26 May 2016

House of Test

Earlier this month I left House of Test. It was not because I disliked the company but because I was offered an amazing opportunity at another company I obviously love.

Since so many have asked me how it is to work for House of Test I hope giving my view, as an ex-employee, will shed some lights on what "the House" really is.

Consultancy is still consultancy
The first thing to make clear is that House of Test is still "just" a consultant company. Money doesn't magically materialize and as an employee you're expected to actively work to find or create new working opportunities and help with marketing the company. Also far from all assignments are glamorous and you won't actually meet your House of Test colleagues that often.

Growing pains
House of Test is also growing quite a bit right now which slowly lessens some of the challenges being a small consultant company (e.g. less pressure on each consultant to help market and hunt for assignments). But it also introduce new challenges related to e.g. communication and each employee's influence.

As with any growth there are growing pains as everyone tries to adjust to the new environment, nothing strange but also nothing magically gone because it's House of Test. One example would be finding a good format to better facilitate the growing numbers at the company's gatherings.

"I'm not good enough for House of Test"
The reason people ask about how it is to work for House of Test is because House of Test is pretty famous within the (context driven) testing community. That in terms creates an interesting challenge (which is also partly why I write this post):

Great people not thinking they are good enough to work for House of Test.

This might sound silly to some but it's been a serious recruitment issue for House of Test and only since I joined two years ago I've heard "I don't think I'm good enough" more than a couple of times from great testers I know.

The truth: House of Test is filled with passionate testers, many of which have made a name for themselves by speaking at conferences (we'll get back to this), doing well in testing challenges or being otherwise active in the testing community. The common denominator is not godlike testing skills however; it's passion and a willingness to learn. Many of the testers in House of Test started fairly junior but has grown for reasons I will later explain and even so, many of the current ones are still fairly early in their development.

... meaning you're good enough, just to make that clear.

Education as a focal point
The one thing I think differentiates House of Test is their view on education and learning.

Internally conferences, courses and other learning activities are probably the single most discussed topic and call for paper reminders are posted for basically every (major) testing conference on the planet. This is reinforced by management in many ways, one being that I don't think I've ever heard them say e.g. "you would miss too much time from your assignment" or "the timing is bad" when someone requests to go to a conference or course... of course there's a maximum budget for education but that budget is also through the roof compared to any other company I've been in contact with.

Another interesting thing is how the top end education is preferred over the cheaper, local alternatives. Many hotties (myself included) have went to, for instance, PSL in Albuquerque, CAST in various places in the US, RST no matter where it's available and Let's Test, simply because they are considered to be the best available. This focus on quality rather than cost is something I, now being an ex-hottie, will definitely bring with me.

On the flip side there's an expectation to want all this. It might go to a level of unhelpful pressure to send in abstracts or attend learning activities (including after work hours in some cases).

One final clarification though: A problem I've experienced in other companies is the pressure to immediately explain and demonstrate what you've learned from a course or conference. That doesn't exist at House of Test (my experience). The founders seem to understand/trust that it often takes plenty of time and/or specific contexts to fully grasp the value and that education is a long term investment in general.

To summarize:
My view is hotties improve their testing skills unusually quick simply because all the best tools to do so are introduced and available to them. For some this may create an unhelpful feeling of pressure to improve though.

Being spread out in "four and a half countries" (the half country is actually not Denmark; it's the globetrotters) combined with being rather small poses a major communication challenge. This works fairly well though...

House of Test has an active Slack chat, quarterly gatherings and at basically any major or local test conference you'll meet colleagues.

The gatherings themselves are worth mentioning as they are one of the greatest perks I've experienced. Imagine having a small conference packed with people like Maria Kedemo, Ilari Henrik Aergerter or Carsten Feilberg every three months. That's a pretty awesome employee benefit in itself! I don't know how the format or dynamics in these gatherings will be impacted by the company's growth but during my time they were simply amazing.

Is House of Test for you?
If you like to work with highly skilled professionals, having strong opinions and a willingness to debate basically anything, you will feel right at home. A willingness to learn is definitely required to function well and an interest to, at some point, stand on a stage and share your experiences, helps too but is not necessary.

If you just want a quiet 9 to 5 job, have troubles dealing with consultancy in general or disagree with the context driven testing principles you probably have less to gain from joining the House.

... that's the simplified explanation.

On one hand House of Test is just an ordinary consultant firm with, for instance, the need to hunt for assignments, the risk of ending up in less than optimal work places and distance to your closest colleagues.

On the other hand House of Test is like a wet dream for passionate testers; you will work with some of the best testers (and testing teachers) in the world, education will be a focal point and anything awesome happening in testing will be introduced to you the moment it becomes public... or often before.

Thank you House of Test for two awesome years!