An affidavit of sorts

The last three months I’ve worked specifically with the goal of my testers taking responsibility for their work.

I’m a strong believer that each person is responsible for their own lives. I try to  live by it and I expect others to do the same. Its one of the reasons why I endorse and believe Exploratory Testing is so powerful. The tester becomes centre to the testing. The tester is the decision maker responsible for their decisions(good or bad) and must be willing to stand by their choices and defend them where necessary.

Its a powerful concept, and I think somewhat alien to the way we are brought up and perhaps bring up our own children. Instead we are protected or we try to protect, wanting to prevent harm to those we are close to. Actually, I think its impossible to totally protect people, much better to teach survival skills.

I often hear people saying: “A great test manager removes obstacles so that their team can test” and its true. A good test manager will do that. However, I think a good test manager will also allow their testers to fail. Allow them to make their own decisions and learn to stand by those decisions and then defend them.

If we don’t do that, are we really helping testers to learn and grow?  I wonder.

I’ve had the luxury of procrastination over the past two days. Yesterday, I spent a glorious few hours at the Seattle Art Gallery. It was the perfect antidote to CAST 2011, which was exceptional yet mentally exhausting.

I also missed my flight back to Sydney, which meant I had a second day of whiling away hours at Seattle airport.

Our brains are so fascinating, aren’t they? Just as I’m about to board the flight, a burst of insight and determination hit me. I guess all that procrastination culminated in my powerful thought.

Its this.

As we learn and grow as testers and human beings, we constantly need to revisit our beliefs, values and motivations. I realised mine needed a revisit. (Incidentally, my tutorial at CAST was on this topic, another example of “if you want to learn something, teach it!”)

I needed to rework my ideas, goals and what was important to me. I needed to put myself in the centre of my testing career. I’m responsible for what I do and what I learn. Me. No-one else. Not mentors, not other testers, not thought leaders. Little ole me.

A few testers at CAST really inspired me to be like this. Unfortunately, I don’t know their names or else I would cite them here. But they’re not thought leaders or mentors, they’re context driven testers with a mind of their own. I like that.

I’ve always been able to think for myself but sometimes, you just have to up the anti, you know?

I don’t know what this will mean for me. I’m not sure where it will lead. What I do know that from this point on, I will continue to own my decisions and I will stand by them, just as I encourage my own testers to do.

I guess thats it. Its just something I wanted to share with you all.

QED

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

Not a conference but a CASTalyst

Firstly, apologies for the terrible play on words, its got to be one of the worst pun ever! Put it down to a lack of imagination.

I’m going to be busy at CAST 2011 this year as not only am I attending but I’ll be holding a workshop and a track session.

The 1/2 day workshop is on Career Management for Software Testers and the  track session is on Skype coaching.

You can find out more about the details about all the tutorials here and the track sessions here. There are some great talks on this year and I’ve earmarked a few, hopefully there not on the same time as me!

Any tester who is serious about testing needs to consider going to CAST. It’s a conference that you will not forget. Trust me.

I had the opportunity to go to CAST 2010, sponsored by the software testing club and I wrote about the experience here and here

Its been six months since then, and on reflection, going to that conference wasn’t an event but more a catalyst to learning and experiencing more about testing.

Rebecca Fieldler has on her Skype profile the following quote by Will Durant: ” Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.” and I think that sums up nicely my feelings on CAST. It wasn’t so much what I learnt, but the realisation on how little I knew.

Since then, I’ve made a real effort to up my game. My book library has exponentially grown and I’ve even read some of them!

I made a commitment to myself at CAST 2010 to start speaking a conferences.  I’ve spoken at a few conferences since then, and speaking at CAST 2o11 is like coming full circle on that promise.

I’m also making more of an effort to keep in touch with other testers I met at the conference, people like Karen Johnson and Fiona Charles.

So, you see, what I mean when I say catalyst!

I hope to see you there,

Anne-Marie

Update: If you feel its the right time for you to start speaking at conferences, CAST is offering an emergent session run my the indominatble Matt Heusser. You can get all the details on this blog