Test Retreat

Welcome to the homepage of Kris Corbus

Cynefin Framework for a Training

In the trainings students quite often want to hear the only right answer to the question, even if I said earlier that there are multiple solutions. I am very cautious with examples as well because they are threatened often as only possible ways how to use/adapt. To overcome this, I give diverse examples, but my favorite way is to give example in some area of life and to ask my students to transform it in they software or system. In many cases it is real challenge! But that is exactly what you need! Class who just sits and listen, is not a class which is learning.

Lately, to prepare people better for this kind of learning, at the beginning of training I explain simple version of cynefin framework – to categorize problems and to decide how we will deal with them.

If you are not familiar with Cynefin Framework read about it here. Or watch how Liz Keogh explains it:

Embrace Weakness To Become Stronger

Since I am exploring personal branding I am very interested in all related topics, one of which is authenticity. I had a rough upbringing in software testing, many times I was told that I do not belong. Each time when it happened, some of my personal characteristics were named as an example. Because I wanted to belong I stopped to show what was mentioned by the critic. At the end there was no me in my public-me and I still was not enough… Finally it rung the bell. I have reached the bottom. Since then I am recovering from bad management and on my way to build authentic public-me.

Here is another one talking about authenticity. Meet Lina Zubyte! I was happy to get to know her in BTD2016 conference in Belgium, where I gave my first public test talk. She made an impression of young, smart, bright and unfearful woman. I looked at her and thought – it could be me in parallel universe – so unstressed and cheerful. After she started public speaking, it led her to her next career move, which did not turn out so well at the beginning, but as courageous as Lina is, she found strength in her weakness. You can learn about her journey in Linas talk “Finding Power in Authenticity”.

Last year when I met Lina at ATD, she said that I was one of people who inspired her to start public speaking. And again I thought – huh, parallel universes are only there to comfort us, but it is necessary to remind ourselves that they do not exist.

 

Addition from myself, while being weak and vulnerable: stay away from negative people.

Celebrate Success

I come from a country with many remembrance days – time when we remember those who fought for freedom, but in many cases it results with remembering everything bad what happened to us. It is very important to remember, but even more important is not to get depressed. I guess because of my origin one of my life motos are “celebrate success!” My favourite way of celebration is to jump or to do a little dance. In our family we celebrate even little things like good grades or perfectly baked cake.

Trying to be authentic me in professional setting, I work hard with me to celebrate successes at job situations as well. Since I work as a trainer it roles out easier and easier and not think about how others will react to it. My kids are used to my silly dance, but what attendees will say about it?

One of the trainings I give is Agile Testing for the Whole Team. In this training it is particularly easy to talk about it because one whole module is about it. Last week I was giving the training and asking people to share how they celebrate success. The answer was – they don’t because they don’t have a budget for that. I asked if celebration has to be material. So we talked about it and had very interesting ideas, but some members reminded oppositional: we don’t need this nonsense!

Soon after that, the training was over and we went through acceptance tests what I collected at the beginning of training. We passed every single test and the group shared their learnings on each topic. Suddenly everyone started to applaud and cherish. They were celebrating their success! All of them! While they still were applauding one of previous sceptics smiling said that now she agrees – it is important to celebrate.

I was so moved by them that I forgot to celebrate my moment of success…

Learning: Human Factor

Every week I repeat: sitting still and listening to me is NOT a learning.

For me learning means to change behaviour.

If I understood how important for my well being are physical activities and implemented them into my daily routine, I can say I learned it. If I continue to practice movementless lifestyle, I didn’t learn a thing and there is no improvement to expect.

It does not matter how many trainings you take/ conferences you visit/ books you read, if you don’t implement topics your experienced in your daily activities. No trainer, speaker, book writer can do it for you.

You have to do it by yourself.

ScanAgile

I realised that I did not write a blog post about a conference where I spoke in March, 2019. I am talking about amazing ScanAgile. I had great experience there and very interesting, thought provoking discussions. You know, that moment when you connect with someone on meta level, everything else leaves your thinking space and even all that travel trouble suddenly makes sense.

