Alex Schladebeck, Software Quality and Test Consultant on Violin and Folk Music

Hi, I am Alex Schladebeck, and I work at Bredex GmbH in Germany as the Head of Software Quality and Test Consulting. I grew up in England and moved to Germany in 2005. I originally came to study for a semester, then returned to work here for a summer… and (with the exception of another year of study in the UK) never really left again!

I kind of moved naturally into testing and quality from other things. But what inspired me to stay is the work I get to do with developers, customers and other testers. I like helping them to solve problems – be it in quality, process or communication.

I started playing violin when I was 9, and discovered folk music when I was around 11. I started violin because of my dad who also played. I always loved to hear him play and to listen to music with him. One day I got the opportunity to take lessons, so I auditioned, and I came home a week later with a violin. I hadn’t even told my parents up until then!

Music is a passion, an outlet, and something that speaks to my soul. I know that sounds very deep, but I can really lose myself in a piece of music. I love singing to tell stories, to let out emotions, and to convey ideas. I have a vivid imagination, so even when I am playing something without words, I usually have some idea of what I think is going on.

I actually did my first keynote on the links between music and agile testing recently (with Huib Schoots). But seriously, I think that any kind of “extra curricular” activity has the chance to give you both stress-relief and also a different way of modeling the world. That definitely helps in technology.

There are other similarities to tech and music. For example, work in progress limitation! We know that this is a bad idea in tech projects, and we know it from the band as well. It is better to focus on one new piece instead of trying to do too much at once. The other big similarity is in communication. People have different expectations and different wishes – it is important to know why we are doing something, and how we (as a band, and as individuals) want it to come across.

I prefer playing folk music. It is more relaxed, there is a great tradition behind it, and there is room for improvisation. Also, it is easier to coordinate 3 folk musicians than a whole orchestra. We practice once a week, and usually, I am busy enough that that is my personal practice time too. If I have time (or I am working on a very hard piece!) then I play during the week as well. My goal is to keep playing and to perform for other people. I love being on the stage.

As for inspiration, I really love Bellowhead for taking folk music and making it different. I like Karine Polwart for her songs and lyrics. And anyone who plays a mean fiddle will have me captivated for hours.

The most important thing for new musicians is to practice! Even though I do not as much as I should. Find a community to be a part of that keeps you connected to your music. And enjoy it. It is a wonderful skill to have, one that I am very grateful for.

Listen to Alex’s music here!

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