Where Have I Been?

Oh, hai internets. It’s been a while. Did you miss me?

Let me tell you what I’ve been up to.

In the fall of 2012 I shut down my consulting practice (Quality Tree Software) and my studio (Agilistry), and took a job with Pivotal. Actually, to be precise, I joined Pivotal Labs; Pivotal did not even exist in 2012.

Pivotal came into existence in April 2013 as a spin out from EMC and VMWare. Labs is part of Pivotal, but we are more of a product company focused on cloud and data than a services company. We work on Cloud Foundry, an open source Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and have our own distribution as well as our hosted service. The other side of our business is data. Our Big Data Suite includes GPDB (an MPP database), HAWQ (SQL on Hadoop), and Gemfire (an in-memory data grid).

My role at Pivotal has evolved in the time I’ve been there.

For the first couple years, I was the Director of Quality Engineering on Cloud Foundry. It’s a title I swore I would never take again. But my job was different than you might imagine. I did not direct the efforts of quality engineers. Rather, I paid attention to our feedback cycles. Teams own their tests, their CI pipelines, and ultimately the quality of their deliverables. I just helped connect the dots. By the way, if you want to know more about quality and testing on Cloud Foundry, I did get out of the building long enough to give a talk on it at the Wikimedia Foundation. I also gave a talk on the Care and Feeding of Feedback cycles at DOES2014.

In the last few months I moved over to our Data organization in Palo Alto. This changed my commute substantially, so my family and I are moving this summer. That will be an adventure. We’ve been in the same house for 17 years. So wish me luck with that.

Along with the move to our data org, my title changed. We removed the word “quality” from it since what I do does not look anything like traditional quality engineering. So I’m now a director of engineering. But the work I do on a daily basis with our Data teams looks a lot like what I did with Cloud Foundry: I’m deeply involved in hiring, cross-team coordination, improving our release practices, improving builds and CI to make the developer workflow better, and coordinating with our product organization to make sure teams have a steady stream of high value work.

I’m also doing my best to climb the steep learning curve of MPP databases and Hadoop. It helps that I worked at Sybase once upon a time. But that was 20 years ago. So between the fact that I was doing very different work 20 years ago, I’ve forgotten much of what I learned, and things have changed a bit in 2 decades, my prior database experience is only helping me a little in understanding my new context.

I have to say that I love working at Pivotal. I adore the people, am fascinated by the products, and am passionate about the way we work. Coming back to Pivotal was like coming home. (After all, Pivotal Labs is where I learned Agile over a decade ago.)

Some of you have noted that I don’t get out much anymore. I’m not at conferences and I don’t travel much. Since I’m in an inward facing role it’s difficult for me to carve out time to get out into the community. I’d like to see my industry friends more often and I am always honored to be invited to speak. But I turn down the vast majority of speaking invitations. My job takes up all my available time and brain cells.

So that’s what I’m up to and why I’ve been silent here for so long. I do have things to say though. I’ve learned a lot in the last 30 months. And I’m learning more every day. So I hope to carve out time to share what I’m learning here. But no promises about when, exactly, I’ll post.

7 thoughts on “Where Have I Been?

  1. A heartfelt “Welcome back!” It will be great hear of your learnings; looked forward to with much anticipation.

  2. Elisabeth,
    I guess it has been a couple of years since we last met/talked. Glad things are going well for you, and welcome back. Look forward to reading about your recent exploits. Me, SSDD as usual.



  3. Thanks for the news Elisabeth and glad to see things are going well for you. Looking forward to reading you again here soon with some feedback and analysis on engineering, QA and other rants 🙂

  4. Glad to hear you are back, Like you there is a lot of churn in the industry and I have moved from a Director of Quality to Director of Software engineering. I am wondering if this is a trend in the industry. Anyone else making this migration from running quality teams to instilling quality into development teams mindset and improving processes and team interaction?

  5. Hey, Elisabeth – glad to see you “back” on the interwebs.

    This past fall, I was asked to pick an automated test framework for the company I started with (first QA person ever). Partly due to your videos on it, I have embraced the Robot Framework and am quite happy with it. So much so, I ended up doing a presentation for the Austin Web Python User Group:


    So – thanks for that, and the mentorship you’ve provided over the years (both in person and virtual). Keep us updated! 🙂

  6. Hey Elisabeth, so good to see you post here again.

    I smile each time I think of the Agilistry studio. It was where I first gave my full ATDD/GUI/ET talk, and possibly where Ken Pier decided I might be a good candidate for his team. Your Cheat Sheet Coffee mug goes with me everywhere (literally, I carry it with me in my back pack so I don’t forget it).

    Looks like you’re down off of Arastradero. I’m up at University & Waverley during the day, would love to get together at lunch if you are game :).

  7. It’s so nice to see you post. and better yet, have two posts pending to read in my feedly. Kind of like watching two extra episodes of your favorite series you were not expecting, Pleasant surprise indeed. Keep up the writing. It’s refreshing.

    P.s. I could almost read this entry in your own voice, like in the movies when a good old friend writes you a letter.

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