ETC Serendipity

València Vacation
First things first – I am still little bit high. Just came back from amazing week in Valencia and want to tell you everything about it.

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It started with two days of vacation. First real vacation alone since I have family (14 years). The first day I spent on my own, I wanted to dive into the atmosphere. Spain was my dream land as I was teenager, but this was my first time visiting the country.

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On my second vacation day I did sightseeing, but I was not alone anymore. I felt very alive and free. I welcomed serendipity and it answered my invitation.

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After such start of the week whole conference was like a birthday party with closest 200 friends. Three of four keynotes were very personal, honest and empowering. I have a feeling that I can move a mountain! Workshop on branding transformation hold by Martin Hynie gave me confidence that my research on this topic is on the right track. Soon I will start to write about it.

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You cannot say ETC is a new conference. This was already the fourth release! The beauty of conference is that each year it is held in another country and in first quartal of a year (no clash with family or work calendar). I guess around 50% attendees were technical people and it shaped a lot the sessions and talks during the breaks. Little bit unlucky that conference was divided into two parts – auditorium & eating area on one side and workshops and track sessions on the other side of the building. I thought it will be chaos pure and complaining people (including me), but it turned out very positive. Nobody complained (I did not hear) and I was glad to be forced to go outside of the venue and to feel February sun on my skin. I found it amusing to see how many took the stairs (4 flours) instead of elevator. This is how stereotypes about none active IT people die.

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Networking and socializing part. I do not know to be angry or proud about myself in this category. I wrote about this before – I want to take better care of myself. To have vacation on my own is one thing, but another thing is to act reasonable, to stand up, to leave group of friends and go to sleep. Because “better care” is so vague, I set Cinderella as my role model: at the latest at midnight I have to leave, no matter how good is a party. Unfortunately, not every night I followed this rule. The proud part about my socializing is that I decided to leave my bad experience in the past, be vulnerable and open up to people. I am still amazed how this decision turned out for me. I let people under my skin, they appreciated that and we connected on very personal level. In result I feel even more alive and free.  Thank you for your time and stories (chronological appearance): @melthetester @always_fearful @jrosaproenca @SalFreudenberg@_queen , Alex (sorry, I cannot find you on Twitter!), @lucianadrian@coderbyheart and @jess_ingrass . I also had good conversations with “older” friends, especially Lisi and James.

 

On Saturday I planned to have my third vacation day, but I changed my mind and first time in my life I attended a peer conference. That was amazing! But you need to wait till next week to read the story.

 

 

Learning Zone, Performance Zone

Time to time I discuss with people in industry about how to find a good software testers/developers. And my answer always is the same – do not look for a tester/developer, look for a person who likes to learn. If you can teach a bear to ride a bicycle, then a person, who wants to learn, have no limits.

How long do you work as a software tester/developer? How many years of software testing/development experience do you have? Looks like similar questions, but they are not. For example, you are paid as a software developer for 7 years. You can have one time 7 years of experience OR you could have 7 times 1-year experience.

Now I have to correct myself. Over the years and especially since I work as a trainer I see that learning (listening) is not enough. You have to apply your learnings in everyday life and this is the hardest part of learning. Some of educators say learning means change of behaviour. Very simple example: child and candle. Child is attracted to flame and wants to touch it. Parents can say 100 times, do not touch it! the flame it is dangerous, child will hear it, but not learn and will keep behaviour. Only after touching a flame, lesson will be learned and behaviour changed. In Germany we say LDS – Lernen Durch Schmerzen which translated means Learning Through Pain. Pain as trigger to change pattern of behaviour.

I really love Eduardo Briceño TED talk where he introduces us with his concept of Learning Zone and Performance Zone. Learning zone is where we build our skills, important part in this stage is to make mistakes and lern from them, and performance zone, where we apply skills we master. 20 years ago when I started to work in IT it was pure performance zone. Only professional would get hired, we got project and had to deliver. We kind of know backend of this story – people lied in their resumes and interviews, nobody really knew how and what to deliver and where it got us. All kind of agile projects seams to be in Learning Zone only. We all know something, but we do not know if this something will work in this project. We talk about learning domain, learning about customers needs, learning about software we are building. But do we perform?

State Of Testing 2019

Yearly community retrospective has been launched! Since 2013 (with pause on 2014) PractiTest together with Tea Time Testers organises yearly testing survey to collect current trends in testing. You can be part of it by filling the survey.

If you are curious about previous results of the survey, scroll down the survey page and download all six reports.

How To Find A Mentor?

Mentoring currently is very popular topic. It is kind of cool to have a personal Yoda or Fairly Godmother. I have been involved in for some time already and in this article I will describe some of my experience.

