Category Archives: Experiences

West London Lean Coffee – 9th June

I’m the organiser of the West London Lean Coffee meetup and I thought it would be good to do some short write-ups of the events and an overview of what was discussed. Useful for those who attended and hopefully also for those who didn’t.

lc(If you are wondering what a Lean Coffee is then take a look at the Lean Coffee website to find out more).

 

Topics We Discussed At Lean Coffee

Applying Agile To Non-Software Tasks

A good discussion about how you could apply agile to HR, finance, change management, etc. It got me thinking about this TED talk about how you could use agile to plan your families tasks.

What Is The Easiest Way To Transition To Cross Functional Teams

We got talking about how you could transition teams from being discipline focused, i.e. development team, test team, etc to cross functional agile teams. There’s some good examples in this blog post and also it’s worth thinking about skills mapping as part of the exercise.

Sizing In Points Vs Time

Is it best to size in points or time? Or both? Or neither? We talked about how you might bring two teams together who size differently, why the most important thing about sizing is not the method you use, but the fact that it gets the team to think about the tasks, and how that can help drive commitment.

Topics We Didn’t Get To Talk About

  • PO = Business?
  • Does agile estimation bring value?
  • Idea to bring a good but impersonal team together.

Hope to see everyone next time. If you haven’t been before and fancy coming along then join the meetup group.

Talking About Testing

Have you ever said “I’ll just have a play with the software….”?

As testers we are generally really bad at explaining what we do and the value it brings. In fact we are usually pretty rubbish.

This makes stakeholders take us less seriously, and can affect career prospects, position within the team, or even a job itself. Outsourcing what is perceived to be low skilled work is tempting, especially when times get tough.

We then complain that we are not being taken seriously, and we feel ignored, undervalued and sad.

And so we retreat into our bubbles and the whole thing repeats itself.

So How Can We Change This?

We can get better at explaining what we do and the value we bring as testers.

Keith Klain sums it up nicely here

What is Testing?

“Testing is the infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous”

James Bach

A great definition but not one that lands well with non-testers in my experience. It’s like when myself and Dan Ashby tried to get a company to stop saying ‘manual testing’ and instead say ‘sapient testing’. It made perfect sense but it just didn’t land. People didn’t see it as important. They didn’t see a need to change because we were trying to take a leap that was too large, from what they thought was correct language to what we thought was correct language.

When I’m explaining testing I prefer to start by asking “Do you care about quality?” The usual answer is “of course”, in which case I can then use the Weinberg/ Bach/ Bolton definition:

“Quality is value, to some person who matters”

“So what’s testing then?” they will ask.

Well.  “Testing helps us uncover risks to product quality. It’s about investigating software, in order to discover those risks, enabling others to make decisions about whether it’s suitable for release”.

We Need to Talk More Technically

But that is hard. Just see how complicated it is to explain the Heuristic Test Strategy Model in two minutes for example.

(OK – I know the whole point with this video is that it is impossible, which proves a point I think :))

What Value Do We Bring?

When explaining value, it’s all about the words we use, and the angle we take. It’s about the audience – don’t explain testing to a developer in the same way as you would to the CTO.

Again, Keith Klain nails it with this talk.

So, think very carefully about how you explain your testing. Perhaps, just perhaps, ‘playing with the software’ isn’t what you mean.

So – how do you talk about testing?

A Christmas Retro

Ho, ho. ho, Merry Christmas!

At this time of year it’s a great opportunity to sit down with a team and reflect on the year that has been, and to look forward to the year to come. And being Christmas then it’s also a great opportunity to look a bit silly, dress up in Christmas hats and jumpers and have a  bit of fun.

With that in mind, I decided to organise a Christmas retro for the team I’m working in. We are responsible for a brand new product  which launched this year, so we’ve had a very busy, very exciting and very experimental year. Getting the team together to reflect on that year was very important.

The Idea For a Christmas Retro

My first step was to look round for inspiration for Christmas themed retros. Had anything like this ever been attempted before? Fortunately I was in luck, both Em Campbell-Pretty and David Manske have both written about a great way to run a retro at Christmas, based upon the Dicken’s book ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Em’s blog article, where she applied the technique to a large group was my first inspiration, and then I stumbled upon David’s article as well, which helped to add some more details, and was helpful for the smaller (15 people) group that I work with.

Basically speaking, the idea is that you base the retro around the ideas of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. In A Christmas Carol, the main character, Scrooge, is visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve who show him how Christmas was, how it is presently for others who rely upon him. and how Christmas will be, were he to continue on his current path. It’s a great book and I’d definitely recommend reading it. Or, watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. It’s great 🙂

present

Adapting It For a Retro

Since the Muppets theme seemed to be a fun way of introducing the idea of the Christmas Carol retro format then I went with that. The team love Muppets.

