27 January 2013

The year I became a passionate tester, part VI

The only (but really cool) event that occurred was Securitas Direct/Verisure's christmas party. It was hosted in their beautiful office in Malmö. Can't say I'm jealous, I mean, who wants a workspace with ocean view in three directions? Well, maybe, at least I got over it and had a great time with future colleagues, including one of the two guys who'll be on my dream team in Linköping (not putting pressure on anyone). The only new year's resolution I'll make by the way is coming dressed up next year (costume party).

Apart from that, December was mainly a month of reflection, Twitter and family life. Via Twitter I started to get in contact with some really cool testers like Jari Laakso, Kristoffer Nordström and Jean-Paul Varwijk. Via reflections I started to grasp/understand/better appreciate my progress as a tester this year (reason for this blog post series) as well as wrap up the work done by me and my colleague at Ericsson. Cool things that need separate post(s) to really do them justice.

Wrap up of 2012
So, 2012 was an amazing year, when it started I considered testing being an activity that mainly demanded endurance, patience and the ability very rigorously read technical documents (all skills/traits/knowledges I'm definitely not famous for, at least not in a good way). Now when 2012 has come to an end I value a whole bunch of other skills/traits/knowledges instead like observation, creativity, general system knowledge, analysis and communication. I now find testing adventurous and exciting rather than a repetitive routine work.

I've also met a ton of amazing people! Some have been thanked already but of course there are tons of you who I've not even mentioned. I will not attempt to list you all, instead THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, HAVE HELPED ME ON MY JOURNEY!

Some special mentions left to do:

EAST is a local open network (Linköping area) for testers, started by Johan Jonasson and Johan Åtting. When I started to look at its role in all this I realized:
  • EAST was the place there I got convinced I needed to attend RST.
  • EAST was the reason I picked up LinkedIn and without LinkedIn I would not had come in contact with Maria Kedemo (new job).
  • Speaking about job, I met Johan Åtting via EAST, that was the other amazing job offer this year.
  • EAST was one of the big reasons I started blogging (first test related post is about my first EAST meetup).
  • Johan Jonasson, Johan Åtting, Joel Rydén and other EAST participants have all been role models and sources of inspiration, key to last year's events.
  • EAST became the crucial link between the testing world existing at my work and the testing world existing in the rest of the world.
I could go on but let's just say I'm forever grateful for EAST and I hope I can inspire/help other participants to start similar journeys. Thanks to all who have participated or in other ways contributed!

Starting 2012, blogging to me it was more or less just a poor narcissistic attempt to make something hopelessly uninteresting, interesting or it was something used by the top elite within a business to share their ultimate knowledge about something. At the end of 2012 I tell everyone who wants to progress to blog, not for anyone else's sake (that day will hopefully come) but for their own personal development. Blogging has taught me the value of reflection, greatly improved my ability to put thoughts into words (which is essential to understand, analyse and explain something), it has generated new perspectives, changed priorities or given me a more sensible view on some things, it has improved my English, my writing skills and my "technical storytelling".

Later when some of my blog posts became interesting to other testers it became a great way of getting in contact with other testers, getting feedback and acting as a portfolio. From my heart I urge you to try it out, not, to repeat myself, to become famous but to develop yourself!

I undertook an amazing adventure at work that just didn't fit the format of this series. It didn't include dragons, fairies and elves but, considering how we traditionally have worked with testing, it sometimes felt just as exotic. Some day I'll blog about it but for now I just want to thank my other partner in crime, Saam Eriksson, a passionate, smart tester I hope will continue and further improve our work now when I leave Ericsson (3 working days left). You've meant a lot to me and my development this year Saam, thank you!

Everything comes with a price, dearie
24 hours a day, that's one of few hard constraints we have in life. During these hours we should rest, eat, take care of family and friends, work, take care of ourselves, develop/follow dreams, follow through on commitments, manage everyday activities (pay bills, clean up, get to and from work etc.)... and probably other things I've missed. This constrain is a huge pain in the butt, especially if you, like me, have very many things you love and want to explore.

