Sunday, January 14, 2018

Testing Tour Stop #1: Pair Exploring with Maaret

My testing tour has officially started! Wonder what's a testing tour? Then head over to my post about my personal development challenge for this year first.

For the first stop on my tour I consider myself really lucky and honored that Maaret Pyhäjärvi agreed to pair test with me. I admire her work in the community and was glad to meet her personally at last year's Agile Testing Days, where I could see her testing and critical thinking, coaching and feedback skills in action; to name only a few. With every day of our session coming closer, I grew more nervous about it; even though rationally I knew that this was an awesome opportunity to learn even more from her, and that I have nothing to lose. In hindsight, our session was absolutely worth it as I indeed learned a lot in a short period of time.


The Session

We both wanted to dive deeper on exploratory testing and practice our skills. Maaret proposed to tackle the Freemind version for Mac; according to her it's "buggy as hell and therefore really rewarding for newbies". This makes it a great system under test when teaching about testing (idea noted ;). To reduce the scope of our session we focused on the find & replace feature of the application.

As soon as we started testing, we discovered so many different issues together, it was really hard to keep track. All in all we felt the user experience was really poor and the features rather glued on top of each other without having a consistent vision in mind. We came to that result really fast together; and our findings proved it when we went further. Overall, having two testers explore a feature together produced great results in a short amount of time and thus proved really efficient.

The identified issues were spread all of the place. Some questions we asked ourselves several times:
  • What does this mean? What does this message try to tell us?
  • Why does this feature behave in a completely different way than similar features in comparable applications?
  • Why are things so inconsistent? Why do labels or icons imply different functionality than they actually offer? How come even a simple form shows different spacing between input fields, just a few pixels below each other?
  • Why is this data displayed in this location? It does not have anything to do with the feature. Why not put it in a different place where it might actually provide value?
  • Why would we need this data or feature in the first place?
  • Where is the functionality I am looking for? Why is it so hard to find things and learn this tool?
The funniest issue we found was that we could copy nodes of an older mindmap to a new file and the creation timestamp would not get updated for those nodes, thus showing a timestamp way before the birth of the current mindmap. This made me feel not only as testing traveler but also as time traveler! :D

What I Learned about Testing

Reflecting together on our testing session, we addressed several important topics. Here are my lessons learned about testing.
  • Where's our box? Who says what's in scope and what not? In this session we defined our box fluently on our way, calling each other out in case we started to divert from it. This was totally fine for us, but in the end we would have loved to have an overall picture of our box to see what we intentionally left out and postponed for further sessions.
  • You discover there are too many combinations requiring a lot of time effort? Check if you can automate your test data setup. We didn't go this way in this session, but this was one of the things we could do in a future one.
  • Whatever you document - always chose a notation that lets you quickly identify how many issues, questions, follow-up charters there are and what your feeling about the level of quality is.
  • During the session we talked a lot about different aspects of exploratory testing - without even mentioning the approach itself. Observation as a skill, heuristics, and more. It's quite easy to start with exploring, but it's always experience that brings you further.
  • Last but not least: testing and finding bugs is fun! I really love hands-on testing and close collaboration with people to get the best out of us.

What I Learned about Myself

No matter how I talk about things, I probably will be caught doing things differently than I said. Certain situations might trigger habits I am not aware of. Having someone else observing things was so helpful to point that out.

In this session this fact became obvious when it came to note taking. In the beginning of the session I told Maaret I'm just shortly noting down what we learn. To do so, I had a physical notebook right beside me and scribbled down on it as we proceeded. When reflecting on our session, Maaret asked me whether I had used a certain notation to quickly get a summary from my testing notes. I had not. Which stunned me. When I do testing solo, I always use a digital form for my notes, be it a comment on a ticket, a mind map, or anything; but always including a certain notation to quickly let me know how many issues I found, which questions are still open, what other things I postponed for further sessions, what should be automated, and so on. But this time I totally diverted from it.

