Friday, April 27, 2018

Flunking tester candidates in masses

Recently, I've been receiving messaging in LinkedIn. It starts with someone I don't know wanting to link with me. Since LinkedIn is my professional network, I check profile for complete fakeness and approve if it could be a person. The next step is getting a message, usually just a Hi. Nothing more. Since it is my professional network, my default response is "How may I help you?". The response to this is "I need to find a job".

These people often don't know why they are contacting *me*, beyond the fact that they just did and I responded to their greeting. When I ask more about what I could do specifically, the conversation ends with "I don't know".

If you don't know what you want, how do you know I would know what you need?

One of our teams is currently seeking a senior tester. It has not been easy. I have not really been a part of the process, except filling in during absence of other great testers. I see applications fly by due to notifications but I have not as much as read one for a while.

What still happens is that the other great testers share their wonders. They share the realization that the tester we are looking for is hard to find because it is a tester and a programmer (for test automation), great communicator and able to grasp complicated systems in a very practical manner. But they also share the realization that there is a surprising number of people who think the way to test is to write test cases. That exploratory testing means monkey testing and no serious tester would do that. That testing happens in the end after programming is done. None of these beliefs are true, and least of all in a company that emphasizes agile practices.

So if you're one of those people who feel like approaching me for a job help on LinkedIn, I just wanted to mention a few things you absolutely need to do. Go read stuff on Ministry of Testing. Look for things that introduce ideas of how test cases are not the thing that makes testing awesome. Learn to build the technical tools, and the most important tool: your brain. Join slack and look at what people talk about who identify as testers. Here's the key: it's not test cases.

I've been insisting that I don't see people like this in my bubble. I don't, because they are stopped at the gates. Learn more stuff that remains relevant. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Where Are Your Bug Reports?

Yesterday, I put together a group of nine testers to do some mob testing. We had a great time, came out a shared understanding, people's weak ideas amplified and people standing together in knowing how we feel about the functionality and quality, and value for users.

This morning, I had a project management ping: "There are no bug reports in Jira, did you test yesterday?".

Later today, another manager reminds over email: "Please, report any identified bugs in Jira or give a list to N.N. It's very hard to react/improve on 'loads of bugs' statement without concrete examples.". They then went on informing me that when the other testers run a testing dojo, they did that on a Jira ticket and reported everything as subtasks and hinted I might be worried about duplicates.

I can't help but smile on the ideas this brings out. I'm not worried about duplicates. I'm worried about noise in the numbers. I have three important messages, and writing 300 bugs to make that point is a lot of work and useless noise. This is not a service I provide.

Instead I offered to work temporarily as system tester for the system in question with two conditions:
  1. I will not write a single bug report in Jira, but get the issues fixed in collaboration with developers across the teams. 
  2. Every single project member pair tests with me for an hour with focus on their changes in the system context. 
Jury is still out on my conditions. I could help, but I can't help within the system that creates so much waste.  I need a system that improves the impact of the feedback I have to give through deep exploratory testing, focused on value.

I'd rather be anything but a mindless drone logging issues in Jira. How about you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Interviews Are a Two-Way Street

We were recruiting, and had a team interview with a candidate. I was otherwise occupied, and felt unsure of hiring someone who I had no contact with, especially since the things I wanted to know of them were unanswered from my team. We look for people strong in C++, but also python and scripting, since a lot of a DevOps type of team's work ends up being not just pure homeground. So I called them, and spent my 10 minutes finding out what they want out of professional life, what makes them happy and making sure they were aware how delighted my often emotion-hiding team would be if they chose to hang out with us and do some great dev work. They signed. And I'm just as excited as everyone was after having had chance of meeting the candidate.

So often we enter an interview with the idea of seeing if the person is a fit for us. But as soon as we've established that, we should remember that most of the time, the candidates have options. Everyone wants to feel needed and welcome. Letting the feeling show isn't a bad thing.

There's a saying that individuals recruit people like them, and teams recruit people that fill the gaps - diverse candidates. For that to be true, you need to have first learned to appreciate work in team beyond your own immediate contribution.

All this recruiting stuff made me think back to one recruiting experience I had. I went through many rounds of checking. I had a manager's interview. Then a full day of psychological tests. Then a team interview. And finally, even the company CEO wanted to interview me. I required yet another step - I spent a day training testing for my potential future colleagues, in a mob. Every single step was about whether I was appropriate. If I would pass their criteria. They failed mine. They did not make me feel welcome. And the testing we did together showed how much use I would have been (nice bugs on their application, and lots of discipline in exploring) but also what my work would be: teaching and coaching, helping people catch up.

Your candidate chooses you just as much as you choose the candidate. Never forget.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Second chances

"This does not work", they said. "We used to find these things before making a release", they continued. I see the frustration and understand. I feel the same. We lost an exploratory tester who spent 13 years with the application, and are reaping the results as they've been gone for a month. Our ways of working are crumbling in ways none of us anticipated.