A few thoughts and lessons from 2012 about managing this puzzle:
  • If you have kids, make sure you put them in the center of the puzzle.
  • The puzzle won't (in a good way) solve itself when there is an overflow of activities.
  • Each piece can be optimized (value/quality per time unit) by observing, reflecting, analyzing and prioritizing, but you need a balance there as well (premature optimization is the root of all evil, you know).
  • The usually extrovert me quickly becomes introvert (not in the positive way) when I don't feel I have enough "me-time" and that affects all parts of my life.
  • It's easy to be blinded by your own passion but don't forget there are other things in life like friends, family and yourself.
I survived the end of the world, here I come 2013!
This year couldn't have come to a better start as my two fantastic boys got the most amazing little sister 11:10pm, January 1st.

Things I know will happen 2013:

Things I feel motivated to do now and thus might do during 2013:
  • BBST Foundation course
  • Reclaim my presentational skills
  • Connect with more testers on Skype
  • Figure out how to get more out of reading (or start prioritizing other learning activities over reading)
  • Be a speaker at some testing conference
  • Try Skype coaching (as a student, had a taste of it thanks to Peksi)

Things I aim to continue with:
  • Be an active blogger
  • Be active in EAST
  • Practice/play/experiment with testing
  • Experiment with my learning
  • Meet more testers in person

Finally, and foremost, I will continue enjoying my life as a dad!

Blog series wrap up
Thank you for reading this, if nothing else it has inspired and taught me a lot! If you want to start a similar journey like mine, feel free to contact me for help, tips or mentoring using comments on this blog, Twitter (@brickuz) or any other way you figure out.

Finally there are two more people I need to thank:

First, my fiancée. Among the million reasons I have for that; thanks for supporting me, inspiring me and being an awesome mom to my kids! Thank you, thank you and thank you!

Second, myself. This was at times a rough ride where I had to stand up and take responsibility for my actions to be able to continue, make sacrifices, take risks and really challenge both my ego and fears to succeed. Thank... me... for this journey!

2013, here i come!

23 January 2013

The year I became a passionate tester, part V

November 1st
Worth a special mention. The day was crazy for several reasons but three highlights:
  1. Securitas Direct asked for a second interview
  2. Invited to SWET 4
  3. My note taking post was retweeted by Michael Bolton (may sound silly but it was huge to me at that point)

RST (Rapid Software Testing)
RST started great, I was on top of my game, asking relevant questions, thinking, observing, reacting... all until the first break. I don't know exactly why but I lost track after that (had a great time anyway but was not happy with my own contribution to that).

When apologizing to James he responded:

I was going to say you should talk more.
First thing tomorrow you'll see something you haven't seen.
Well, don't worry about... or worry if you want, because I'm going to have you do the Mysterious Sphere problem.

I immediately scanned google, RST blog posts and other resources but found nothing.

A good ten hours of sleep made the trick and day 2 I was on top of my game again! Just before lunch James turned to me and said something like:

After the break we'll see Erik here, test the Mysterious Sphere, the only exercise that has made anyone cry during my class.

It was amazing! I still go "Ohhhh! That's why... I should have... what if... now I get it!" when I think about it. I'm forever grateful I got the chance despite my bad start!

Day 3 wrapped up an amazing experience! I left RST with my precious blue pouch (RST graduates will understand), new contacts, a raised confidence in myself as a tester and 21 pages of sketches, ideas and epiphanies. Thanks James Bach, Tobbe Ryber, Robert, Niklas, Per, Tiago, Layer10 and all the others that made this experience possible/invaluable! If you haven't participated yet I suggest you check out David Greenlees post on how he got to RST and schedule a meeting with your your boss!

Get the most out of RST:

  • Get there well rested (important!), the course will demand a lot of you.
  • Look up the word heuristic to make sure you understand it.
  • Show you want to be challenged (be active), it'll make the course even better.
  • Check out the RST slides before, I think that helped me stay focused on the discussions.
  • Don't care to print the slides and bring them to the course though, as slides will be skipped, order changed and the exercise slides are hidden anyway.
  • Faking will only lead to problems.
  • Read up on the Socratic Method (a low pressure example, expect more "pressure" in class)
  • Make sure you know how to get to the facility, have travel tickets in place etc.
  • Ask questions!
  • Drop the idea of finding the ultimate answer to the questions asked (important!). Most questions will not have one! Accepting that will help you both learn and contribute more.
  • Don't worry, things will just happen and you'll do great!
Thanks to Johan Jonasson, Joel Fridfjäll, Joel Rydén, David Månsson for contributing to the list together with James Bach, Michael Bolton and Paul Holland.