So Maaret asked me why I had chosen a physical notebook in the first place this time? The best answer coming to my mind was that maybe I fell into a habit. As I only use a physical notebook in meetings, be them at the same location or online. Like in interview calls. Did I fell into a habit because of the situation I was in? Why did I divert from my normal testing behavior? After reflecting a bit further, my intentions were the following:
  • I told Maaret I was taking notes as I wanted to let her know what I'm currently doing as we couldn't see each other (we turned off video to improve call quality).
  • I wanted to roughly keep track of what we were doing to help our testing.
  • I wanted to have notes of our session to make it easier for me to blog about it later on; as this was part of my experiment.
Maaret pointed out how hard it was for her to not be able to see my notes, or see me changing my focus away from the application in order to take them. She tried to be mindful and not rush ahead and put me under pressure, but it was not an easy thing to do.

What I Learned about Pairing

My most important lesson here was: Be mindful! And keep the focus of both synchronized. The note taking example made that obvious. We could have just taken notes together, in the same moment, seeing the same screen, agreeing on the notes to take and the notation to chose - and everything would have been easy for both of us. The same would apply to draw models, or our box of what's in scope.

Also, we didn't really talk about how to do pairing. We both assumed we would do strong-style pairing, with one being the navigator and one the driver on the keyboard. We both share this knowledge and are used to this approach (probably Maaret more than me, but I made great experience with this style over the past year). However, in future sessions with other testers I have to set the stage first so we have a shared understanding how to pair.

This session was quite interesting with regards to pairing dynamics as the remote access tool to allow switching roles did not work. So we had to stick with our roles for the whole session, with me being the navigator and Maaret the driver, sharing her screen. It would really be interesting to observe our pairing dynamics further when we are able to switch roles, or with her being the only navigator.

What I Learned about This Experiment

It's absolutely worth it. My gut feeling is that I am on the right track here and it will actually help me become a better tester. In any case I'll be wiser than before; or let's say, more experienced.

There are also some things I have to improve. First of all, I have to prepare better for the next sessions. This first time I could rely on Maaret, as she chose the system under test and thought about how to collaborate during the session. Next time I should drive the technical setup myself, especially for the next online session. I really have to get a proper remote access tool allowing us to switch roles. To let the other person chose the topic to pair on, however, turned out to be a good thing; this way serendipity might be on my side and teach me more. I would dive into areas, applications, approaches I might not have chosen myself.

Where to Next?

Maaret gave me great food for thought. And not only that, she agreed to further pair testing sessions with me; a great chance to improve things and learn more from each other!


My next testing tour stops are still to be scheduled, but a few testers from inside and outside my company already agreed to pair with me. I am looking forward to each and every session with them. I'm really curious what I will learn next.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Year Full of Learning

As the end of the year is coming closer, the time has come to look back and reflect. So many things happened since December 2016. One of our people managers at my company had asked me lately how my last year has been for me and I answered that I might be an exceptional case, but for me it was grandiose, splendid, awesome. And here's why.