My Mentoring Stories

Story #1:  In 2015 I applied for Speak Easy mentorship. I had the great mentor, who helped me to overcome my fears. Soon after I delivered my first talk, I started to look for a mentor for other issues I was dealing with, and proved old saying: “When the student is ready, the master will appear.”

Story #2: End of June, 2017 was finishing line for MINT mentoring program for women in Fachhochschule Erfurt, Germany. 11 mentoring pairs was built with the aim to help senior students to prepare for academic or work life. I was one of the mentors and had the privilege to share my experience with an amazing young woman. I still have contact to my mentee. In between time, she had a baby, finished her master studies and on January 2, 2019 she started to work as assistant of software project manager and will support a huge digital transformation project.

Story #3: Since few years I am also supporting Speak Easy initiative. I started as one of volunteers, who read submissions of mentees and try to match with a perfect mentor. Since September 2018 I am one of leadership team, and I describe my position as professional matchmaker. I am overwhelmed how many great people we have in tech and software testing in particular, who invest their free time and energy to help other to succeed. I am happy to be part of it.

Story #4: For two years I had very good colleague, with whom I shared an office. We talked a lot about testing topics, new ideas, better approaches. Only after I left the company I realised that we both were each others mentors. Each of us had area of expertise and helped the other one to learn it. Now since we do not work together anymore, we keep seeing and mentoring each other.

My experience as mentee, helped me in my role as mentor. Big part of people, who look for a mentor, have already made their decisions and need just confirmation for their idea. Another part are people who do not know what they want, never thought about personal development or setting a goal and working towards it. Based on stories above, here is my guideline how to look for a mentor.

Step 1: Set a goal

First thing is to understand what is your goal and for what do you need a help. For example, you want to become a conference speaker or you want to learn about test automation. Why? Why it is important to you? Why do you want to invest your time and energy in it? And then: who/what is standing in your way? Fear? Missing skills of writing a proposal? Ugly slide deck? Defining learning goals for attendees? Decide what to automate and what not? How to create automation framework? How to imbed your script in CI tool? In the moment when your goal is clear, and all why? and who? answered,  you will get an idea what kind of help do you need.

Please never approach potential mentor with vague questions like:

  • what should be my next career move?
  • should I learn to code?
  • I heard Selenium skills can bring me a better job, how can I learn Selenium?

Make yourself worth mentoring – do your homework and be prepared. You also could be interested to look into personal development.

Step 2: expectations from a mentor

A mentor is someone who acts as a trusted advisor, a role model, and a friend. In mentorship relationship no money is involved. Can you imagine to offer so personal role to a stranger? Would you like to be a mentored by complete stranger? It could be that a stranger can tell mentee what everyone sees, but friends or colleagues are afraid to tell. Would you better listen to critic from a stranger or a friend? Are you open to critic or are you interested only in cheerleading? Will it help you to reach your goal? In my understanding, a great mentor does not give answers but leads toward the answer. Mentee’s answer, not the mentor’s answer.

Consider your personality and communication style as well. What kind of mentor would best fit to you? Would you choose someone who is your opposite (experience-wise or an extrovert to your introvert), or someone in whom you see yourself? I tried both and for me the best works the opposite.

Another important issue – how and when will you meet. Online or offline? If online, then video, audio or exchanging ideas via email? Are you expecting your mentor to have time for you on the weekend, after work or during lunch break? Once a week or a month? All this you have to consider before you approach mentor, does not matter if it is arrange mentor or somebody who you approach.

Remember – you will be doing all the job. You set your goal, you work towards your goal. Mentor is just supporting and gently guiding you.

Step 3: introduce yourself

For example, you have chosen publicly known person to be your mentor, because she/he is so amazing speaker, writer, teacher and blogger, but you never actually met her/him. One way would be to approach directly and ask the person to be your mentor. There is a chance that you will get “yes”, but much nicer way would be to start a conversation, get to know each other little bit and ask their thoughts on a topic of your interest. It can happen that you realise that public person and private person are different, that you do not share same values or professional interest. Then it is time to look for another potential mentor. Or maybe you do share similar mindset, in that case it will be easier to ask to mentor you.

Mentoring is a relationship. Let it evolve organically.

Refusal

You ask someone to be your mentor and that person refused it, don’t be hurt or offended. This is not against you! Mentoring is personal, can be very time and energy consuming. It could be that your mentor is currently very busy. Do not force potential mentor into an awkward position in which she/he feels bad for saying “no” or obligated to say “yes.”

I loved Lanette’s talk where she suggests testers to be more like a cat. One example was: if cat got trowed out of the lap, it will go and look for another lap, instead of whining about missed chance to be pat.

Step 4: Commit to the process

If you promised something to do, do it. Never ever leave email or phone call from your mentor without reply for several days. Never ever miss the appointment with your mentor. You asked somebody to invest their time and energy, do not waste it! Good mentors do not accept such behaviour.