SWET 4: Intro
Please read Johan Jonasson's great post on SWET 4 for details on the event. Maria Kedemo has also shared some thoughts, especially check out the "what happens now" section, great reading!

After receiving my invitation I called Johan Jonasson:
- Am I really qualified for this?
- Go there and find out!

It was amazing! The presentations were interesting, the following discussions even more so, the lightning talks were cool and the people inspiring, I had the time of my life!

A funny thing: Maria Kedemo was presenting "Model based exploratory interviewing" or, in other words, her interviewing model when recruiting testers for Securitas Direct.

On the topic of switching roles: SWET started 2 days after RST ended, felt a bit weired to go from being James "unknown student" at RST to become his "peer" at SWET. Weired as in a good, interesting way I should add.

Want a quick reason why I think Securitas Direct and Sectra are two great companies for testers by the way? Both companies' test managers were among the 15 invited to SWET 4 (Johan Åtting couldn't come though and sent Joakim Thorsten instead).

I need a separate post to describe this crazy experience in any detail but one advice: If you ever get the chance, take it! I was really intimidated by the concept and merits of the other testers but as I arrived I quickly understood why great testers love peer conferences, you (can) learn so much! Going was definitely one of the best decisions this year!

One final advice: Prepare your lightning talks, I changed topic ten mins before walking up, the result was messy.

Special thanks to Torbjörn Ryber, Henrik Emilsson and Rikard Edgren for arranging this amazing event as well as giving me the chance, and thanks to Martin Jansson, James Bach, Sigurdur Birgisson, Sandra Camilovic, Anna Elmsjö, Johan Jonasson, Maria Kedemo, Oscar Cosmo, Saam Koroorian, Simon Morley, Joakim Thorsten... and myself... for helping them make it amazing!

New job
After interesting discussions, cool exercises and talks to potential future colleagues it was time to make a decision. In the end it came down to details; both Securitas Direct and Sectra have amazing testers, culture, test managers and products. Finally I decided to go for Securitas Direct choosing, what I interpreted, as the bigger challenge over Sectra's more helpful environment (all but one tester at Securitas Direct work in Malmö, not Linköping where I work).

Anyway, I think Joel Ryden (brilliant guy, test consultat at Securitas Direct and former employee at Sectra) summarized my situation quite well: "Whatever you choose it'll be a great choice". I'm thrilled to start my new job at the end of next week, something I'll talk more about in a later post!

Jiro dreams of sushi
This documentary is great enough to mention here. Watch it!

Finally... kids can smell when you really need sleep (like the day before RST and SWET). But at least that gives you a lot of time to hug them before you leave. Jokes aside, coming back from SWET 4 having my two boys rush into my arms was by far the best of all the cool things in November. Be passionate about testing but remember what's most important!

My boys pairing up to test/hack/crash a tablet.

November was crazy, feels like I've just mentions half the cool things that happened! Anyway, three key take aways:
  • Don't worry about if you're good enough or not, just get out there and learn until you are!
  • RST is a mind-blowing course that I recommend to every tester!
  • Practice putting thoughts into words (blog, reflect, join debates...), it's a critical skill to anyone, not just testers!

Starting level: Prepared
Finishing level: Self-recharging bomb of inspiration

16 January 2013

The year I became a passionate tester, part IV

I've covered January to September in three posts. October and November however were way too eventful to keep that tempo so this post will only cover October... just in case you're puzzled by the headings (they are not months in some ancient calender).

Work opportunities

With two days apart, immediately after I had made myself available to job offers, I was contacted by possibly the two most interesting companies I could think of (from what I could tell; great culture, interesting products, passionate testers, top notch test managers and the right location). First Maria Kedemo, test manager at Securitas Direct, asked me to consider a job opportunity they had announced several months before but not found a candidate for yet. Second, Johan Åtting, test manager at Sectra, and I had a discussion regarding my RST situation. Somewhere in that discussion he asked me to send an application. I was on cloud nine! I'll tell you how it turned out in part V...