  • Inspired from Agile Testing Days 2016, I started this blog 13 months ago. Writing this, I just realized that this very post is my 30th post so far. I never made a plan about what to write, but as soon I got started ideas just evolved in everyday life. Looking back, I see that blogging helped me reflect on what happened and document my thinking at that point in time. I am already curious what I might think about my current thoughts one year from now. Furthermore, I made my achievements as well as my failures graspable for myself by writing them down. My blog is serving me as my travel journal on a long way of learning.
  • Motivated by the pact Toyer and I made one year ago, we started to submit at conferences - and got accepted! This kicked off a whole new learning path for me. Before, I did not have public speaking among my short-term goals; it rather sneaked in. But investing time here and improving myself was absolutely worth it, as it opened up many possibilities for me. One of the major things for me personally was that it enabled me to join not only one conference sponsored by my company, but three overall this year! This resulted in so many lessons and insights to bring home. Another invaluable point here was that I found Toyer as a long-term learning partner this way. We supported us throughout the year and gave advice or feedback on many different topics. We even have a new pact challenge for next year!
  • For the very first time, I finally started to join local meetups this year. Different meetups on different topics: testing, coding dojos, agile, lightning talks, CI/CD. Getting out of my comfort zone here was really valuable for me. It was great to find those local communities and connect with people sharing interests in the same area! Also, offering myself as a meetup speaker was a great way to practice my conference talks upfront and get early feedback to improve them.
  • A huge change in my product team's way of collaboration was that we gave the mobbing approach a try - and loved it! To this day, we are frequently having mob sessions on one or two topics a month and learning so much from each other this way while having fun together. All brains focused to solve the problem at hand, getting instant feedback from all sides, setting us up for accidental learning. I am really curious how we will benefit from this approach in the next year. In any case, it brought the team a lot closer already.
  • I started to pair with my developers. On testing, during development, on communication tasks, on whatever. Just lately we had a great team retrospective providing each other feedback. We should note down what we loved about the other and what we would like to do in the next year with them. While doing so, I realized that my wishes for next year were centered around pairing and even closer collaboration! In an ideal day I probably won't spent much time of the day alone in front of my own laptop anymore. I'm curious how this will work out and what impact it will have.
  • My team's constellation changed multiple times during the last year. We even had a complete restart after our company's team self-design event. Still, we managed to grow closer with every change. Just these days, one developer left and two new joined, so our challenge to maintain what's good in our team culture and improve everything else goes on.
  • My company's testing community grew over the year. Several new testers joined in; but we also lost others not identifying as testers. I'd say we are still in a sort of norming phase. Still, we could share lots of knowledge already and learned whom we can ask for support on different topics. The next steps will be to grow closer and to enable the community to run on its own.
  • Becoming a speaker, I felt I had a better entry point into the external agile and testing community. I got to know so many great people this way! And I'm thankful for all of them. Also, by speaking to many testers outside my company, I am realizing the amount and kind of privilege I have. Privilege regarding freedom, possibilities, opportunities, respect, attention, and so on. I'll try my best to use this privilege to give it to all those who lack it and make it a better place for all of us.
As every year, good things and bad things happened. There are always things to improve. However, this year was clear in my favor, so I have lots of good things to list here.