Adapting the story to use in the retro was pretty straight-forward and heavily based on Em and David’s ideas. In order to get the team thinking about everything that had happened throughout the year then myself and our Product Owner prepared a set of posters, one per month of the year and then pinned them up on the wall of the room where the retro was to be held. It was pretty amazing to look back at everything that the team had achieved throughout the year. We focused on delivered work; features, numbers of tickets, etc, and then interspersed this with press cuttings from the year that mentioned our products, team details and fun stuff, such as number of Percy Pigs sweets eaten, etc. Which is important to this team, believe me 🙂

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We also bought lots of Christmas hats, food and even a Father Christmas beard for yours truly, then invited the team into the room to start the retro.

Christmas Past

past

For Christmas past we got the team to look back at the year and then think about whether there was anything that they regretted or wish had gone differently. They wrote these on post-it notes and kept them to themselves.

Christmas Present

present2

Next I explained the idea of Christmas Present, and encouraged the team to think about what had gone well throughout the year, what had made them feel good, and who in the team they would like to thank for helped with particular pieces of work. Again, they wrote these on post-its.

Christmas Yet To Come

yettocome

The third piece, Christmas Yet To Come, was about the hopes for the next year, What did they want for the team, themselves and our product? The idea was to get them thinking about future priorities and to work on putting together a short list of what we, as a team, think is important for the future.

How It Went

So the stage was set, people were wearing silly hats and eating Christmas food. More importantly they could also see how much we had achieved throughout the year, and they were thinking about how we could work in the future.

The Grinch

grinch_by_crazymic-d6yvfkp

Once everyone had written down their thoughts on Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come I introduced a fourth category, The Grinch. This was an idea that David explains in his blog post and the intention was to get them thinking about what could happen to us, as a team, that could threaten next Christmas. Essentially  it was about identifying project and team risk. So everyone also had a think about that and wrote down their ideas.

The Retro

We then went through Christmas Past, Present and Future, and The Grinch in turn.

For Christmas Past everyone was expecting to come and pin up their post-its, rather like a usual retro. But instead, being Christmas, it was time to let go of regrets and so I encouraged everyone to tear up their post-its and throw them away. When I was planning the retro I wasn’t sure how people would react this – would they view this as a waste of their time in writing the regrets down in the first place? It turned out they didn’t – after much hilarity with people throwing post-it’s at each other, the feedback was good, with some people saying that the idea of throwing away regrets rather than sharing them, was the best part of the retro.

For Christmas Present and Future everyone came up in turn and discussed what they had written on their post-it’s. People thanked each other for work that they had helped on. We talked through trends and actions that could be taken from what had been discussed. This gave everyone a great view on where we are as a team and where we want to be going.

For The Grinch we talked through the risks that everyone saw, and how we could deal with these in the next year.

From all of this we were, as a team, able to decide on what was important to us going forward; with actions that were both product focused, and also team focused, such as organising more social events and sharing the responsibility for doing so.

Merry Christmas

We finished by thanking the team for what they had done and explained how they should all be very proud of what they had achieved throughout the year. Then it was time to go off on our team Christmas event offsite.

Overall I think that this retro format works very well. By combining something seasonal, fun and focused, it made looking back on a whole year much easier and more exciting than a more traditional retro format would have done. The format engaged people and made it easier to share experiences.

And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like wearing silly hats and Christmas jumpers once in a while? 🙂

Nordic Testing Days – Weekend Testing Europe

Weekend Testing

I’ve just finished watching an excellent presentation by Neil Studd about how he, Amy Phillips and Dan Billing resurrected Weekend Testing Europe.

I mind-mapped the session and I thought you might find it useful so here it is 🙂

Weekend Testing Mindmap

Hopefully you enjoy it. I’ve done a couple of Weekend Testing Sessions and really enjoyed them so I recommend everyone tries it out.

There’s much more information on Weekend Testing Europe and how to get involved here.

A Coaching Cafe Service Menu

I’ve just finished speaking at Nordic Testing Days about my journey from Test Manager to Test Coach and beyond.

As I mentioned in the presentation, as coaches we started to generate a pull for our services by using a coaching menu. Since some people asked me after the presentation about what that was, then I thought I’d make it available for all.

So here it is 🙂 Hope you find it useful.

Stephen Janaway | Coaching menu

West London Lean Coffee 28th May

We had a great lean coffee session this morning, in the excellent surroundings of Carluccio’s cafe in Westfield. A mix of topics and a mix of new people and regulars, meant that we had a very varied set of discussions.

lean coffee

Here’s what we talked about, and what we didn’t get time to talk about. Come along next time and we may get to talk about some of those un-discussed topics, plus I’m sure a whole lot of new one’s.

IMG_20150528_085242

Discussed
  • How to get buy-in at the very top.
  • Social media – a sales channel or a communication channel.
  • Is there still a need for project management?
  • Sprint planning with cross-functional teams.
  • How to manage unplanned work on a scrum project?
For Next Time?
  • Are testers living in a bubble?
  • Are public beta’s a good idea?
  • Business development and networking – how to follow-up?
  • Does having BA’s encourage absentee product owners?
  • How to achieve a stable pace of delivery throughout a project.
  • How to create a simple CRM.

