Spotlight: Scott Hackeson

Interviewed by Carl Austin

Background…

In this spotlight interview I spoke with Scott Hackeson, a Test Architect in our London office. From talking about how our PC gaming setups make great working spaces, to his path into testing, and his array of projects at BJSS, there was far too much interesting stuff to fit into this article alone.

I enjoyed hearing about Scott’s route into the testing profession, one far away from my own route into the software industry. Spending most of his school years in Dubai, his family moving there aged 10, Scott was a football lover who took up coaching while at school. When time came to decide on further education, Scott took a different path to the majority of his friends.

Rather than heading back to the UK to go to university, he was offered an opportunity to remain in Dubai.

During secondary school I was a football coach, and then I was contemplating life, what do I want to do, and my head coach said: “Look, stay here, be a football coach, don’t go to uni”.

He spoke with me about coaching a wide range of visitors over the next year, including the children of David Beckham and John Terry. Right next to the famous Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel, he would wake each day, teaching for 4 to 5 hours, enjoying the weather and the nearby beach. I can see why he decided on this option!

Life Before BJSS

However, after a year hearing university stories from all his friends, now was the time to bite the bullet. He headed back to the UK to continue education. Scott attended Birmingham City University, taking a business and marketing degree. His father had seen great success in business during his career, and Scott considered business as a natural choice too. However…

After a year I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I’d always been into computers so I started building computers about age 15, and I just loved it.

Much like myself, Scott loved tinkering with computers. During his teenage years he had helped his family set up their own exchange server and VOIP phones, to talk to each other from across the world. So he changed his degree to business information technology, but it didn’t take long before he was chomping at the bit to actually work.

What I also hated was not earning money, so I got a job.

Scott decided to take up a job in parallel with his course, working from 6am until 1pm at HMRC, providing IT support through Capgemini. This meant he would work the morning, go to university all afternoon, and much like any other university student, enjoy university life in the evenings. Scott told me that he ended burning himself out. However he loved working with technology, and it felt like a great start to get into IT. So he decided to conclude his university career early and continue to work, full time.

Scott heard about a new project at Cap, with the Skills Funding Agency who were screaming out for testers. With a little help from a family contact the project provided an opportunity to join as a tester for a 3 month trial period, supplying him an environment in which to learn and mature his capability. 3 months turned into 5 years. Scott undertook numerous testing roles across a wide range of accounts and locations. While official training was hard to come by, there was an immense amount to learn working with other testing professionals.

I did so many different types of testing, in different business sectors, even the boarding gates at Heathrow, such a different type of testing.

One memorable project we spoke about was testing the biometric boarding gates at Heathrow airport. Rather than testing in-front of a computer, this required physically testing the behaviour of gates in the airport. This included running through the gates with a suitcase, climbing over them, entering with disguises; hats, wigs, glasses etc.

However, after 5 years and a great learning experience, it was time to move on.

They didn’t believe in it (Automated testing). I’d tell them this is where the market is heading and they would say client won’t buy into it.

Automated testing was starting to rise in popularity but the firm offered no opportunity for Scott to move in this direction. He took up roles at Fidelity Investments and Frazer-Nash Consultancy prior to joining BJSS. These offered a chance to learn about automated testing, BDD and Continuous Integration for the first time.

I was really good friends with a dev… who had just gone through a grad scheme. He gave me all the stuff they’d been given.

Keen to learn more, Scott used coursework from a friend who had been through a graduate developer scheme to support learning to code. Scott explained that all of his software development learning was done in his own time. Using online resources like Udemy, Pluralsite and YouTube he would take any opportunity he could get to learn more.

Working at BJSS

With all his gained experience and self-learning, Scott joined BJSS. It was here that really changed the game.

It’s crazy. Commonly I get asked in interviews, what have you learnt at BJSS or how do you stop it from being stale. Now I don’t know if this is just me, but there is not a single day at BJSS that is stale.

Scott explained how everything has come together since joining BJSS. The variety of projects and trust placed in staff has enabled him to progress his capability leaps and bounds. After a short stint reviewing testing approach and effectiveness, Scott was placed into his first major role as a performance tester for a sizable client.

Testing 80,000 devices I very quickly had to understand the estate, understand how it was going to work. I had lots and lots of conversations with the guys over in Sweden who developed the software, to help me understand how it all worked.

With some previous performance testing experience, Scott was put straight into the deep-end. Here he was expected to deliver a performance testing plan and framework, able to simulate testing of 80,000 mobile devices sending data in near real-time. To do this required gaining a strong understanding of the system architecture, potential bottlenecks and many non-functional factors.

His next project was in the public sector, where Scott got his first major exposure to platform engineering.

I learned so much about DevOps and CI/CD. I learned Jenkins, Docker, Kubernetes, Helm, and really fell in love with it, and starting being this hybrid role of Test and Platform.

At BJSS we strongly believe in the benefits of T-Shaped people, and the opportunity to broaden your skills base by working in multi-discipline teams. This project is a perfect example, and seemed to be a defining moment in Scott’s career at BJSS.

When a new platform engineer joined the project a perfect opportunity presented. The pair worked together to deliver the initial cloud platform requirements. To this day Scott considers himself a hybrid tester and platform engineer, this project the foundation for this. Between them they crafted an entire automated release and test process.

Between this and his most recent roles, Scott took a 4 month sabbatical to travel across East Asia with his newly-wed wife. As much as I love my job, this does sound appealing.

On his return, Scott has continued on the hybrid path with his recent projects. Microsoft Azure and release engineering was next, during his time working on the Drones and Model Aircraft Registration Service. He’s also learned about delivery management through time at a UK retail bank. One of things I’ve most enjoyed about my career at BJSS is the sheer variety of the work and the immense amount I’ve learned. It seems that Scott has had a similar experience.

Taking on more responsibility

In addition to client work, Scott also told me how he has been involved in the assurance capability group in London.

Outside of the role I help with recruitment, resourcing, our academy, and working to identify how we get more people upskilled in the assurance capability.

He’s currently working collaboratively to plan part of the assurance jamboree.

This is an opportunity for the capability group to get together and discuss joint learnings, new approaches, and importantly get to know each other better. He’s also been helping to create some of the content for the BJSS Graduate Academy, something he told me he is invested in, to help other young people kick off their careers.

For me, getting in grads, you get people who just want to learn everything.

Finally, we spoke briefly about what the future of testing holds. Testing has changed so much over Scott’s career and he expects it will continue to evolve at speed. With an ever increasing volume of data science work at BJSS, he is interested in how machine learning can be applied to testing and how to effectively test machine learning models and AI capabilities. I find this type of inquisitive nature is present in everyone I speak to at BJSS, and is part of what keeps it so interesting.