Reflecting on the last year makes me realize that I took a great leap regarding personal development. I'd never have thought I'd be where I am right now; that I would actually have this blog and had spoken publicly at several occasions at this point. My thanks go out to everybody encouraging me to leap and supporting me on my way! I hope I can give that back one time by giving it to those who need it as I needed it.

Right now I feel that I'm living just on the rim of my comfort zone; sometimes retreating within, sometimes stepping just outside, but never going to far towards the danger zone. By doing so, my personal comfort zone continuously got larger throughout the last year. Re-reading what I just wrote makes me realize how much this still fits to Abby Fichtner's keynote "Pushing the Edge on What's Possible"; my initial inspiration to actually push for all those good things I listed above.

All in all, I'm ready for the new year to come. I already see some next challenges ahead, but let's see what the new year will actually bring.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Pact - Not a Remake, but a Sequel

If you've followed this blog for some time, you'd probably read about the deal I made with Toyer Mamoojee in 2016. By continuously supporting and encouraging each other we did indeed achieve our stretch goal and returned to Agile Testing Days as speakers.


What's So Scary?

A new pact for 2018? Yes, a new pact with Toyer and even further people from a growing pact group. But what? Well, the core question here is: What's my next challenge? What scares me most nowadays? This time it was not as obvious for me as last year. So I started brainstorming, trying not to overthink it and to listen to my gut feeling. These were roughly the thoughts passing through my mind.
So, what scares me..
Well, blogging (and especially pressing the publish button) is something that still scares me - but it got way easier throughout the last year. What do people say? If it scares you, do it more often? Well, that was really working for me in this case.
Public speaking!! Still scares me, but that's the deal of last year... Well, and here as well I could reduce my fears a lot. Making all those baby steps really helped to lower the scariness level, by exploring outside my comfort zone but not too far from it. And honestly it felt great overachieving my initial goal in the end. Still, I can't pick that one again.
Pairing with experts. The deep talk with Maaret about personal and community development at Agile Testing Days this year triggered so many thoughts. And she invited me to pair with her! I'm frightened but I have to try this, it will be an awesome learning experience even if I totally fail. Oh and she came up with the idea to initiate an online mastermind exploratory testing peer conference. And wants me to kick it off together with her! Still speechless.
Ah I know another one: getting feedback! Don't know why this is still so scary; just thinking of it is. I made a lot of great experiences this year getting feedback, and even before. Mostly only good came out of it! And it was always a chance to learn from it. However, it still scares me a lot. Making my skills transparent and myself vulnerable is already quite scary, and then getting feedback on it? Oh my.
But it's not only about getting feedback. Giving feedback is just as scary! Especially on a personal level. Why is this still so hard for me? Why do I catch myself using so many words for such simple things. I'm not making things any better by that, for anybody. Maybe I should just not give feedback on a personal level...? Liz Keogh shared great food for thought on that topic in her keynote at Agile Testing Days. Or should I just practice giving feedback even more to make it less scary?
That makes me think of the Women and Allies gathering at the conference. My deeply personal scary topic here was how to react well on bad talk, or bad situations. I can be such a coward sometimes!! I really hate this. I don't want this to be the future me. Talking about this with my colleague made me even remember that I had more courage already before! But get me burned once slightly, and I take this as easy excuse ever since. Arrgh.
What else? Writing a book. Yep. I still remember what some of my colleagues told me after I shared the great news that I had been accepted as first-time speaker: "Great! And next year you're writing a book." Oh my. Sounds simple, right? I know it's definitely not. I finally have the feeling I can provide some value by sharing my thoughts in blogs and even talks... but I definitely don't feel experienced enough to write a book.
Come on, think bold. Organize a conference! What Viv did on his very own with SwanseaCon! What Patrick and Kristīne did with bringing TestBash to Germany! What Maaret, Franzi and Llewellyn do with the European Testing Conference! They invest so much time and effort. I can't even imagine how much.
Another topic: Reaching out to the community for help. One of the best things I ever did! But I still do it rarely and it costs quite some guts. Despite the good experience I had with it. Really, I cannot understand myself sometimes.
Hm, last year I got inspired by Abby Fichtner. Who or what inspired me the most at Agile Testing Days this year? Maaret with mob testing, learning by osmosis and our deep conversations? Angie with owning our narrative? Janet with using those pivotal moments in life? That we're indeed a strong community and it's worth to give and get back?
This brings me to another point. We talked about personal development and our midterm goals at a meetup of my company's testing community. I even hosted that session myself and asked everyone to create any drawing or mind map or notes representing them. My drawing showed that I invested a lot of effort on blogging, public speaking and sharing with the external community this year. And I focused a lot on pairing, mobbing, close collaboration in my product team. But what about those other core areas of exploration and automation I'd like to improve?
I hate to admit it, but I fear failure, and I fear "losing my face". Showing my weaknesses. I am aware of many of them; probably unaware of many others. I hate the idea that I could potentially show how few things I know, or how few things I am able to do. Did I mention that I hate getting feedback? Even if I am well aware that it's the most valuable thing another person can do for me?
Coming so far, I just realized: This is an experiment! I could just give it a try and it's okay if it fails. And if it succeeds, perfect! Then I learned something for my life. I could even share it back with the community. On my blog. In a talk. This gets me thinking...
To add an afterthought: We do exploratory testing sessions with tester candidates in our interviews. Following the approach Elisabeth Hendrickson describes in her book "Explore It!". Considering my fear of making my weaknesses obvious - I probably would completely fail our interview... Still, I happily put others through that experience. As everybody learns from it, right? Does that seem right to you?

Now What?

Reflecting on my own thinking, I realized there's sort of a pattern here. Many things that scare me the most nowadays can be combined in a challenge which will lead to general growth as a person, as well as professional growth as a tester.

Last year Toyer's and my objectives had been the same: "return to Agile Testing Days as speakers". This year, our next goals diverge - but we still encourage, support, and hold each other accountable. That's the core part of the pact: stretch yourself - get support - achieve more than you thought you would on your own.

