Test Retreat

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Yearly 2019

2019 and also my second IT decade has been finished. Time to look back.

 

General 2019 Summary

2019 turned out to be a very special year for me. Big changes in my family: the youngest started to go to school, biggest became an adolescent, I was a LOT away. Accordingly my deepest gratitude goes to my husband. I am so grateful to have him! We built this family, we follow personal dreams (without help from a side) and still manage to be a loving couple.  

Professionally the biggest move this year was my decision to quit my volunteer activities. Over years I supported so many, that I forgot to take care of myself. I am deeply grateful to people who supported me on my way to make this decision. 

2019 I turned 40. Which is only a number, but I really like that number. This year feels in many ways as a milestone, I have accomplished several longer epics. It feels good. I am enjoying achievements and looking forward to new beginnings. 

 

Blogging 2019

With published 2 blog posts more than 2018, I achieved 42 in total. I did not blog during our summer vacation and most of the autumn I did not stick with my 1 post per week blogging challenge. Anyway numbers went up nicely. 

At the beginning of 2019 I set up a few things that I wanted to improve (readers, UX, schedule). I changed several things on the website, but I am still not pleased with categories, I will continue to experiment with it.

About the readers – I still have no idea who you are, if you don’t leave a comment, tweet (thank you, Lisa, for your feedback and encouragement) or email. So I decided to stop to pretend that I write for you. It is up to you if you find something useful here, if not – internet is huge, keep looking and you will find… something :).

Third thing  – schedules – was a really good idea and helped me a lot to overcome writer’s block. I will keep it in 2020, but set the bar lower. New challenge to publish a blog post every two weeks. I am also very happy that I reduced my drafts from 36 to 10 blog posts in the pipeline.

The 4 most read articles were (title / views):

My Story of Test Automation                                           598
How To Explain #ExploratoryTesting in 15 Minutes  556
Approach To Test Automation                                          352
Exploratory Testing: Peer Conference #ET19             227

What is new – the most of my readers came to my blog via search engine. I was thinking to move away from WP, but this is strong argument to stay (I have no idea how to do SEO on my own).

Decade

This time not only a year has come to the end, but a decade as well. Decade in which I learned a ton! I worked in 5 very different companies, participated in many projects and learned a lot of inspiring and some destructive people. I decided to write a summary of the years with lessons learned:

2010 learned how to stand up for myself at work

2011 that cool title doesn’t automatically mean cool working environment

2012 learning to be a manager, but also took communication training and understood how determined I am and that it could be not a good thing

2013 my mother passed away… I learned how big part my mother took in my life (I was living aboard already for many years). I always will be thankful to my bosses who supported me in that hard time – I learned different faces of help and support. 

2014 learned to live with grief

2015 learned to work in a testing team as a member

2016 re-learned that I cannot work under bad leadership

2017 first lesson of Letting Go; how to be full time trainer

2018 learning about failing/ accepting failure as part of learning process

2019 second lesson of Letting Go; I am important

 

Forecast

Every year, usually around my birthday, I set new goals. Sometimes I achieve them, sometimes not. I realised that in cases when I did not make it, mostly happens because my resolution was too vague or too big (sounds so familiar in agile context…). So I am thinking about staging goals. What I can improve immediately, in the short term (like a month) and long term (could be a year). Since I became a trainer I panicked from time to time that I don’t have any long term goal. I was thinking to choose it as my 2020 goal, but I realised something else is more important for me: joy. Since kids were small and I was building up my career, I have become so tense… My youngest loves Mamma Mia! movie. We rewatched it in holidays. There is episode where girlfriends ask Donna what happened? she used to be so fun. Donna replies: I grew up. Tanya: Well, then grow back down again! 

I really need to grow back down.

 

Agile Coaching Network

In November during Agile Testing Days (ATD) I participated in my very first podcast. Yeah! Challenge unlocked! Big thanks to Ray Arell who hosted the podcast and the invitation to participate and to Huib Schoots for encouragement.