ScanAgile is community driven and the audience is everyone involved in work in progress. What said – it was unusual for me, that so many business people were there and I have the feeling that I met all of them. It changed my perspective and gave new ideas how to approach this group with my topics.

During the conference I gave my workshop “Questioning requirements: improving quality for everyone” and no matter that we had technical difficulties (abstract of the workshop was not visible on conference website), we had very good session and some participants staid much longer(1h+) and we had deep conversation about the topic.

So why I remembered about this great event? Because they just announced Call for proposals and if you are from Europe, I think you should submit!

“The theme of ScanAgile 2020 is “Everyone is a Change Agent” and event will be bigger than ever with 500 participants. Our special 2020 focus group is people from companies in transformation. ScanAgile 2020 conference will be held on 1st and 2nd of April 2020. A separate workshop day will be held on March 31, 2020. The venue is the same as this year, Clarion Hotel Helsinki, Finnland.”

ScanAgile

I plan to be there in 2020 as well. This photo was taken shortly after I won free ticket for 2020 :)

Personal Branding

I am a professional. I am all about techniques, methods, processes and approaches. I have nothing to do with marketing and branding. I used to think those things are for companies only. Oh my, how wrong I was…
What changed my mind? Three unrelated situations made me think that maybe, just maybe I am missing something.

Getting hints

The first situation happened in Manchester 2016 during TestBash. Attendees in big group were walking to the next location and enjoying their conversations. While waiting on crossroads green light someone said to me: “I know you! ..no, I don’t really know you. Your face looks familiar. I have seen it on Twitter. So you are famous, but not famous enough that I would remember your name”.
To be honest that short exchange scared me. Yes, I am a frequent Twitter user, but I use it to get access to information and to “store” interesting, thought provoking or simply useful pieces of it. I am professional, remember? Fame doesn’t exist in my world. But ok, let’s take “famous” part out of that message and what stays, is that he could not remember who I was. When I look back, I see that was the first clue that I am missing something.

In August, 2017, the Women In Testing (WIT) group with Agile Testing Days’ (ATD) support, published a list of 125 awesome testers. I am not on the list. I knew many of authors, and had some business together with a few of them, but when they put that list, they forgot me. Some authors felt very bad afterwards and apologised to me. I did not take it personally –  it happens right? I am on second edition, thanks Maaret! But this was my second clue that I am not memorable. I realised that it could be based on my behaviour. In the testing community which is supposed to be so welcoming and inclusive, I did not feel welcomed. Even in WIT group which most of the participants described as a safe place, I don’t feel safe. All this  leads to the impression that I am reserved, restrained and unemotional, which is the exact opposite of how my friends and colleagues would describe me. There was an imbalance between who I am, and how I behaved and that did not come across well.

In September 2017, I started to work for trendig – I finally found people and a place where I am not the strange one (I had worked for companies where I was the only one married/with children, or the only woman or only tester etc). At trendig everyone is accepted as he or she is. Also for me, it was very important that Jana and Pepe, owners of the company, have a very similar value system to mine. It is a pleasure to work together if you don’t have to bother about general things, because you know you are on the same page.
Then came ATD and I got a “cold shower” about how it looks for outsiders. During one break, I was talking to some of sponsors and having questions about their newest product. We were interrupted by someone who I knew, with the sentence: “Don’t put so much effort in explaining it to her, she is one of Pepes people.” To my surprise, the conversation stopped and I did not get answers to my questions.

The Decision

That one sentence made me really angry and that was the last push to start doing something about how people perceive me. After a quick research I realized it will be not so easy. Building own brand is a part time job itself. If you are used to invest your free time to study on testing/ development/ agile 4-8 h a week, be ready to invest the same amount of time into your brand. So I decided to focus it and because I was on a new job and new domain, I built my brand as a trainer for a very specific audience – my students.

