Test Retreat

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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.

 

How To Explain #ExploratoryTesting in 15 Minutes

Every other week I explain basics in software testing, one of them is exploratory testing. It depends from group to group, but sometimes I have only 5-10 minutes on the topic. I love challenges! But I am also aware that I am still learning myself. This is why I asked my peers during Exploratory Testing Peer Conference: how to explain exploratory testing in 5 minutes?

How Did I Explain It So Far

Because I give trainings frequently, I experiment a lot with explanations and observe reactions of students. This is what I have used so far:

+ I used to start the topic with question if they are doing exploratory testing, if yes, then how? Sometimes I needed to interrupt and explain that monkey testing a.k.a. klicki bunti (German expression for mindless clicking) is not exploratory testing. Some students felt bad to find out the difference between their approach and real exploratory testing, so I stopped to ask for student’s experience.

+ my favourite example is sightseeing in unknown city and following unexpected events on the way to planned location. Students seem to benefit from it as well. But one thing I am missing in this case – note taking. Now I mostly use sightseeing as light introduction to the subject. Works well if I traveled to unknown city and day before had time for sightseeing, or if students traveled to unknown city and are planing to have time for sightseeing, or simply several people in the group are open-minded travellers.

+ for in-house trainings once I tried to apply exploratory testing on their system, it didn’t work well. I had not enough information what the system should do and I needed time to gather information. Mission impossible if you have only 10 minutes for the whole thing.

+ once I had group of 14 and almost everyone was somehow involved with football. I used it to encourage the group to look for similarities with exploratory testing. It worked very well, but again almost none of students mentioned or thought about note taking. I retired this analogy for explorative testing, but started to use it to explain test levels.

+ job interview is example which is used by my colleague. It works very well for him, because we can use several techniques, note taking inclusive. This piece almost always cracks up the group, because we use exaggerated situations like:
A: can you please tell us, why did you moved to Australia?
B: I always wanted to live aboard. Besides I hade trouble with mafia in Europe, so I thought why not to develop software somewhere far away!

+ in case I used example without note taking, I explained it separately. I some trainings I showed notes, I took for my group during Anne-Marie‘s exploratory testing workshop with BigTrak robots. Because it takes additional time, I prefer to choose examples with note taking.

I always suggest my students to read “Explore it!“, but I definitely needed more ideas what I can use during training!

Peer suggestions

This is what I got suggested during my session. Most of the ideas are still raw. To visualise authors idea from my comment, I used italic and named the author, who suggested it. The one I started to use in my trainings I listed up as the last one.

Exploratory testing as performance

Jokin: I could explain how to play guitar vs I can show how to play guitar.

I love this approach! I use it with something else, not guitar playing, but in our Berlin office we have a guitar and some of my colleagues really play it.

Lightning talks

Rick had idea to present exploratory testing in lightning talk. I cannot imagine how I could use it in my setting, but may be this could be useful for others.

Flow charts

Alex made her own flow chart, it’s always going back to exploratory testing, showing that you have to learn it anyway.

You can read about it more here.

Selective Attention

Maaret reminded about gorilla videos where you are supposed to count the passes so you don’t see the gorilla, and if you see the gorilla you cannot count the passes. In my topic introduction I forgot to mention that I have used this few times and stopped because too many knew the videos already.

unexpected truth

James on the spot sales pitch: “Systems are weird. Are you looking for trouble? ET can help you to find unexpected truth, about what you really got.”

Games

Ash used go-karts a lot with you people; many were excited about them; planned a lot which car to take; interesting things happen when you’re actually in the car. Lisa used Black Stories.

Improv game

Mel: there are so many improv games to use, can get even physical; “What’s next?” I know people who are practising improv, they say it is their life mindset. I understand the idea, but I do not use it, because I am not really into it.

Get the chocolate

Alex: two groups, goal is to get the chocolate on the other side of the room; 1) write down all steps to get the chocolate, 2) allow them to go directly; then put the chocolate to another place; mean but it will stick. I used similar approach for test automation and we have another game which we play to explain agile approach and team dynamics.

Autonomy / mastery / purpose

Anne-Marie: this concept is often appealing to people.

Escape rooms

Mor: describe exploratory testing using escape rooms; looking for riddles, paths.

Don’t teach it

Martin: you have a room full of tired people, don’t teach exploratory testing; just keep referencing to it! When I heard this I started to laugh, because this is exactly how I am building my next training.

testing mathematics

Maaret suggested puzzle with two ways to solve it – scripted and exploratory. Approach is based on children game where you think of one thing, write it down and hide(fold the paper); people can ask question, you can only answer yes/no; either have them write down all questions in advance, or have them ask, hear the answer and formulate the next question based on the answer.

What I am using now

I never have two identical trainings because there are no two identical groups. Testing mathematics has become my favourite way how I explain exploratory testing. I set it in timebox and limit number of questions. After first round I encourage people to analyse how they did and and how they could do it better, I also give feedback which my observations. Then we have the second round where they can apply the learnings. At the end I explain how they can transfer this approach for software testing.

Besides sightseeing and job interviews I started to use another examples. Both were inspired by Mor’s idea of escape rooms – investigative journalism and crime investigation.

In November I will be presenting “How to explain exploratory testing in 10 minutes” at Agile Testing Days. Come and see me explaining it!