I almost did not participate in the podcast, because audio-only things are challenging to me. Despite my worries, recording of the podcast was a very nice experience and would repeat it in the near future. I had a feeling that we got distracted and sidetracked a lot, but I guess it is part of agile conversation :) I also realised that as a trainer and speaker I am used to 30-40 minutes talking slots and it is challenging to share my message in 1 minute, especially if I am referencing to something related to my experience that others may not know. To improve it, I am thinking about creating an exercise for myself to practice to share the same message in 1-5-30 minutes. I did something similar already a few years ago when I adapted my 15 minute lightning talk to a 45 minute track talk. In the end, I improved both versions dramatically in terms of quality of the message. 

 

When I listen to a podcast, I make notes while listening. If you are like me and prefer to have a script or if you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, below you will find a list of topics we talked about (starting time next to the title) with answers highlighted and my own comments.

 

Here is the link to the podcast Agile Coaching Network. 

 

Introduction (0:53)

I always tell my students that introductions are very important and need to be practiced. In the podcast, Damian gives an excellent example of it, but I had to laugh about my version of introduction. That was the day when I screwed up my own intro. Besides everything else I forgot to mention magic word “agile” and the fact that I give “Agile Testing” trainings for software development teams. 

Something that came up later in the discussion but was only mentioned by me during the introductions – all participants of the podcast were speakers at the Agile Testing Day conference. I think it is important to mention because it shows the perspective this group has.

 

Why we have agile conference which focus only on test? (4:00)

My answer was around misunderstanding of “testing”. I see testing as “reality check” (I am working on a blog post and proposed talk about rebranding testing), that is why for me ATD is not an agile conference which focuses only on test. Paul and Eddy gave more detailed answer who is participating. Damian focused on the idea that ATD is a great conference for whole teams, because everyone will find something. Tom’s answer was about agile as a hype and that it has done learning curve and comes back to speciality, which was extended by Damian’s visualisation of a pendulum. I loved the moment when Paul said: “I disagree.” This is what makes discussions like this so valuable – you hear different opinions. 

 

Biggest challenge what is facing the community? (11:15)

This question was very close to the reason why I became a coach. Every week I see another group of people who struggle with something in IT. What I experience is that if “what to do” is clear, the “how to do it” in 90% of the time is unclear. This is partly the reason why I started to explain the Cynefin framework in my trainings – to take the fear away that others know “how to do it” and simply don’t tell you. In my podcast answer, I talked about the complexity and the challenge to lead. I tried to keep my answer as short as possible, and after listening to it, I am not pleased with myself. The details got lost and I am not even sure if you can understand what I meant with my answer.

Huib got sidetracked from the real question about local community and its challenges and continued to talk about ATD and importance of it as a testing conference. He also mentions that Alex took a developer to a testing conference and he was amazed by the variety of testing topics. What I think was missed in this story, is that that developer was co-presenting with Alex. I think it is important to mention it because speakers has different background (no need to pay for the ticket) and their experience during a conference is different than attendees. If we speak about friendly developers – I have met several of them myself. The problem is, no matter how friendly developer you are, if your companies budget allows you to attend only one conference per year, 99% developers will choose something about coding, not agile and not testing. They want to improve their developer skills and you really cannot blame them for that!

Unfortunately all podcast participants who spoke after Huib got sidetracked from the original question. 

How can we improve the customer experience? How events can support hone our craft better? (17:40)

Huib started discussion on this topic with addressing speakers to submit more topics around testing. Which I supported, but I really liked Damian’s metaphor with “car conferences”. Ray talked about testers as coaches in agile context. And I shared my little story about me thinking I am quality coach and really becoming software quality coach. When I say “I did bad job” I mean that there is a difference between“talking about how great testing is” or saying “hey, this worked for me, you should try it as well” and really coaching somebody about software quality.

