Please don’t hire me

If you want perfect software
If you want me to break your code
If you want to measure me by the number of test scripts I write
If you want me to tell you its ready to ship
If you want 100% of your product tested
If your looking for a tester to only “check” if things look ok
If you want your testers to mindlessly follow test scripts
If you want training on a test process
If you feel you can’t test without requirements

But if you’re looking for a tester who prides herself on the work she delivers, offers as much value to her clients as she can, and has a reputation for excellent testing, then yes, please hire me!

I’m available for coaching testers, training testers, consulting and testing.

Contact Details

Where do I go from here?

In two months to this day, I will be giving my tutorial on Career Management for Software Testers at CAST 2011, in Seattle, USA.

Any self respecting software tester has asked themselves at least once in their career. “Where am I going with all this?” or “Is this role really where I want to be for the next x number of years”?

If you look around, its traditional* to think of a software testing career path as follows:

[quote style=”boxed”]At entry level as a Tester, you’ll primarily be performing test execution and acquiring niche skills to ensure systems meet performance standards required by the business and end-user.
Progressing to Test Analyst and then on to Senior Test Analyst, you’ll work on more complex scenarios, become involved in requirements analysis and test case design as well as execution. As a Test Analyst you’ll also be able to become involved in the specialist areas of Test Automation and Performance and as a Senior Test Analyst you’ll start taking responsibility for junior staff.  [/quote]

I think that’s a real shame that the role of  Test Manager is considered the pinnacle of your career. Why is it that in order to advance your career you have to be seen to me leading people?

So, I want to show testers that there are other career paths. In my tutorial we’re going to take a look at some of the typical roles testers in testing;  That of a tester specialist, a test manager and a test consultant.

But you won’t have to listen to me share about it, I got some fantastic software testers who have agreed to come in a share their own personal experiences. Karen Johnson (Test Consultant), Fiona Charles (Test Manager) and Markus Gärtner (Software Tester) will be available to discuss the pro’s and cons of their respective roles and understand what skillset you may need to get perform these roles.

I’m looking forward to giving this tutorial. Why not join me at CAST 2011? There are still some spots available.

*sourced from Planit website

How to write about software testing

Based on the number of requests I’ve had to write articles recently, there seems to be a big demand for testers who can write  well about software testing.  I’ve been asked by a few different companies to write articles on their behalf. Sometimes I’ve been asked to write posts for someones’s blog. I’ve only done that once with Quck Testing Tips which was a lot of fun. But generally, I find it hard enough to be inspired on my blog, let alone writing for some-one elses!

I thought putting down what helps me, might help a few testers out there. Writing well is a great skill for a tester to have. Think of all those persuasive bug reports you will be able to write.  Its also a great way to consolidate and  refine your thinking. (A great read on this topic is chapter is Maria Hammeren’s chapter entitled “writing as a method of reflection”  in the book Dialogue Skill and Tacit Knowledge.)

1) Write from the heart.

Personally, I’m only motivated to write when I have something I feel passionate about. Thats a good thing because you can create a bond with the audience. But it can be unhelpful too if other people are relying on you to write something.

Perhaps passionate is the wrong word, but  writing posts that resonate with you reach out in some way to your audience. Perhaps its the choice of words you use, I’m not sure, but your readers will pick up on your sincerity.

2) Be yourself

That is, don’t try and be the expert unless you have personal knowledge about what you are writing. In practical terms, avoid trying to sound more experienced than you are. Be honest about your experiences.If you do write on a topic (say automation) in a authorititive manner, you had better be able to back it up with fact and substance.

An excellent example of someone who does this  well is Michael Bolton. I believe in what he writes because he cites references and backs up his statement with examples and facts.

Nuff said.

3) Give yourself Permission

I have James Bach to thank for pointing this one out in a tweet*. Its so true.
Give yourself permission to write your thoughts. They do count and they are of value. Trust me on this one. A great example of some-one who does this is Lanette Creamer. I admire they way she is so forthright with her ideas.

