Let me tell you a story. It’s one I haven’t told before. But to do it, let’s first get acquainted.
Hi – I’m Dave Piacente. You may know me from a past life when I went by the name Dave Haeffner and my past works with Selenium. I’m the new DevRel and Head of Community at Applitools—Andy’s moved on to a tremendous bucket-list job opportunity elsewhere, and we wish him all the best! I’ve been working closely with him behind the scenes to learn the ropes to help make this a smooth transition and to ensure that all of the great work he’s done and the community he’s grown will continue to flourish. And to loosely paraphrase Shakespeare – A DevRel (or a Dave) by any other name would be just as sweet.
Now, about that story…
I used to be known for a thing – “Selenium Dave” as they would say. I worked hard to earn that rep. I had one aim, to be helpful. I was trying to solve a problem that vexed me early on in my career in test automation (circa 2009) when open-source test automation and grid providers were on a meteoric rise. The lack of clear and concise guidance on how to get started and grow into a mature test automation practice was profound. But the fundamentals weren’t that challenging to master (once you knew what they were), and the number of people gnashing their teeth as they white-knuckled their way through it was eye-popping.
So, back in 2011, after working in the trenches at a company as an SDET (back before that job title was a thing), I left to start out on my own with a mission to help make test automation simpler. It started simply enough with consulting. But then the dominos began to fall when I started organizing a local test automation meetup.
While running the meetup I realized I kept getting asked the same questions and offering the same answers, so I started jotting them down and putting them into blog posts which later became a weekly tip newsletter (Elemental Selenium, which eventually grew to a readership of 30,000 testers). Organically, that grew into enough content (and confidence) to write a book, The Selenium Guidebook.
I then stepped out of meetup organization and into organizing the Selenium conference, where I became the conference chair from 2014 to 2017. My work on the conference opened the door for me to become part of the Selenium core team. From there it was a hop-skip-and-a-jump to working full-time as a contributor on Selenium IDE at Applitools.
Underpinning all of this, I was doing public speaking at meetups and conferences around the world (starting with my first conference talk back in 2010). I felt like I had summited the mountain—I was in the best possible position to be the most helpful. And I truly felt like I was making a difference in the industry.
But then I took a hard right turn and stopped doing it all. I felt like I had accomplished what I’d set out to do – I had helped make testing simpler (at least for people using Selenium). So I stepped down from the Selenium project, I stopped organizing the Selenium conference, I stopped doing public speaking, I sold my content business (e.g., the newsletter & book) to a third party, and I even changed my last name (from Haeffner to Piacente – although for reasons unrelated to my work). By all marks, I had closed that chapter of my life and was happily focusing on being a full-time Software Developer in the R&D team at Applitools.
While I was doing that, the test automation space continued to grow and evolve as I watched from the sidelines. Seemingly every enterprise was now shifting left (not just the more progressive ones), alternative open-source test automation frameworks to Selenium continued to gain ground in adoption, some new-and-noteworthy entrants started popping up, and the myriad of companies selling their wares in test automation seemed to grow exponentially. And then, Generative AI waltzed into the public domain like the Kool-Aid man busting through a wall. “Oh yeah!”
I started to realize that the initial problem I had strived to make a dent in—making testing simpler—was a moving target. Some things are far simpler now than when I started out, but some are more complex. There are new problems constantly emerging, and the ground underneath our feet is shifting.
So perhaps my work is not done. Perhaps there is more that I can do to help make test automation simpler. To return to public speaking and content creation. To return to being helpful. But this time, with the full weight of a company behind me, instead of as just as a one-man show.
I’m thrilled to be back, and I’m excited for what’s to come!