or n-wise combinations, etc.

Structure-based or White-Box techniques

  • Statement Coverage or Line Coverage – similar t code metrics, analyzing the amount of code that has been exercised by tests.
  • Condition Coverage or Predicate Coverage – all conditions (i.e. true or false) are tested.
  • Decision Coverage or Branch Coverage – all conditions in each decision table are tested.
  • Multiple Condition Coverage – all values in all conditions are tested.

Experience-based techniques

  • Exploratory Testing – similar to an informal review, this testing is based on a general understanding of the application, product, domain, company, etc. and the experience and intuition of the tester.
  • Error Guessing or Fault Attack – leveraging prior experience and expertise, guess where the cracks are in the application, and focusing the testing there.

How to Choose the Right Technique

Once you have a general understanding of test design techniques, choosing the right approach is the most critical next step.  Here are some of the decision points to pick the right one:

  • Application Typebased on requirements for the domain as well as  mobile vs. web applications.
  • Regulatory standardsmust follow conventional rules based on IT, countries, government agencies, etc.
  • Customer’s requirements– based on relationships or contracts with customers.
  • Risk Level and TypeThis includes business risk, legal risk, compliance risk, brand risk, etc.
  • Objectives – Focus on the objectives of your testing.
  • Test Expertise – knowledge of the application, availability of documentation, familiarity with the techniques, etc.
  • Time and budget – What will provide the biggest value that fits your schedule.
  • SDLCWaterfall, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, Extreme… each affects which technique will fit.
  • Defect History – What kind of bugs have you found already for this app, in other apps, across the domain, etc.

200 Level Testing – 15 More Things To Do When There Are Still Bugs

All developers know that they need to test their code.  What new developers don’t understand is that the longer a bug exists in their code throughout the software developer lifecycle, the more expensive it costs to fix it.  So what do you do?  You start with the basic techniques I discussed in my last post. But that is not the end, only the beginning of the quality journey. Your next step is to bake Quality into your process, whether it is waterfall, agile, kanban, lean, etc.  You think about quality in every stage.  See some examples below of how to include testing throughout each phase of your software development process.

  1. Architectural Design – Plan your solution out before you write your code.  This includes how you will test your application.  Sometimes this means writing your functions or methods differently, or creating some test harness code.  Plan this out beforehand.
  2. Code Standards, Conventions, and Style Guides – Set the standards with the team, making code easier to read, modify, test, and predict.  Do you want to follow certain naming conventions?  Are you a fan of Hungarian Style?  Particular about indenting? Does bracket placement matter?  How about spacing?  Document it all, and stick to it.
  3. Use your User Personas – I bet at one time or another, you or yours  UX department has defined a series of personas to help define and prioritize features.  You should do the same for your code – use the journey of your personas to help you define what is critical for testing.
  4. Unit test your front end code, too – You have probably written lots of unit tests against your service layer and database code.  And, you probably have functional tests to exercise all that front end code. But don’t forget to unit test that front end code, too.  Libraries to facilitate this are mocha, karma, jasmine, jest, enzyme, selenium webdriver, cypress, puppeteer, protractor, and many more.
  5. Improve your Definition of Ready -Improving your code quality starts with purpose – what is the objective of your effort?  Ensure you have documented enough of your expected outcomes.  Just be sure not to take it too far – this could become an agile anti-pattern.
  6. Improve Acceptance Criteria –  Two great mnemonics to improve your acceptance criteria are INVEST and SMART.  Read more about them here. Remember the thoroughness of your acceptance criteria directly impacts code quality.
  7. Peer Code Reviews – One of the best ways to identify bugs as early in the process as possible.  Two heads are better than one.  Learn from your peers and catch errors early.  And here is a great article you can read about peer code reviews.
  8. Static Code Analysis Tools – Just like your coding standards and style guide, these tools analyze your source code (usually straight from your source code repository), compare your code against a wide range of rules, and help you identify areas that need help. Some examples of popular Static Code Analysis tools are Lint, AppScan, FxCop, StyleCop, Resharper, NUnit, SonarQube, and others.
  9. Dynamic Code Analysis / Vulnerability Test Tools – These tools are run against code actively running on a server in an attempt to measure resources used, find complexity, identify errors, or uncover vulnerabilities.
  10. Test Driven Development – Following this methodology, you think about your code first, write test cases that fail, and finally write your code until your tests pass.  Then you can write more test cases, or adjust, until you are complete.
  11. Behavior Driven Development – This is a methodology to define test scenarios using natural language, following a specific pattern, just like the user story. In fact, these scenarios can become your acceptance criteria, and using a tool like Gherkin, can become tests directly by Cucumber. Read more about BDD, and the benefits of BDD and TDD.
  12. Refactor – Just as much an art as a science, refactoring your code helps you to reorganize, simplify, provide focus and improve.
  13. Test Data, Test Data, Test Data – Sometimes, the key to testing all your scenarios is setting up your test data. Setting up all your automated test scenarios? Need an existing user to test a new feature? Need to mock results from a downstream system? Running a load test? You need data. Plan this out just as diligently as you would your test scenarios.
  14. Run your tests in all environments – Can you run your tests on your local machine? In Dev, Test, and Production? Both Green and Blue environments? Can you test all your downstream systems too? Is there data to be purged, or added to the environment? Need a flag to indicate this is test data? Plan this ahead – with your infrastructure teams, your partner systems, databases, and product teams to make this happen.
  15. Plan your Rollback before you need to – Not every release is a success. Faced with a production issue, you have to make the tough decision… roll back, or forward fix? What if you used Flagr, your entire feature was behind a feature flag, and could be turned off at the flip of a switch? What if you deployed using a blue / green strategy, and could roll back by flipping environments? Or kept a library of deployed code to re-implement at a moment’s notice? Plan your strategy ahead of time.


