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


  1. Really enjoying these posts and following your journey, looking forward to part V

  2. I really like this specific part of your journey.
    Not because I was mentioned in it but because your story is right on spot!
    The recognition of the tester as a profession has been changing for some time now, to the better. The amount of testers are increasing and it seems like the amount of good testers is doing so as well. So as a tester you need to stand out in the crowd!
    I am doing a presentation in March on this suject. And you know I don't like doing presentations! But in this matter I really want to help testers showing how you can make a difference that will make me as a hiring manager notice you. The first impression meens alot when you have hundreds of applications to read.

    1. As we both know I'm not a recruiter but I would love to help you with input or comments on the material since it's a topic I hold dear (but from the opposite side of the table so to speak). My goal is to wow people like you by presenting stuff you didn't even know you wanted ,)

  3. It's interesting to read about your journey, Erik. I'm also fascinated by how the testing community seems to be developing so intensely. Thanks for a good read!

    1. You're welcome. The real mind-blowing part for me was how accessible the community is. There is really nothing in the way for anyone to get help from the very best to improve as testers (example: free coaching).

  4. Hi,

    I would like to learn RST.
    Can you help me in mentoring?

    Thanks for the post.

    - Srinivas Kadiyala (SKC)

  5. Thanks for the post! :) You made me look like a good guy there, for a second. :D And all those that have felt neglected by me in the past half a year or so, please contact me again via Skype. I happily help people like Erik to be better testers and thinkers.

    So Srinivas, please go to my blog and contact me via skype. We can arrange a session like Erik described above.

    And Erik: keep the fire alight! You are doing terrific job! We're all proud!

    - Peksi