As this time my part of the pact is not as simple and easily comprehensible as last year, I felt the need to formulate the problem in a more elaborate way.
Challenge: Become a better skilled tester
For a long time I was the only tester in my companies, without having a mentor or more experienced person to learn from. Now I am finally not alone anymore as I have fellow testers at my company and found the external testing community for myself. However, I still have problems to see where I actually stand and how I can improve my testing skills. I read and think a lot; but I don't practice enough. There are so many testing areas to deep dive into, but I feel I need to fix my basics first: exploratory testing as well as automation. My personal challenge here: I already experienced how much value close collaboration and concrete feedback can bring, how safe this can be, and how great this environment is to learn. However, it still scares me to test together with other testers as I fear their feedback when making my weaknesses transparent.
My Hypothesis:
I believe that pairing and mobbing with fellow testers from the community on hands-on exploratory testing and automation will result in continuously increasing skills and knowledge as well as serendipitous learning. I’ll know I have succeeded when I noted down at least one concrete new insight or applied one new technique per testing session and shared that with the community.
The Experiment:
  • I do at least ten pair or mob testing sessions until end of October 2018, meaning one per month in average until next Agile Testing Days.
  • Each pair or mob testing session lasts at least 90min.
  • I pair or mob test with at least 6 different testers.
  • The fellow testers come from both my company's internal and the external community.
  • The topics focus on either exploration or automation. They can cover special topics like security, performance, accessibility, etc. but don't have to.
  • I publish my lessons learned on my blog, one post per testing session.
  • I make my personal challenge transparent in my company in form of an objective with key results and track my progress there to provide an example for my colleagues.

Why This?

When writing up all those thoughts it struck me. To come to above reasoning and my chosen challenge, I had several influences and especially influencers.

First of all, this year my product team first gave the mobbing approach a try - with huge success! We continue find more value in it. We even added it to our team's interview procedure nowadays.

Then Lisa Crispin shared her tips when pairing with developers which inspired me earlier this year to discipline myself and find more time to do so within my team. I even thought of cross-team pair testing already to help each other improve their skills. Just lately I had again a great pairing experience.
Additionally, I got heavily inspired by a set of awesome blog posts by Sal Freudenberg running the experiment of a coding tour and writing about her experiences afterwards; so far about pairingmobbing, and again pairing with a different developer.
Then Agile Testing Days came, with the mob testing tutorial - finally finding myself practicing together with other testers, not only developers. This was scary already, but we all had a very good experience and learned a bunch together.

And then there's Maaret herself of course. My mind keeps wandering back to our conversations. It was wonderful to exchange thoughts, share fears, get feedback, getting offered to pair test and to initiate an online peer conference together. There were so many key moments for me at Agile Testing Days this year, so many growing opportunities. But now I realized that for me personally, this was the very core key moment regarding my personal development: getting the offer to pair test with a very experienced tester; and accepting.

Ready. Set... Go!

Granted, I've elaborated quite a bit on my part of the new pact. A bit too much to remember the new challenge easily. So here's the short version: "return to Agile Testing Days as testing traveler". As a traveler I'll be learning step by step as I go, picking up things on my way. I'll be learning from the people I join on the topics we'll touch. I'll be receiving but also giving back, trying to trigger situations of serendipitous and accidental learning.

All in all, this is a big push towards scariness for me. But I'm already looking forward to what I may find on this journey. So, off to new frontiers! The testing tour is about to start.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Agile Testing Days #9 - Once Upon a Time in Unicorn Land

Last week I joined the Agile Testing Days for the third time in a row. This conference is dear and special to me due to various reasons; but this time it was even more special as I had the opportunity to join as a speaker for the first time. There's a lot to share about this event, so be prepared for a longer blog post! It would be worth several posts but I'd like to keep these thoughts together, so please bear with me.

Finally Back in Unicorn Land

When I arrived in Potsdam, it really felt like coming home. I had this kind of feeling already last year; and it only had increased since then. And the best part: A dear colleague came with me and I could introduce her to the whole conference family.

But why unicorn land? In case you are not familiar with the Agile Testing Days, or you've been there but still wonder why you will find lots and lots of unicorns at this conference, here's your answer.