*tweet info with nod to Michael Bolton for supplying it

[quote style=”boxed”]As a teacher this is key: Permission givers http://bit.ly/9qnyOt (thanks @jerryweinberg, for the link, and the permission)[/quote]

4) Proof Read

I tend to write posts 2 or 3 times before I let them loose on the world. Seriously. This is how I work.

a) Write down sentiment anyhow, anyway. Don’t worry about what it looks like
b) At this point I  feel free to explore, sometimes I stray from my originally intended topic to the point where I have a compeltely new article.
c) Read the post (try reading it aloud), and rewrite it, move paragraphs around to get a better flow. Cut out paragraphs that prevent a nice flow through the post
d) Take a break, do something different
e) Come back re-read the post, edit it. check for spelling then send it

A trap you can fall into though is over proofing. If you feel really strongly about something, and you leave it to the next day, you may chicken out and decide not the send it. Sometimes posting in the heat of the moment is a good idea. (Hey I never said writing was clear cut!)

5) Give credit

If you get an idea based on a book you read, share that. If something inspires you, share the link.

6) Be Original

No-one wants to hear trite stuff that parrotts what others say. Believe me. Make your content your own. If you are talking about a hot topic, try and put your own personal spin on it. What are your thoughts on it? Don’t parrott a thought leader, their stuff is far better than yours anyhow.

7) Be Precise

Often its a struggle to come up with a precise word that reflects exactly what you want to say. But please, don’t be lazy about it. The english language is diverse and there’s bound to be a word that aptly describes what you want. Use a thesaurus if you have to, or do what I do and wait until the right word comes to you. Your readers will appreciate it.

8 ) Why do you write?

Here is Bernard-Henry Levy on his view on writing. Great stuff. In particular what drives him to write is interesting:

[quote style=”boxed”]I am not writing to be loved. There is as much pleasure to being hated as being loved. I write in order to convince. In order to win. In order to change, even just a little, the world. I recently launched an appeal on Twitter supporting those attacking the official websites of the Tunisian regime. An intellectual calling for hacking doesn’t happen very frequently, and there is a stir. I am happy that it succeeded. I care about being heard.[/quote]

Whats your driver? Is it your ego, is it SEO ratings or is it something else? I started writing to get ratings for my website, but now I write for the pure joy of writing, because I get a kick out of crafting a beautiful piece of work.

9) Practise

The only way you are going to get any good at writing is by practicing.  How are you going to practice, well thats up to you, but writing a blog is a good start. Don’t aim for perfection, just get out there and write something. I will never forget my first blog post. It was the equivalent of hello world! (I wish I still had it, I would link it here)

Well, thats it. Nearly

There is one more thing.

If you are serious about writing skype me on charretts. I offer free coaching and I’m willing to include writing in that scope, as long as its to do with testing.

[By the way, when I’m talking about writing, its mostly in the context  of articles, blogs etc.]


 

The antipodes are calling

I’m heading to Sydney, Australia on 22nd January 2011.  I will be looking for test consulting work  preferably through my Australian consulting company Testing Times.

What do I offer?

I shed light on testing problems often obscured or caused by a testing process. I bring a new perspective often hard to gain when inside an organisation.

I do this by thinking outside the square, looking for solutions outside traditional process orientated ideas.

So, if you have a problem that you haven’t yet being able to solve using traditional testing approaches, or you want a testing approach based on excellence and speed* why not contact me?

I also deliver one day training workshops on testing. These workshops focus on increasing tester skill.

I offer a context driven approach to testing.

These  principles are:

1.    The value of any practice depends on its context.

2.    There are good practices in context, but there are no best practices.

3.    People, working together, are the most important part of any project’s context.

4.    Projects unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable.

5.    The product is a solution. If the problem isn’t solved, the product doesn’t work.

6.    Good software testing is a challenging intellectual process.

7.    Only through judgment and skill, exercised cooperatively throughout the entire project, are we able to do the right things at the right times to effectively test our products.

What this means to you is that the advice I offer is to ensure you the customer get the best value out of your testing.

If you like that idea then contact me at amcharrett @ testingtimes.com.au

Interesting fact on the word antipodes. “The antipodes of any place on Earth is the point on the Earth’s surface which is diametrically opposite to it.” – Wikipedia. So, technically that would mean somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Though I suspect that not a lot of testing is done there!

