Tag Archives: experiences

My Experiences of WeTest 2016

tl:dr;

I really loved being a part of WeTest 2016. I gave the opening keynote at both conferences, as well as a couple of other talks at sponsor events. If you came to any of them then this post contains some useful links you may want to read. It was great to meet so many engaged and knowledgeable testers in New Zealand.

The Opening

I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to travel over to New Zealand and talk at the WeTest 2016 conferences in Auckland and Wellington. I mentioned my conference speaking goal as part of my presentation at both events – this was that one day someone would invite me to speak in New Zealand. And Katrina Clokie, on behalf of WeTest did just that earlier in the year. It didn’t take long for me to agree to be a part of the conference and being offered the opening keynote was a real privilege.

Now there is one thing that’s clear and that is that it is a long way to New Zealand (28 hours to be precise from the UK). So I wanted to ensure that I made the most out of my short time there and to give a presentation that fitted in with the conference theme of “Influence and Inspire”. Given that I have made a move out of a pure test role over the last few years then this seemed like a logical theme for the presentation, and an opportunity for me to give my views, gained from outside of testing, on how testing is perceived. I also wanted to show the audiences that there’s important leadership roles within testing to be taken and made the most of.

Preparation and Arrival For WeTest

I can say without a doubt that WeTest was the best organised conference that I have spoken at and it’s testament to the effort put in by Katrina, Aaron, Shirley and Dan. All too often presenters at conferences aren’t treated brilliantly by organisers – either by having a lack of support leading up to the event, being expected to pay their own way or by needing to foot the bill for travel and accommodation then claim back. WeTest was different – they organised and paid for all travel up front and sent detailed itineraries for each speaker, plans on how the conference rooms were to be setup, as well as ensuring that the simple things like a taxi to pick you up off a long haul flight was pre-arranged. It made the whole experience easy and it made us speakers feel valued. Other conferences should take note.

A really appreciated gift at checkin. WeTest was a great example of how to run a conference
A really appreciated gift from the organisers, handed out at hotel check in. WeTest was a great example of how to run a conference.

Up and Away?

My presentation focused on my views of testing from outside of just testing and how I made a move into software management and why. It was part of a clearly well thought out programme and the other presentations, whether focused on more technical aspects such as mobile testing, or other leadership presentation, fitted together really well. You can see the programme here to get a feel.

Great sketch notes of my presentation from Yvonne Tse
Great sketch notes of my presentation from Yvonne Tse

Highlights

People arriving for WeTest in Auckland
People arriving for WeTest in Auckland

I thought all the presentations were good but a particular highlight for me was Adam Howard’s “Exploratory Testing Live” where Adam took the really brave step of doing live exploratory testing on the Trade Me website in front of a conference audience. Fair to say it went a bit better in Wellington than Auckland, where he found a bug early on that blocked a lot of the rest of the session but he coped really well and there was value in both sessions. We don’t see enough live testing at testing conferences, it’s common to get live coding at development ones but hasn’t seemed to catch on. Based upon Adam’s session then it should.

Also I really enjoyed Joshua Raine’s really personal story about “Conservation of Spoons” which he did as a noslides presentation. Deeply personal at times and spell binding. I won’t give you the details because I’m sure he’ll do this one again and to know the story would spoil it.

A New Approach to Q&A

As part of my presentation I thought I’d try out the new Q&A feature in Google Slides. It turned out that this was a good move because it enabled me to get questions from the audience as I talked and also to keep a record of all of them for later. If you speak at conferences I’d really recommend it.

For those of you who attended then here’s the questions asked, my responses, and a little more information.

What do you most miss about your testing focused roles?

I guess I miss being the expert with the safety of many years of experience of testing. I also make sure I keep connected to the testing community because it’s great and if I didn’t then that would be the biggest thing that I’d miss.

It’s hard to find a balance between adapting and burning out when trying keep up with new trends and technologies. Do you have suggestions on how to manage that balance?

I make sure I do one thing well; that together with Jerry Weinberg’s Lump Law – “If we want to learn anything, we mustn’t try to learn everything” help me to maintain a balance. Trying to find the one thing to focus on is sometimes hard, but by discussing with your stakeholders and your team then you can usually come to find out what is the most important.