My Personal Highlights This Year

There's so much to share from this conference, but I'll try to limit the following to the best of content and interactions.
  • Monday was tutorial day. The last years the tutorials were invaluable learning opportunities. Therefore I was really looking forward to the tutorial I've chosen this year: "Mob Testing" with Maaret Pyhäjärvi. And it even surpassed my highest expectations! First of all: We were a small learning group - only six participants including myself. Second: We had not only Maaret as facilitator (which was awesome by itself), but Llewellyn Falco as well. This way we even learned from two experts sharing their different perspectives. And last but not least: I already knew what a great learning experience mobbing can be, but this group made it even better. Thank you Gert-Jan BarteldsGabe NewcombLars Kjølholm, Hasina, and Katrin. Overall: This tutorial was perfect to get to know mobbing, practice it in a group of people who did not know each other in the beginning but did quite well in the end, and improve our skills in different facets of testing. Thank you all for this opportunity! I will definitely bring this to my company and do a mob testing workshop with our testing community.
  • Tuesday started (traditionally) with a lean coffee session, and ended (traditionally) with a big costume party. Both were awesome, but my highlight of this first conference day was Angie Jones' keynote "Owning Our Narrative". Brilliant talk comparing the automation of musical entertainment with the automation of "testing". She encouraged us to not resist change as it's inevitable, but to write our own story instead. If you have the chance to listen to her - please do so. Highly recommended!
  • Wednesday's Agile Games night was great! I had the chance to test George Dinwiddie's new story telling game together with a nice group - really fun. But the best was that I happened to have a prolonged talk with Thorsten Dobelmann whom I met on last year's Agile Testing Days. We both wanted to go to bed early, but then found ourselves standing in front of the stairs for about... two hours? This is what makes this conference so special: the people. We enjoyed our conversation last year, and meeting him again felt like we could just pick it up where we left it and continue. Thank you!
  • Thursday morning was all reserved to support two of the dearest persons I got to know at Agile Testing Days: Toyer Mamoojee and Viki Manevska, both having their talks this morning. And they were awesome! For Toyer, it was even his very own birthday and the conference organizers surprised him with a birthday cake just before his talk.
  • Friday came - the last day of this full week testing festival. I was really looking forward to the keynote that should open this day: the Afghan Girls' Robotic Team telling their story on stage. And then it happened: The sleep deprivation throughout the week exacted its toll - and I overslept. What a pity!! Many people expressed how this keynote moved them to tears, but also inspired them deeply. I can only hope that the recording will be made available soon; but watching a video is simply not the same as experiencing it live.
  • Fortunately, there were two more keynotes this day which turned out to be personal highlights as well. Maaret shared how she discovered mobbing for herself as a very safe way of "Learning through Osmosis", encouraging everyone to give it a try. And Janet Gregory shared the "Pivotal Moments" of her life, asking everyone to watch out for them to be ready to take them when they come. Both told very personal stories and left me so inspired! Thank you!
  • Overall, if you'd like to see a short version of all keynotes, check out the awesome sketchnotes of Stuart Young.

I'm speechless... I'm a speaker!

Not only that I could attend this year's Agile Testing Days again, not only that I met wonderful old and new people, not only that I gained new insights and got inspired; but this year I also had the opportunity to join as a speaker and host two sessions myself.

First, I gave my talk "'I am Groot' - Learning Agile Testing". It was awesome to see so many people being in the room who supported and encouraged me on my way! Among them Lisa, Toyer, Viki, and John my former manager - just to name a few. Thank you; I owe you a lot. Furthermore, thank you Llewellyn for providing detailed and constructive feedback on my talk, helping me improve and grow - heavily appreciated! And last but not least: I was blown away as I saw that someone did the very first sketchnote of one of my talks - thank you so much Marianne Duijst!
Second, I absolutely enjoyed to host the workshop "Testing in a Continuous World" together with the most awesome Lisa Crispin, one of the kindest and most supportive persons I know. It was great to see so many participants heavily focused and contributing! Also, I'd like to give a big shout-out to Dragan, who volunteered to help with our workshop and supported us perfectly - on his very birthday!
Attending the conference as a speaker changed my personal experience as well.
  • First of all, I had the opportunity to join the speaker's dinner for the very first time. Absolutely great and inspiring to talk and listen to all those awesome people!
  • Furthermore, I already knew from the last conferences I've spoken at that I won't be able to focus just before and after my session; so I definitely missed out on awesome talks taking place around mine. However, knowing about that fact in advance helped me this time, telling myself to be kind to myself and that's it's okay as it is.
  • When moving around the conference, I suddenly got recognized and addressed without me doing anything. I already saw this at TestBash Germany this year where I hardly found the time to eat, but due to the very positive reason of many great conversations with many new people. At Agile Testing Days it was sometimes hard to just cross the room to go to the toilet. I don't want to have it sound as cocky as it obviously does, but I was honestly surprised by the amount of people addressing me. As I rather identify as an introvert this helped me a lot as I did not have to start the conversation myself, so thanks to everybody coming up!
  • It is always hard to find a good balance between meeting people you know from last years, and getting to know new people. I think getting recognized as speaker added to finding the right balance, but still it's a tough question how to celebrate the reunion with the ones you know and still be open and inclusive for newcomers. Pete Walen wrote about this before the conference, and Lisa Crispin shared her thoughts just afterwards, as well as further ideas how to make conferences more inclusive.
  • It seems I could trigger some people to start sharing with the community as well; or at least I hope I did. In any case, I will continue to try doing so.
All in all, I am quite relieved that my journey to get on stage and all the effort I've made to make it real paid out in the end.