And again we got sidetracked :D

Paul’s story about different mindsets and what is so important about testers mindset, but it is not the answer to Rays question. I wish we had here deeper discussion about the original question.

 

Agile tools (24:52)

Huib jumps on to understand what was meant by “tools” and if The Tool can solve the problem. Damian talks about understanding the problem, not offering solutions to symptoms. Eddy talks about team take on problems and solutions. My comment was meant to glue Huib’s and Eddies comments about the tools and mindsets and the fact that people do not change, but I do not hear that in the recording. As a trainer I see it as my job to make people aware what really means learning and how it is different to fake learning, when we pretend (different UI), but in fact our behaviour has not changed (no change in backend). Sometimes in my trainings I talk about bacteria or racoons and how they learn/ adapt to the change. Ray jumped on my comment on requirements and shared the story on cookie recipe he hid in requirement specification document, and how an intern was the one to find it. Tom brought back the discussion on tool topic. Paul talked about antibodies, the change and alarming trends to reduce testing and increase automation. I loved loved loved Eddies short comment on avoiding complexity: “it is hard to deal with complexity. We don’t like hard, we want easy!” That is why I needed to comment on change and hard and I did that by talking about learning and behaviour. 

 

You come here to recharge… What is your key takeaway from this week? (35:10)

This year, because I was heavily involved in filming during the conference and interviewing speakers and attendees, I didn’t really have time to use ATD to recharge my batteries. It may sound bad, but I think it is part of the process. Conference attendance has a learning curve. My key takeaway of ATD 2019 is : I am not alone. More specifically – I am not alone in those topics about I do not talk. Again I need to mention Kevin Harris’s talk on mental health because it resonated with me so well. 

Tom talked about trends in testing. That problems he used to have, are now so slowly being solved. David joins the conversation with reminder that attendees who come to conferences are people who care about things and the problem is the no-shows. I liked that reminder a lot, but unfortunately he extended it with his thoughts that conferences has become circle of friends. Eddy gave an overview of his ATD experience over the years and how it evolved. Paul takes about being an inspiration to others. Eddy gives an excellent idea of what to do after the conference: don’t write an email to your boss with text: “we should change this!” Instead, write an email about your learnings during the conference don’t put the two most important things you learned in the email! Instead of that go and try to apply them in your daily work. Then he talked about the necessity to step away. And I used the time to suggest that maybe a change of speaker generation is necessary. I think it was a bold thing to say if you are in group of keynote speakers, but I would feel very distressed if I would not say it out loud. If we really want to hone out craft we need to change perspective. I also suggest speakers at least once a year or two to go to conferences as an attendee. Gives you very fresh look.

 

Notes On Effective Meetings

This is guest post by Daniel Carral 

Goal

You’ve probably experienced unnecessary, boring or ineffective meetings. Me too. We don’t want, not anymore. Therefore, why don’t we gather some thoughts which might help increasing the effectiveness of our meetings?

Set the Frame

Description of the event in Google Calendar is important. We might wanna include there:

  • Goal: What we are here for (e.g. decide which CMS to use)
  • Location: Be specific (e.g. URL, Tool, Bibliothek, Restaurant, Park…)
  • Motivation / context: Why are we doing this meeting? Background info.
  • Agenda: Structure to be followed during the meeting (e.g. intro, discussion, voting)
  • Previous preparation: Does something needs to be done before attending? (e.g. reading a document)

Remember

We want our meetings to be:

Necessary

Meetings cost money, a lot. Let’s use them wisely.

Small

Do we need to mention the 2 pizza rule, again? :)

Punctual

  • Respect to everyone and their plannings for the day.
  • Examples: set alarms @ Google Calendar, plan your day before starting the work.

Moderated / facilitated

  • Psychologically safe spaces (not afraid to ask or to say what you want to).
  • Ideally with a time-keeper and/or minute-keeper (could be a rotating role, enabling “train the trainers” sessions).
  • Examples: Scrum ceremonies (Scrum Masters), coding dojos / coderetreats (facilitators).

