Learning Zone, Performance Zone

Time to time I discuss with people in industry about how to find a good software testers/developers. And my answer always is the same – do not look for a tester/developer, look for a person who likes to learn. If you can teach a bear to ride a bicycle, then a person, who wants to learn, have no limits.

How long do you work as a software tester/developer? How many years of software testing/development experience do you have? Looks like similar questions, but they are not. For example, you are paid as a software developer for 7 years. You can have one time 7 years of experience OR you could have 7 times 1-year experience.

Now I have to correct myself. Over the years and especially since I work as a trainer I see that learning (listening) is not enough. You have to apply your learnings in everyday life and this is the hardest part of learning. Some of educators say learning means change of behaviour. Very simple example: child and candle. Child is attracted to flame and wants to touch it. Parents can say 100 times, do not touch it! the flame it is dangerous, child will hear it, but not learn and will keep behaviour. Only after touching a flame, lesson will be learned and behaviour changed. In Germany we say LDS – Lernen Durch Schmerzen which translated means Learning Through Pain. Pain as trigger to change pattern of behaviour.

I really love Eduardo Briceño TED talk where he introduces us with his concept of Learning Zone and Performance Zone. Learning zone is where we build our skills, important part in this stage is to make mistakes and lern from them, and performance zone, where we apply skills we master. 20 years ago when I started to work in IT it was pure performance zone. Only professional would get hired, we got project and had to deliver. We kind of know backend of this story – people lied in their resumes and interviews, nobody really knew how and what to deliver and where it got us. All kind of agile projects seams to be in Learning Zone only. We all know something, but we do not know if this something will work in this project. We talk about learning domain, learning about customers needs, learning about software we are building. But do we perform?

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.

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.

 

 

Find Courage – A #TestBash Story

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On January I was on a trip to the Netherlands. I had an honour to support Rosie and Huib – people, who made another incredible Test Bash event.

I had much, much fun to run registration both days. I love to see new faces, to see the expectations in their eyes, I love to be the first one who meets, greets and guides them into TestBash world. I am kind of staying in the gates to the new knowledge and encouraging people to come forward. I met a lot of new people, had very interesting discussions and good laugh. But let’s start from the beginning.

Meet-Ups

In good old TestBash tradition there were a pre-TB event and pre-pre-TB event, a game night!

If you do not know what is TestBash meetup, then imagine crazy loud tester gatherings in some local bar, where over a drink you have a chance to have a word with a speaker or another cool testing personality. Sooner or later you will realise that all TestBash talks are keynotes and all testers who attend TestBashes are really cool testing personalities. Even yourself! Another very cool thing about TestBash meet-up is, that if you are in the area and can not make to attend the conference, you still have a chance to meet the test people.

Workshop day

Huib picked some very good workshops for the first TestBash Utrecht conference. I heard only good or excellent references.

After registration was done (and it took some time…) I participate in the afternoon workshop about exploratory testing by Jean-Paul. As a person, I am quite impulsive, but since I live in Germany and work as a tester, I work really hard to make me more organised to not to fall out too much. That is why I was expecting to get some practical tools how to do my exploratory testing. And I got them. Thank you, Jean-Paul!

Besides that, Jean-Paul gave me permission to think. This was so unusual, I am too much used to deliver, that I forget how it is to take a time and think. Explore slowly, for example, the room where you are sitting. In fact, everything in the workshop was a little bit like Zen. We tested applications, wrote test cases, documented our findings and let them go. No one wanted to know what exactly we found, what we thought. Very confusing and in the same time healing, because the process was the thing, not the result. Inspired by all that, in February I run my very first exploratory testing mini workshop.

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The day ended up with setting registration area and desks with swag. We learned from mistakes and rearranged place that people move faster to the rooms and do not stay in cold. It worked out good and in the next day there was no jam.

The conference day

My day started after 5 am. Very first thing was to move the car. Then I headed to the old church – TestBash Utrecht location. Punctuality is not my thing, that is why for important stuff I work hard to break my habits. As the result I was the very first one, the church was locked, no lights to see, freezing cold. Ha ha, next time I will take it easier on myself.

The conference started with Alans talk about misuse and fun, which unfortunately I did not hear it in Utrecht because people were coming in late for registration. Luckily my boss got for us Dojo access, talks are now uploaded and available for watching. Jipī!

The second highlight of the conference for me was Gitte talk about courage to be yourself. I met Gitte shortly during ATD and she heard pieces of my trust talk, we share similar values and some of experiences as well. I was thrilled to hear her talk. I can imagine that some felt uncomfortable and some could think that it is not a proper talk in tech conference. But it is proper and it is important! It is the blessing that we have people among us, who dare to remind us – we are humans, we are different and it is OK.

All other speakers were amazing too, but I will highlight only one more – Mary. Her talk about “Just enough security” had huge amount of information and I will rewatch it on Dojo to make some notes. Mary, you gave me the push to participate in #30daysofsecuritytesting. Thank you!

I like to talk to speakers after their presentations and take photos of them. The atmosphere of sharing is amazing!

I also like to take group photo of all lady speakers to show role models and inspire more women submit their stories, but in Utrecht they were too many to organise in one photo. Good job, Huib!

99 sec talks

Another tradition of TestBash is 99sec talks. Never participate? You should! That was first stage experience for several presenters, me including. The idea is to give a 99 seconds long (short) talk about testing related subject. As I first stand on the TestBash Brighton stage, I was surprised that the lights are not so bright as they seem to be and I could see all attendees. Before that, in my imagination, I thought it will be like a crowd of wolfs starring on me from the darkness. But instead of that I saw bunch of friendly faces, some carefully listening, other checking or typing something in their digital devices.

Utrecht

Usually, I do not have a lot of time to see a place where a conference is happening. This time I came by car and had no time pressure for leaving.

At the end…

In few days TestBash Brighton will start. If you are going – I wish you joyful learning journey! If you just got to know about TestBashes – I guess there are still some tickets left – invest in your future, you can afford it yourself, if your boss does not see value in sending you to the conference. I fund most of my activities myself and look where it brought me!