A software testing symphony
Idea Science’s Dave Melgaard talks music, changing careers and the importance of software testing.
On the surface, music, business and testing may not seem to have much in common, but Idea Science’s recently appointed Head of Testing, Dave Melgaard, understands intimately the power of linking creativity, mathematics and performance.
For the past 4 months, Dave has been leading Idea Science’s team of testing experts to find optimum solutions for clients and strengthen testing capabilities.
But rewind 15 years and he was living a very different life as an elite musician.
“I started playing the trumpet professionally in nightclubs from age of 15, so it felt natural to study music at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. I finished my Honours and Masters degrees while playing regularly with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia and also running successful bands. After that, I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to study in London at the Royal College of Music.”
Realising he wanted to pursue a lifetime position with an orchestra, a hotly contested and rarely offered opportunity, Dave set out to make it happen. After multiple professional auditions in Europe, Dave was awarded a 6-month trial with the Slovenian National Opera and Ballet Orchestra. From there he earned a lifetime contract with the orchestra and spent the next 3 years building his craft and learning to ski. However, Australia was always home.
“My wife and I were considering a return to Australia when my brother in-law suggested I work with him in IT. We discussed it over a few months in the end I thought, ‘why not?’.
“Suddenly I had a trifecta of change – new career, new baby and ‘new’ home. It was tough, but necessity was a great motivator – I studied hard and was fortunate to have some great mentors.”
The more he learned, the more he realised just how many of his skills as an elite musician could be applied in technology.
“In music, from an early age you’re taught to strive for high quality, day-in, day-out. You learn about harmony; playing music that is rhythmically accurate, in-tune, well-balanced and precise. You also learn how to solve complex problems, work in a team, manage relationships, and how to tell a story that connects with your audience. Great art usually does this and all of those skills are really useful in IT.”
Since learning the ropes, Dave put his knowledge to use and became the General Manager of specialist testing firm JKVine. His mission was to build a successful business, while attracting top talent and solving customer problems using cutting-edge technologies and techniques.
“At JKVine we developed a reputation as the ‘go-to guys’ for specialist testing services. We helped our clients save billions of dollars and grew the team from 5 to 35 people in 3 years. I was made an owner of the company and ultimately engineered its sale to Deloitte where I stayed on for another 2 years.”
When COVID hit, Deloitte made nearly 10% of its workforce redundant. For Dave, that provided an opportunity for a fresh start.
“Peter reached out and we had a chat. Idea Science really impressed me, and it looked like there was a lot of opportunity to help clients solve challenges in new ways. They also seemed like a really great bunch of people – I’ve been here for more than 3 months now and that’s become more apparent.
“It’s refreshing to be at a company full of top talent with a genuinely great culture, and an organisation whose size allows it to be nimble and highly effective. It feels great when our customers see the results and their problems are solved.
“For me, it’s about building loyalty through always acting in our customers’ best interests, and delivering on promises – it’s amazing being able to link the expertise of Idea Science with innovative technology to solve complex challenges.”
The importance of software testing in a digital world is not lost on him either. His one tip as a testing expert? Test early, test often.
“Any new software system that’s launched needs to be tested, and with more and more aspects of our lives being controlled by software, it’s only becoming more important. If you spend millions building a system, expectations are high, and if things run poorly or it breaks, people get hurt. We prevent failure early in the software development lifecycle, when issues are usually much cheaper to fix. For every dollar spent on testing you’ll save a lot more down the line – providing the ability to launch new systems with confidence is always money well spent.”