Monday, January 2, 2017

Normalizing Learning

I remember some years ago when I heard about a new thing that was going on and getting some buzz around the tester universe: Weekend Testing.

The idea is simple and beautiful. Volunteers would dedicate some time to facilitate practice sessions on testing over Skype and anyone could join. The sessions, as the name says would take place on weekends - off time from work. The sessions would be a place to see how other testers approach a particular problem. And if you missed a session, a transcript of the writing that was going on would be published for you to read.

I absolutely hated the idea. Not because the idea of practicing over Skype, but the built-in cultural experience that said to me:
Testers are not important, if they want to learn they need to do so on their own time. Learning is not part of work hours.
I was so against the notion that I did not join any of the weekend testing sessions (until I ended up facilitating for for Weekend Testing Europe a little over year ago). Instead, I would put energy on organizing half of my meetups during office hours to learn that in Finland companies do let people join in the middle of the day and in particular in the mornings.

I remembered this because I listened to Ajay's CAST keynote and  learned how he would work (+ travel for work) from 8 am to 7 pm, and then work on learning from 7 pm to 1 am. And how he, after hard work of 17 years (!!) finally was delighted to do his 1st international keynote, something he had aspired for since doing a local talk on 9th grade.

My hours probably look only a little better, but the underlying cause I work for is to find means to normalize learning. When I am at work, every day I can take an hour to do things *differently* than usual, and that teaches me a lot. I can stop to reflect instead of just steaming through an assignment. I can read or listen to a talk. I can volunteer to do tasks I'm not assigned to, even tasks where people say they are "not part of my job description". And I can find a meetup where I can hear how bad things are elsewhere so that I remember to appreciate how amazing places to work I have managed to end up in.

Learning is the key. But instead of externalizing learning to one's own time, it needs to be normal to learn while working. Even when we are ambitious and find it hard to invest just the regular hours for our 'work' - including the learning.