No women speakers? No Bother!

That might surprise you if you listened the Eurostar Webinar last week where Fiona Charles and I explored the numbers of women speaking at software testing conferences. If you didn’t hear it you can now  (Spoiler ahead it’s roughly 25%*)

FemaleConferenceSpeakers

 

Considering that there are more women in testing than other technical professions you might be surprised by this.

Unfortunately I’m not surprised. Fortunately, I’m not bothered by this. In fact, I’m not even bothered that in 2015 the percentage of women speakers has dropped in some conferences, or that the number of women on program committees for many conferences is a big fat zero.

Percentage of women on program committees

I’m disappointed of course, but I’m not bothered by it.

That’s because there are some phenomenal women in software testing and they’re taking the matter into their own hands.

Rosie Sherry working with Anna Royzman for example, has dropped the teaser that women makeup ~50% of TestBashNY 2015 using a merit based selection process. They had a lot of women submitting proposals and I think it’s clear why. What female tester wouldn’t want to speak at a conference run by those two phenomenal and respected women?

There’s more though:

Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Adi Bolboacă have decided to create a conference that they would want to attend. It’s called the European Testing Conference 

Mieke Gevers & Nadine Raes run Belgium Testing Days and there’s typically a high percentage of women speakers (30% this year).

I’m sure there are other examples too.

It’s simple folks. When you create an culture where women feel welcome to speak, the submissions come flooding in.  What does that mean? Well, perhaps women no longer need to be concerned about being underrepresented at dinosaur conferences. Instead, women can focus on conferences that are already offering a healthy environment. Conferences were women are compelled to submit.

I suggest that for any conference in software testing, if the trend of  women speakers is decreasing or wildly fluctuating, if the percentage is consistently below 25%, then conference organisers need to rethink how they are attracting talent.

FemaleSpeakersByConferenceTime

In this day and age, I think there is little excuse for poor female representation. Conferences such as CAST have demonstrated it can be done. CAST has high calibre talks and a high percentage of female speakers. Who would have thought?

How about you, do you think conferences organisers need to rethink how they attract talent?

*figures were taken based on information on websites. We may have made errors in counting, but we think they are fairly accurate representation. Please let us know if we’ve made any glaring stuff ups. 

In pursuit of coaching excellence

When you coach a tester you’re working in an environment that dynamically changes as both the student and coach work through a coaching task.  If you look at the diagram below you can see all the different attributes that might change throughout a coaching session.

Coaching Space Bach & Charrett

Also, throughout the coaching session, the student and coach have a mental model of the coach and themselves. They constantly re-evaluate these models as the coaching session progresses.

The coaching I do (and James Bach does) requires that the coach has a testing syllabus that they use to help the student. This is different to life coaching which is non domain specific. Also, our coaching is lot more directive. The relationship between the coach and student is more coach->student than the traditional peer-to-peer relationship you find in life coaching. I see our coaching more like sports coaching, where a coach outside of a game, runs you through drills and challenging exercises to help you improve, often without realising your in need of improvement.

Personally, I’ve experienced good and not so good sports coaches. In my school days I was a bit of a field hockey superstar (I joined the grade A hockey team two years ahead of time, making me the youngest player). My coach however was incredibly overbearing, shouting and yelling at us and telling us how hopeless we were. I’m not sure if we were hopeless or not, but I know we failed to win many games and left the season completely demoralised to the point I gave up hockey for four years. I was persuaded to pick up hockey again and this time we had a different coach. She was quiet, never said too much and let me play my free style. One day she came up to me and be a quietly suggested I move back 10 metres to be able to better angle my shots ( I was in a midfield position). Very quickly I realised the power of such a move, I was in a better position to be able to control the game. I was 16 when that happened and I’ve never forgotten the power of that one statement.

For me that’s what coaching is about and its the type of coach I aspire to be. Its directive but the direction is about the skill and how the student is performing that skill. Where its non directional is that I challenge the student to think for themselves. It’s paradox at play but one that works.

Its also powerful because it’s watchful, ready to tap into what a student is doing at an appropriate time, using pressure and energy as tools to make direction powerful to the student (just like my second sports coach did). The aim is to help the student feel empowered to achieve more.

But the energy is not only in one way. The coach is getting energised by the coaching session too. I’m constantly evaluating my coaching and testing ability. I become a better coach by doing this. My aim is to become the best coach I can be.

I can only do this by coaching lots of testers, evaluating the transcripts and also working with colleagues who inspire and want to become better coaches too. I’ve been doing that this week with James Bach. We’ve been working on our book on coaching, identifying ways in which we coach, syndromes that both student and coaches encounter (we need to do more of this) and also finding ways to better evaluate coaching transcripts.

