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Archive for the category “personal development”

Real Time Online Training With Kids

Just like everybody else, I am at home and trying to work. Why trying? Because I have my husband here and my three kids, and everyone of them has different reactions to physical distancing. We try to go for a walk each day, but… let’s be honest – we fail, just because we hate the idea of limitations. Some of us suffer a lot, because they can not do their favourite thing, like gliding, canoeing, graffiti, meeting with friends or going to school, and then they make me suffer by complaining and whining. I am doing my best, but I am only a human!  Talking about school… – they send us tasks and homework every single hour!!! I am overacting, but this makes me so angry! I was looking forward to homeschooling my kids (in Germany it is forbidden), but this is not homeschooling – we cannot choose the topics, depth of it nor speed. 

I am in the middle of all this – calming down others and myself, helping with school stuff, cooking and yes – working. Why am I telling you all of this? 

Because of all this craziness I cannot work more then 4-5 h/day and any time anyone can interrupt me with something (signs don’t help, angry faces don’t help as well). So I thought – I am not alone in this! The whole world is physically distancing, so there could be people, who still want to use time and learn something, but have similar challenges to mine. So the idea was born – I am offering trainings in agile (Agile Testing for Whole Team), software testing (ISTQB FL) and requirements (IREB) for people, who take care of somebody, but still can arrange to study real time, in small groups in 1-1,5h sessions, totally 4-5h/day. If it was usually a 3-day training, which is around 20 h, then we will stretch it over 4-5 days. We will have small groups. something between 3-4-5 people, that we agree on sessions and breaks.

I am running this offer together with trendig, we call it Parents Special. Of course if you do not have kids, but would prefer to have shorter training sessions, you are welcomed to join. Only condition – be nice if another participant or the trainer gets interrupted and we have to make an unplanned break. We are doing our best, but this is not normal HomeOffice. This is CHO (short for CoronaHomeOffice)! Life happens while we are on video call and sometimes we cannot postpone it. 

If you have any other questions, I am here to answer them all.

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.

 

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.

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.

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!

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 him 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. For a long time I did not understand what impact those events had on my life.

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. Today all that I use in my work as a agile 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.

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.

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.

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