Mike Bland
Mike Bland

Everywhere he goes, Mike aims to produce a culture of transparency, autonomy, and collaboration, in which “Instigators” are connected and empowered to effect change throughout an organization. He's followed this path since 2005, when he helped drive adoption of automated testing throughout Google as part of the Testing Grouplet, the Test Mercenaries, and the Fixit Grouplet. He was instrumental in the execution of Test Certified and Testing on the Toilet, and the four company-wide Fixits he organized led to the development and rollout of the Test Automation Platform. He also served as a member of the Websearch Infrastructure team.

Most recently he served as Practice Director at 18F, a technology team within the U.S. General Services Administration, where he personally launched and drove several initiatives to increase 18F’s capability as a learning organization. His 18F Hub prototype spawned several other projects, such as the 18F Pages platform and the 18F Guides series, the 18F Edu initiative, the Team API engine, and the 18F Handbook. He is the primary author of 18F’s Automated Testing Playbook, Grouplet Playbook, Guides Template, and Unit testing in Node.js tutorial. He led three 18F Grouplets–Documentation, Testing, and the Working Group Working Group–as a vehicle to develop and promote these tools and projects in a grassroots fashion. Primarily a C++ and Python programmer at Google, he became proficient in Ruby, Go, and Node.js during his tenure at 18F. Almost all of Mike’s 18F code and documentation source is openly available on GitHub.

The Convergence of Wills

Human-designed systems have deep consequences. They provide the context from which opportunities, successes, and failures emerge. When applied thoughtfully, we observe success such as we’ve seen in the private technology sector at companies like Google. When applied superficially, we observe failure such as the October 2013 Healthcare.gov rollout, whereby traditional government contracting vehicles and development models failed to produce a viable web application, one that happened to be central to a piece of landmark domestic legislation.

Given enough freedom, will, or desperation, human-designed systems can (and will) be altered or even replaced. The United States of America itself was founded on this principle. Open source software development and distribution models have produced technical and economic innovations never dreamt of in the proprietary realm. Agile and DevOps methodologies have further fueled the success of these models. And a willingness to break from the existing system to embrace private sector practices led to the successful recovery of the Healthcare.gov website starting in November 2013.

In this talk, we'll see how a band of upstarts within Google followed the grain of its culture to drive adoption of automated testing throughout the company. We will see how the basic forces of human nature working against that effort map to the same forces evident in other (specifically government) organizations. Finally, we will revisit a core principle and lesson from United States history: how service to the people, rather than to the organization, provides the foundation for sustained innovation and success. These insights may help us develop better strategies and tactics to drive adoption of modern software and business practices and, in so doing, provide greater value to society.