I think an aspiration of excellence in any field is such a worthy goal. I was watching Ron Ben Israel who is a master baker of sugar dessert flowers. You can see his passion the how is pursuit of excellence has led him to create masterpieces in sugar. Who would have thought that you could become excellent in such a small field?

Excellence I think is different to perfection. Perfection to me sounds more absolute, perhaps a little unrealistic. Excellence however, is within my grasp but also always one step ahead of me. I can be excellent at one point in time, but I can always strive to be more excellent. I think this is a worthy pursuit and a good use of my time and energy.

What are you in pursuit of?

(if you want a coaching session on software testing, please contact me on Skype. My id is charretts, please include the word “coaching request”. I offer free skype coaching to testers as long as you’re willing to allow your transcripts to be used in my research and perhaps in the upcoming book. This means the transcripts may be published, though I do conceal the second name and any potentially sensitive data).

I am the Queen of Defocus

I remember the day I earned the self acclaimed title of Queen of Defocus. I had been testing for about 3 years and had been hired as the *only* tester in an R&D lab of about thirty engineers. I also happened to be the only female engineer at the time, so I was Queen of the Lab regardless.

But I become Queen of Defocus when one day I was working on creating a test strategy for a Nationwide Freephone service that was to be designed and built in our lab. I had earlier cottoned on to the idea of white boarding the service and grabbing poor unsuspecting engineers as they passed by to help me figure out how the service worked. This helped me understand the service better and also on occasion I saw engineers go quiet as they realised through my questions that they had overlooked something in their design. (I later discovered James Bach calls this Inside-Out Analysis)

One day, as I was applying this approach I had a gestalt moment. I realised that I was really really good at  asking pertinent questions. Questions not necessarily about the service itself (though I did ask those) but also about how the service was going to be used, deployed, tested, maintained and operated. But what made these questions so valuable? Why were *my* questions seemingly able to discover problems other engineers failed to think of?

What exactly was I doing?

I decided it was the ability to grasp an answer from one question and allow it to connect to some other seemingly significant piece of information to generate another question. To do that, I had to let the information go for a wander in my mind until it connected to another piece of information. I had this visual idea of information wandering through my brain, seeking a neuron to bond with. However it happened it was working.

So I became Queen of Defocus partly because of this gift I had to make connections, but also because everyone else was so focused. By focusing so well (and they were some of the brightest engineers in the country) my defocusing ability was allowed to really shine. I was the ying to their yang.

Years have flown by (literally, I traveled overseas to Dublin for 2 years) and testers still comment on my ability to hit any situation, ask pertinent questions and make connections. Richard Robinson watched me pull an admin guy’s strategy apart, leaving him with a notepad full of questions to find answers for.

But being Queen of Defocus has its downside, it can if your not careful make you sloppy and shallow in your work. I know this because I’ve fallen into this trap of not paying sufficient attention to detail. I watch out for it now. I’ve learned that not knowing facts can be really embarrassing and I try to avoid that.

But mostly, I’m pretty happy letting my mind wander and reflect and ponder on why sun streaming through the window on an Autumn day fills me with joy. I store these moments away open to the possibility that they may prove helpful one day. On days like this, a bit of defocus is bliss!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Keeping the lights on when your battery is running low

Most of when I test I’m thoroughly engaged and involved and enjoying the moment. Then there are those “other” times.  Typically for me they happen in the afternoon. My sugar levels get low, I get tired, and I stop testing well.

But darn it, there’s so much testing to do! How can I and my team continue to test effectively?

The biggest trap to fall into is to continue testing without changing something. Testing’s too important to be performed without full use of mental faculties.

Its up to me to ensure I keep alert.

Here’s my list:

1) Eat!
Sugar levels are low: Have you had lunch??? No….Okay, this is basic, but don’t skip lunch. Your brain needs nourishment for all that cogntive work it has to do in the afternoon.

2) Take a break.
It sounds counter-intuitive but by taking a break and doing something completely different, gives my testing brain a break. I like to do something physical,like going for a quick walk.

3) Swap a feature
Ask a tester to swap areas with you for a while. A mental change of scenery if you will.

4) Make it enjoyable
Find some way to make testing a bit fun for the team. Perhaps

3) Use the Trish Khoo method
At the start of a testing iteration, she asks the question “What can I do differently” or “how can I make testing more fun”? What a great approach!

There’s other ways to take breaks too.

4) Talk to a tester

I have to watch out for this one, as I need to take into account other testers may be “in the zone” but if someone is free its great to have a chat.