A New Pact to Come

With both of us getting on stage, Toyer and I fulfilled the deal we made on last year's Agile Testing Days to return as speakers; the very thing that scared us the most.
Not only that we found ourselves as lifelong learning partners supporting each other to reach our goal; we could also inspire others to start a pact themselves, or join us for our next one! This feels just great.
But what next? How will our next pact look like? Currently I'm pondering on what scares me the most nowadays. I'd like to make use of this special learning relationship this year as well, so it has to be something scary but helping my career. I have some ideas in mind but need to give them more thoughts before making a new pact public.

Whatever it will be, I know I have to find a better balance with my private life as it suffered quite a bit. I invested a lot of free time to make this challenge work out for me. Don't get me wrong, it was definitely worth the learning experience - but for instance I just discovered today that I have postponed to continue playing my latest computer game for exactly six months! :-o So, this year was special and it sort of kick-started everything, but now I have to find a better balance between learning and enjoying other things I love. Time is flying and will not come back, so I will try to make the best out of it.

Why I Go to Conferences, Or: Why I Go to This Conference

A few weeks ago, Maaret reflected on why going to conferences at all. Here's Guna Petrova's response:
And here you'll find the reasons of Heather Reid:

But why do I go to conferences?
  • Quite obvious: To learn about certain topics. To gain new insights, hear different perspectives, try things out.
  • Even more important: To meet awesome people! People I already met but also new people. People I can exchange experience with, ask for support, learn from.
  • And in the end, to return full of ideas and inspiration. If you could see me now, over one week after coming home, I'm still beaming. I've seen it last year: this kind of experience will guide and help me until the next conference.
I found all this at Agile Testing Days at its best. A full week of people and learning, nearly all around the clock. To be fair, it was my first ever conference in 2015; I am aware that this fact definitely does bias me. But if it hadn't been a great experience, I would not want to come back every year. Check out this Twitter moment to get more reasons why this conference is special in my eyes.

If you made it to the end of this (indeed quite long) post, you might have seen a pattern. I have a lot of people to thank - and I did not nearly mention them all. But I know I'll see a lot of them again at next year's Agile Testing Days and that makes me very happy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Testers and Developers - Thoughts about Collaboration

This post had been triggered by a survey conducted by Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Franzi Sauerwein about the collaboration between testers and developers. As I'm quite passionate about the topic I wanted to share my experience as well.
While taking the survey I felt the increasing desire to write about my thoughts. So I asked Maaret and Franzi whether they would agree with me posting my answers, as I didn't want to spoil the research or bias anyone. Fortunately they confirmed I could go ahead. So, whether you continue reading the following or not: if you haven't taken the survey yourself yet, please do so and support the research!

The Survey

The survey starts off with the question with which role you identify (developer, tester, both, neither). As I identify as a tester, I took the related option. Here are the questions and my answers.
  1. Tell us about a memorable moment of working together with a developer
    Not long ago, I detected a strange behavior in our product and wondered what caused it. It seems I expressed my astonishment loudly. A developer overheard it and instantly came over to see the strange behavior himself. Another developer joined in as well, we debugged the problem together and identified the root cause way quicker than I would have done it on my own. (I really like those situations of spontaneous collaboration and joining in myself in case I overhear a developer struggling. Another perspective often helps, no matter our "roles".)
  2. Has a developer told you your contribution is valuable?
    Yes
  3. What did you do?
    • Going through test ideas together early and asking questions to clarify behavior/risks which had not been addressed yet
    • Testing an early increment together
    • Going through test findings with the developer and instantly fix them together
    • Finding issues in places the developer did not expect at all
    • Constantly trying to improve the product/team/myself
  4. What frustrates you when working to developers?
    • "Them vs. us" mindset and behavior; "those evil testers"; testers seen as inferior monkeys clicking around and doing monkey stuff -> fortunately all those points are not the case in my current team
    • Communication via ticket comments instead of direct face-to-face communication
    • When the developer hands over a build but did not basically test it themselves yet; e.g. when an issue is identified on first interaction with the product
  5. What do you enjoy when working with developers?
    • Close collaboration in general; pairing and mobbing (mob programming and testing)
    • Complementing each other regarding skills and perspectives to build a great product together
    • Shared vision to deliver a quality product which helps our users