Some thoughts on improving your chance of getting great job offers:

  1. Learn to test
    Practice, practice, practice
    Explore, experiment, play
    Read, watch and listen to great testers
    Get a mentor or ask for coaching
    Ask for help when you need it
    Courses, webinars, books
  2. Create a portfolio
    Start a test blog or website
    Share your story (or CV if you're boring like me)
    Share your work and experiences in whatever way you prefer
    Create a LinkedIn profile
    Create a Software Testing Club profile
  3. Broaden your network
    Be active in your local test community

    Socialize with testers on Twitter
    Start connecting with testers on Skype
    Go to a conference
    Be open to receive mentoring, help or coaching
  4. Get some reputation
    Be a presenter

    Accept challenges (like testing puzzles)

    Mentor or coach testers

    Answer questions on, for instance, test forums

    Make relevant comments on blog posts and articles

    Host a meetup, conference or similar
Instead of the Rapid Software Testing course, my employer sent me to a centrally purchased course, arranged by test researchers from MDH. As I didn't share the course instructors' opinions about testing it provided a great opportunity to practice challenging ideas as well as arguing for my own. Some examples of things I challenged was that a model had to be an actual simulation (James Bach would go bananas if he met the instructor for that part of the course), how exploratory testing is presented in the agile testing quadrants (see picture below) and the idea of having automation as a goal. To give the course some credit, it did teach me the theory and formal names on some stuff I already used, like equivalence partitioning.

The agile testing quadrants, I stay skeptical to this...

In the end I got a certificate which I would have received even if I had sat quiet, understanding nothing, for four days (unrightfully it wasn't in endurance).

Some thoughts on how to get more value out of a (testing) course:
  • Ask questions as soon as you don't understand something or how something is relevant
  • Reflect on why you disagree with ideas presented and try to express it (challenge)
  • Practice constructive feedback on the instructors
  • In your mind, try applying the ideas presented to your own context, does it make sense? Why not? Can you think of a context where it does?
  • If you have a colleague attending the course, reflect on its content together afterwards
  • Experiment with the stuff you've learned to make it stick
My first hosted local meetup
I had joined all the EAST meetups since I first heard about the group in May but, apart from calling to a pub evening, I had not hosted a meetup. That changed in October as ~20 testers gathered in a conference room at Ericsson discussing testing in an agile context, CAST 2012 and various other topics. Apart from almost having to squeeze in 20 people in a room designed for 8 and giving everyone the wrong address, it all went smooth. Definitely something I would like to do again.

Some thoughts on facilitating a (local) test meetup

  • Facility: restaurant/pub, talk to your employer, check for a sponsor
  • Inform: colleagues, other contacts (use consultants), LinkedIn, Twitter, flyers
  • It's always nice to have at least one friend/colleague you know will show up
  • Use any existing group (if no test group is available use an agile, craftsmanship, developer or other similar group) to spread the news
  • Scout: attend other meetups (test related or not) and conferences
  • Content: some (emergency) discussion topics are nice
  • Content: watch an online presentation together is an option to a live presentation
  • Don't worry about what people will think. The initiative is more than enough to please most!
  • Make things interesting by experimenting!
The blog post
To prepare myself for RST I did, as I often do, experiment with a way to practice what I wanted to learn. The big difference this time was I blogged about it (Practice: Note taking). I had not anticipated the response. People retweeted it, started following me on Twitter (well, some quit after a while but anyway .) and old posts suddenly had their number of reads doubled and tripled.

Some blog tips from a newbie (most based on other blogs I like rather than my own):
  • Share your experiments
  • Share your experiences
  • Share your mistakes
  • Share your problems and ask for help
  • Share your insights
  • Share your ideas, but putting them into practice first will probably be more appreciated
  • Be brief
  • Tell a compelling story
  • Don't force-feed people with your posts, especially your not so great ones
  • Ask yourself: How is this relevant to someone else?
  • Ask yourself: Why is this important to me?
  • Use pictures/visualizations to communicate more (I'm great at this when presenting, I suck at it in my blog)... it's also more fun.
  • Uptight blog posts are shot on sight, relaaaax, it's sexy to be vulnerable. 
  • A blog post is an efficient tool to help reflecting (this was an amazing experience for me)
  • Use headings and lists to make stuff more readable / easier to get an overview

Pekka Marjamäki
James Bach praised "Peksi" during an RST course in Finland so I looked up his work, was impressed and started following him (blog and Twitter). Soon after he found my Why I've signed up for RST instead of buying a kick ass sofa and new computer post and he contacted me asking if I would like to try an exercise as a warm up for RST.

