This morning, fresh from a long night’s sleep after I returned from the EuroSTAR conference, I sat in the conservatory and watched the sky – a skein of autumn geese flew high, by v-skewed across the pale autumn sky. A murmuration of starlings. The parliament of rooks that sweep across the garden. I refilled the bird feeders for the smaller birds, and reflected, how blessed I am to have found this place as my haven and my home.
I’ve started 2017 by working on Seth Godin’s Freelancer course. Of, course, I have worked for myself for a long time, on and off, but this time, I really want to work in a way that maximises the good effect I know I can have, if I put my mind to it. Following on from GTAC and other experiences last year, I want to find myself and flourish this year – in my work and in my personal life.
I like Seth’s blog, so, let’s see what he can say that helps.
The course starts with a series of quick lectures to camera from Seth with some immediate ideas about WHY one might wish to freelance, and some characteristics: “A freelancer is a warrior without a king”. I listen, watch and take notes.
And then, the first exercise. Seth challenges the student to think about 6 questions about their desired freelance career, and answer these (reasonably) publicly – blog or facebook. So – here goes!
The six questions are:
- What do I want to do?
- Who do I want to change and how?
- How much risk will I take?
- How much work will I do?
- Does the work matter?
- Is it possible?
The first challenge from Seth…
What do I want to do?
My work, my purpose, is to enable individuals, teams and organisations provide software products and services that truly delight and enhance the world.
I want to build and use my talents and skills as a teacher, story teller, mentor and coach, to enable others to provide those beautiful software experiences.
Enhancing and using my talents and skills as a quality management, testing and user experience (UX) practitioner, will allow me to enable others to provide those beautiful software experiences.
Analytical, cognitive and emotional skills that I have, need to be maintained, enhanced and nurtured, so that in research I can find and share evidence of what is required to provide those beautiful software experiences to people within software teams, in order that they might share them in their own work.
In order to do this I want to cover some specific work, not being done elsewhere (as far as I know)
- Carry out research on the UX of testing tools and provide evidence and guidelines of what is required to improve them, leading to an improved tool set for testers
- Speak, write, teach, mentor, coach and advise people in software teams about quality, UX and testing
- Take part in projects, demonstrating by my own practise the ideas I am advocating.
Who do I want to change and how?
Organisations, teams and individuals who are designing, building, testing and delivering software products and services.
How do I want to change them? By changing their attitudes to UX, making it an essential rather than optional part of their delivery. By enabling them to provide a beautiful UX, and giving them permission to use the methods and techniques they need. By broadening the industry’s understanding of quality.
How will I do that? By providing coaching, teaching, support, and guidance. By example in my own work. By providing evidence of the current status of UX and what is required. By story-telling, performing, writing, and teaching.
How much risk will I take?
I have already stepped off the cliff, and I am gliding. I have already taken risks: personal, financial. This is it, this is the thing I want to do.
I need to make sure I have a home, food and other essentials. But I need to fly.
Risk: a 6 to 8, out of 10 is what I am prepared for and am taking.
How much work will I do?
My world needs to be balanced, rounded. It needs to contain things other than work. So, this will take diligence, enthusiasm, dedication. It will be hard work, especially to learn new things. I can see myself spending 50-60 hours a week on this.
I need to allow time for all the balance of yoga, meditation, sewing, walking, reading, gardens, and the other things that recreate myself. I need to allow time for friends and family.
Does the work matter?
Yes. Although I did not get funding from the WII application that I did last year, the feedback said the idea of investigating UX for test tools was potentially a game changer, and ground breaking. The feedback also said this is at a research stage. So, the research project is vital as a next step. I need to find a place/way to base the research so it is well founded and leads to useful results.
Is it possible?
- There are others successfully offering consultancy in quality, testing and UX (but as separate subjects)
- There are others researching into the UX of other tools used in software development and support – test tools is in a gap between research
This is not outlandish, but it is new.
Coming soon: what Seth challenged me to do next… and whether I succeeded…
I’ve rebooted. I’m renewing myself; my self is new. I’m starting again. At 61, it’s time to embrace my next 50 years of productive, happy, useful and fulfilling life. Everything is up for grabs, anything is possible: work and play, friends and family, where I live, what I do, how I see myself and how others see me. Attending the GTAC conference in November 2016 has been a major part of that reboot.
