An Interview with Lisa Crispin

Lisa Crispin is an Agile Practitioner and Coach. She is also author of Agile Testing.

Do you leap up or lie slumbering?

I lie there for a few minutes petting cats and dogs (and occasionally my husband but let’s not get into that).

What time do you get up?

5 am (ok, sometimes 5:05 or 5:10)

How many hours of work to do you do a day?

  • Real job – 8 hours
  • Professional work not for real job (writing, reviewing, preparing talks, etc) 1-2 hours.

Do you take holidays?


Where do you live?

Castle Roc, CO

Where do you think?

Interesting question. I am one of those anxious people whose mind runs constantly like a hamster on a wheel. I think in bed, I think while I’m walking the dogs, I think when I’m riding a horse, I think when I’m driving a donkey, I think when I’m mucking out the donkey pen or scooping the cat litter box, I think when I’m gardening, when driving the car, I can’t think of a time where I am not thinking (or worrying) about something!

What are your three greatest pleasures?

Wow, that is a tricky one. Professional or personal?


  • Watching the sunset with my husband.
  • Hanging with my donkeys, dogs and cats
  • Tie: Traveling and reading (maybe reading while traveling?)


  • Having my article on the front page of The Testing Planet
  • Hearing someone say (or reading their email) that our book really helped them and their team
  • Knowing I have contributed value on my team and for my company

Do you like money?

I like spending it on the things I enjoy! I don’t like having to worry about it.

Are you happy?

Yes (despite whining and complaining a lot – maybe I just like whining and complaining too!)

How many hours do you sleep at night/day?

I’m in bed for 6 – 7 hours most nights, but I’m usually awake part of that time, I’m a terrible insomniac.

What are you reading at the moment?

  • A book about the Veuve Cliquot (which has interesting facts about champagne and winemaking in it, but is not very well written IMO)
  • The Testing Planet, except I left it at home and right now I’m at work
  • Agile Record, happen to have here at work

What have you been thinking about?

The Women in Agile project. Mike Sutton and I have been interviewing awesome women introduced to the project by their peers, it’s so inspiring to talk to them. But getting the videos edited and ready for the conference, and making sure we have the space at the conference that was promised to us, has been stressful (Mike is doing all the editing, and I feel bad about that). Also have been trying to figure out a good exercise for my tutorial on an agile approach to handling defects at Agile 2010 – am going to try one that involves drawing.

Also I’m excited about trying out a new game at Agile 2010 that one of my teammates came up with, to help testers understand agile. It involves building with Jenga blocks, and I’m going to get people to try it and help us refine it.

Do you have any heroes?

Gosh, so many. Rob and Rosie running the STC. The people who run Weekend Testing around the world such as Parimala Shankaraiah and Marlena Compton. Elisabeth Hendrickson, one of my favorite ‘generalists’ who can do many things well, isn’t afraid to take a stand when needed, always has time to help people, thinks of and spreads around good ideas. The people who have saved Bletchley Park and keep it and the Museum of Computing running so we don’t forget our roots. My teammates who come up with brilliant solutions to our problems and take time to teach me how to write better automation code. The Agile community members who have taken time to answer my questions, whether they are famous people or hard-working practitioners. I could go on and on in this vein.

I have so many heroes it is hard to pick just a few. Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member in the U.S. is one. She stepped up to protect workers and make an equal playing field for women at a time when women were not accepted as political leaders. She originated most of the social and cultural programs that were part of the New Deal, including Social Security and the workplace safety regulations we now take for granted. (most people think FDR or Eleanor Roosevelt did, but it was Frances Perkins). She tried to get FDR to back universal healthcare also, but he wouldn’t take the political risk. She had to take a roundabout approach, wear dowdy hats and try to look like a grandma so she wouldn’t be threatening to her male counterparts. She had difficult family circumstances including a mentally ill husband to take care of. She ended up with little money, working as a much-loved university professor until she died in her 80s. History has almost forgotten her, but we owe her so much.

I could go on and on about my heroes – I have some of their photos taped to a cupboard at home – but this is probably enough for now!

Any advice for young people?

It’s a cliché, but it’s true that you should try to follow your passion. Trouble is, when you’re young sometimes you don’t know what that is. Programming for me started out as a way to make a living after I had been laid off from a job I enjoyed and wanted to live in Austin, TX. I kept thinking I’d move on to something else, but realized I actually do love software development, working as a tester on a team, and helping other people succeed in my profession.

I think kids should study something that interests them in college, and worry about how to make a living later. I majored in animal science (with a specialty in beef cattle production) and a minor in French, and then got an MBA. None of that really matters all that much in my current career, but I enjoyed it and I think it’s important to be well-rounded.

It’s important to travel, too. It broadens your perspective and changes you in good ways. A friend of mine only started traveling when he was in his 50s. He talks about how much it has changed even his political views.

And – never stop learning.

Do you like to go a-wandering?

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘go a-wandering’? A wandering mind? Seeking adventure? My mind does wander a lot. I’m not much of an adventure-seeker, but I love to explore new places, and I enjoy learning new things. My mind is filled with useless trivia that I enjoyed absorbing.

What is paradise?

Paradise, hmmm. Combine Hawaii with the Rocky Mountains somehow, sprinkle it with donkeys, horses, cats, dogs, all kinds of animals, stock it with books, have all my favorite people there, plenty of good wine and food, that’s a good start.

What inspires you?

  • Other people – their ideas, accomplishments, energy
  • Donkeys – they have their own plodding, steady and irresistible energy, and they will only do things for you if you love them more than anything, and they love you more than anything, which is a good model.

What Tester Type are you?

The Networker!

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3 Responses to “An Interview with Lisa Crispin”

    • Rosie SherryAugust 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

      Thanks! Have updated it 🙂

  1. BarbolindaAugust 12, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    I’ve visited her lecture once and it was amazing. Since that moment I started to look at the Agile testing not as scary as it seemed to me before that.