5) Talk to your peers

Again, timing is the key here. I find this one very invigorating, it also helps me take a step back from my immediate focus and see the “big picture”

6) Tweet, Blog, Share

I’m finding this one a bit hard at the moment as the company I’m doesn’t allow skype or twitter. But when I can, I use my phone to keep in touch with testers outside where I’m working.

For me its a mixture of making testing enjoyable, taking breaks and mixing things up.

What do you do to keep alert while testing?


 

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.]


 

Personality Traits in Software Testing

I have lots of little and major projects going on at the moment. One of them is to write a chapter for an up coming book on the cost of testing. My chapter is complete thankfully, but as I was researching my topic, I came across this article on Personality Traits in Software Engineering. I found it quite enlightening and somewhat entertaining read.

Naturally, I was interested in what it had to say on the subject of software testers, in particular, the difference between software testers and developers.

Apparently there are the “Big Five” of personality traits. They are Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to experience.

This study added another personality trait or factor Cognitive Ability. Personally, I question whether you can call that a personality trait, but for the purposes of this post, lets accept that as a given.

Testers on the whole came out pretty well rounded. Here’s the breakdown:
Neuroticism: Low
Extraversion: Medium
Conscientiousness: Medium
Openness To Experience: High
Cognitive Capability: High
Agreeableness : High
So, on average we are an agreeable bunch of people, open to experience (see below) with a high cognitive capability. A hearty clap on the back fellow testers, we all knew we were pretty special.

Developers were pretty similar, but the major difference is they scored low in the openness to experience trait. Here are their scores:
Neuroticism: Low
Extraversion: Low
Conscientiousness: Medium
Openness To Experience: Low
Cognitive Capability: High
Agreeableness : High

So what is openness of experience?  Well the paper describes it as:

“This is the tendency to enjoy new intellectual experiences and ideas. Its components include imaginative, curious, unconventional, broadminded and cultured”

I can live with that!

So there you have it folks, proof that testers and developers are different and bring different traits to the table.

But lets finish this blog post on a positive note.

Both developers and testers rate well in cognitive ability and agreeableness and we both scored low on the neurotic scale. Thats a good thing! It means were both pretty smart and easy to get along with people.

Lets give both teams the respect they deserve for that.

Definitions

Neuroticism:- This is the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions relatively easily. Its components are anxiety, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, and impulsiveness.
The opposite is emotional stability or self-control.
People who are high in this factor have the following features:-
  • They are faced with effect of decreasing cognitive and performance capacities (Mathews et al., 1991)
  • They have increasing probability of errors
  • They are more distracted from the task at hand (Hansen, 1989)
  • They have tendency to experience greater stress symptoms
  • They tend to be pre-occupied with their anxieties and worries
  • There is also evidence that they do not seek active control of the environment (Judge, 1993)

Extraversion:- This is the tendency to seek simulation and enjoy the company of other people. Its components include warmth, sociable, assertive, energetic, adventurous, and enthusiastic.

People who are high in this factor have the following features:-

  • They are sensitive to monotony (Thiffault & Bergeron, 2003)
  • They are high sensation seekers and have a greater tendency to take risks (Jonah,1997)
  • They demonstrate significantly poorer performance on vigilance tasks (Koelega,1992)

Conscientiousness:- This is the tendency to show self-discipline, to be dutiful, and to strive for achievement and competence. Its components also include self-discipline, consultative, competence, order, dutifulness and thorough.

People who are high in this factor have the following features:-

  • They are always thorough in decision-making style (Clarke & Robertson, 2005)
  • They follow rules and regulations (Arthur & Doverspike, 2001)
  • They are interested in goal targeting and systematic approach
  • They are always interested in providing adequate cost-benefit analysis and contingency planning (West et al., 1993)
  • They are less vulnerable to cognitive failures

Agreeableness:- This is the tendency to be compassionate towards others and not antagonistic. Its components include pleasant, tolerant, tactful, helpful, trust, respectful, sympathetic and modest.

People who are high in this factor have the following features:-

  • They are generally easy to get along with (Hough, 1992)
  • They are salient in situations that involve interaction or cooperation with others (Barrick & Mount, 1991)
  • They are less aggressive
  • They are emotionally stable
  • They are trustworthy and compliance (Clarke & Robertson, 2005)

Openness to experience:- This is the tendency to enjoy new intellectual experiences and ideas. Its components include imaginative, curious, unconventional, broadminded and cultured.

