First Year at eBay


Exactly one year has passed since I joined eBay on July 1, 2012, and it has been quite a ride. Overall, the experience has been tremendously positive, mostly because the people I work with are both smart and a pleasure to spend time with.

Since my team is distributed at four different locations in Europe (Zurich, Berlin, Paris, London) and our projects mostly originate in San Jose, California, I am traveling significantly more often than in my previous jobs. For many people, air travel is tiring; I don’t perceive it as such. On the contrary, I enjoy the time on a plane because it allows uninterrupted time to read a book or do some thinking.

My team covers 12 European eBay sites in 7 different languages. In the past year, we have tested roughly 100 projects of features that were rolled out to the European sites. I am impressed by my team’s capability to handle all this.

There are many different approaches to testing within eBay, which often leads to intensive discussions with my colleagues in the US. In many ways, the misunderstandings are not unique to eBay. For some reason, there is a widespread view of dichotomous antagonism between manual and automated testing, whereby automation is regarded by some as a superior form of testing.

In these kind of discussions, I often appear to leave the impression of being against automation. Well, I am not. I am - however - against undirected/unreflected automation. I am against automation for the wrong purpose. I am against automation that is only done “because it is engineering”.

I am fiercely in favor of automation if it helps the team with their testing. I am forcibly in favor of automation, if it does the checking necessary to indicate regression effects. I am emphatically in favor of automation, if it does what automation does best - fast, repetitive checking of facts.

I’d be happy if one day the manual vs. automation discussion was no longer necessary.

Anyway, I am proud that my team does not quarrel with such lack of subtlety. They all have a sound mental model of how to do good testing. What more could I wish for? So, thank you team and everybody else in the organization I am in contact with for the splendid experience so far.


Goodbye my Old Friend Phonak; and Hello my New Friend eBay


It is one of those rare events; at least for me who is not a job hopper. There are a couple more minutes left to officially being employed with my old employer Phonak AG, with whom I have proudly spent the last almost eight years. And then I will equally proudly become an eBay man. Yet, the transition feels odd.

In December 2004 I was studying at the university in Zurich and the only reason I started to work with Phonak, was, that I was in urgent need of money. How could I have known that it was the start of a career in software testing. And how could I have known that I would get seriously hooked with the context-driven school. James Bach, of course, was not at all innocent in all this.

Phonak has been an excellent employer for me and I would especially like to thank my former boss - Philipp - for everything he has inspired in me. Actually, why don’t you just have a look at his recently started blog to see what a marvelous free thinker a software development unit director can be. Philipp is a remarkable person, who, with his razor-sharp analytic abilities, yet relaxed compassion with people, was a pleasure to work for. May milk and honey always flow in his general direction.

And now the time has come for a change.

I have been a line manager for a total of 13 people. It has been rewarding and on the other hand it does not leave a lot of time to do actual testing. As I have written in a post a while ago, it has been something I wanted to change. eBay has miraculously offered me this opportunity. I can have the best of both worlds, still doing line manager work by enabling people to achieve their best and also doing hands-on testing. How great is that!

It will be fun to read this post in a few months when I know more about eBay. So, what do I aim for within eBay?

My goal is nothing less than making my group of testers world class. And by world class I mean a team of fantastic individual personalities that is the envy of every other company. One that has sparkle in their eyes when they talk about software testing. One that inspires. One that understands world class as not being the end of a journey but constantly being on the road in search for excellence. One that every other manager would hire on the spot, only that none in the team would be interested for any price in the world, because they cannot have a better place to work for than eBay. One that has a smile on their faces.

This is bold, yes, and I would like to end this post with some beautiful sentences by a great man:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” - Muhammad Ali

With this in mind - dear eBay - let’s see what I can do for you. I am looking forward to getting to know you all. See you on Monday.