Being Only Woman In Men Company

Over 20 years of work experience in IT only in few companies there where gender balanced teams. In two startups I was the only woman in whole company (size of company 20 & 50 heads). Even secretary was a man. So you can imagine what I felt when I read this thread of Patricia.

I hope somebody would tell me this 20 years ago. I had to put this together that it does not disappear into information space. 1-20 is from Patricia (see the thread in tweet) with some my comments, 21+22 are my own 50 ct.

  1. Don’t try to be “one of the guys” you’ll never be able to bring your full self to work.
    • not the cloth, not the way you move or talk, even not a swearing will make you happy. one day you will wake up and realise you were fooling yourself.
  2. Document all your work. It’s hard to steal credit for public work.
    • make your work visible and label it distinctively
  3. HR is not your friend
    • HR works in interests of company only.
  4. Avoid everyone who is really enthusiastic about you being a woman.
  5. Leave functions before your colleagues are drunk. Neither you nor them want you to know their inner thoughts
    • do not get drunk yourself (drink less or lighter drinks)
  6. Try to convince yourself when you begin to doubt yourself; “it’s not me, it’s them”
  7. On Bad Days try to loose yourself in the work, try to remind yourself why you’re in this business
  8. Find good people and bake them cakes just for being great people. Great people should get cake.
    • in one company I was baking and bringing a lot cakes, but the reason was, I wanted that they accept me as a part of the team. they never did.
  9. Make lunch dates with other women in tech.
    • search for your community, support each other
  10. If you have a great idea, call a meeting and send out your slides in advance (See Hard To Steal Public Work)
  11. If you have a great idea, make a demo. Hard To Argue With Running Code
  12. Never participate in any “team building” activity that involves you dressing differently
  13. Don’t be afraid to quit. Don’t sacrifice your mental health for Bad People
    • or bad culture
  14. Introduce Rules for Communication, like praise in public, criticize in private
  15. Try to make it possible to choose who does your code review
    • or any other reviews. get feedback regularly.
  16. Learn. Learn. Learn. Knowledge is power
    • create your own skill map. add each year new skill or new level of a skill.
  17. Try to make the team more diverse in any direction. That changes the tone. But get more women devs, if not in the team then at least in adjacent teams. It is hard being alone.
  18. Walk out at any Locker Room Talk. It’s easier than discussing it. And they’ll get the message.
    • if you cannot walk out, make non-verbal statement. I placed poster with a man in seducing pose close to posters with mini bikini women models.
  19. Get a Powerful Ally and plot (literally plot) to compensate for social power being unequal when it really matters. Like having them back you up in important meetings.
    • was not possible in my startups
  20. Don’t waste time catering to people that won’t give you the time of day.
  21. Learn about emotional labour. If you are doing it, stop immediately. No one is appreciating it and it makes you feel empty.
  22. Do not tolerate. If you tolerate, you worry.

AM I A SEXIST?

some weak guy from google search

Recently many say and write words about “men in tech,” which led to some negative reaction on Twitter. I believe I owe my readers an explanation. Some of them already got confused and came to me with the question: “If you’re so much against slavery, where is this female sexism coming from?” Let me explain what’s going on. Indeed I am a big fan of freedom, but recent hysteria around gender equality is not helping us to become more free. Instead it is causing quite the opposite effect.When I was a kid my parents and my teachers told me that I had to be a lady. That literally meant that I had to treat men with respect and always remember that they were weaker than us women—physically and emotionally.I had to let them copy my math homework, I was not allowed to debate with them as I did with my female friends, I was punished for being smarter in front of them, and many other things. I did all this not only because of what I was taught, but also because I saw that they indeed were weaker. They were physically and emotionally different from us girls. They played wars, we played families. They wore grey and brown shorts and t-shirts, we wore whatever we wanted. They cried behind closed doors when someone was offending them and we showed emotions and got stronger. It was always obvious that we were the troublemakers, but also the protectors of common peace, who those weak creatures eventually one day would marry.

Now back to the main problem: men in tech. I’m a software tester myself. I wrote and debugged test automation code every day. I also managed testers, programmers and projects. My 20+ years of experience in software development tells me that this job is not fun most of the time. It’s hard, it requires a lot of logical thinking. It’s exhausting and constant war against men, who are too afraid to acknowledge that they failed, who are afraid to change and against  programmers who produce unmaintainable and unreadable code.