My next blog post will cover test strategies and techniques that can help you better define your test cases, and approach your code in unique, thorough, and thoughtful ways.

Testing 101 – 15 Ways to Build Quality Into Your Code

Things certainly have changed.  I remember a day when testing meant writing up a set of scenarios to manually test, or having a checklist of features to repeatedly test against on deployment day.  Now, with modern tools, there are lots more ways to test your code.  Automation can repeatedly test those scenarios for you, and ensure you didn’t break your code when new changes are made.  You can use these automation tests in lots of different ways, along with some basic things to keep in mind to ensure those tests are as valuable as possible.

Basic Types of Automation

  1. Unit Testing with Code Coverage – Write reusable test cases that test your functions, methods, and classes.  Integrate them into your automated build pipeline, and measure how much of your code is tested.  Aim for 100%, but expect a bit less.  Some unit testing tools are jUnit, nUnit, CA LISA, Rhino Mocks, and many more.
  2. Functional / System Testing – Write tests from your customer’s perspective.  walk through your application in the browser, fill in the fields with predefined values, and submit.  Test if the data is correct, if the validations worked, if the data was submitted.  Common tools for this are Selenium, Cucumber, CA Lisa, Rhino Mocks, etc.
  3. Browser and Device Testing – The Browser Wars may be over, but we still have a fragmented landscape of browsers used, and you have to test them all – Chrome, Edge, IE, Safari, Firefox, Android, iOS, phones, tablets, desktops… To cover them all, you can automate your tests and integrate with tools like BrowserStack, SauceLabs, Selenium, etc.
  4. Beta / Acceptance Testing – You need to ensure that you have built a quality project that meets the requirements of the business and the customer.  This is usually a set of manual tests completed by your customer before and / or after launch.
  5. Install Testing – This subset of existing automation tests ensures you exercise as much of your codebase as possible in a new environment, particularly production, to ensure your server installation has completed properly.
  6. Smoke Testing – A small subset of existing automation tests, most probably used in other cases, that ensures any environment changes have not had an impact on your codebase and its functionality.  These tests usually follow the happy paths (or red routes).
  7. Regression Testing – a complete and thorough suite of tests that exercise all of your code, new features and old, happy path and all known edge cases, including past and present bugs, ensuring you are prepared for a launch to production.
  8. Performance / Load / Stress Tests – Identify break points and thresholds in your software and hardware, and improve.  Common tools include jMeter, LoadRunner, Silk Performer, and many others.
  9. Security / Penetration tests – Make your code more secure, prevent hacking and attacks.  Tools include SonarQube, OWASP ZAP, Nexpose, WireShark, Retina, Aquila, and many more.

