Nice girls don’t get the Keynote

Keynotes are something to be earned and rightly so. Typically a keynote comes from someone who likes to speak, who is good at speaking, and has something interesting to talk about.

I know many women testers who meet the above criteria. They have the requisite ‘merit’ required to be a keynoter. They have thoughtful ideas, are good speakers and are well respected in the testing community.

So why are they not keynoting?

Could it be that to be a keynote takes more than ‘merit’?  Could it be that keynoting is also about your place in the community and your connections within that community?

My experience as a conference organiser and being on program committees is that ‘who you know’ is equally as important as ‘what they know and how they speak’. I don’t apologise for that. It’s important for me to base my decisions not only on an abstract but on a speaker’s reputation.

A keynoter needs to have some of the following:

1) They have interesting topics to talk about
2) They are practiced/skilled at speaking
3) They are involved in some way in the community
4) They network within and outside of their ‘tribe’
5) They make a point of asking for keynotes

I know many practised women speakers with fresh and innovative talks and we are well covered on points one and two.

And we’re not so bad at organising and volunteering for conferences & community either, so….

Could it be, points four and five is what’s holding us back?

Keynotes are typically by invite. That means, the program committee gets to decide who keynotes. Those on the program committee tend to have a good network. It’s probably one of the reasons they’ve been chosen to be on the program.

How are your networking skills?  I’m not talking about card swapping nonsense, but ask yourself: do you have a genuine interest in engaging with people who you respect? Importantly, do you know your network will openly advocate on your behalf? Which brings me to point number five…

Be open to asking to keynote. Is it just me, or is there’s this weird unwritten rule in our community that prevents us asking to keynote? It seems to me that to ‘make it’ we have to Marlene Dietrich like, sit nonchalantly in the corner waiting to be asked for our moment in the spotlight.

Maybe that’s just me and not a general experience. But for those of us who are less direct I’d like to suggest you make it clear to your close network that you want to keynote?

What’s more, go direct to the program committee and ask them for a spot. If the say no, ask why not? and what does it take to keynote,? Who knows you might gain some valuable insights into the process.

Because no matter what skill you have, or how good you are at speaking, or how charismatic you are, there’s dozens of great speakers who can do what you do. It takes more than merit to get noticed. It takes courage to ask and you need allies who will support you along the way. Have you got what it takes?

If you’re reading this post, and you’ve keynoted in the past with a story to share about how you got to keynote, Speak Easy would love to hear it as it may help us understand what it takes to ‘get there’. I’d post a link to your blog post on the Speak Easy website (or I can post a blog).

*Title misappropriated from a book I found useful on this topic “nice girls don’t get the corner office’

Big Trak Robots at KWST3

I had a fantastic time at KWST3 this year. There were a lot of firsts for me. The first time I was in New Zealand, the first time I had been to KWST and the first time I met Brian Osman, plus a whole heap of other testers.

I don’t think I’ve been to such a learning event for a while. It was truly a place of inspiration, introspection and challenge. Brian and Colin have already written about their thoughts and I will add mine too in a different post, but first I want to talk about Robots. Oliver asked me to bring over by Big Trak Robots after seeing them in action at CITCON in Sydney.

I split the group into two teams and set them a testing challenge, which involved running experiments in order to determine one of the buttons. What ensued was an hour of fantastic learning, mostly for me, as I watched a group of highly skilled testers apply their minds to the exercise. The testers did some really interesting work. One team started performing fairly complicated tests, which turned out to be a real blessing for them. They then made a model of the functionality and made a hypothesis on what the solution might be.

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Team Two took a different tactic. They started with simple tests (a common focusing technique and one I often use) but the tests didn’t offer enough information to the testers. In the debrief that followed at the end, we had a discussion about how though simple tests are quick and easy, sometimes they fail to offer sufficient and meaningful information. Team two, recovered by defocusing and both teams offered their solution.