Do you have any resources/suggestions for learning to speak ‘Dev’?

There’s not one clear answer to this – it depends on your context, languages and architecture that you are dealing with. When I started then I tended to use google a lot and base my searches on discussions I’d had with the dev’s in my team. I’d also ask them what they thought I should be learning and why. I’ve also found sites like Hacker News and Stack Overflow to be great for keeping up with what’s happening. Talking Code also comes recommended.

Was your career path in the same company or different? Would you suggest to change companies or progress in one?

It was in the same company and I think it’s much easier to make a change from one path to another when you are in the same company. You have that reputation to use and you are a known quantity. It’s also likely that you’d been working towards such a change as part of your personal development anyway so the company will be confident in your plans.

Since we are talking about change, at any given point during those career changes did you resist the change? How did you over come that? Were you specifically looking for change?

I talked about how it can be scary to make changes but trying something new for 6 months is key. You need to understand that you will go through a change curve just like anyone else and things will feel extremely uncertain as a result at the beginning. I knew what to expect since I’ve been through other changes.

In this case I wasn’t specifically looking for change, more for an opportunity.

Thank you for the nice talk If you had to recommend doing ONE PRACTICAL exercise to raise awareness with the team that WE ALL own quality – what would it be?

I like the idea of whole team testing and bug bashes are a great way of starting.

What do you think testing will be like in 10 years time?

I think we’ll see less traditional testing roles and the focus on automated checking will become more of a development activity. This may mean that there are less testing roles in total but good, exploratory, coaching testers will always have a place in teams. I think the biggest change will affect Test Managers, with far less of a need for them and a transition to coaching roles.

How do you avoid being typecast as just being a tester and overlooked for other career opportunities?

Show that you have an interest to others in your company. Work with your manager to map out your path to a new role and start to show that you are learning the skills that will be required in order to be successful at it.

In short – you own the responsibility for your own career.

A lot of people in this company are transitioning from Waterfall to Agile. Some of the people in the room might gain from you talking to how you see that transition working from the experience you bring, especially if they’re concerned about career development and management.

It does depend a lot on how the management structure adapts. In agile transitions that I have been a part of we’ve changed to autonomous, cross-functional teams with single managers, who have been supported by coaches for both agile, testing and development. This support network is key, as is the establishment of discipline based communities. A strong testing community for example, allows testers whose roles are changing to adapt.

I’ve spoken before about the effect of removing Test Managers from an organisation and the biggest takeaway for me was the need for a strong support network for testers afterwards.

Support from coaches allows not only testers to be supported but also means that someone with testing experience becomes responsible for establishing career paths, competency expectations, etc that can then be used by other managers who are not experienced in managing testers. It also helps maintain a ‘voice of testing’ towards senior management and to enable activities that help testers grow within an organisation.

And Repeat…

Parimala Hariprasad is full flow!
Parimala Hariprasad in full flow!

The first conference was in Auckland and we repeated the experience again in Wellington three days afterwards. This meant that the whole WeTest circus upped sticks and set off for Wellington for a repeat performance. I also did an “Understand Your Mobile Users” presentation at a sponsor the night before, plus the same WeTest presentation at a sponsors internal conference the day afterwards. Four presentations in one week was something new to me and actually pretty interesting to do as I got into the speed of things. It almost felt like being in a band on tour 🙂

Closing Thoughts

WeTest was great. I met some great people and learnt some new things. It was extremely well run by a passionate bunch of volunteers who knew how to treat their speakers well and how to organise a great programme for the conferences. The testing community in New Zealand is really engaged and it’s clear that there’s some really forward looking testers pushing the boundaries here. If you get yourself over to New Zealand then I’d certainly recommend it. It’s not that far. Really 🙂

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?

Live From SoftTest – Transforming Business Users Into Test Drivers

A really interesting presentation and case study from Claire Goss.

IMG_0605

Using real users is a really important change that’s happening in testing in general, and it’s great to see where it’s worked.