Documented

  • No everyone needs to attend to know what went on / what has been decided.
  • Excellent mechanism / opportunity to keep track of agreed action items.
  • Examples: “Meeting Minutes” space @ Nuclino.

Scheduled in advance

As mentioned in “punctual”, planning days / weeks takes a lot of effort. Why not being respectful with the time of our colleagues and don’t call for “spontaneous” meetings (same / next day), unless necessary?

Challenged

Gathering feedback (ideas/comments/suggestions) from participants, so we can keep improving.

Examples:

  • UX Chances #1 @ Google Docs (Forms)
  • 1:1s Continuous learning @ trendig

Note: Activity Feedback Template (easy to create with Google Forms, as an example), help you to evaluate the quality of your meetings. Additionally, they are easily reusable by duplicating it for whatever meeting you organise.

Tips & tricks

  • Schedule buffer time (at least 5/10 minutes) between meetings or workshops.
  • Schedule enough pauses/breaks during longer meetings or workshops.
  • Use a template when filling descriptions @ Google Calendar (or whatever you use) or adapt previous descriptions for new events.

Summary

80% of the meetings could (and probably should) be framed as workshops instead, Liberating Structures are extremely powerful, everyone hates meetings so much that they are willing to give a try to whatever could make them better, Notion is better knowledge base than Nuclino, and last but not least: Mondays suck; try not to schedule meetings on Mondays :)

 

Afterword by Kris

I used to work for a company where people liked to measure their productivity by the number of meetings they participated. So there was a meeting for everything… We had many useless meetings, many lost hours of life. Then I worked for a company where people treated meetings like a status symbol. Important people went to the meetings and never shared what was discussed there. If you asked them about meeting results, the answer was, that you are not allowed to know. Based on how company evolved over the years, I guess there was no outcome nor results of those meetings. Then I worked for company who never have meetings. At first I was so happy, but later I realised that something was terribly missing. Over the years I also participated meetings which where started by moderators question: “so why we are here?” or “what do we need to discuss today?” Those I hate the most. You know that no one is prepared and you know that everyone will start to improvise and it will take hours…

I used to initiate weekly meetings, to block the time to talk about important topics. Now I don’t do that anymore, because the reality showed that those meetings fail on all main topics of a meeting: goal, motivation and agenda.

Please Apply Critical Thinking

Last week I gave a software testing training and when we arrived to chapter about experienced based testing, one of my students asked: “do you mean monkey testing?” I tried to stay as calm as I can and asked back: “what is monkey testing?” She started to describe it with several examples. And to each of her example as summary I asked: “so you mean negative testing? …could it be that in this case you mean reliability testing?” and so on. Another students jumped in and said that he is doing monkey testing as well and gave few examples and I again asked questions: “so you mean stress testing?

After few minutes they stopped, all class looked at me and asked what is then monkey testing. I asked back: “how do you know that it exist?” Almost immediately both replied: “our developers call it like this. I was new to testing and thought it is a thing.

I like to believe that developers, when they named something monkey testing, did not want to harm testers. I also think it is absurd that monkey testing has a wikipedia page, but Lisa Crispin does not. 20 years ago when I studied computer science, I was not taught what software testing is. I keep hearing that this is still the case in majority of universities and technical schools where program developers learn their craft. How you call something you don’t understand and don’t want to understand? Witchcraft? Magic? But if you don’t think it is important or valuable?

Testing is about seeing behind visible, hearing unspoken, sensing strange vibes. Listen to what people are saying, but don’t assume that it is 100% correct. There is no one truth! Each of us has our own truth, coloured by our experiences, knowledge, relationships. Don’t believe something just because it has wikipedia page, people who wrote and edit it are biased as well, just like you and me.

What to do? Apply critical thinking!

A statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, 1987:

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

Pretty complex statement, right? Here is simpler version from Wikipedia:

Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgement.