The exercise was about him claiming something (in this case "Programmers can't test their own code") and my work was to, by only using questions, convince him he was wrong. I didn't fare that well as the mission goes (I had a strategy, that he gave me credit for, but let's just say it wasn't efficient) but I learned tonnes! I am forever grateful for his help and I hope we can do something similar soon again!

Finally I think Peksi's initiative says a bit about the context driven testing community in general. If you want to develop as a tester, just reach out and people will help you! To me there seems to be more teachers than pupils so help out by asking for help.

A few ways to get in touch with great testers

October was in a sense a preparation step for the events in November, but as you've hopefully acknowledged by now: the journey is just as important as the end goal. See you in part V!

Starting level: Committed
Finishing level: Prepared

09 January 2013

The year I became a passionate tester, part III

This is the continuation of my 2012 reflections series, reading part I and part II first is recommended.

The great adventure you will not hear about
My greatest adventure this year is the journey from a heavyweight to lightweight test process in my team at Ericsson. However, that story just doesn't play well with the month to month format so I'll save that to some rainy day in a distant future. However here is the 10 second version and I'll also provide you a few lessons learned at the end of this post:
  1. I tried to introduce exploratory testing
  2. I screwed up badly
  3. I finally started reflecting on my work
  4. I started to turn things around
  5. I became we
  6. We kicked ass, testing was more fun than ever
  7. People (at least some) started to take note
  8. We kicked ass, testing was better than ever
  9. We started preaching about what we thought was amazing
  10. Job finished, result was, we believe, a heck of a lot better than traditionally (talking quality of test, motivation and how much we learned).
July and August - Making promises
Mostly vacation, a lot happened but only one thing suited for this post.

After having my RST (Rapid Software Testing) course request put on hold over and over since May, with no good explanation to why (came later), I promised myself two things if the request was denied:
  1. Make myself available to job opportunities
  2. At least look into the possibility of paying the course myself.
September - The final no
Early in September I told my fiancée I wanted to attend RST, with or without support from my employer. She simply answered "if that's what you really want, I trust your judgement" (I love my fiancée even more sometimes).

When I finally got a no from my job I simply requested vacation and registered myself for the course and it actually felt exactly that easy. I felt ecstatic for so many reasons:
  • I had signed up for RST, the course I wanted to attend so badly!
  • James Bach was the person inspiring me to start this journey, having him as instructor meant tons to me!
  • I had proven to myself that I was really committed to becoming a great tester!
The countdown had begun...

Insights so far
Not too much of interest in July, August and September, instead, let's look at 3 useful insights from the adventures at work.

Schedule time for reflection
Continuous reflection is key to keep you on track but I noticed the more I drifted off course the less I naturally spared time to reflect. One change that rendered great results for me was scheduling time for reflection. In my case I dedicated 1 hour per week where I dropped everything and just focused on what I was doing, issues, what my current direction/goal was and making models...

Visualize what you're doing
One of the turning points, going from chaos to success, was when I created my first visual model of what I was doing. The model was simply a timeline (for the feature/deliveries) where I started to add all the activities I was doing (without details). From that model a new one occurred; a model describing how I wanted to work. That model could easily fit on a paper and became our central tool when describing our work, discussing improvements and when reflecting in general. The model also helped me explain what I was doing better. In retrospect I think making a similar model based on how we use to work would have made the model even more powerful.
Also, the moment we could visualize our status, coverage and plan (spreadsheet with some fancy additions, can't talk about content though), our credability went through the roof.

Challenge your own ideas
One exercise I've found useful is simply to defend things I believe in against a ferocious attacker (either played by myself or, even better, a colleague). I've found it useful not only to evaluate ideas but also to improve my understanding of them, practice arguing and put thoughts into words.
- We should stop enforcing testers to document test scripts it's way to expensive.
- But what happens to traceability?
- We never use scripts when we check back on previous work, a well written title is enough. 
- But we save money each time we reuse a test case!
- That's a great idea but in reality we rarely reuse test cases since it's quicker to write new ones and also the product still changes too rapidly to make tests valid even a month later.
- But it's a great way for new testers to learn how to test!

Starting level: Inspired
Finishing level: Committed