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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!

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.

Goodbye 2018

I love to write yearly roundups! It is the time when I put numbers to my feelings and celebrate my personal development. So, here it goes! 2017 was an amazing year, a lot of change and most of it positive. To compare, 2018 was much calmer year. Real working bee year.

What did go well

trainings/work

In 2018 I gave 29 trainings in 2 languages (DE & ENG, still hoping to give a training in LV) in 4 countries – Germany, Austria, Finnland and Rumania. I gave trainings around software quality, more specific testing and requirements, with and without agile dimension. From those 29 trainings, 17 was in-house trainings (in-house are not displayed on trendig website). I like to think that I helped 17 teams to become better with software quality. One team was special because all 9 students were developers. Some of them were giving trainings (agile, TDD etc) themselves. Their thank you for the testing training I gave them is one of my highlights this year. This training was special in another context as well. One of developers scored 100% in certification exam. This happened for the first time in my training career. I build trainings on stories and put more focus on discussion and less on exam questions, many of my students get 90something %, only 5 did not make it with first try. Anyway if I managed to bring just one team of developers closer to testing world, I mark 2018 as successful year.

I also worked on improvements and creation of new training material and wrote two articles. My first trendig article was on quality assurance, written mostly for managers and executives. Second article is addressed to whole delivery team about transition, testing and working as a team. In first whole team article I could scratch only the surface, stay with me others will follow soon.

speakeasy

In summer 2018 Anna-Marie and Fiona due involvements in other projects decided to handover SpeakEasy. Abby and me, we were mentees and after delivering our talks supporting SpeakEasy already for some time, so for us it was only logical to take over. But because we are heavily involved in several other projects we were cautious to commit. In that situation Maaret came as saver, she overtook organisational part and takes care of communication with conferences. We were lucky to have Ash on team as well, she enriches our start team with perspective and gentle push to find the focus and round up.

conferences

I am pretty happy with my two appearances in conferences. For the first time I did a workshop and for the first time I paired with someone. This someone was Lisa Crispin and I am still amazed how easy it was to work with her together. Working together with Lisa is my conference highlight of the year. I also like the workshop we created a LOT and hope to be able to give it as much as possible in upcoming conferences. I have already some confirmations, but need to wait until organisers will announce the program.

blogging

I wrote few blog posts less then previous year, but got more traffic (see the picture on the top). I am still searching how to shape my website and blog. I am writing for myself, but I am aware that others are reading as well. By look on topics where the traffic goes it gives me strange feeling and reveals delta between what I want to write about and what seems you want to read about. This is top 3 of most viewed posts:

  1. AM I A SEXIST?                                                                  with 941 views

  2. HOW YOU MEASURE SUCCESS IN TESTING?   with 308 views

  3. EXPLAINING SOFTWARE TESTING                        with 212 views

Unfortunately, articles which are important to me, like Attracting Girls To Engineering(71 views), Words Has Meanings – QA(51 views) and Today I Learned(47 views), are not under top 14. To serve readers, but to stay true to myself I decided to improve my blogging and to share more everyday stuff, things what I do as a trainer, consultant and speaker ( I thought it is boring, but after some private conversations discovered the opposite).

I notice other bloggers to put information about advertisements, paid products or affiliate programs. I guess this is the right time to say that I am not using any of it and everything I write, I write because I want to share or because I wanted to understand it better myself, did little research and then wrote a summary. Yes, I work at trendig and they pay me salary, but they pay me for being a trainer and not for writing my personal blog.

What did not go well

I got sick and could not really get well again. I had to cancel several events and despite of support of my team, I felt like I am letting them down by not carrying out with my commitments. Only after longer break, reflections to my last working years and acknowledgement what I did wrong, I could rejoin my team. Thank you, Jana for being there for me when I needed. I am happy to work for CEO, who cares for people so much.

meet-ups

TestParadies was project which suffered the most. To compare with 9 events in 2017, in 2018 I managed to organise only 3. Unfortunately due my current work situation there is no improvement to expect. I am calling for support. If no-one will be willing to help or overtake, I will have to close the meet-up.