I don’t feel good about sending man, who cannot accept that he is not so smart, into this war. I also personally don’t like the idea of men being doctors, managers, teachers, master chefs, caregivers or male-nurse, even though it’s not up to me to decide what they do for a living. Those jobs are stressful and dangerous, both physically and emotionally. Not that I believe that men can’t take this stress, I just don’t want them to suffer. There are plenty of ladies who can do that instead.

Do I respect men who write code on a daily basis? Yes, a lot. Because I understand how much stress they have to go through. Would I recommend my husband to do the same. Defiantly not.

Am I a sexist? Maybe. But the real question is: what will you do about it?

post scriptum

If you wonder why did I wrote this article, that now it is time to say – I did not write it. I took an old blog post from somebody, switched “men” to “women” and “women” to “men” and did few adaptions to make the story smoother, with an aim to hold a mirror for you.

Why?

Because recently I got an offer to give a talk about me as a woman in IT and I cannot decide to accept it or not. Here some thoughts why:

  1. I am sick and tired to speak or listen about it. 20 years in business and nothing has been changed.
  2. I do not want to be labelled as women who has problems with men.
  3. I want to give talks about testing software or requirements, about digital transformation, software development, agile practices and my life as a trainer.
  4. If nobody will talk, nothing will change.

This blog post is another experiment. We will see where it goes. May be it will help me to decide to give or to refuse a girl-in-IT talk.

add on

After I published my post, I got to know that there is a tool for swapping genders on the websites: GenderSwapper!

Attracting Girls To Engineering

Statement “girls are not interested into engineering” is wrong.

Take me as an example. I had loving parents, but they had strong opinion what kind of toys are meant for girls. I beg them, but still never got a car or train to play with. Never understood why I cannot wear pretty dresses AND play with the trains?

Later at school we had craftsmanship lessons. Girls did cooking, knitting, crochet, weaving, boys could build something from wood and they took plumbing lessons. One thing I was interested in, but never were allowed to try. Because I was a girl.

At university one of my professors once told me: no way you wrote this code yourself!

It was so frustrating… I did not get chances to show what I am capable of OR every time I delivered something, my work got questioned just because I have no penis!

Based on my experience here are seven simple suggestions how you can attract girls to engineering:

  1. give chances to girls to try
  2. do not question results what they deliver. no comments that they could do better. they will do better after some time of practice
  3. invite not just one girl, but all her girlfriends. it is safer to fail, if your friends are around you
  4. find a role model. tell stories about women, who was the very first programmer, did very first debugging, wrote code to fly to the moon etc.
  5. listen when a girl talks
  6. make no suggestions if she does not ask for those. let her figure it out for herself
  7. if you see somebody doing opposite what I wrote in 1-6, call him/her out, tell that it is wrong. tell to the girl, that it is wrong

Today I Learned

Last September I joined trending and became one of the ISTQB trainers. I have a whole story “why?” and I plan to share it one day, but today I want to talk a bit about learning.

How I see learning from the trainer side is pretty ugly – mostly students do not want to learn. It is trendy to talk about learning and training should be safe place where to learn, but in many cases ISTQB is something where they have been sent by a boss or something, what they think they have to do, to get a next shiny job title. I try hard to make trainings entertaining (I carry different testing games with me) and informative (learning materials, stories from the past), but sometimes it is simply not working. Sometimes I am happy that at the end of the day everyone simply memorised what negative test is and why we should do it. Most challenging are the ones who refuse to understand some definitions or concepts, for example, difference between validation and verification. Most frustrating if this is a person who has 20 years of experience in IT. In those moments I ask myself, is this really for me? But then I remember my “why?” and everything is OK again. Part of that “why?” are students, who are engaged and eager to learn everything I can share with them. They did some research upfront and have clear vision what they need. It is highly rewarding to work with that kind of students. Discendo discimus – while teaching we learn.

