Tag Archives: management

Starting a New Job in Testing

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Thing have been a bit quiet around here. Maybe you’ve noticed it. Maybe you’ve only came to this blog for the first time, from a link from Google or Bing, in which case welcome, and do note the gap in posts. I’ve been busy.

Primarily this has been because I’ve been searching for, and then settling into, a new job in a new company. Starting a new job isn’t easy, be it in testing or any other field, and it’s what you do in the first few months in a new company that can really affect how the rest of your time there goes. Those relationships you make early on, and how you are seen by others matter. It matters a lot.

So, while things are fresh in my mind, here’s some handy hints on what you should consider when starting somewhere new. I’ll be sharing further articles about recruitment, job searching and C.V.’s over the forthcoming months.

All presented with a software testing view.

Talk to people

Probably the most important thing you can do when you start, especially in a testing role. Being a good communicator, with the ability to get on with as many people as possible is very important as a tester. Spend your time searching out the important people, introduce yourself, and find out more about them. Ask them about the company, ask them about how you can work together, and find out what they think about how the company does testing. Those relationships you make early on affect how people see you for a long time. Sure, you won’t be able to remember all their names, but make sure they remember yours. And yes, this does mean talking to more than just testers ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Ask Questions. A lot of questions

Testing is all about questioning a product in order to evaluate it, right? Take the same approach when you start a new job. Ask everything you can think of, no question is too stupid to ask if you don’t know the answer. Often, so much information in a company, is un-documented, and you want to make sure that you can understand the bigger picture, as well as just knowing enough to do your role. As testers we need as broad a view as possible in order to work effectively so make sure that you learn by questioning, and continue to do so. It takes time to settle into a new job but the more questions you ask then the quicker you should be able to feel like you understand company and your role within it. Don’t sit there, feeling blocked because you don’t feel like you can ask something.

 

Be nice

First impressions count. When you first start you meet a lot of people. Every time you meet someone new then that’s a new first impression. Always remember to be nice. Even if you are really an evil tester ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Consider what you are bring to the company

They decided to employ you, there must be a reason, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ Remember that you have good, and relevant, experience that you can bring. It’s easy when you first start, to just spend your time learning the company and your new role. But do not forget that your experience from outside the company could be really useful. Maybe your old company did it’s test automation a particular way or maybe you can see the new company works in a way you helped improve in an old role. It’s often new starters who are in the best position to see improvement areas. Don’t just accept that ‘this is the way its done round here’, and don’t feel afraid to speak up.

 

Ask for feedback

It can be really easy when you start somewhere new to just go into things head down and try and pick everything up at once. Remember that you need to pause and ask for feedback. Make sure that you question your own understanding of things, as you learn them, and regularly ask for feedback from those you work with.

 

Don’t forget to continue focusing outwards as well

When you start at a new company it can be really easy to spend all your time learning your new role. After all, there is a lot to pick up and a lot to learn. It is tiring, but don’t forget what you did before. Since you are reading this then I assume you read software testing blogs at least. Keep active in the testing community and keep learning. That way you can bring not only new ideas from your previous job, but also new ideas from the whole testing community.

 

Enjoy it

It takes a lot of effort when you start a new job. There is a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet. Focus on what attracted you to the new job and don’t forget to enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚

 

A Testers Hierarchy of Needs

As part of my role I manage testers and also those involved in delivery operations. This means thinking not only about testing and test techniques, but also about person management, and the tools and techniques that a good manager uses in order to have a happy and productive team. These two areas should not, of course, be treated in isolation since, in order to have a successful test team, it’s the managers job to ensure that the two areas fit well together. If this can be done in as seamless as possible a way, maybe even without the team members even being aware of it, then my experience tells me that you can hit that sweet spot where the team is technically excellent as well as being the sort of team that testers want to work in, and are proud to work in.

I’ve studied a lot of theories of management in the past but the one that I keep coming back to again and again is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At it’s simplest it seeks to explain the needs of human’s in their most basic form, expressed hierarchically in order of those needs.

