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?

 

2017: That Was Awesome!

Everyone is already busy with a new year resolution, but I am finally having time to write my retrospective 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!

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“.

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

Independence Day

This day – 4.May – is very special day for all Latvians. The Declaration “On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia”[1] (Latvian: Deklarācija Par Latvijas Republikas neatkarības atjaunošanu) was adopted on 4 May 1990. The Declaration stated that, although Latvia had de facto lost its independence in 1940, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union, the country had de jure remained a sovereign country as the annexation had been unconstitutional and against the will of the people of Latvia.

This year I really cannot celebrate this important event with my people, because my mind is occupied by something else. Today is also kind of my own independence day. After a long process of consideration, I finally dear to quit comfort of employee and start my way as entrepreneur. After full two years, I leave diva-e. Thank you all for time you shared with me! It was my pleasure to get to know you and your stories. Some of you I will keep seeing in software related MeetUps, dragon boat trainings or on a bike path. Especially hard was to say goodbye to my team, I will miss them a lot! But my way takes turn now. I am over excited and anxious the same time, but one thing I know for sure – in following few years I will learn a LOT!

Becoming Mentally Strong

Last week was emotionally hard for me. I had a strong disagreement with a person, who’s opinion means a lot to me. It seemed that there is no way out and it made me ill. I hade a feeling I am losing a very dear friend over stupidity. Except that it was not stupidity, but very important part of my believe.

What to do?

As always I asked the question: why? Why it is so important to me and why am I feeling sick? And as always those questions lead to the past. I remembered my personal struggle many years ago, several very unpleasant situations and my actions, who lead me to be a person, who I am today. It was very hard decision, because I never shared those experiences with somebody (except my husband), but I decided to open up to my friend – introduce the elephant in the room and explain myself.

Magic happened – my friend understood my motives and message, we stopped arguing. When relief and joy came down, I realised what happened. Some kind of summary line between then and now, things I have learned and the self-building journey I have made. I learned a lesson, paid the price and moved on. OK, it was a little bit different: stopped to blame circumstances (because it did not help), understood which exactly lesson I had to learn to be able to move on, learned it, stopped paying the price, which I paid during avoiding to understand the lesson and moved on.

It is good, time to time open up, show the scars and person behind them.

 

Mental Strength

 I come from Latvia and our nation is quite small. It depends how you count, but there are only around 2 million Latvians in the world. Good thing about it – that there is space for everyone and if one of us gets successful – everybody feels proud and celebrates it. Since two years there is this guy, from the town next to the sea, who managed to work his way till New York. His name is Kristaps Porziņģis.

His start in NY Knicks was not easy. People did not know him and were very disappointed when he was drafted as #4 in 2015. “They booed him. They said he wasn’t good enough. They didn’t know who he was. He used their criticism as motivation. He proved them wrong. #KP6

I never was in any sports team, so I do not know how it is from the inside. But that was time when I started to think: how it is to perform every second day in front of hundreds of people, who show their dislike and disbelieve in you in very direct way. What kind of motivation, focus and believe in yourself is necessary to prove them wrong?

Later, on my birthday, I got a present sent by post from my father. A book written by Kristaps brother Jānis about their way to New York. At the beginning, I was surprised about the language – locker room talk – simple and direct. As I got to use to it, was blown away by the story, the obstacles and the person, who in such young age made life changing decisions.  Kristaps woke my curiosity about the sports psychology. Some of its elements could be smart to use in software testing.

I can not give you link of the book because it is in Latvian only, but here is video compilation, where best athletes share their formula of achievements.

Back to testing and testers. Many professionals in testing are afraid of public speaking. But hey!, in software conferences most of the auditorium are quietly listening to the speaker. Or tweeting. But definitely no one is booing. So what you are afraid of to step on the stage and tell your story?