Have something to offer back

Make sure that your mentor knows how grateful you are for their time, and see if you can offer them something in return. May be you can give feedback on their blog posts, articles or offer to promote their new book or workshop.

The mentoring relationship must have value for both parties, only then it will be successful in long term.

 

I hope these 4 steps will help you to build successful mentorships and to reach your full potential!

What does QA stand for?

Two letters – QA – and only a few knows what it means.

Some time ago I read an interesting blog post “Accept misnomers – The bigger picture is helping, not correcting language” written by David. I agree with the title, I like the list of misnomers (did not know about peanuts) and example with drop down menu, but in my opinion, explanations are necessary.

Here is my story

In last 11 years, I had a chance to participate in some crazy projects. Once I was on the project where nobody wanted me to be. I struggled a LOT. Everything what I offered was refused because it did not fit to their understanding of QA. The thing what they asked me to do – to make sure that developers work overtime – was wrong for me. Another aspect – they wanted to have have someone, who would be responsible for quality on paper and if something goes wrong they could blame that person. That was told me in plain text after I tried and failed for very long 4month. I was speechless. I thought it is some kind of bad joke, because during interviews I had the feeling we share understanding of QA. It was not a joke and I started to question myself: why I did not see it during interview process?? I had too less experience to deal with this situation and to save myself I quit the job without backup plan.

I learned a lesson hard way: not to assume that companies and experienced software development people share my understanding of QA or software quality in general. I learned to have a conversation about it and to recognise deviations and toxic environments.

Unexpected my crazy story had an ending : around a year after I left the company, I met one member of that project. He was laughing hard as he told me that after I left, the project was looking for another QA for a long time. They found one, but what a surprise to the technical leader, the new one asked the same questions which I asked. Only difference: he was a veteran and he did not accept answers I was given. Short time after that I got another message, that person to whom I was reporting (CTO), has been fired. It was good to know how it ended and it gave me hope and also motivation to carry on.

 

Let’s Talk About Certifications

I am trainer*. I train people for ISTQB, IREB and other certifications. Company, where I work, offer practical sessions as well, but very few buy them. It is cool to have a paper, not a skills. Everyone who tries to prove me wrong, I ask, when did that person last time invested own money in own professional skills.

Partly this is the reason why I became a trainer: to change understanding of software quality for people, who are pushed to get certifications. I am trying to show, that training paid by company can be valuable and interesting. Another reason is, to inform new people about online resources. I know Rosie Sherry for some time, two years ago we did business together and I admire her vision and job she had done with building platform for testers. One day she shared that many testers say they wished they found out about Ministry of Testing earlier and we thought how to achieve it, because many testers I met never heard about testing community. Myself – I am still looking for requirements people group, no idea where they hide… Anyway, I chose my way – to be a trainer, to train for certification and to teach about software quality, about people behind scenes, to share book titles and addresses of blogs, online tools and platforms.

I like to challenge my trainees and ask why they choose this training. What expectations they have. What will happen/ change if they will get a certificate. I also like to talk about alternative certification, by building up their own brand and letting their whole work be a guaranty of good job. Do not wait until somebody will certify you, do it yourself! Take Mark Tomlinson as example. In his workshop Mark told us stories about his reputation as “something with performance guy”. If something happens which could be related to performance and no one in a company knows what to do else, he gets a call from business people and question “what to do?”, sometimes he has only an hour or so time and one chance to suggest an action. If it works, he gets the job, if not, he is out. James Bach sums it up : Reputation = opportunity = money.

So why people do not brand and certify themselves? If we try to name testers in automation, how many names will you know? Maximum 5-10? The same with any other aspect of testing. Why? Because branding is not testing and if you want to brand your testing you need to learn new skills. What is your message? How do you present your topic? Who is your target audience? Those are just few questions you should be able to answer.

I have different results with different target groups. When I left my previous company (400 people), CEO was surprised that everyone knows my name and my subject. I worked there for 2 years and my name meant QA and opposite. Today, 2 years later, when I meet somebody on a street or swimming pool (…) they greet me and start to talk immediately about testing tools or practices. It may sound simply, but it took a lot of energy and I talked literary with everyone, not only with developers and managers. Based on that I would say I know how to brand myself in local group. In testing community my name is unknown and I have not brand it really yet.

For those who come to training only to get certification, I say that I am very good in training people for certification, but I also say that certificate will not make them better testers. Certificate is a proof that they could answer 40 (45) questions in 60 (75) minutes and at least 65% (70%) of those answers where correct. Thats all. I also remind that one training does not cover ALL topics about software testing or requirements engineering.  ISTQB Foundation level syllabus had paragraph “code of ethics”, which talks about public interest and includes also following statement: “certified software testers shall participate in lifelong learning regarding the practice of their profession and shall promote an ethical approach to the practice of the profession”.