The Other Side

After submitting my answers I was curious which kind of questions I would have gotten if I had provided another answer on the initial question regarding my role/identity. I found that interestingly two questions for developers are framed slightly differently: "Have you worked with a tester that turned out to be invaluable to the team?" and "What did they do?" This made me think. Right now I have an awesome team around me who really appreciate how I contribute and see great value in me being on the team. But when talking to other persons in our company I received different perceptions of testers.
  • Testers being the evil ones breaking the software. I'm with Maaret here: "Testers don't break the code, they break your illusions about the code". It had been broken before.
  • "Manual testers" only clicking around the software, just following endless scripts, and doing their "monkey stuff". I had been told this to my face; I guess the other person did not realize what they were saying. In that moment I did not succeed in changing their view on things, so I'm still pondering how to address this perception issue: testers as people who are not valuable if they don't automate things. You know, everything should be automated.
  • Testers being inferior when compared to developers. Probably a consequence of the last point, but we're often still seen as the underdogs who are either not good enough to be developers themselves, or who are still on their way of finally becoming developers.
  • Developers being proud of not needing any testers. Well, if the testing expertise and experience exists in the team and the team shares responsibility for quality and testing, I don't see any problems with not having a dedicated tester. However, even if not having a dedicated one, I would say they still do have testers on the team. I really promote the whole-team approach to quality and testing. But when a team tells me that they don't need any tester, I would love to join them for some weeks and just observe to learn how they do things.

Collaboration

After taking the survey and having those kind of thoughts, it occurred to me that I had posted the following tweets in the last weeks about tester and developer collaboration.
This made me realize again how much I enjoy the close collaboration with my awesome teammates. When working together it does not matter who has which role or does which activity in the moment. And this finally confirms again what motivates me and keeps me going: building great products which deliver value together with great people.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

TestBash Germany - My First But Certainly Not Last

Last Friday, TestBash Germany took place for the very first time, in my hometown Munich. It was my very first TestBash; I gave my second conference talk ever; and it was simply amazing.

Impressions

Let's give you an idea of the atmosphere first. Here's TestBash Germany in tweets!

The Meetup Before


The Conference Day


After-Conference Meetup 


Open Space 


Talking, Take Two

Just last week I gave my very first conference talk at SwanseaCon. Shortly afterwards I found myself walking a theater stage, giving my second conference talk. I felt excited to get this opportunity; nervous to get on stage in front of a bigger audience consisting of mostly testers; and a bit freaking out due to the big camera in front of me. Fortunately, according to first feedback the talk seemed to have gone down quite well. If you'd like to have a first glimpse, check out my slides: Next Stop: FlixBus! A Tester Exploring Developer Land. Later on you'll find the recording on the Ministry of Testing Dojo.
Of course, not everything went as planned and I think there are several things to improve on (like learning how to ignore cameras). However, all the feedback and tweets about my talk really made my day; especially the following from two of the most awesome testers and speakers I know of - still can't believe it!

My Personal Highlights

There were many awesome talks and sessions, but the following impressed me the most. 

Last But Not Least: The People

You already heard me say it several times, and I mean it: In the end, it's all about the people. The people make this great community. And the community makes events like TestBash great. Therefore: A big shout-out and thank you to everyone who is part of it. And if you're feeling you're not part of it yet - please don't hesitate to ping me on Twitter. And if you're not on Twitter yet, I'd really recommend you to create an account instantly! Twitter helped me enter the community! :-)