I started with everything around how I introduce myself: what is my story, what is my message, what kind of emotions I want to create/provoke. Because I was new to this – I experimented a lot. Every week before starting a training I decided to highlight a skill/experience and observe the reaction. I learned that there is no such thing as a “Best Introduction”. Every group is different, every individual is different. I am happy if I manage to achieve the sweet spot where my students trust me and open up for new ideas, new experiences, if we have deep discussions over lunch and at the end of training people decide to say good-bye by hugging me. But sometimes there is nothing I can do to ignite people to put their smartphones aside. Or a group that refuses to interact with me to shape training according to their needs. They are used to being controlled and to follow commands and that is how they want to be in the training.

Now that I feel good with my brand as a trainer standing in front of my students, I feel comfortable to share some of my learnings. From time to time I will share resources which I found useful for me. Right now, I share three questions with what I suggest you to start.

The Three Questions

Who am I?

Sounds like a simple question, – You know yourself, right? – but I found it very hard to answer. Here are just a few of the things that I considered. When I think about who I am, I start with things like: I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend. I am Latvian, my heritage and my culture, my age, my background and experiences. Only then I think about my professional details. At the beginning when I was shaping my trainer brand, I chose to skip personal details and look only at my professional life, but I did not feel good about it. I decided to experiment and to introduce myself as a family person. That decision created the opportunity for discussions about family and work. I like to think that I encourage people to know that it is possible to have both: kids and exciting work which demands traveling.

Where is my strength?

Another simple question, but many (including myself) sabotage themselves by choosing to name things that they think others want to hear and does not really represent who they are. Typically what is suggested as strengths are experience/education, talents and soft skills. As a trainer, I have several strengths that I want to highlight: my experience in IT projects and as a tester, my moderator skills and my teaching skills (I was a substitute teacher in my 20s). One of my soft skills is observation which fits my trainer profile and gives me e.g. the ability to spot team dynamics.

What emotions do I have?

This was the easiest part for me. During most of my 10 year testing career I was flying solo, and the feeling I had and wanted to share with my students was understanding. I can teach and coach because I had very similar challenges as my students have. The biggest difficulty that I had to overcame, was to learn to talk freely about my mistakes. The  mistakes I talked about before, were mistakes made by my “friends” or “colleagues” had, not mine. I didn’t feel comfortable publicly to admit that I have made mistakes as well. My turning point was a conversation I had with a young professional. At a meetup where a mutual friend introduced us, she told me about her current challenge at work – she got promoted as manager and felt powerless. I  listened to the story which was so similar to my story and was thinking about how to help her. I gave a few tips, but she didn’t believe me and she said: “It is easy for you to talk! Look at you, you are so experienced and established!”. I closed my eyes and thought, if I really want to help her, I need to take my mask down, tell how I came here and to show her my scars. I did that and she appreciated my honesty. I heard she has become a good manager and found strength to change things. I learned valuable lesson – if I truly want to build trust and an understanding atmosphere, I have to talk about my mistakes first. It is hard and exhausting, and I am aware that not everyone will appreciate it, but I am willing to pay this price.

Aftermath

I figured things out with me being a trainer, but me as a member of professional community is still work in progress. My most important lesson learned is to be myself no matter what. So who I am? I am straight forward – I like to call things how they are, passionate – if I do something I do with my whole heart, and persevering – I had to overcome so many obstacles in my life to be here where I am and this is not where I’ll stop! But I am also (over) analysing everything and wanting to belong by being likeable and politcorrect, which is conflicting with me being straight forward. Seriously: I had no idea that communication with English native speakers can be so difficult. E.g. to communicate properly I have to learn US history or to know that “female” is not a synonym for “women”. Otherwise I might offend people without knowing it.