Tips To Keep In Mind

  1. Keep your code simple – Keep your code focused on solving one problem at a time.  This makes it easier to read and understand, code correctly, debug, and maintain.
  2. Pair Programming – Two heads are better than one.  Write your code cleaner, faster, and with less bugs.  This method comes with built in code reviews.
  3. Use Design Patterns and Architecture Patterns – Follow these, and you are using proven methods that other developers will understand.  The Gang of Four is a good place to start learning design patterns, and there are many others.  MVC, MVP, MVVM, and VIPER are some common architecture patterns that you can use to organize your code at an application level.
  4. Comment and Document your Code – Do this as close to the code as possible.  This makes your code easier to read and understand.  One way I like to do this is write pseudocode first, then fill in with actual code.  Then the pseudocode becomes natural code commenting.
  5. Automated Builds and Continuous Integration – Run your code and test cases as often as possible, make sure they all work together.  Jenkins is the most common way to achieve this.  Another common tool is Bamboo.
  6. Demos – this forces you to think holistically about your code, how you will communicate your solution to others, and gather feedback from your audience.  If you follow an agile methodology, chances are this is already part of your process.


Brian T. Whaley – A README File


Who I Am

I am currently the Director of Engineering responsible for the Global Prospects Application Experience Team.

Prior to American Express, I led global digital web development departments for healthcare, financial, telecommunications, and media companies.  I bring with me expertise in UI Development, Software Project Management, and Agile Methodologies.  Some of my most recent projects outside AmEx include launching custom developed marketing, E-Commerce, and Content Management systems, focusing on SEO, Analytics, and User Experience.

I hold an MSIS degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology, a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Art History from Rutgers University, am a Certified Project Management Professional, and am a Certified Scrum Master.  In addition, I serve on the Advisory Board of the Design Thinking Certificate program at Rutgers University.

I live in Morristown, NJ with my wife of 18 years, Mary Ann. My hobbies include photography, scuba diving and reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels.


Why A README Document

The objective of my REAME is to describe who I am, set some expectations, and management  styles.  What I don’t want this document to do is dictate how to work with me.  I believe that good  leaders adjust to the personality styles of the people reporting to them.


My Job

Talent Management

My primary function is to attract, hire, retain, and grow the best talent I can for our team.  We need  a heterogeneous mix of backgrounds, interests, and experience.  We need to work within a safe,  transparent, and productive culture.  Without the right people on the team and culture to work  within, we cannot deliver our products effectively.

Technology Management

I am also responsible to develop a technology roadmap, lay out the right architecture, advancements, and improvements  to deliver our product with little friction, the best user experience, and fastest time to market.


What You can Expect from Me

  • Focus on Servant Leadership 
  • Develop leadership at all levels in all roles, from the bottom up
  • People over Process, as the Agile Manifesto recommends
  • Give and receive timely and regular feedback – recognition in public, criticism in private
  • I will book 1:1s only when I have something I need to share, or for performance reviews.
  • Deliver continuous improvement in everything we do – code, processes, policies, meetings, etc.
  • Provide transparency and candor wherever and whenever possible
  • A bias toward action
  • Due to my long train commute, I plan to be in the office at 9am, leave at 5pm
  • Work from the office whenever possible, but when working from home, be available on all  channels (phone, text, email, slack, WebEx, etc.)
  • I am a night owl, so I may be working later than you.  Don’t feel obligated to respond during  non-business hours, unless it is related to a production issue.


What I Expect from You

  • Book your 1:1s if you want them.  Regularly scheduled or ad-hoc, the schedule and agenda is up to you.  They are your time with me.
  • Provide feedback regularly – to your staff, your peers, and your boss.  That’s me!
  • Display honesty and transparency in all that you do.
  • Focus on People First, Product Second, and Everything Else Third.
  • Do your best work all the time.
  • Try something new.  Educate yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.  Trying and failing should be celebrated.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  But don’t bring problems without a proposed solution.
  • Show you care.  Emotions included.
  • Exhibit leadership from your position.  You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.
  • Display an extremely high sense of ownership, with a bias for action.
  • Continually point out things we can improve, in everything we do.


Personality Test Results

People learn a lot about themselves and the people around them when they take personality tests.  It is an excellent exercise in introspection and self understanding.  To that end, here are my results from some popular personality tests.

Strengths Finder Results

  1. Achiever (EXECUTING)

MBTI Results



I am an avid reader.  Unfortunately, I do read books in waves.  I primarily read Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Management books.  The book I recommend most often to people at work is Turn The Ship Around by L. David Marquet.  It is about leading from the bottom up, fostering individual contributors as leaders with high levels of ownership, and scaling these ideas across the organization.  Just the kind of culture I try to foster in my organization.  Here is my Goodreads book library for more information.