People who are high in this factor have the following features:-

  • They have positive disposition towards learning (Salgado, 2002)
  • They tend to be liable to rule violations, experimentation and improvisation (Clarke & Robertson,2005)
  • They are less suitable for safety critical tasks

Cognitive Ability:- This is a factor added to the big five factors because of the requirement of SE. It has the following components:-

  • Abstract level thinking:- This is the ability to conceive an idea or concept without any relation to any practical instance. It can be simply put as theoretical analysis.
  • Mindset:- A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretation of the situation. It typically has to do with the collective responses and interpretation of the situation by individuals.
  • Analytic:- This is reasoning or capable of reasoning in clear and consistent manner.It is reasoning and or acting from a perception of the parts and interrelations of actions.
  • Concentration capability:- This is the ability to provide constant and productive undivided attention to events.
  • Expressiveness:- Ability to present one’s ideas in acceptable forms to others.
  • Visualisation capability:- The ability to provide a technique or method for seeing the unseen. It is also the ability to use metal model to describe or represent events.

From “An Improved Assessment of Personality Traits in Software Engineering” (2007)  A. S. Sodiya, H. O. D. Longe, S. A. Onashoga, O. Awodele,  L. O. Omotosho

Rapids Software Testing

As some of you know, I’m in the process of creating an Exploratory Testing workshop. It’s been a bit of a wild adventure, but hey, I’m clinging tightly to my oars as I hurtle down the rapids of ET adventure.

Have you ever been white water rafting? I have, and here’s a tip, don’t bother going if there is a drought.

Trust me, I learned the hard way on the Tully River in North Queensland. Tully is one of the wettest populated towns in Australia with an average annual rainfall exceeding 4000 mm (13.1 ft).

But not the year I went. I went when there was a drought and the water levels on the river had dropped.While the day’s outing was great fun, it never reached the hair raising exhilaration that I had anticipated.

It can be a bit like that in testing I guess.  If you want to have fun and be challenged, it helps to go where the water is deep.

Well I’m in deep testing water and I’m loving it! A day doesn’t go past where I’m not motivated to learn more and to challenge myself. To hell with the life jackets, watch me go!

Why? Because I’m learning something that is fundamental to any tester.

I’m learning how to teach  testing.

Precisely, I’m learning how to teach testing through Socratic Examination. This means, that I’m learning to ask the questions, pose puzzles and push students to struggle through testing principles so they come to a better understanding.

If this style sounds familiar, its because James Bach is teaching me this stuff. Its all part of this new coaching program which I’m aligning myself with. I will also be collaborating with him on a book he’s writing on the topic.

My experience on learning to teach suggests to me that this book is much needed. Practice is key to being a good teacher, but having a few strategies and heuristics to guide you along the way is essential too. This book will go some way to demonstrate that.

So what have I learned so far?

Lesson 1: A Mental Model

When working with a testing exercise you need a mental model of what you are aiming to teach.

Its not an easy task. There is no one strategy or model that fits all students. All students differ in their learning needs and in temperament. what works for one person, may not be suitable for the next, yet your mental model needs to cater for each individual.

You need to know your outcome, and where you are taking the exercise and still allow the student capacity to explore and come to some learning outcome.

I’ve noticed that James starts his coaching sessions with a mental test. He uses that to observe a tester’s thinking. He then frames his coaching session around a key thought or lesson, allowing  the tester to explore, yet always bringing them back to the intended final outcome.

All without one powerpoint slide.

I’m learning how to do  that too.

Lesson 2: Observation.

The coaching sessions may seem unstructured and ‘ad-hoc’, but as I mentioned there is always an underlying model or framework in use.  I’ve been observing some of these coaching sessions, and I’m starting to see patterns of behavior. I asked James about this and his comment was this:

Anne-Marie Charrett: When you are having these conversations do you consciously have an idea of the types of patterns you are going to use?

James Bach: Yes

James Bach: I’m trying to become more conscious of them and to make them easier to teach

James Bach: that’s what I’m using you for.

James Bach: we’ll learn them together

Observing patterns is essential to honing your teaching skills. Only through observation can you identify how you teach, what your natural strengths are or where you are biased. But also identifying patterns, helps you know what pattern (or heuristic) to use next.

Naturally, being taught directly by James Bach is helping a lot too. I think confidence in yourself is critical, both as a tester and a trainer. After all, how can you confidently explain your testing story if you have little confidence in yourself or what think you believe?

So that comes to lesson 3:

Lesson 3: A Testing Story

Teaching testing gives you confidence in your testing story. Yes, I read and study Exploratory Testing, I use Exploratory Testing. But standing up and talking about Exploratory Testing to me is the ultimate test in what you believe. If you can stand up and talk about testing, its a great boost to your testing story. Well , it is for me anyhow.