Joining professional community I like to compare with moving to live in another country. You know what my biggest challenge as Latvian living in Germany is? To blend in, but not to lose my identity. Where I come from heritage and national identity is very important. Latvia was invaded many times over last 800 years, many invaders still live there and even after centuries their offsprings hold to their origin nationality and community – I start to understand them. I realised that by trying to fit in testing community, I made too many compromises. I didn’t act how I wanted to by trying to be nice, which all lead to me losing a part of myself and that made me unremarkable.

There are much much more than what you can ask yourself as those three questions what you can ask yourself when you are working on your personal brand. I plan to write more about this when I implement my next steps. I will be reshaping this website, make it more personal, more me. Last year I already changed my Twitter handle to my name and I plan to do the same with the website. Personal brand is about the person, so it has to have its name. There are good books available and sometimes a conference offers a workshop (I think all technical conferences should have every year a workshop on branding). Two people who inspired and supported me with personal conversations are about branding: Martin Hynie and Rob Lambert.

Do you have branding story? I would love to hear it!

Attempt to Improve the Blog: Halftime

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to improve my blogging skills. 

Attempt to Improve the Blog: Scheduled Posts

Attempt to Improve the Blog: User Experience

Attempt to Improve the Blog: Who are my Readers?

Now it is halftime and I have to say that I was good with scheduling posts, but the rest of ideas around the blog faded away. I have to laugh about myself, because I dis not follow my own mantra – improve just one thing at the time. I learn the lesson and the rest of the year will focus only on scheduling posts.

What I learned so far? A lot! Mostly about myself and how I do things. Scheduling helps me to push myself, now I know if I want to accomplish something I have to challenge myself. At the beginning when I was writing on Sunday evenings, my husband asked what will happen if I will not publish on Monday 12:12. The answer is: nothing! But it was and is important to me to carry out. I had more than 40 half finished, finished drafts of blog posts. Now I have only 14. Not all of them I published, some I deleted as obsolete. I don’t have to hang on old ideas, there are so much happening around me!

Little statistics:

I wrote 30 blog posts in first half of 2019.

So far my blog had 3095 visitors and 4742 views.

Favourite posts with 535 views is https://testretreat.com/2019/05/06/test-automation/

Second favourite with 406 views: https://testretreat.com/2019/06/10/how-to-explain-exploratorytesting-in-5-minutes/

I have another posts about exploratory testing in the pipeline, but you have to wait until autumn. Until end of August I will be on and off holidays.

Have a nice summer!

State of Testing 2019

Did you noticed? Latest State of testing is out! I really like this initiative and support it every year. This year I have to say, the team behind the survey did excellent job – improved the questions, updated regions (Russia is not part of Europe any more) and did excellent work on analysis! Just look at those graphs!

Very interesting summary about salaries in different regions.

Excel still going strong as test management tool

 

Curious about the rest? Here you can download report yourself! And don’t forget to participate next year :)

 

 

Give Confidence

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
― Frida Kahlo
You will not find it is syllabus or trainer notes, but sometimes it is the most important part of the trainers job. To give confidence that you can do it on your own.

How Much Time Takes Your Smoke Test?

The first sign of smoke is always an early indicator that fire is not far away. That is the idea behind the smoke test – quick test to get confirmation that after a change system works as usual.

Every tester tend to agree to this, but the fun starts when I ask: “how quick is “quick”?” or more specific: “how much time takes your smoke test?” In trainings usually I get  answers between 10 minutes and several hours. In case of hours I ask what is the difference between smoke test and regression test. We wanted to check the smoke, not to retest all the features, right?

My smoke test consist of one main pathway, nothing fancy, just straight through. Tipically it takes 30-40 seconds for automated test and around 5 minutes for manual test. If I observe “smoke” than first step is to inform a team (during development phase) or a customer and operations team (if software is already on production). In case of smoke team needs to investigate why it is not working and also why unit and integration tests did not find it, what do we need to improve to get feedback earlier. If smoke in on production in most of cases first step is roll back and only when system is stable again, we can analyze what happened and why. If there is no smoke, than continue with regression tests or few selected checks of new features.

 

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