We lost the tester, because for years they got to hear they are doing a bad job. How they are not needed. How they would only become valuable if they learned automation. And they were not interested. Not interested when the personal managers told it. Not interested when most conferences were full of it. Not interested when articles around the globe spouted that the work they were doing was meaningless.

They found the job meaningful. The team members found the results meaningful. And it was not like the manual exploratory testing they did had stayed the same over the years. As others in the team contributed more automation, their testing became deeper, more insightful, targeted on things where unexpected change was the only constant.

I reviewed their work long before they decided on leaving. I promoted the excellence of results, the silent way of delivering the information to make it visible. And when they decided it was time to let go of the continuous belittling, I was just as frustrated as anyone in the teams that lack of appreciation would lead to this.

Just as they were about to go, we we found them a new place. And I have a new tester for my own team. The very same tester who elsewhere in the organization wasn't supported is now my closest colleague. I got a second chance of helping non-testers and non-programmers see their value, for them to feel respected like I do.

And for that I feel grateful. I already knew my manager is a great match for me in my forward-thriving beliefs of building awesome software in collaboration with others, valuing everyone's contributions and expecting daily growth - in diverging directions. My good place - my own team - is again even better with a dedicated manual exploratory tester with decades of deep testing experience.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Task assigning does not teach self-organization

I was frustrated, as I was ticking away mental check boxes on the testing that needed to be done. It was one of the last tasks of a major effort so many of us had contributed on for the last 6 months. The testing I was doing wasn’t mine to do but I had agreed with our intern that this would be work they’d do. Yet I found myself doing it, after 3 days of pinging, reminding and explaining what needed doing.  The work I was doing wasn’t just something I expected from them, but as I was doing it, I learned they had also skipped my previous instructions of utmost importance.

As I completed the task, I shared the status to our coordination channel. Next up was a discussion I wasn’t sure on how to have on missing the mark of my expectations big time.

My feelings are a thing I can hardly not let show, and I approached the discussion letting my frustration be visible, and using my words to explain that I wanted to understand, and that failing wasn’t something I’d punish on, but something we just had to talk about.

We learned three things together.

For not doing an important thing I had reminded them on multiple times, there was a clear lack of understanding why I considered it so relevant. Discussing the big picture of risks, I’m sure that particukar thing gets done the next time. The intern expressing frustration on boring and repetitive task lead us also into identifying the root cause, and they volunteered to drive through an organizations fix - while not dismissing my instructions on remedies while the fix was not in place. I was delighted on the show of initiative.

For not doing the testing I ended up doing, I learned they were overwhelmed with number of requests all around, and the problem was a result of misprioritization. They were spending their time on a pesky test automation script, while the real priority would have been to complete the testing I just did.

We also reviewed the testing I had done, to realize they would not have known what to do. The task was one with many layers, dependencies to what happened while testing, requiring end to end understanding of business process and a perspective into lifecycle. All this was obvious to me, but they had worked on simpler tasks before. We had now identified a type of task that stretched too far.

We ended with celebrating how awesome this story of our mutual learning is and agreed to work on intake of complex work differently next time around.

As I mentioned the experience to a colleague, I was told their preferred way of dealing with this is Jira tasks with clear instructions. That’s what they were doing to me and learning I never obeyed. Others did. The discussion made a belief system thing visible: I was building each of my colleagues for their best future self as contributor. My colleague was focusing on how to get the work done with existing limitations.

Their style gave results where everyone did a little less than what they asked. My style gave results where we occasionally failed and reflected, but I could always assume a bit more next time around.

Assigning tasks wasn’t growing people. Quite the contrary, it created an environment where people consistently underdeliver to a standard never reaching their potential.

It takes past better experiences or exceptional courage to step to self-organization when you feel the organization around you just wants you to focus on assigned tasks. I’m lucky to have past experiences that allow me to never obey blindly.

Promoting the Air

Last week, I tweeted a remark:

The irony was that after 1.5 years at my current company I did a teaching women Java thing, and that was something people were excited about to an extent that they wrote about it (interviewing me) for the company blog. Meanwhile, I do 30 talks on testing/agile, most international, a year and none of that has crossed the news bar.

I talked further to many colleagues in testing, and came to the conclusion that we are in an interesting situation where our profession is very valued within teams, where a lot of managers are "helping us grow" by pushing more automation even by force and anyone outside the teams have increasingly skewed perceptions of what we do, and why.

We are like air we breathe. Invisible. As soon as it is lost, we notice. And we lost some of our testing very recently so now we are noticing.

This all leads me to think of  being the change I want to see. So instead of dwelling in my frustration of irony, I took the observation and promoted the other things I do. The amount of empathy and understanding sharing my frustration has been overwhelming. And the constructive actions of wanting to hear more, wanting to share more equally and learn about this stuff has been delightful.

We who see what testing is, appreciate it, need to talk about it more. We need to help others see and remember the invisible. Every single tester shares their part of promoting. Some of us get our voices heard just a little further, but our common voice is stronger than any individual's.