Favorite Quote

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs –

9 Tools to Help You Recover from Malware

So I was at my parents’ house this weekend, and my dad asked a very simple question… “Could you take a look at my computer?  I can’t run CCleaner.”  I thought to myself… That’s great!  He has been running CCleaner regularly!  But when I sat down to take a look, things only got worse.  Windows Update wouldn’t start, CCleaner wouldn’t start, Microsoft Security Essentials wouldn’t start properly or update, and AVG Free wouldn’t install.  That is not good.  Here is a list of tools I used to scrub his machine, and boy did i need them all, and for different reasons.

  1. MalwareBytes Anti-Malware
  2. PortableApps
  3. SpyBot Search & Destroy
  4. SuperAntiSpyware
  5. CCleaner
  6. HijackThis
  7. AVG
  8. Microsoft Windows Defender
  9. Belarc Advisor

14 Web Site Graders To Test Your Redesigned Site

When you redesign or enhance your site, you make a lot of changes.  You change the content, the design, the front end technology, the back end stack, the user flows, the information architecture, everything.  It is tough to know what you have done right, and what needs help, particularly as it compares to other sites.  These sites can help show you what you have done right, what needs help, and how you compare to other sites.  I use them… and so should you.

  • – the gold standard of online web site graders. Shows performance, SEO, mobile capability, and security.
  • – this site gathers a LOT of marketing information about your site… Monitor this information before and after your cutover.
  • – Are you W3C Compliant?  Are you writing valid HTML?  Using this throughout your development will ensure your site is as readable and indexable as possible.
  • – How long does the first view of my page take?  How about the second view?  This grader shows you both… just like the Developer Tools in Google Chrome.
  • – another technical site grader that can give you guidance where to increase performance.  Be careful trying to get 100/100, though… not everything NEEDS to be done.
  • – Evaluates your site down in four areas – Accessibility, Experience, Marketing, and Technology.  Still useful to get another view of your site.
  • – “Run a review to see how your site can improve across 70+ metrics” – Marketing, SEO, Mobile, Usability, Technology, Crawl Errors, Backlinks, Social, Local, SERP Checker, Visitors.
  • – Another great site for a large, corporate web site.  But not a lot of information about performance.  Good to monitor usage and marketing metrics.
  • – Moz is known for its SEO tools, and this is an easy dashboard of information to monitor before and after your redesign.  The free version is useful, but the Pro version is even better.  Not a lot of tech help here, though.
  • – 7 days for free, the paid version is the only one really useful.  Lots of marketing information is available, though.
  • – Very technical.  Shows you the infrastructure and software choices made by the development team.  You will be surprised.  Helpful for technology and information security teams.
  •  – Free analytics tool.  Tells you who uses your site, how much, where they are from, what browsers, what time of day… a plethora of information.  Including Page Speed.
  • – Free tool that shows you what index errors Google has encountered, things to make your site more indexable, and what your pages look like to the Google Search Crawlers.  Use this.
  • – Everything that Search Console is for Google, this site is for Bing.

So did I miss any tools that you use?  Are any of these ones you have struck off your list?  How do you measure results of your site before and after?  Leave a comment and let me know!

EDIT: Two more sites were recommended to me that help redesign projects, so I am adding them here:

2 New jQuery Plugins

I have just finished creating two new jQuery plugins.  I found them very useful for my own site, and thought I would share them with everyone else.  One is called FlickrTools, the other is SocialCards.


FlickrTools is a simple jQuery plugin that queries the Flickr API, and gathers all the images that match a certain tag.  At some point, this can be expanded to query other properties in the API, but this is the simplest way to start.  I use my flickr images as part of my home page hero, and as a rotating carousel of images.  One of the nice things about this plugin is that the data retrieved from the query is reusable between both features on the site.  The hero is custom jQuery, whole the carousel uses Slick.


SocialCards is a jQuery plugin that queries all of your social media outlets and gathers all of your recent content into cards and displays them on your own site.  Currently it queries blog posts, Etsy, Flickr, Foursquare, GoodReads, Pinterest, and Tumblr.  Soon to be developed are Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.  It uses a masonry style based on the one I found on w3bits, that is configurable using CSS, included in the sample.  The plugin integrates with the Google API for easy RSS reading, and with Yahoo YQL API for other more complex data.

Please feel free to give these a try.  These are the 1.0 release, so they may not fit your needs exactly.  Reach out to me at with any comments, suggestions, or constructive criticism.