Here’s my mindmap: Transforming Business Users Into Test Drivers

There’s some close links to a presentation I saw from Katrina Clokie at Nordic Testing Days so it’s worth looking at that too.

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.

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/

TestBash – The Friendly Conference

It’s taken a while to write this. Not because I don’t have a head full of new ideas from TestBash but simply because it’s taken time to digest everything, put everything into a sensible order in my head, and come to come conclusions about the day.

If you hate long blog post then just read this bit 🙂

The Condensed Version

TestBash is great. It’s one of the friendliest conferences I’ve been to – people talk to each other, most people are really engaged in what they do, and it’s really easy to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger about something that you’ve seen or experienced. You should go if you haven’t already. Plus they video everything (and hopefully it’ll be online here soon).

The Long Version

Still here? Then read on….

I was lucky this year – I had the opportunity to speak again. Last time, in 2013, I was petrified. This time I’d spoken at a few more conferences and so I was altogether more calm and collected. From a personal point of view, one of the main reasons this was great was that it meant I focused more on the presentations that were on before mine. In 2013 I couldn’t tell you much about any of them. This time more of them went into my head 🙂

As usual I tried to write some mindmaps as the presentations took place. One great thing about TestBash is that there is only one track – and this means no difficult decisions about who to see, or annoying clashes. And from a presenters point of view it means you know how many people you will present to, i.e. everyone 🙂

So, here goes, my take on the day and what I saw.

Lean Coffee

If you come to TestBash and you don’t get up early and go to the Lean Coffee then you are really missing out. In fact more this time, there was also bacon 🙂 I love Lean Coffee, it’s a great way for people to get together and talk about what interests the group. We had some great discussion on a variety of testing topics and the whole event was really well attended this year, with lots of tables full of happy testers.

Then it was time to head on into the main auditorium for a day of talks.

 The Rapid Software Testing Guide to What You Meant To Say – Michael Bolton

I started off trying to mindmap Michael’s presentation and then remembered why I don’t try and write mindmaps for Michael’s presentations 🙂 There’s so much information that it’s much better to sit back, watch, and then wait for slides or videos afterwards. In this presentation Michael took us through a whole bunch of statements on testing and software development, then dissected them, put them into Rapid Software Testing context, then reassembled them to show what should have been said. There was some great stuff in there – watch the video from the TestBash website when it is available. If you want to see a very small mindmap then here it is 🙂

What you meant to say

Bug Detection – Iain McCowatt

Iain always gives a good presentation and in this one he took us through bug detection, from the perspective of tacit and explicit knowledge, the work of Harry Collins, and Dual Process Theory. Click on the thumbnail to get a full sized mindmap.

Bug detection

 

Re-running the ‘Are you a mac or a PC? battle … for iOS and Android – Sally Goble & Jon Hare-Winton

Sally and Jon from The Guardian took us through an entertaining presentation about the differences between iOS and Android, and how The Guardian approach mobile testing as a result. There were some interesting points in the presentation, and I really liked the gameification in the presentation as well, even if it did end up as a draw 🙂 Given more time then it would have been great to have seen some more detailed mobile testing information, but it was a fun presentation nonetheless.

Click on the thumbnail to get a full sized mindmap.

Mobile testing

 

What’s In a Name? Experimenting With Testing Job Titles – Martin Hynie

I’d not met Martin before TestBash but got talking to him at the tester meetup the night before. His presentation was fascinating and explained how he had experimented with job titles and the effect that it had on how testing and testers were perceived. The results he presented were really interesting and certainly made me think more about what job titles and names really mean. I’m sure we’d all like to think that being called testers is great and people will always accept the value we know we bring, but perhaps that is not always the case.

I didn’t mindmap Martin’s presentation. It was before mine 🙂

Why I Lost My Job As a Test Manager and What I Learnt As a Result – Stephen Janaway

I spoke about my experiences of losing my job as a Test Manager. and shared my experiences of going through the transition. Being someone who now works in an organisation where there are no Test Managers meant that I was able to give my take on the future of Test Management, a future that I think does not, and probably will not, include the Test Management role in the way that it does today. I spoke about the changes that the organisation made in order to keep a focus on testing; things like test communities, a coaching role, and mentoring.