The next #leancoffee will be on Thursday 25th June at 8:30am in Carluccio’s Westfield. Hope to see you there.

More details and to signup – http://www.meetup.com/Lean-Coffee-London/events/221705038/

A Testers Portfolio

portfolio

I’ve been recruiting for both testers and developers recently and one thing that struck me was the difference between the two disciplines when it came to a body of work.

As a developer you are nothing these days without a Github account. It’s expected that you have one, that it has code in it 🙂 and that an interviewer will take a look. So much so that most developers will gladly advertise their account and repo’s on their CV.

In my most recent piece of testing recruitment I was looking for an exploratory tester and a tester with more automation skills. One automation tester was able to give me a link to her Github account; this was the first time this has happened to me when interviewing testers and was a positive thing to see. None of the exploratory testers I interviewed showed me any links to previous work; now this does not necessarily make those testers better or worse of course. However, as Rob Lambert has talked in his recent series of blog posts and e-book about ‘Remaining Relevant’, as a candidate, you need to stand out, and having a body of work can really help.

For testing it’s a bit different.

So this got me thinking – why is it that testers don’t traditionally have a portfolio?

Is it because more testers are 9-5’ers?

There could be an element of truth here, perhaps there are more testers who are less motivated by their work, with testing being a job they have fallen into rather than a career. If one is not motivated by a job then one is far less likely to want to do whatever is required to remain in that career area.

Are developers more motivated to share their work?

Perhaps there’s a bit of pride in sharing something that one has created that testers don’t have so much. For testers involved in automation, particularly framework design, then there’s something to share, but this isn’t the more general case.

Do they have more to share?

I’d wouldn’t say so, it’s just what is shared is different.

Is it more difficult to build and maintain a body of work as a tester?

I think it is. Since testing is much less about creation then it does make things more difficult. But it’s far from impossible.

What could you do if you want a portfolio of work?

Myself and Dan Ashby touched upon the idea of a testers portfolio in the recent two episodes of Testing In the Pub, where we talked about recruitment. The idea is that, as a tester, you have this body of work, either built up through your day-to-day work, or from experiences in the wider testing community, that can really help you to stand out from your peers, and help when you want to make your next career move.

You may be able to directly share what you are working on at work, but this is frequently not the case. Getting involved outside of work can instead be one key way of building up a portfolio. For example you could consider:

Writing for Blogs and Magazines

Maybe your company has a tech blog. Why not write for that? Or magazines, whether printed or online are always looking for articles. Don’t think that you have nothing to write about – all experience is relevant and there’s some great people in the testing community who will help you edit an article. You just need the idea, and an ability to type 🙂

Starting Your Own Blog

Sometimes you just want to publish something, or you want to say something that’s free from any editorial tone. Start your own blog, it’s really easy and free if you use something like Blogger or WordPress. It’s also great for raising your visibility, especially if you get your blog featured on sites like Software Testing Club or Test Huddle. Add it to the directories.

Talking At Conferences and Meet-ups

Have an idea, submit a proposal, get it accepted and then panic 🙂 But seriously, talking at a conference is a great way of sharing your knowledge, raising your profile, and getting noticed. It’s daunting at first, slightly daunting even when you’ve done it before, but also really rewarding. Conference speaking looks great in a portfolio.

Sharing Your Presentations On Slideshare

Whenever you talk, take time to upload your slides to a sharing site like Slideshare. This makes them available to all and makes you far more visible to search engines like Google. Which it turn helps you build a portfolio of work.

Pulling It Altogether

Pulling it altogether means that you build up a single portfolio. This can take place on your own website or blog and these are easy and free to put together. If you don’t mind a few advertisments then a free WordPress site is a great way to start and you can easily use a theme which makes it look more like a website than a blog.

I have also found that about.me is a good place to consolidate your information together and is widely known. Let’s also not forget about LinkedIn, although I find that it’s better to keep my body of knowledge linked to LinkedIn rather than on the site itself, which allows for more flexibility.

Having a personal brand is an often overlooked but very important differentiator when looking for a new role. It won’t make up for a lack of relevant technical or social skills, but it will help you to stand out from other, similar, candidates.

So think about your portfolio. What would you include?

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Update

Thanks everyone who has commented, either here or on Twitter. There have been some great suggestions on other ways you can form a portfolio as a tester. For example:

  • Use Github to store useful resources. It doesn’t have to be code. Thanks to Alan Richardson for the link to this pentest example.
  • Test an OS project that is stored on Github – thanks Michael Bolton, and also @xrisfg.
  • Taking part in activities such as Weekend Testing, podcasting, etc – thanks Dan Billing.

And thanks to everyone who commented below. I’m glad people found the article useful.