In trainings I invite people to embrace failures, to share experiences, to learn from each other, to use synergy. To help them to do that, I point to my own mistakes. Something like the picture on the top of this post. Few month ago I put whiteboard into our home kitchen. We use it as drawing board, as shopping list, as design board for next game we will program and sometimes I write citations. I guess, now till end of my days, I will spell “intelligence” correctly. Not always I was so cool about my mistakes. Few years ago I would feel ashamed and embarrassed, would try to hide it, put a lot of energy to deny it. Today I share it with the world. I know who I am and spelling mistake will not make me less me. I better put my energy to think why did I spell it wrong? Am I writing too less on an analog information carriers? Do I assume that software will catch all my spelling mistakes?

Since this month we have new colleague Dani. One thing what he did, he created channel in our company slack #todayilearned to share our learnings. It has became simple but effective training for me to identify what did I learn new today. Sometimes it is simple stuff, like, how to spell “intelligence” or that I am afraid to sit in the car which moves faster than 210kmh on busy autobahn, or that people who smell lavender fragrance make less typos and are more productive (I sent this fact immediately to my colleague with whom I used to share an office and passion to lavender). Or sometimes it is realisation that not everyone reads and spends on learning about a software as much as I do. I moved away from digital transition because I was sick of explaining software development basics again and again. Now I explain them on weekly bases :D . I like to think that I can assume correctly about previous software development experiences of my respondent and explain missing parts accordingly his/her level of understanding. And almost every second time I fail, because of aiming too high. People try to write an essay without knowing the alphabet! Yes, even in 2018 you have to explain, with patience and empathy, what is a smoke test, what is a negative test and regression test to a developer with 10 years of experience in software development. And this is OK. We all make mistakes, take wrong decisions and can use it as learning possibilities.

 

 

2017: That Was Awesome!

Everyone is already busy with a new year resolution, but I am finally having time to recap and say “Thank you!” to 2017 for being an awesome year!

Workshops

It all started in January – I gave my first self-created full day (8h) workshop about test automation for a customer – the team of five and half of them were new to testing. What a challenge! I was super nervous before the workshop and super tired afterwards. But the thing I took with me – I want to do it again and again and again!

And I did. Already in February, I gave the next workshop, this time about exploratory testing and it was not created by me. I adapted several ideas and methods, which I learned from Jean-Paul. It turned out very well and I keep using elements of that workshop in ISTQB trainings I give now.

TestBash Germany

Starting March most of my free time went for preparing TestBash Germany. In March I went to Munich to check location together with Patrick, we screened proposals, had some trouble with tax stuff, worked on strategies for sponsors and attendees and so on. I remember as we worked on shortlist for speakers, I asked Rosie how many we should keep back up. She said: none. In all those years never ever they missed the speaker. Well… we broke that and lost one speaker two weeks, second – three days before the conference. Things happen, that’s life, but we as a team, we did the best we could do – we asked some very special attendee to jump in and they said yes!

  

Before the conference, I offered a free ticket, paid from my own pocket, to anyone who could write me few sentences why she or he should get the ticket. No strings attached. I wrote the offer in German, because I wanted to support testers in Germany and to show what words “testing community” really means. This is Carolina, the lucky winner, but just like me she is not a German :)

TestBash Germany was a huge success, but few episodes of the conference I do not remember. My nerves were trembling, the pressure to make first TBG perfect (whatever it means) was high and at the same time, it was my good-bye. After years of dreaming, doubting, daring and convincing, I made my dream come true, I brought TestBash and MinistryOfTesting to Germany. Thank you to everyone who supported me in this time. During the conference, we asked to raise a hand, to whom this is the first testing conference. To our surprise circa 50% attendees raised it!!! Amazing! I could not wish more… I leave satisfied. Since I work for trendig, which is the organiser for ATD, even if I am not part of event team, sooner or later there would be a conflict of interest. But do not worry – the world keeps spinning and TestBash Germany 2018 is happening – our helpers Vera and Marcel are taking over.

My two pieces of wisdom to anyone who thinks about organising a conference:

  1. be sure there will be more work than you think,
  2. get a support of your employer.

I was not so lucky as Patrick and now I can share that sometimes it was very hard to balance. I had to cut my working hours and huge thanks goes to my husband. Without his full support, I would not make it.

