Thursday, August 9, 2018

Farewell, My Dumbledore

On August 7, 2018, the Cosmos reclaimed one of the greatest and most benevolent minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Granted, the man in question was someone I never met in person but through his books, blog posts and our occasional correspondence over the past eight years, that didn’t matter. I considered him a legitimate friend, mentor and, yes, a wise old wizard who helped me see things differently.

Jerry Weinberg will be remembered for many things. His absolutely prolific writing career. His career as a computer scientist is legendary. He almost single-handedly created the software testing profession (that’s a bit hazier, of course, but it’s hard to argue with how profoundly his effect on the craft and profession of software testing has been). “Perfect Software and Other Illusions About Testing" is my most gifted book to others on the subject. I've read it multiple times and will be rereading it again, along with several other works of his I've had the pleasure to own and read.

My Interactions with Jerry have been varied but I appreciated the fact that, were I ever to write a book review, no matter how old the book, he would always write back with a note of appreciation. If I had a question in the review, he would patiently explain it and help me see the intended meaning or bigger picture.

His “Fieldstone” method towards writing was the single biggest revelation for me and how I could organize ideas and thoughts when it came to writing. Too often I would start something and I’d either consider it not worth continuing or I’d question my direction. He taught me that was fine and perfectly normal. Just like a stonemason doesn’t use every rock they pick up immediately to create a wall, they often store those rocks in a spot so that, when the time comes to use that stone, they can shape it with minimal effort and put it in its proper place. An idea was not necessarily good or bad (well, some were just plain bad) but many ideas just weren’t ready to be put into the wall of my work just yet. Worry not, the time to use it will come.

What I will always remember about Jerry was his immense kindness, to just about everyone. I’ve thus far never met anyone that actually interacted with Jerry and had a negative thing to say about him. His various workshops over the years have been attended by several of my peers and to a person, every one of them said that Jerry took the time to understand them, learn their issues and frustrations, and somehow work beyond them. A phrase of his that I love is “whatever the problem is, we will deal with it.” I’ve taken that phrase and, in my own black humor have repurposed it as “we will jump off that bridge when we get to it” but the sentiment is really the same. Jerry always inspired me to try to solve problems, no matter how difficult.

We have lost a loving wizard, a true Albus Dumbledore in the flesh. That phrase was first mentioned by my friend and colleague Martin Hynie and I realized at that moment that that really was who Jerry was to me. Jerry was my Dumbledore. Always approachable, at times intimidating at a distance but never up close. He always endeavored to make you feel like you could overcome anything and that ignorance was a definitely curable condition. He has left us with a body of work that is frightening in its quantity but as has proven to me time and time again, reading it is so very worth it.

Farewell, my dear wizard. Thank you for making me just a little bit better as a tester, a technologist, an inquirer, a writer, and hopefully as a human being.

1 comment:

Danny R. Faught said...

I love the comparison to Dumbledore. The sign of a real wizard is refusing to call yourself a wizard (well, unless you can actually cast spells). Jerry told me that he preferred to put no title at all on his business cards. I like that.