Welcome to the next feature of our Leaders in Tech editorial series. Speaking to leaders in the industry to capture their stories, career highs and lows, their trials and successes, their current company and their role, most recent projects, advice to others, and the individuals who they most look up to in the industry.
Today, we talked to Peter Francome, Programme Test Director and Head of Programmes Wellboring Charity, to find out more about why he joined the tech industry, what his role entails, what are the challenges he faces, and his advice to aspiring engineers and testers.
First of all, could you introduce yourself and your current role?
My name is Peter Francome. I’ve held senior Test/QA roles for over 20 years. My current role is working as a QA consultant and mentor to organizations.
Can you tell me about your journey?
I started as an Assembler programmer in the early ’80s and loved writing code. After that, I enjoyed working with the customer as a BA at Cable & Wireless which started with a near-30-year association with Telecoms companies such as Vodafone, Virgin Media, and O2. I moved away from the technical side to managerial in the late ‘90s heading up Cable and Wireless’s Mobile operation.
I joined Vodafone as a development manager in 2000 after only a few months I became Head of Testing by the time I left in 2010. There were IT quality issues in early 2000 and I was asked to ‘sort out Testing’ and something I’ve enjoyed ever since. With the proliferation of off-shore delivery centers in early 2000, my role moved to lead off-shore test delivery partners, pretty much for 20 years at Vodafone, Virgin Media, and Liberty Global.
What are your current role and responsibilities?
I’m now working in the technology sector part-time coupled with my charity volunteering. My technology role is a consultancy, particularly with regard to strategy, automation, and off-shore delivery models. I also mentor test managers, and I particularly enjoy seeing how they develop and take on new challenges.
What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?
It was not commercially ubiquitous back in the early 80s as it is now and I loved the creativity of writing code and experiencing how your programs improved a business function. Latterly, I’ve loved the closer association IT has with customers and the business and how technology can transform how organizations work.
What do you like about working in Testing?
Testing is there to provide assurance of quality throughout the lifecycle and it’s right now part of everyone’s responsibility. It used to be a singular development stage prior to production that was time-consuming, often late due to upstream issues, and seen by execs as not fully necessary and there was always pressure to get a release into production.
I’ve always liked to prove something works and call out issues where quality could be impacted. Agile, DevOps and automation have been significant for Testing as a quality culture is (or should be!) engrained in every facet of IT development and support.
What is the favorite part of your job?
Latterly, it’s been working with testing teams and helping individuals develop and working with stakeholders to ensure the commitment to quality is fixed and evidenced throughout the development lifecycle and improvements are fed back from the live operation.
According to you, what makes a good leader in the industry?
Someone who demonstrably cares about people and understands technology in order to deliver positive business change. The best leaders I’ve worked for innately understand both people and technology.
What are some of the challenges you faced during your career?
In the early days, it was moving from a mindset change of mainframe to client-server technology. Then how to make off-shore delivery models most productive and efficient. Latterly it ensures Tests and Quality are operationalized throughout the Agile and DevOps development lifecycle (i.e. testing requirements, effective automation, dev in test, feedback from a live operation).
What are you the proudest of in your career so far?
Developing, establishing, and continuously improving off-shore test delivery at both Vodafone and Virgin Media over the c.20 years I was there. We built large teams which gave people and their families livelihoods and actively supported their career development. Some people I worked with over 20 years ago still keep in touch and are doing great things.
What are you aiming for in the future?
I’m at a lucky stage in my career where I have more of a choice in what I do. I still love being involved with the application of technology to build high-performing Quality Engineering teams and using my experience of working with people and experiencing how they develop anywhere in the world!
Do you have any advice for aspiring engineers and testers?
Be technically astute (understand and apply technology at the heart of your role) and build positive and constructive relationships with everyone! Deeply understand your business and its priorities and the role you play to make it successful.
Anything you want to add?
I’m always optimistic and believe prospects for the function of Test/Quality (and practitioners) to deliver differentiated business value have never been better.