So, for example, the theory puts forward the hypothesis that it is most important (and therefore at the bottom of the pyramid) that human’s experience a need for food, water, etc. Safety needs come next, followed by a need for belonging, and so on.

As a manager, keeping this simple theory in mind can really help. I’ve found numerous occasions in the past where it has helped me understand team members actions, and to help ensure the team is working effectively together.

But it has also got my thinking about how one might go about applying Maslow’s Theory of Needs to Testing. More specifically, how a tester in a team or project might experience and visualise those needs, as reflected by their status within the team. This lead me to produce this:

Testers Hierarchy of Needs

Test Mastery is a place I see the respected, happy tester sitting. Probably people like you, who interact and are involved with the software testing community, who self-learn and who are able to articulate the need for testing effectively.

This is just the start of the theory. I’m sure, as a community we can add more to this. What would you add to the different levels and why? Leave a comment below.

 

 

Test Leadership vs. Test Management – Is the Balance Right?

As I’ve blogged about recently, I’ve been recently studying for the Level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute. I’m now three sessions into the four session course, and it’s getting really interesting to see and think about how one might apply general management principles more specifically to the software testing area.

The most recent session was all about Management and Leadership. As part of this we did an exercise where we had to sort out a number of different phrases into groups that either apply to ‘Management’ or ‘Leadership’. No sitting on the fence, no spending hours deciding which to put where, but a quick exercise to make you think. Thereย  were right and wrong answers (although primarily to seed further discussion).

The list, as I saw it, is below. What do you think? Do you agree?

Leadership Management
Enables others Implements and maintains
Inspires vision Focus on systems and structures
Encourages head and heart Adopt short term view
Acts authentically Completes transactions
Asks what and why Asks how and when
Has long range perspective Brings order and coordination
Focuses on doing the right thing Focuses on doing things right
Inspires trust Accomplishes tasks through others
Acts as an innovator Focuses on performance
Challenges Provides stability
Transforms Controls
Committed to the cause Imitates
Gives purpose and meaning Complies
Focus on people

After the exercise I got thinking about how I might apply this more generally to software testing. Specifically to Test Managements vs. Test Leadership, i.e. what separates those who run testing projects, probably as part of the design and delivery of a specific product, vs. those who lead groups and provide inspiration both inside those groups, and to the wider testing community. Are the skills needed in those situations different?

We clearly need within our community those who can challenge and innovate. Right now this is coming mostly from the context-driven community as I see it, where also the vision and long range perspective is clearly evident. These people are driving things along nicely in my opinion. As someone who has recently attending Rapid Software Testing with James Bach then I can say first hand that he’s certainly encouraging head and heart. I don’t need to mention challenging, right?

The question then comes, who is taking things further? Leaders need managers to take their vision and turn it into practice. They need someone who can focus on the short term view, give the control and ensure completion. They need people who implement. As a community do we currently have enough of the managers listening and implementing the vision that our leaders are sharing?

Reversal?

I’ve been studying recently for a Chartered Management Institute Level 5 qualification. As my time in my current role comes to an end then it’s important to make sure that the management activities and experience that I have built up in my 9 years at Nokia is accurately reflected on my C.V. in a way that future recruiters will recognise. But the good thing is that through the course I have also been introduced to some techniques which are new to me, are useful for the future and can be applied to the software testing field as much as anywhere else.

Recently I learnt about a problem solving technique called reversal. It’s nothing new I know, but it appealed to my testers mind. It appealed to the part of me who wants to see how things could be made worse, how faults could be found, and how increased risk could be identified. The sort of mind-set that can equally be applied to software testing situations.

The reversals technique is a basic information based decision making technique. It breaks problem solving down into the following activities:

Identify the situation under study.

  • Consider how the situation could be made worse.
  • Create as many options as possible which will make the situation worse.
  • Reverse the options to identify ways of improving the situation.