Meet-ups

TestParadies is a meet-up I founded and solo organize since 2015. The local community is still inert and I still need to put a lot of effort to convince people to give a short talk, but so slowly progress is visible. In 2017 I organised nine (9!) meet-ups and covered pretty good topics:

  • Acceptance testing
  • UI Automation with Ranorex
  • Testing with agile teams
  • Many shapes of Testing vol.2 – Test pyramid, XLT Testsuite & JUnit5
  • TestOps Toolchain – Docker Workshop
  • Testing infrastructure for micro services
  • MOB Testing
  • Game night
  • Code Patterns for testers (thank you, Llewellyn, for letting me to adapt your talk and to use your materials)

Employer

As mentioned earlier in May I left the company, where I was working for two years. My current employer is trendig and I am happy to work with mind-opened people and evolute my skills. In second part of the year I wrote less blog posts, but spent more time with reading, taking care of my health and my family. We also moved in new home and the day when I will empty the last box will be my lucky day!

People

Besides workshops, meet-ups and TestBash Germany, I attended four other testing events – two local, where I gave a talks, and two conferences. First one was TestBash in The Netherlands. Went down there to help Huib and Rosie, met a lot of new testers and put faces and voices to several digital friends and role models.

     

In November it was Agile Testing Days. This time I was not giving a talk and could enjoy it fully. Had a lot of time for long discussions with like-minded people. To every picture I could tell you a story, but to keep it short, will stick to one. I come from a small country and many even does not know that it is one of EU countries, so small it is. So it was special highlight to meet four other testing Latvians at the conference!

 

Summary

2017 was really an amazing year for me. Beside topics above I also participated in  #30DaysOfSecurityTesting and started to reorganise my (testing) knowledge. I still cannot say I could do security testing, but I definitely learned a lot. I spent some time to investigate how to work better, how to motivate a team better, how to see, what I do not want to see and what makes a good leader. Those are topics I am very passionate about, will write and talk about them in the future.

Year ago I changed the name of my blog to TestRetreat. Now I can say it was right thing to do. I wanted to reduce the tense I had around the testing and it worked! The positive atmosphere and the right tune is very important. But it is also very important to take time off, not just from the work, but from all job-related free time activities :)

 

I wish you an amazing 2018!

#TestBash Germany – #PayItForward

Ich bin sehr stolz darauf zu sehen, wie meine Idee “Lass uns die Testbash nach Deutschland bringen” Wirklichkeit geworden ist. Diese Idee hätte ich niemals alleine umsetzen können. Erstmal Rosie hat mir ihr Vertrauen geschenkt, dann Patrick. Vielmehr haben Patrick und ich ein super Team bestehend aus Marcel, Vera und Daniel, die wie ein eingetaktetes Uhrwerk funktionieren. Das Gefühl mit dem Team zusammenzuarbeiten ist wunderschön!

Ministry Of Testing und TestBash haben einen besonderen Platz in meinem Herzen. Ich habe besondere Leute kennen gelernt und mich als Tester weiterentwickelt. Eine Lernkurve ist abgeschlossen. Aus diesem Grund habe ich ein TestBash München Ticket gekauft und suche nun jemanden der das Ticket geschenkt haben möchte. Es ist mein Weg von PayItForward und jeder ist eingeladen das zu nutzen.
Ich möchte jemandem die Möglichkeit geben in einem Raum voll mit lernhungrigen Testern zu stehen und das Beste für sich mitzunehmen. Sich über Testing Themen auszutauschen und ein Gefühl für die tolle Testing Community zu bekommen.
Wie kommst du an das Ticket?
Hier sind die Regeln:

Schreib mir einfach bis 24.9.2017 auf testretreat@gmail.com warum gerade Du das Ticket haben sollst.
Das ist die einzige Regel, es spielt dabei keine Rolle ob du Erfahrung im Testing, Support, Entwicklung oder Hauskeeping hast oder wie dein Jobtitel ist. Ich möchte nur sicherstellen, dass auch der oder die Richtige das Ticket bekommt und es auch einen Nutzen hat.

Willful Blindness

I watched very interesting talk about willful blindness by Margaret Heffernan and it made me think about software development. Are we – testers – IT whistleblowers?

 

1981: How Computers Will Affect Our Future

TV story from 1981 about computers influence on daily life. Please ignore Steve Jobs name in YouTube title. Yes, he gives an interview, but he is not the only one.