* one taxi driver looked at me very critically and said: you and trainer? It turned out that the address I named has gym in a basement, he knew it and he thought that I am saying that I am fitness trainer.

Johanna Rothman: 4 Blog Posts

As a trainer I have another training every week, another group of people and one of 3 topics: testing, requirements, quality with or without agile. To entertain myself, each time I tell another stories and mention another resources. There are no identical trainings. To keep an overview I decided to do little collection of sources I usually mention and additionally to highlight 3 blog posts.

I remember that I heard about Johanna Rothman before, I remember that I read some of her pieces, but I was in other level of life and I did not really understood her. This winter I rediscovered Johannas blogs (she has three of them!!!) and keep reading us much as I can. I like that her blog posts make me think and some of things I try to use in my coaching sessions. Here are Johannas 4 blog posts from her blog Create An Adaptable Life:

  1. What Makes You Remarkable?
  2.  How Do You Feel When Others Honor You?
  3. When Do You Suffer from Comparison-itis?
  4. Who Will You Start to Become Today?

Have fun while learning!

Attempt to Improve the Blog: Scheduled Posts

December 2018 I had 43 drafts with ideas or almost done blog posts. Over holidays I did review, some got deleted immediately, some are ready to go, but I need to change context or words like “yesterday” to “some time ago”. Now I am down to 36 drafts. Still too many. It is obvious that I have no problem with ideas, but I may seem to struggle with output. Some of blog posts where ready to publish. I wonder, why I did not.

One aspect, why I tend not to publish, is time. I am overcommitted in several projects. There is always something on my to do list, so many things I want to do! Another aspect is that I prefer the process – I really enjoy researching, analysing, puzzling the big picture – this is what I like to do. To publish a result is not so important. Everything would be great if my memory wouldn’t be so bad. If I do not write down, I forget. Sometimes people come to me to thank that I said something particularly inspiring or motivational, and I do not remember a thing, it is gone, my head is full of other ideas. So, I need to write down. And if it is written, why not to publish?

I was reading blog post When Can Structure Enhance Your Creativity written by Johanna Rothman. She has high output (just look at the list of her books!) and in this post she gives few ideas how she achieves that. With structure.

Summary of all this is – I decided to set a day and time when I publish something on my blog. My minimum requirement is one blog post a week. Publishing day will be Monday (I will find the time to write on weekend, right?), time will be 12:12. This is first scheduled post, will see how it goes and if it will help me to publish.

Book review: Managing the Test People

2011 when I got to be a test manager for the first time, there was one thing what helped me to overcome my beginner insecurity. It was the book by Judy McKay “Managing the Test People“.

Judy calls test team a perfect beast and all book is build around this perfect beast. How to create perfect beast (team building), how to find parts for perfect beast (job descriptions and interviews), how to fit the beast into the herd (test people working for projects), how to feed your beast (all kind of bonuses) and to keep it effective (manager needs to work for the team). I like the chapter about synergy and pride.

I found this book very easy to read. Maybe because I really like to compare a test team to a perfect beast. Over the years many Judy stories became my stories. Have fun to read it!

Attempt to Improve the Blog: User Experience

One thing what I want to improve in 2019 is my blogging. Not loosing a day, here comes first improvements.

I am learning about the tool (WordPress) by using it. Around a year ago, when I changed the theme, I became aware of categories and tags and importance of those.

Categories and tags build structure of a blog. Categories are high level grouping tool and helps readers to understand identify of the blog. Tags are detail level information about specific aspects in single blog post. See graphic above to have an example how it can look like: category – personal development, tags – conferences, quality, roundup, software, trainings. Now I think this is a bad example, because “software” does not fit in. Another proof that I am not perfect :D.

Blog posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order. Most readers are not interested to read ALL the blog posts, but are searching for particular information. Here comes user experience part: if blog has well-considered categories and tags, it helps user to find information faster.

Some sources state that it is not possible to change categories and tags after publishing. I changed both several times and never experienced any problems. As most of beginners, I could not decided what should be category and what should be a tag. Not so long ago, I had 20 different categories and no hierarchy. Today I took time to recategorise my blog. A lot of work with 100 posts, many had two or three categories, but in the same time this exercise was excellent retrospective. Now I have only 11 categories and I made them visible on the sidebar. A good category structure should be flexible and designed to handle any future content. I am not sure that 11 is the final number, maybe few other should be eliminated, but at the moment it gives me flexibility I need.

Tool, which finally helped me to relate post to only one category, was to imagine that my blog is a book. This approach is suggested in several resources about categories.  Idea is very simple – in a book topics are organised into chapters and one topic can be organised into one chapter. I imagined that categories are my chapters and tags are the keywords listed at the end of the book.

Time will show (or you can tell me) if this improves user experience.