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There’s so many lessons to learn from this exercise, and depending on the group, different lessons are learned. This was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve run it, I think because the testers were skilled and could apply themselves with confidence. They also were very self-aware and so debriefing was more about letting the testers volunteer information than asking probing questions. Or maybe I’m getting better at handing over the learning to those really in charge.

Andrew Robbins and Richard Robinson are running the test lab at Tasting Lets Test and the Robots are going to have their moment in the spotlight there too! See you all there!

On conferences and insomnia

For me, the sign of a good conference is insomnia the night after the conference.

Its as if my brain is unable to let go the new ideas and discussions I’ve had with other testers. Ideas that haven’t had an opportunity to be digested and reflected upon and usually around 2am after the close of a good conference my eyes snap open, my brain alive and alert ready for action.

Ideas and discussions from the day merge and meld into a boiling cauldron of fizzling synapse and bubbling endorphins and, as much as I try to breath deeply relax and let it all go, I know deep down its all pointless.

I’m going to have to get up and write down my thoughts and ideas.

STANZ Melbourne is one such conference and its given be a double dose of insomnia resulting in frenetic writing at 12, 2 and 4 am until finally my brain exhausted became compliant and allowed my poor weary body to sleep.

STANZ is sponsored and hosted by SOFTED. These folks at SOFTED really understand and ‘get’ software testing and it shows.

As well as  hosting this conference and getting some pretty impressive speakers in(I urge anyone who has the opportunity to hear Goranka Bjedov speak to do so) they also sponsor the Sydney Testers Meetup by supplying thirsty and hungry testers with drinks and nibbles at networking events.

Whats more they host peer workshops. The last one they hosted in New Zealand which was a huge success so much so that next year they hope to host one in Sydney.

Watch this space.

For me, STANZ gave me two core learnings.

The first was Goranka’s talk about the future of quality. I think this was really insightful and gave me much food for thought. The concept that quality is dead and that as testers we need to reflect how this will impact us. I’m not sure yet what this means for me(I need some more 4 am thinking on that one!) but  somewhere deep down, this struck a real chord.

The second re-enforced to me the power of sharing problems and getting ideas from your network of testers. In 30 minutes, Trish Khoo had a plethora of new ideas and suggestions for me to take away. Many thanks Trish.

Now off to order a double shot espresso….

 

Dublin Software Testing Automation Morning

I went to the Softtest Software Testing User Group networking session last night. About 10 erstwhile software testers gathered together on a wet and windy night to discuss how to help software testers in Dublin.

We had some great discussions, a lot around automation tools, but also on the topic of up-skilling at little or no cost. I’m a big believer in this. I think it doesn’t have to cost a lot to keep yourself trained up as a software tester, you only need a willingness to learn.

We at Softtest have been throwing the idea around for a while to hold some practical hands on automation testing sessions. The idea is that testers would come (for free) learn a bit about an open source tool (JMeter & Selenium are two considerations), get to ask questions and hopefully get to use the tool a little.

We think a Saturday morning would work, and Softtest would supply a venue, breakfast and strong coffee. But we would need Volunteers.

Software Testers who have open source software testing automation skills willing to come in and share some of their knowledge with others.

So are you a Dublin based software tester, with a bit of spare time on a Saturday morning?

If your Interested in attending or helping out with your automation skills? Leave a comment or email me at amcharrett@gmail.com

Testing a SaaS Platform

I thoroughly enjoyed the webinar yesterday by Joel Montvelisky on  Testing on the Cloud. Its of keen interest to many Irish Tech companies, so I was happy to organise on the behalf of SoftTest a webinar for its members. Softtest is the Irish Software Tester’s Special Interest Group.

I learned quite a bit from this webinar. In particular that the amount of testing is actually reduced by hosting your application in the cloud. Things such as installing on different machines, upgrades and patches to multiple versions etc are not required as really there is only one release that everyone accesses. Obvious when you think about it.