No mindmap obviously. I was busy 🙂 If you’d like to see the presentation then there will be a video on the TestBash website but why not come and see it live? I’ll be presenting a longer version at both Nordic Testing Days and EuroSTAR this year.

Myths and Legends of Software Testing – Vernon Richards

The legend that is TesterFromLeicester confronted some of the myths that we all experience as part of testing. With added tutu gags. Vernon gave us some great ways of confronting common myths and challenging those who share them. Watch the video – it’s great.

Quality doesn’t belong with the tester! – Maaret Pyhäjärvi

Maaret gave a really interesting presentation on how she has tested in a team with one tester. She gave some great hints and tips, and explained how her approach changed as a sole tester, and how the developers also approached quality as a result.

Getting Rid of Release Candidate Testing – Matthew Heusser

Matt’s presentation really interested me because we’d gone through the same transition in the past year and so I’d seen the arguments for and against. Primarily it was the testers who were more concerned about getting rid of release testing, and so it was interesting to see Matt’s take. I also liked his presentation style, using no prepared slides but drawing them on a iPad as he went. Really unique and it worked.

Click on the mindmap to get a larger version.

Getting rid of release testing

Automation in Testing – Richard Bradshaw

Richard took us all through his experiences in automation. I found it really interesting that he had first tried to ‘automate everything’ before understanding more about the differences between checking and testing, and how automation should be used to add value to software testing, not ‘be’ software testing. I didn’t get the chance to mindmap Richards presentation so take a look at the video when it’s available.

The Art of Asking Questions – Karen Johnson

We finished up the presentations with Karen, who sat on the stage and quietly and confidently gave us some great advice. She explained about how to ask questions, gave us a lot of really useful reading material, and explained in lots of details why asking questions in the right way is so important. You can find her slides on Slideshare and I’d really recommend reading them and following the links.

And the Rest

The 99 second talks were really great as usual. A real mix of topics, delivery styles and delivery. If you haven’t presented before then 99 second talks are a great way to get started and seeing so many new people up there and speaking was good to see.

Overall I love TestBash. It’s a conference that is so friendly. There’s lots of social events, it’s single track which means everyone sees the same presentations, and the lunch really helps to get people together. If you went this year then you’ll know how good it was. If you didn’t then why not? You should go next year. You won’t be disappointed.

You reached the bottom. Here’s your ‘prize’. TestBash makes people feel like this sometimes.

testbash

EuroSTAR 2014 – Day 3

This is the third part of my review of EuroSTAR 2014. You can also read about day 1 and day 2 in the previous posts.

Day 3

After a late night at the Gala party (well I had just presented at EuroSTAR so I reckon a celebration was in order) then I’m ashamed to say I missed the first keynote of the day. From what I hear it was good 🙁

My next session was ‘Stylish Mobile Testing’ with Dan Ashby and Nehir Yelkovan. I know both Dan and Nehir well – myself and Dan do the Testing In the Pub podcast together and I work with Nehir. So missing their presentation was not an option. I’d have gone along even if I hadn’t known them, the topic of the session being around mobile testing. It was a good session; they passed on lots of useful hints and tips on mobile testing and got a great double act going on.

wpid-wp-1418046411188.jpeg

After watching Rene Tuinhout talk about Passionate Dating for Testers (a talk I’d seen Rene do at the Romanian Testing Conference where it was just as funny), I settled down in the auditorium for the final keynote from Zeger Van-Hesse. My notes are below:

IMG_20141203_084836

Following the keynote, and the announcement of the EuroSTAR 2015 chair and venue (congratulations to Ruud Teunissen and let’s hope we meet in Maastricht) then then there was a decision to make. Workshop or do-over session?

I chose the do-over session, an excellent idea from the conference organisers, whereby the attendees get to vote on what session they would like to see again. This year it was won by Declan O’Riordan. Declan has had a great year, after doing his first talk at SIGIST, straight after me in fact) then he’s spoken at a number of events and also won the best paper award at EuroSTAR this year. His talk about the ‘Why, Why, Who, How of Security Testing’ was in parts exciting, parts scary and really informative. A great final session.