As an example, consider a situation where a lack of road capacity has been identified. Using the technique, one could come up with options such as:

  • Close all the motorways.
  • Discourage homeworking.
  • Close alternative transport mechanisms.

Then by reversing these, one could come up with solutions which could improve the situation:

  • Build more motorways.
  • Encourage homeworking.
  • Build more alternative transport mechanisms.

A simple example I know, but you get the picture.

I think we can apply this to software testing as well. I recently read the blog post by Ilari Henrik Aegerter about What you Can Do if your Brain just Refuses to Understand and one addition I’d make to his list would be to consider some problem solving techniques. I find they help me unlock the locked parts of my brain. Reversal is one such technique.

Consider the situation where you know a bug exists but you just cannot reach the root cause. If you’ve run out of options when it comes to reproducing a bug, consider reversal. Think about what really will not cause the bug to happen, what combination of key presses or code paths that won’t help. Then reverse them. Consider a situation where you need to load test a system. What could you do that would actually make it faster? Then reverse them.

Hopefully it gives you a new perspective and another tool in the belt.

 

 

!(Certification) = !(New Job)

There’s a lot said in the testing press and blogs about certification. There’s some well known haters of ISTQB and a few, albeit quieter, exponents. There is of course the training providers shouting loudly about their guarenteed pass rates, how their courses are faster than all the others, and how you won’t survive in testing without the qualifications that you can get from them. Is certification as important as they say? I’m beginning to think that maybe it is, but not for the reasons their sales people present.

Firstly some background. I’m ISEB Foundation and Practitioner certified. I enjoyed the courses which I did with the excellent Grove Consultants a few years ago. OK, the exams were not fun but the courses were. I felt like I learned something and I went along because I wanted to learn. The qualification was good, but secondary. I felt it wasn’t essential. I still feel this way, I’m not an out-and-out ISTQB basher but I feel things are beginning to go too far.

Once I became a team leader, and then a test manager I continued to send people on the courses. Some didn’t want to go, but I felt it was important for them to learn something new, and more importantly to learn the same way, and using the same information, that the rest of the team had already learnt. It gave some consistency. That was useful.

Fast forward a few years. I now have a team of testers and delivery ops people. Times have been hard and training has been hard to come by, by the time these people joined the team there was no training available that would lead to the ISTQB/ ISEB certifications. Has the quality of what we do decreased? Well, no. If anything, we’ve gone out and trained ourselves, trained ourselves, and updated our ways-of-working in even better ways. We are still consistent in our approach, and as a bonus, some people can now train others. Also a good skill. Not getting the ISTQB training has annoyed some, whilst others weren’t bothered at all.

Now my team and I find ourselves in a new situation. Soon we will all lose our jobs as R&D is moved overseas. Suddenly the issue of certification slams itself forward again. Most of the job ads scream ISTQB certified, for recruiters it’s almost the first question asked “Are you ISTQB certified?”. How have we come to this?

I think a lot of the testing community is stuck in a vicious circle. If we get lazy with our recruitment then we quickly fall into a trap of just putting “ISTQB certified” in the “Essential Requirements” section of our job ads. We are the ones who caused the recruiters to ask “Are you ISTQB certified?” Certification within the industry becomes self fulfilling. And those of us recruiting testers don’t necessarily get better testers.

So what’s the solution? More certification? I think all those of us who recruit for software testers need to re-visit what we look for in a tester, to adjust our outlook and our requirements so that we are trying to find those who are good at what they do, not what they have studied. A few years ago I used to run a written interview test for candidates which was based on the ISTQB syllabus. Many of those with the qualification failed.

And to my team, without certification and needing to find new jobs? I’ve sent them on ISTQB courses. It’s only fair, they need the best start they can get in their job searches. But if I find myself in this situation again then I hope that it’s not this way….

* For those of you without any programming knowldge – ! in the title means “Not” ๐Ÿ™‚

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