Lies About Work

This week my sister was visiting us for big family celebration, that is the reason why this blog post is extremely short. My sister doesn’t work in IT, her topic is marketing and communications. I like to exchange business staff with her, because she lives in different information bubble and has different views. Last week we talked a lot about communication especially about coding the message. We also talked about team motivation and aspects which indicates or lets us to measure it.
Besides everything else, she suggested a book to read: Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World

After checking index, I really got curious about the book. Who else wants to join me to read it?

Update:

I think I did not explain enough why I want to read this book. It is not only about the index. Everyone in testing knows that communication has important role in software development, but how often we really try to understand the other side? I remember once I was listening to my colleague complaining about the project manager she had to work with. I could easily understand her frustration because I have worked with the project manager before and suffered myself. This time as an outsider I could see that the PM is visually stressed, I could see that something is wrong. I surprised myself by suggesting my colleague to have lunch with PM and to find out what is going on. Her reply was: “no way!” I am sure if someone had similar suggestion for me, I would respond in the same way.

For me that conversation became a turning point. I started to look for opportunities to build bridges with other people involved in software development. I had very interesting time, getting to know people, things what they do and work problems what they face. Time to time I met difficult people, who were comfortable in their silo or didn’t want/were afraid to open up and to have a conversation. I chose to leave it like this. I told myself that I respect their choice, but in fact I gave up. Since I have a teenager at home, I keep saying to my husband and to myself – in times when it gets harder, we need to double our love, patience and understanding. “Nine Lies About Work” maybe controversial, but it is mainstream book about corporate world. World – which I always tried to ignore. I learned from my mistakes and now I am ready to have a lunch together.

Feeling Accepted

Have you ever felt alone in crowded place? Have you ever felt not fitting or being not welcomed in a group of people? I know that feeling way too well…

When I was one year old I almost died. Doctor made a mistake. Things happen. After I recovered, I needed to learn to eat, to walk etc again. As you can probably imagine my parents went paranoid and overprotective. For example, I did not attend kindergarten, which was something unheard that time.

Time ago I had disagreement with my brother-in-law. My statement was: do not judge people because you don’t know what you don’t know. His was: everyone is judging everyone and it is very naive to pretend that it is not happening. I know that he is right, but still, I dream of living in the world where people will be accepted and not judged by others.

When I stand before group of people, ready to give a talk, training or workshop, they expect specific behaviour from me. Everybody knows how trainer should look like, talk and walk. Some very quickly notice the difference between me and their image of me. Sometimes people are positively surprised and happy, sometimes very disappointed.

You may ask – what my childhoods trauma has to do with me as professional. The answer is – everything. Only at age of 36 I realised how much my life has been affected by incident at the beginning of my life. It shaped the way how I see the world, it shaped the way how I react on people and situations, it shaped how I build relationships with people and it made me so sensitive and vulnerable. All that I use in my daily work as a tester or as a trainer.

To be vulnerable and to live in society sometimes seams as mission impossible. I am protecting myself by wearing my scars on the inside and cool mask on the outside. I am not ready to share my story from the stage or in even in a classroom, I am so thankful that others are braver then me:

We need to share more stories like this. We need to learn not to be afraid and not to hide the scars. We need to learn to accept others with and without scars.

Two weeks ago one student came to me after the training and said: “I was worried upfront about the course, but then I saw you and immediately knew that I will make it.” And I thought – it was worth it to lift up my mask.

Improving Speaking

Both my mentees has delivered their first meet-up talks and now we are talking how to improve their talk delivery. One question what we discussed this week was: how can I lose my nervousness?   

As a speaker and trainer I have gone through it myself. Following two things I learned six years ago in communication training and still use daily. Only later I realised that it supports “7%-38%-55% Rule” defined by Albert Mehrabian.


Roots

Posture, gesture, eye contact etc according to Albert Mehrabian makes up to 55%. When I stand before people, I imagine that I am a tree. Trees never question themselves. Am I good enough? What others will think of me? What if nobody wants to hear this? One thing what we learned in the training was to root. Imagine that your feet have roots. Let them grow in the ground. This simple routine will calm you down and also will help you to hold the posture. 

Voice

Our voice trainer started the first voice lesson with story about babies, who can cry for hours without hurting themselves. If grown ups would try to do the same, they could not hold it for long period of time. We kind of forgot to use the body for voice as babies do. There are many things what we can do to re-learn it. One thing is to learn to use the whole body for voice as opera singers does or to start somewhere simpler: say something and try to locate where your voice sits. Since I speak four languages, the trainer asked me to do it in every language. With big surprise I realised that for every language my voice sits somewhere else. For my native language it was the deepest, around the heart, for German it was the highest, in mouth-jaw level, the rest two – throat. Since then I practice to get all my languages where my native language lives. I also noticed that when I am nervous, my voice climes up. I experimented with it and managed with help of keeping voice deeper to stay calm. Funny thing when I all that explained over video call to my mentee, I realised how squeaky my voice was. Perfectly set for demonstration? No I was nervous, occupied with thoughts and over analysing. I let is go and the second part of session kept my voice close to my heart. This is another image what I use – I try to speak from my heart or not to speak at all.

Practice

The third thing what I use is very simple – practice. Work on your posture, experiment with your voice, practice your talk. Practice, practice, practice. If your story what you want to share sits, if you know what is your next slide, then you can react on things what happens during a talk – mic is not working, slides are not working, laptop starts to reboot… Life happens. You can deal with it, if you practiced. 
Remember – sometimes it is enough if somebody simply talks from the heart.

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