IMG_20141203_084845

Overall

This year’s EuroSTAR was a great event. It’s well run by a really passionate group, both the organising committee and the conference organisers themselves. The mix of speakers and topics meant that there was real variety and something different from last year. Congratulations to all who spoke, all who organised, and all who contributed in some way. I really hope I can make it back next year.

EuroSTAR 2014 – Day 1

I didn’t know what to expect from this year’s EuroSTAR conference. I’d only been once before, and so I wasn’t sure how much a different programme chair and committee, and a new venue itself would make a difference to the EuroSTAR experience. In addition I had the added pressure of being lucky enough to speak at the conference as well.

Fortunately none of the changes made a difference. It was a great conference, with some excellent speakers, fun things to do when the talks weren’t happening, and lots of opportunity to meet old friends and make new one’s. Paul Gerrard, the programme committee and the EuroSTAR conference organisers did a great job booking a varied programme and a well organised event.

Prologue

I arrived in Dublin on Sunday which meant that I was able to make it along to the early registration. This is a great idea which I hope happens next year, as well as being able to pick-up all the usual conference materials, T-shirt, etc early to save queuing, it also meant that those of us who had arrived early could easily get out and meet people. I had a great discussion with a couple of guys from Ericsson which brought back memories of my earlier career there. I was then lucky enough to bump into a number of people I knew as well. Dinner with Declan O’Riordan and Karen Johnson then followed, at which we had some excellent discussions about testing, contracting and life in general.

IMG_20141123_180430
The conference centre looked very impressive

I spent Monday sightseeing. As an ex Nokian it was great to see this 🙂

IMG_20141124_092610
Someone really needs to update their advertising…

Day 1

Day 1 started with the keynote from Andy Stanford-Clark. I really enjoyed it and it certainly made me think more about the Internet of Things, and the challenge it causes for testers. And also how I could automate my house 🙂

IMG_20141125_142120

I followed this up with Amy Phillips talk about Testing In the World of Start-ups. I’ve recently started working with a team who are effectively in start-up mode and it was very useful to hear Amy’s experiences from Songkick. The main thing I took away was that the testers role within a start-up is very different to a larger company, with a more varied skill-set required and potentially less actual testing. I feel this is the way that testing is going these days anyway, slowly but surely.

IMG_20141125_154005

My next session was from Rikard Edgren who presented about Trying To Teach Testing Skills and Judgement. It was an excellent talk, dealing with Rikard’s experience of training testers. He’s also produced a white paper with a lot more detail, that I’m going to read.

IMG_20141125_164205

The final keynote of the day was from Rob Lambert. Rob talked about Continuous Delivery and DevOps and gave us his experiences from New Voice Media. It was a good talk and built upon previous talks I’ve seen Rob do, giving more detail.

IMG_20141125_172402

Here’s my notes from the session.

IMG_20141203_084710

Then it was time to learn how to pour some Guinness 🙂

IMG_20141125_185014
Well we are in Dublin after all…

Interviewed for Computer Weekly

I was recently interviewed for Computer Weekly, about the test strategy at Net-a-Porter, and my forthcoming talk at the Next Generation Testing Conference. It was an interesting experience and not one that I have done before.

I spoke about why I believe that Testing As An Activity is important, and why we should all test. The old axiom that “Testers Test and Programmers Code” is so outdated now and everyone needs to change. Testers are the testing experts in a team, and can help enable the whole team to own quality but they are certainly not the only one’s who should be testing.

You can read the interview itself over on the Computer Weekly site, and you can find the slides from the presentation at the Next Generation Testing conference over on Slideshare.

Episode 7 of Testing In The Pub Is Now Available

Episode 7 of the software testing podcast that I record with Dan Ashby is now available. In this episode we talk about the idea of ‘schools of testing’ and compare and contrast approaches such as those from the ISTQB and context-driven communities.

You can download it from the site, via RSS or it’ll shortly be in iTunes as usual.