 

Wishes for 2019

First and most important one – I want to get my health under control. By “health” I mean physical, but everything is connected, so… whole health.

Second,  to keep my believe system strong and keep changing world to be a better place by changing myself to be a better person. Leading by example works, I verified it.

Update: just noticed that this is my 100th blog post! Another reason to celebrate tonight, juhuu! 💃💃💃 Happy New Year, everyone!

3 Ideas for Beginners in Public Speaking

We at SpeakEasy get tons of requests to mentor people who wants to start public speaking. Because we all are volunteers and matchmaking is very sensitive process, sometimes it takes time until mentee is matched with a mentor. To speed it up we are looking and experimenting with new ideas.

Other bottleneck is how long time it takes for mentee to get accepted for a talk. In many cases basic understanding about public speaking and/or personal goals are missing. To fix that here is my short list what I suggest all mentees to start with:

1. Blazingly Simple Guide

Rob Lambert, who is very entertaining speaker himself, put a list “how to Submit and Speak at a Conference” together with all kind of aspects new speakers should have a thought about.

2. Practical Slide Deck

I used it for my very first talk and I still like to use it as a frame for my talks. Keeps me focused on listeners. A 15 Minute Guide : How to Create a Conference Presentation.

3. A book

Scott Berkun “Confessions of a Public Speaker” It is not a lecture, but more like a collection of stories and tips. This book helped me to lose my fear and start to enjoy public speaking.

Important

No matter what is your topic – technical, soft skill, experience story – one thing is essential. You have to be emotionally connected to your message. Talk on topics you are really passionate about.

Learning Lessons

To escape old thinking and behaviour patterns will try some new things. First two I will print out on handy cards, carry with me and will use every waiting moment when I would usually check my mobile, to check my learning cards. For my-needs-card I have another idea. Tomorrow starts our team-summer-work-camp and I want to do it as a team exercise to raise awareness how different we are and what do we need to deliver better results.

Command Line

CRITICAL THINKING CHEAT SHEET

My Needs card by Angie Doyle

How You Measure Success In Testing?

Very early in my testing career I understood that this will be tricky: it is hard to say when you are successful as a tester. Even worse,  it is hard to be proud of anything in testing.

There was time that it was cool to write many as possible test cases or to find many as possible bugs. That was success. But now those times are gone. Now testers question stuff and support teams.

I raised 10 questions yesterday, today I asked 12 – yeay, I am pretty good at this!

OK. Let’s assume for the moment this is how you measure quality of a tester. If asking more questions shows success, then we will want to ask more questions to be more successful. 15. 20! 35? And suddenly questions becomes a noise and distraction for a development team.

My current answer how to measure quality of a tester is following:

Testing is a service. If tester brings value to the development team with what s/he does than s/he is a good tester.

Food for thought – what kind of testing team would you call successful?

 

My personal success

I wanted to answer the question for myself – am I successful?

For a long time I thought I wasn’t. I am an autodidact in testing. I even cannot say that I learned on the job, all learning happened in my free time. There was no manager or senior colleague at any point of my testing career who would guide me through the subject. Google was my friend. Developers around me did not like testing, managers around me always wanted me to do manual checking. It took time and mental strength to understand that there is more. From that moment on I started to practice selling and explaining testing. I had very different results. I started to doubt myself. I looked up to big names in testing, compared myself to them and though I paled in comparison. I was sure that on my self-education way I missed the turn and miss some existential  information. I felt like a fraud…

But then something happened. I attended an open space, run a session and apparently my statements annoyed one of the biggest names in testing. He got angry, we started to argue and then he asked me whether I knew what a state chart was. I said “no”, causing him to raise his voice and to ask me, in front of the group, how I dare to call myself a tester. That was it! Somebody was calling me a fraud, but instead of being ashamed, running away and hiding, I answered him with confidence: “Yes, I am a tester!”