In 2017 we can say that this is the future they were talking about. Interesting that in 1981 they stated: as the society, we are used to computer problems. In 2017 computers and software is really everywhere and each company is a software company today. Even schools depend on software. The high school where my son goes was hacked and suddenly everyone realised that for some of the actions there are no offline alternatives anymore.

I listened to the next Quality Remarks podcast with Mark Tomlinson and there are many things what resonates with me. Will highlight just one: “if students of software development do not learn about testing and students of management do not learn about quality, then we are in big trouble”.

New Podcast – QR

I am not a fan of podcasts because I struggle to focus all my attention to only one sense. But today I saw the info about new podcast made by Keith Klain and got curious. I opened the link and my first reaction was – are you KIDDING me? Over 1 hour!!! Who can concentrate to listen to something for so long? But I wanted to hear a lot what they talked about testers mental health, so I clicked the play button.

I listened to it all in one piece and was blown away how open Trish and Keith tell stories about their professional life and personal struggles. I wish I could listen to them 9 years ago when I started to work in testing and felt not enough.

I was so hooked that I continued and listened to the other QR podcast with Damian. He sold me his workshop :) and surprised by diving deep for meaning and analysing failures. I thought I am good at this, but he takes it in a new level.

Trish and Damian both are consultants and both has beautiful and informative websites.

Now I have just one question: Keith, when comes the next?

Dictum – Factum

I am the doer. I see a problem/aim/thing I want and I go for it. If I have obstacles, I will put my mind around it, I will make compromise, but I will get a results.

I have put my finger on several key processes along my employee career and for a looong time I thought that I do not need to label my ideas and/or results as mine. Mainly because I believe in following two things:

  • an idea is more important as human who brought it to the life. If my idea/work lives and developes without me, than that was really necessary for the world and not just for my ego.
  • everyone who works together with me, knows what I am capable of and which parts of work was delivered by me.

Mostly it worked well. Everyone in the company knew QA=Kristine, even if I was not part of the project. If people needed help with testing or quality related issue, they were looking for me and I helpe as best as I could. I am also very good in puzzles – from small information bits I like to create big picture – that comes handy if you work on big projects or big companies where people do not know each other. Than one day I organised feedback workshop with my old team. We had small, but cool team and I thought it could be perfect to exercise on self-introduction and feedback giving the same time.

Nice and easy, right? To my surprise I got one negative (and 4 positive) feedback about my introduction! I was so surprised. I shaped my introduction to people with whom I work together, I was assuming that they all know who I am, what are my topics and how I am working. In this case I could excuse myself with the fact that the person, who gave that negative feedback, was working remotely. But frankly it shocked me that even people on my team can misunderstand me so greatly.

I started to rethink it all and to pay attention what is my message, what do I say. Besides other things, I noticed that in most of the cases I use “we”. One example – since almost two years I organise TestParadies – a meet-up for testers and QAs. Alone. I have no team, no sponsors, all the fees I am paying from my own pocket. Year ago I was lucky to get Petra on team to write retrospective blog posts about the meet-ups, but generally I do the whole thing alone – looking for speakers, looking for locations, maintaining platforms, writing emails, moderate discussions, deciding on topics. And still when I talk about TestParadies I say “we did…”, ” we plan…” no matter that there is no “we”. An outsider could think that I am ashamed of running a meet-up! Why I do not take the credit for my work?

Why and How Testers Should Act Like Marketeers” was talk by Rosie Sherry on European Testing Conference 2017. I was not lucky to attend it, but found her slides on slideshare. Many good ideas there! Marketing and selling testing seems not to be those things testers are familiar with. Currently I am trying to shape my blog as my portfolio and I struggle on first page – how to design it that the message is clear? I decided to visit blogs/websites of test people who do consulting to collect some of ideas. Almost everyone I checked had a personal bio, but I was very surprised to found just a few business oriented introductions. 

Some time ago I was working together with a developer on contract. He was working 3 days/week on the project and 2 days/week managing his company. At the beginning I thought that it is only an excuse, he is working on some other project and does not want to admit it. Now I see it from different angle and believe that being great developer or tester is not enough. I expand that old Latin saying to:

Dictum – Factum – Signum – Explicatum