He also noted that one of the side benefits of hosting your application on the cloud is that you are able to monitor how your clients are using the application. This becomes an excellent source of  data that testers should make benefit of. It can help testers focus their testing on areas that customers really use, instead of relying on second guesses or vague feedback from customer support and sales staff.

I’d encourage anyone looking into this area, to take a look at his webinar and slides below.


Thanks once again to Joel for speaking, Sogeti for their technology and their excellent marketing guru Michael O’ Connor for assisting and facilitating the webinar.

Irish hosted webinar: Testing for the cloud

As a member of the working committee for Softtest.ie, we have been investigating different ways to communicate with our software testing community.  One suggestion was to hold some webinars.I’ve been availing of my contacts in the online networking community to source some testers willing to discuss their experiences in this format.

I’m delighted to let you know that Joel Montvelisky has agreed to talk about his experiences of testing on the cloud.

The talk will be held on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM BST

Testing a SaaS (Software as a Service) Platform on an Agile World

SaaS (Software as a Service) products and applications are becoming more common in today’s development Industry, especially as Cloud Computing becomes a household name pushed forward by software players such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.

In contrast to regular Web-Based systems, SaaS applications require a different approach to testing than what we are used to from other more traditional projects. In some cases testing a SaaS system is simpler than testing a regular Web-based platforms, but in many others it is a lot more challenging and demanding. It’s made even more interesting by the fact that many of the teams developing SaaS Applications are based Agile Development Methodologies.

In this webinar, Joel Montvelisky will provide an overview of the main areas to cover when testing a SaaS Application or Platform based on his own experience at PractiTest (a SaaS QA Management Platform developed by his company). He will give some insights into the type of approaches and ideas that work best, and will also talk about some of the tools and methodologies his team currently uses while testing PractiTest.

The seminar is aimed at Test Engineers, Test Leaders, QA Managers, Project Managers, Developers and Development Managers.

Please see below a link to the registration page.

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/506544250

Softtest Talk on Automated Testing in Agile Environment

Softtest Ireland does a great job of holding free talks for software testers in Ireland. They held a talk yesterday on the following:

Automated Testing & Development in an Agile Environment

The two speakers were:

Sebastien Lambla from CaffeineIT is a “developer passionate about all things Agile” . He spoke about “In the life of a lean feature” and,

Ken Brennock from Sogeti Ireland, talking about “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools”

The attendance was great, the room was packed and there was a real interest in what these speakers had to say. It was a mixed bunch of testers and test managers. Some were considering moving to Agile, others were already in the process, some like me were there to listen and perhaps pick up a few tips.

In the life of a lean feature

I found Sebastien Lambla’s talk a real challenge and I consider this to be a good thing. I like it when I hear something that I totally disagree with.  In this case, it was the concept of a “Cross Competency Team” where you ‘trust your team to be good enough to do everything”. So the example given was, a developer goes and assists with release management if work is backing up.

I did not like the sound of that!  So I asked the question “does that mean in times of need, a release manager helps out in development”.  The answer was in theory yes, if they had the skills.

And this is where I have the problem with the idea. Because in my view, a tester has special skills too which sets them apart from the rest of the team. They are testers because they think differently, have a different perspective and bring something special to the team that most other members don’t have.

But, when the chips are down and the feature is late, does the whole team help out in testing? Or are only those who have the necessary  testing skills allowed to test? I suspect not!

I’m guessing (or I’m hoping) that I am missing the point about Cross Competency Teams, mostly due to ignorance.

Probably, the intention or goal  is to promote the concept of “the whole team getting the feature over the line”  and that in reality, the developers would be perhaps helping out by using their strengths to supplement the tester instead of substituting the tester.

So, for example, the tester would hand over a bunch of code that had to be automated, leaving them to focus on perhaps exploratory testing.

Anyhow, onto the next talk.

Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools

The title of Ken Brennock’s talk was about  “Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools” which I thought was ironic considering he was talked mostly about tools and little about how a testing individual can contribute in an agile environment”.

Still his talk was very useful.

He used the waterfall process to demonstrate the types of tools to be used in Agile testing. This perhaps was not a talk for the real agile devotees, but it provided some very useful and practical tips on moving from Waterfall to Agile.

I liked how he focused on test data and test environment. He said, that when moving to Agile the priority for testers is to focus on automating the test environment and test data. I think this is so true. One agile team I know of, made sure the developers first created the install and configuration scripts before any other code was written. This way the test team could start creating the test environment and nutting out these issues, which most testers know can be an area of considerable pain.

Ken is giving this talk again in webinar format on Wednesday 7th October.

For both talks, I thought it was a shame that for a talk to testers, so much was focused on automation. I guess thats what a lot of people want to hear, but I still think there is room to discuss the value testers can provide in exploratory testing in an agile environment.

All in all, I feel I have gained much from these talks, many thanks to Softtest Ireland for organising such a good event.

Incidentally, the membership to Softtest ireland is free to all software testers.

Holding the cat by the tail

I thought Jack Margo’s interview by UTest was very interesting. What caught my eye was the following statement:

The days of specialists are mostly killed from the recession…you have to be flexible and know multiple disciplines to exist in today’s dev environment.  In web development alone, you need to be proficient with XML, DHTML, JS, a DB flavor, an OS flavor, a programming language and some semblance of UI Design to even handle front-end.  I have friends who knew only HTML or only PERL.  They are struggling to say the least

It made me think  the same applies to us as software testers.

Have specialists in software testing being killed by the recession? Is it necessary for software testers to be ‘flexible’ and know ‘multiple disciplines’?

Personally, I think so. Its not good enough these days to be a ‘manual tester’ or an ‘automated tester’. Instead you need to be able to do both. I don’t think that means you have to be ‘expert’ on both, but it does mean you have to have knowledge of both and a good knowledge in one area.

That’s why I’m excited about Nathan Bain and the free automated testing sessions he’s starting up.  As he puts it:

Come to meet fellow testers, share stories and experiences about tools and techniques which may, or may not, have solved testing problems on other Agile projects.

This is also a place of learning, where live demonstrations of tools will be given for FREE – no more expensive training courses for simple (and free) open-source testing tools.

What a fantastic opportunity to learn about automated testing!

To complement this, Rob Lambert has setup some free Exploratory Testing Sessions.

Both organisers have mentioned that these sessions could also be performed online.

I am not going to miss out on either opportunities. I would encourage those interested to sign up to both, either to contribute so others can learn, or learn from someone else.

BTW: two quotes were in contest to head this post. The first one was by Mahatma Gandhi:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

The other was:

“If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.”

Mark Twain

I love both for different reasons, but I thought the second one appealed to me as a tester, hence the title :)

Dublin Software Testers Meetup

A reminder to anyone in Dublin or if you are in Dublin in Business, to come along to the Dublin Software Tester Meetup.

Details are:

Time: June 16, 2009 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: the Library Bar, Central Hotel
Street: Exchequer Street,
City/Town: Dublin, Ireland
Website or Map: http://www.pininthemap.com/pp1efb30208acdac9d7
Event Type: social, networking, for, software, testers

Organized By: Anne-Marie Charrett

I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Date set for Dublin Software Testers Meetup

Put the 16th of June into your diary. Is the inaugural meetup for the Dublin Software testers.

The venue is the Library Bar, Central Hotel, Exchequer Street. Its on the first floor. Time is from 7.30 pm
This is a social event for software testers, a chance to get together and chat. You can talk testing, or not. For more information go to the software testing club events page.

If you want to visit and join the online version of the group, go to the software testing club.Its free to join, has over 3000 members and is a great online source of information and assistance. http://www.softwaretestingclub.com/group/Irishsoftwaretesters

I look forward to meeting you all online and in person!