Suddenly I understood that I am very special kind of tester. There is only one of me. My experienced shapes how I test software and how I communicate with people. It will not work for every team or every manager and that is OK. There is no one universal answer to a question. BTW, I looked up immediately after our dialog what “state chart” is. I realised that I knew it, but only in Latvian.

If I do consulting and my client wants me to automate UI tests in two weeks and then leave, I could do a few things:

  1. I could start to explain what testing is, how it works and what you can do with testing. And I will crash and burn, because the client will be frustrated and overwhelmed with this information, which will turn around everything they know and how they work. How do I know it? I experienced it.
  2. Or I could “shut up and simply do the job” (greetings to Mark ;) ) that I was contracted to do.
  3. Lately I choose to combine both. I do the job, but I involve other people to whom I explain what I am doing and why, so that after I am gone they could carry it out by themselves.

Is this the only possible solution? No. It is my current one. Next year it will probably look completely different, because I am continuously learning and improving my methods.

Now, when I look back to when I thought I was a fraud, I can not understand why I felt that way. I always had a job offers and I got mostly good feedback from the teams I worked with. Why I did not recognise this as success? I have a page on this site for speaking engagements.  Average only two appointments per year. To some it could look very empty. But for me it is OK. I have a day job, I have a family, I have hobbies and I am member of several local groups. Two to three talks a year is what I am comfortable with.

As I get older, I find the strength not to compare myself to others. I compare me with me. If I read one of my old blog posts and feel ashamed – this is good thing, because it means I learned something in-between.  

 

 

Don’t Patronize Me

Some time ago I talked with a testing friend and he said: “I have never seen you test nor have we talked much about testing”. And suddenly it hit me, I am afraid to talk about testing. I am afraid to be patronised. There is always somebody who knows better. I remember the time 10 years ago – I wrote a question in some forum how to test something better. Very first response explained me that I asked the question wrongly. Since that time unaware I have followed unwritten rule:

  • do not ask questions
  • do not give statements
  • never claim that I know something
  • answer the questions

Why? Because I was afraid to be judged.

First step was to realise – I can hide as hard as I want, I am judged anyway. Second step was to accept it, but without impact on my self-awareness. It took me some time and energy to change it. I have confidence now to deal with somebodies opinion about my abilities or knowledge.

 

 

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.

It did not stop even at university… One of my professors repeatedly 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 it better (they will do better after some time of practice)
  3. invite not just one girl, but all of 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

Day by day I try to apply these steps with my two girls. They are not interested into plumbing and I am not pushing it (it was my wish not theirs), but we support them what ever they want to do.

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 (e.g. 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 person 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 do 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. I must to admit, 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 left digital transition domain 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 and wrong decisions, important is to use it as learning possibilities.

 

 

You Are Next

November 18 is the special day for all Latvians. It is our independence day. This year(2017) we celebrated 99th and Latvian community in Berlin organized a very nice party with a variety of musical performances. The club was quite small, there was almost no backstage, in-between performances singers were among the listeners.  I was holding up my 4yo that she can better see the stage. At one moment she turned to me and said to me: “you are going up next, right?”

Amazing how simple is 4yo life… If you know what you do (I was singing along whole night) and like what you do, you go up on the stage and do it there.

Why am I tell you this story?

At conferences, I meet a lot of amazing people and we share a bunch of stories. Many people, who I met, shared their secret – they would like to share their stories from the stage, but think that no one will be interested. My answer to this is: “do not decide for me”.

If you need help to find your topic, prepare your abstract or presentation, then mentors and team behind SpeakEasy will help you. I know, because I was SpeakEasy mentee myself. Now I am helping to match mentees and mentors. Do not let your fear limit your potential.

You are next, right?

 

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