* I use a rapid software testing developed & taught  by James Bach & Michael Bolton.

Testing my backbone

I’m a nice person. Well, I like to think I’m a nice person anyhow, and some people tell me that’s true too. Especially my kids, they tell me I’m the best Mum in the world. Aw shucks!

But sometimes, being nice creates problems because I want people to be nice back to me too.

This can be a real problem in software testing when faced with an aggressive and rude developer with little respect for your work.

The consequence of being ‘nice’ is that I’m as helpful and co-operative as possible with developers. Generally testers like me raise great bug reports and are very attentive if the developer requires further information.

On the down side, at some point in your working life, you are going to face an aggressive and unpleasant developer and to do your job, you are going to have to stand your ground.

And then its time for wimpy tester to find her voice and become  assertive tester.

So I’ve had to come up with some techniques to turn my wimpy ‘nice’  persona into an assertive positive voice.

For all you wimpy and not so wimpy testers out there, here they are:

1)  Rule Number 1. It’s all about the software, its not about you. Focus on your goal and don’t be distracted by outrageous and manipulative statements. Sometimes I imagine the developer yelling and screaming at the software not me.

2) Rule Number 2: Stick to the facts, and backup statements with evidence or in Cem Kaner’s language, find a credible source.

3) Rule Number 3: Don’t be bullied by an aggressive developer, raise your risks and speak your mind.

4) Rule Number 4: Keep a pleasant an even tone in all your discussions. Emotion is not required here.

5)Rule Number 5:  Focus on the commonalities. You both want the software to be delivered successfully. Work as a team even if it doesn’t feel like a team.

Remember the goal is not to get the developer to like you, its to get good software delivered. At the end of the day, you are responsible for raising bug reports and identifying risks. If some developer is determined to be aggressive, that’s their call, but if you stand your ground at least then you can complete your work with a clear conscience.

So you want to be a software test consultant?

Today, I’ m handing out some pointers that may or may not help you on your path to becoming a software test consultant. Some of these I’ve gained through bitter experience, others are more hindsight on things I ought to have done.

So, without  further ado, here are my tips.

1) Dreams are not goals

Its easy to have a dream about setting up a test consultancy, and actually, it’s really easy to setup a company, print some business cards and your dream is realised!  But unless you have short and long term goals, your business won’t go far. I set quarterly and yearly goals for myself and my business.

2) What does success mean to you?


I think this is essential to understand. What is driving you to run your own business? Money, freedom of choice in your work, flexibility? Knowing what will make you happy when you achieve your goals and dreams is essential to having a successful business. For me, my initial goal was to work for myself and not have to answer to anyone! It has changed over the years to include flexibility to spend time with my younger children. At times, this has meant my business has not been highly profitable, but it has always been successful.

3) Know your market and your products.

Who are you targeting your testing at? Any particular sector? Any particular size of company?  Ask yourself what products/packages would they be interested in? Ask your market what products/services they would be interested in? All this ought to be in your business plan. In my view a business plan is the equivalent of your testing strategy and approach, and its a very personal document. It helps you through knowing your market and your products, your rates etc.

4) How much should I charge?

There is no easy answer to this, which is why spending hours googling websites like mine is not going to help you. The general advise is that you should charge enough to cover your expenses and how much you need to live on. So, if you estimate on working 40 weeks of the year, and you need a salary of $100,000 yr to live on, you have company expenses of $20,000 /yr  then you will need an hourly rate of $75.  This may not be the final rate you charge, but you know its your minimum rate. That’s helpful to know if a client is trying to offer a lower rate.

I went for a tender recently and lost out. I asked why and they mentioned that my rate was to high. I was dissapointed naturally, but I knew that I had offered the right rate for me and I would not have lowered my rate just to get this piece of work, the risks were too high.

There’s a whole other heap of things that contribute to your daily rate, such as knowing who your market is, and what they will take. Bear in mind rates are very fluid, and in times like recessions they often move down very quickly.