This confidence comes by first willing to put yourself in a vulnerable position, where you are willing to learn. It was only when I blogged about my difficulties about creating an ET workshop did help arrive.

It also comes through practice. I’m doing that too now, by blogging and testing out by challenges on fellow testers. I’ve already asked a few of you to testing challenges on skype or IM. I need to practise my exercises and puzzles against a variety of people.

If you want to be part of the fun, skype or IM me. I’m happy for anybody to take up my challenges. I need practice to improve my skills.

There’s lots more I’m learning, most of which my mind has yet to digest and formulate into identifiable ideas. But are you starting to see something here?

Teaching testing is very similar to testing itself, maybe a bit more intense…. like ET on steroids perhaps.  I strongly urge any tester looking to improve their skills to consider this option. Even if you never end up teaching formal workshops, the insights you get about yourself, the confidence it builds in yourself and your ideas in testing will stand you in good stead.

Footnote.

I value your thoughts, in particular if you disagree, or question what I’ve said. Every discussion on this helps me refine and consolidate my understanding on the subject.

Are you a Buccaneer Parrot?

I’ve had a couple of ‘epiphanies’ this morning and consequently have that weird floaty, happy/anxious feeling that I get at moments like this.

Courtesy National Geographic

I didn’t go to StarEast but I, along with countless other software testers have been watching the virtual show through twitter.

Some of it I let go, but a couple of links I’ve clicked on to see what all the fuss is about. Boy, if the two links I clicked on are anything to go by, it would have been a great event to be at.

The first seismic changing event for me was listening to James Bach’s clip on what it means to be a buccaneer tester.  Now James is a tester that I have mixed feelings about. I went on his RST course a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved his FOCUS/DEFOCUS heuristic and its one of my key techniques that I apply when I test. BUT, sometimes I find his style can be overly aggressive, especially when it comes to:  oh crap, here I go, CERTIFICATION.

But not today. Today he was sublime and this key point hit me:

“We have got to be testing from our own place, not copying like parrots”

This resonated heaps with me as its a trap that I constantly fall into.  Now, I pride myself on my software testing skills. I do have a fondness for exploratory testing and have a knack in asking the ‘right’ question when determining context. Here’s the crunch though. I call my approach pragmatic. In other words, I DONT ROCK THE BOAT.

So when asked, I will happily manage a team of scripted testers. Why? Because that is the process. That is how things are ‘done’ in that company.

This creates a dilemma for me, because it leads me to ask what in  software testing do I really believe in? Where is my “own place”?   To what lengths would I go to ensure Exploratory Testing was used in a team I led? (I know I would never personally create a test script, or follow one for that matter). This is pertinent to me because I’ve just gone for a test lead role that requires ‘strict adherence to a process’.

In order to be able to answer these questions, (and writing this post is helping me decide mine) and as James puts it ‘test from your own place’, y ou have to know where and what “that place”  is. The only way your going to find it, is by taking a stand, having an opinion, suggesting a new approach and being prepared for people to disagree with you.  To quietly agree(or disagree) is not going to help you know what you believe in.

It’s funny you know, I’ve always thought that being outspoken is such an ‘American’ thing. We ‘Europeans’ are way too polite to express our views so, well, blunt. Perhaps there is an element of difference in culture, but I don’t think I can hide behind that excuse any more.

Here’s the great thing though,  when you find ‘your place’ you will be a lot more secure and that is going to help you become a better tester.  Why? Because being secure about your place means you don’t have to worry about what other people think. You are less fearful one thing I know for sure:

IF YOU FEAR WHAT OTHERS THINK OF YOU, YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE TO LEARN NEW STUFF

It kind of goes with Elizabeth Hendrikson’s article that says “Not knowing answers isn’t sign of weakness; not asking question is”  Being fearful of looking stupid, prevents you from asking the dumb question. By the way, before you pat yourself on the back about being able to ask ‘dumb questions” I believe its easy to ask the dumb question when your experienced in an area, but try doing it in a field where your not so experienced. It can be a real challenge.

And it can be a real challenge for experienced testers to ask ‘dumb questions’ when they want to appear knowledgeable. I think for wannabee experts this is a real trap. If you try and spend all your time looking like you have the answers,  you put yourself in a situation where you stop asking ‘dumb questions’

Why do I believe all these things, because its what I feel and do sometimes. No often. And its something that it going to change. Now.

So thats why James Bach’s Video resonates so strongly with me.

Thank you James, you have once again been instrumental in my growth as a software tester.

Arghh, what’s that pieces of eight, pieces of eight?