How do you form a judgement? It is much easier to believe somebody who shares information with confidence. Especially if that somebody is a person with status or power. Teen years are partly so hard for parents, because they are not ready to loose their status and power as main information bearers for their children. It is easy to manipulate those who depend on you, impossible if they don’t. To learn and to apply critical thinking looks like lifelong task. You cannot question everything. What is important to question?

My story on critical thinking

Very early I learned that grownups, who say lying is bad, lie themselves. I remember that situation very vividly because it changed my life. Since that moment I never believed one-sided story. I always question motives and seek opposite version to come up with my decision. This is how I run.

What do you think – monkey testing does exist?

It Is Time To Take Care

Kevin Harris ATD2019

I am writing and rewriting this post already a week. There is no easy way to do it, so I think I simply will publish it… 

Before ATD I said to somebody that I give so good consultings to others, that maybe I should book a session for me with myself. Ha-ha – very funny. Then ATD happen and Kevin Harris from keynote stage said: take care of yourself!

It maybe looks that I am doing great, but I am not.

I am not sleeping. I cannot sleep in hotels… I also know that hotels are not the real problem.

Some of Kevin’s slides could be mine. His talk was another wake up call. I could ignore it just as all others before or act as an adult and finally deal with it.

I decided to deal with it. My first step is to cancel my volunteer activities. I will try to keep participating in the school board, but I will leave most of my tech communities/organizations.

The hardest decision was to leave SpeakEasy. I put my heart into it. Here is a short summary of that journey:

 

  • I applied for the program October 22, 2015. 
  • I was matched with my mentor Gerie Owen on January 12, 2016. 
  • I gave my first international conference talk and graduated from SpeakEasy on June 15, 2016. 
  • Year later : June 12, 2017 I came back to SpeakEasy to support Anne-Marie and Fiona. I became the matchmaker. If you believe my email system, I have written 347 emails and matched around 88 mentees (I counted only matchmaking emails, with orga stuff it goes over a thousand). When I remember how we did it at the beginning with excel lists…
  • Since September 1, 2018 I was on leadership team together with Abby and Maaret.
  • I also mentored two mentees myself. 

 

While I am writing and rewriting this post unexpectedly SpeakEasy was informed about existence of registered trademark on the same name. That means our initiative has to change the name! Emotionally it changes so much for me, it becomes easier to let it go.

It is 23:10 here in Romania. I am am in hotel room in 12th floor. My window is open and I listen to jazz music down there in city center. Tomorrow I am flying home. I hope I can sleep tonight.

Shortcuts Do Not Work

People are lazy. They are. We put a lot of energy, money and time to save energy, money and time. Don’t get me wrong – I am for reducing waste, but I have a different understanding what the waste in a process is. Let’s say our process is software development. We talk a lot about best and good practises in software development. It is cool to offer a blueprint as a service. We treat agile as a promise – do this and everything will be great! In those cases I see that by trying to save time and money we eliminated learning out of the process. For me learning is a mindset and making failures has a huge part in that mindset. 

When I started to give workshops and teach my colleagues and clients what I knew, I made several mistakes. One of them was my wish to highlight all pitfalls that I have made and by doing so to save others from falling into them. I thought I was doing a good job, but I was not. If you take learning out of the process, the result will be different and not sustainable. Parenting was and still is an area where I learn this daily – rushing things lead to nothing good. Let them learn and figure it out themselves!

Since I work as a trainer and coach, I face many situations where exactly this is what is expected from me: to save their time and to give fit-to-all solution. In those situations I have to hold on my soft skills to deliver the message and to gently guide into learning path. Not always it works out. Sometimes people get angry and disappointed. They want answers and they want them NOW! This is mainly the reason why I started to introduce my students with Cynefin. This is my way to deal with stubborn people and at the same time give them confidence that I believe they can deal with it, what they want me to solve for them.

People are lazy. I am. Sometimes I still fall for angry requests and sometimes I long for somebody who could whisper the right answers in difficult situations I face.

 

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.

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