Personally, I think you just have to go out there and try out a few numbers with potential clients. You will soon learn what’s acceptable and what’s not.  So, get off your butt, find a customer and charge a rate. If you don’t get the work, ask them why? Was the rate too high?

No-one said this was going to be easy!

5) Marketing Yourself

I have to mention something about marketing etc, because a) its so important, and b) it can be very time consuming. What are the best methods to promote yourself? Like any good tester, I’m going to say it depends!  There many ways to promote yourself on-line and off-line. I have gotten work from both online and through knowing people. Each country differs in what works best. For example, in Australia, a lot of my work came through the internet, so having a good online presence was essential. In Ireland though, it’s more who you know and going out and meeting people is more important.

Be very careful how much time your spending on the internet twittering, blogging etc, your time may be better spent meeting people or speaking to people on the phone. This is a big trap and one I constantly fall into!

Writing articles and speaking at presentations are other ways of promoting yourself and its a good way to start seeing yourself as a provider and not a consumer.

6) The baby years.

Realise that though you may plan to work 40 hours a week, you may end up working less than that, especially in the first couple of years. So what do you do?  Either you need a little nest egg which you can rely on for two years, or else you are going to have to supplement your business through short term contract work.

In fact, I think its a good way to transition from permanent to running your own business as it helps you learn about other consultancy type skills such as understanding the tax system, raising invoices, working by the hour, dealing with clients and learning market rates. These are all skills which you may not have come across in your permanent role and will be helpful in running your own business. At the same time, you are still assured of an income.

7) Always be on the look out for new clients.

This is a real challenge when it comes to working for yourself and I think is one of the biggest challenges to running your own business. Marketing and selling your work to new clients is essential if you want to keep the work coming in and takes an enormous amount of effort. But how do you fit this in when working for a client five days a week?

I don’t have any easy answers to this and I still struggle with balancing my sales activities with my paid work. Paid work has to come first, potentially leaving only evenings and weekends for marketing and sales type activities.

If you value you family life, you can try working 4 day weeks and leaving one day (or 1/2 day)  for admin activities.

Another idea I had, but I haven’t tried is to outsource your marketing and sales to another freelancer. I don’t know if this approach works, but sometimes I’ve been sorely tempted to try something like this out!

8 Use your network.

Everyone knows that in order to find clients you have to network. I remember being a bit overwhelmed at the thought of having to find this ‘network’ of people to source work from. How in the hell to I meet these ‘people’ who had work?

I realised after a while, that I didn’t have to look anywhere as I already had a network! My network was my family, friends and people I had worked previously for. So, when I started looking for work, I turned to these people first.  Let them know you have started working for yourself and could they pass the word that you are available? It doesn’t matter if they are non IT people, you just never know where your next piece of work is going to come from. Also, ask them if they know of someone who may be able to help or give advice? (People love giving advice!). The key is to start talking to people you know, and people who your network knows.

A great place to start is with companies you’ve worked with. These people know you, and what you can do. You also have the advantage of knowing their systems etc. Don’t be afraid to go back and ask for any work they may have. If you can make it part time even better as that way you can focus on building your business. One of my first jobs came this way.

9) Work smart

I will let you in on a little secret. I have a business mentor. I suggest you go out and find one yourself. A mentor is an excellent way of guiding you through some of the pitfalls in starting up your own business and can help you with the all important and essential business plan.  I got my business mentor through an enterprise network, look around your local area and see if there is something equivalent.

Footnote. I am not offering any business mentoring, so please don’t ask.

and finally

10) Its your path.

It’s good to get advice and ask for help. However, no-one is going to give you a template or process for success. You are going to have to make it up as it goes along. That’s half the fun of running a business. I liken it to raising kids. It doesn’t matter how many self help books you read on how to raise your children, in the end, they are only guidelines. You are the one who is going to make to decision on what to do. Are you prepared for that?  If you want it all mapped out for you, stick to your permanent job.

That’s about it!

I’ve listed some related articles I’ve written on the topic below:

Presentation: It includes some stats on where I get work etc

Article I wrote for the STC On being a successful consultant

I could go on, but I think I’ve addressed the main points. If you have any more questions on this  topic, feel free to ask in the comments below. If you think you’d be interested in this topic  at a conference let me know that too!

Please don’t post asking for work, that you will have to find on your own!

Good luck on your venture.

Software Test Reports for Startups

My test reports have deviated a lot since the early days of testing.

Nowadays, first and foremost I provide an opinion of the software. I make sure I highlight both positives and negatives that I see in the product.

Naturally, I provide a list of bugs I find, but I also provide a list of suggestions on the software, for example new features or ways to improve the Usability. I find when testing, new ideas often come to me about features. I’m happy to provide them with a list. They can take it or leave it.

Finally, I list some recommendations on testing for the next release.

Why all the effort? I do this because my clients love it!  I provide more than just a list of bugs. I see it as adding more value.

Here’s the template pdf version:: Software Test Report Template

I wonder though, is this still testing, or  have I morphed into a new area of work?

Dublin Software Testing Group

Online networks are great for sharing knowledge and meeting fellow testers. In particular, I am a fan of  the software testing club . However, even better is a face to face meet.

Thats why I’m setting up a Dublin monthly software testers group. The aim is to meetup and talk about, well anything you fancy. To quote a member: “a get together to give out about our unfeeling brethern in the rest of the IT world and a few pints for good measure. What more could you ask for?

If you’re interested in attending, leave a comment here, or go to the online version of the group at Irish Software Testers Group
Looking forward to meeting you online and in person

Anne-Marie

If you want to be a millionaire – phone a friend

 

I was asked to quote for a job recently on some testing in an area that I had little experience in. After confidently replying to the customer “no problem, I’ll have a quote to you by the end of the day…”, I started googling furiously, trying to gain some understanding of at least what I was meant to be quoting on.

By the end of the day I was in a complete sweat. I was going round in circles trying to figure out what I ought to charge for this piece of work.
As the sun set, so did my desperation and I decided it was time to “phone a friend”.

Recently I had entered into some loose agreements with fellow consultants. Perhaps “partnering” is the correct word. Basically the idea is that, if I have too much work, or work I don’t typically perform comes my way, I pass it onto fellow consultants, and they vice versa.
So, in my hour of need, I rang on of them and I tell you what, it was like a miracle. As it turned out, my ‘partner’ happened to be an expert in this area and was quite happy…nay excited to quote and do the work if necessary.

What a fantastic result! Not only did I get to keep the professional relationship with my client I also get to help out another consultant.
I really learnt something from this experience and that was not be afraid to ask for help. In hindsight, I had been hesitant to ask for help because I thought it reflected poorly on me, I didn’t want to appear to be inadequate in front of either my client or a colleague.

 

Now I know, if I want to become a millionaire.. I need to be able to “phone a friend”………

 

Is document a dirty word in Exploratory Testing?

I went on James Bach’s Rapid Software Testing (RST) course because some of the concepts and ideas that I had read about exploratory testing and RST appealed to me.   I liked the idea that central to testing is a critical and context-driven approach and I also wanted to put intelligence back into testing.

I was curious though, as on some blogs I read it appeared that exploratory testing and traditional testing were mutually exclusive. You are either a champion of traditional testing techniques and provided multiple test documents or you’re in the maverick camp which threw out all documentation and just ‘tested’.

I was relieved to learn that for rapid software testing, this is just not true. I was relieved because I LIKE DOCUMENTS.  I like them because in certain circumstances I find them helpful.

Because I have to confess, sometimes I forget to test parts of an application. Even worse, sometimes I don’t want to test the hard areas.  

A document gets me to test all areas and to test the parts that I really don’t want to test. It helps me remember the results of what I’ve tested because sometimes I need to know that information.

What James Bach reminded me, was that the ultimate goal of testing is very simple. It’s to test an application with intelligence and thoughtfulness. The goal is not to create endless documents on testing.  Instead, documents can sometimes be handy tools to assist you in testing.

I don’t think I will ever totally give up on my documents. They are my friends. However, I will make sure that in future, these friends can stand the test of relevance, accuracy and brevity.