This is part of my story. If I can get to GTAC and reboot, you can too. Application, Acceptance, Conference, Project.
Watch my feet dance now In my new red pixie boots Rocking a new tune. New found freedom scares And exhilarates me. I Reach out and kiss life. Old white woman fears. But she was wrong two ways: Young, not old. Not fearful. GTAC wakes me up. I hold my head up, standing proud. I am ready, able. I hold my hand out. You take it willingly. Love and friendship always.
- A formal request to be considered for a position
- Sustained effort
- A program or piece of software
I subscribed to the Google Testing blog, and got an email which said that there would be a conference about test automation (GTAC 2016), and how to apply to go. I thought: “that doesn’t mean me” but I was waking up in my life, and wanted more than I was experiencing. Could I do this? Was I even allowed?
What’s the worst that could happen, when an old white woman applies for a diversity scholarship place at Google’s GTAC conference? That she gets laughed at? Go for it! Being an older woman in tech is not that unusual, but it does feel like being in a minority… And 61 is not old, it is the accumulation of decades in the industry, rich experience, and the knowledge there is more to learn.
So I applied, with the encouragement of friends. I was starting to think about the user experience and usability of testing tools, and how that needed to be addressed. I realised I had a story to tell, about myself, and about the user experience of tools. It took application, but I applied. The act of applying made me look at myself and my life. It made me think more clearly about the UX for test tools. I’d been thinking “Someone needs to do something about this”. Maybe that was – me.
After applying, I had to “forget” GTAC for a while. But I kept working at ideas around the user experience of test tools, attending the CREST workshop, following up on-line with research, writing a paper for UCAAT 2016. I discussed the ideas with other people, friends in the industry. I made an application to the Women in Innovation funding, for money to carry out a project during 2017 to research UX of test tools and develop UX guidelines for tools builders. The application was not successful, but the act of applying made me clarify my ideas some more, and the conversations with colleagues in the industry built my confidence. Something was beginning to happen… and it started with applying to GTAC2016.
- The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid or suitable
- The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered
- Willingness to tolerate a difficult situation
The day dawned that successful applicants for scholarships would be announced. I had told myself repeatedly not to expect success, so I was disappointed but not distraught when by close of business UK time I had not heard anything. But later that night I could not sleep and was on my laptop, working, surfing, thinking, worrying, self-criticising, when at 4am UK time an email arrived. I had been accepted. I leapt up, amazed, delighted, elated. I was accepted, validated. I accepted the place.
Between acceptance and the conference, in that space of time, my confidence start to grow and yet falter. Could I do this? Was I capable? Would I fit in? All the excitement and frisson of encountering the new was upon me. That delicious yet terrifying mix of anticipations, that urge caution and its opposite, that cause the heart to pound, and the adrenaline to surge.
And yet, amongst the congratulations and the excitement for me, there were those who were dismissive, who said that achieving the place and the scholarship was nothing, and that I would not succeed when I got to the conference. The naysayers and the draggers-down, with their grey and dreary negativity, trying to close around me. I learnt something about the people around me because of applying to and getting a scholarship for GTAC. I learnt who are my friends, who loves me for myself. And so it was that, shortly before GTAC, I walked away from my home and into the light of new possibilities. I started to meet new people, make new friends, present at new conferences.
- A formal meeting of people with a shared interest
I’ve attended and spoken at several conferences this year: story-telling, user experience of test tools and quality in use. Some of these have gone very well, some less so, but each one provides me with lessons, about myself, how people perceive me, what I am capable of, what else I want to do and learn. I’ve learnt from others as well as teaching. At UCAAT in Budapest, I spoke about the user experience of test tools, and about human factors in test automation.
And so to GTAC2016. I arrive nervous, but quickly realise that all the scholarship recipients are in the same hotel and that I’m on the communal list that Joel and others have made – we are in this together! I make a post to my 5 Facebook friends about imposter syndrome, and then over lunch it turns out that the others have had the same thoughts. Am I an imposter? Do I belong? I am amazed – this group of young, vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, witty, accomplished, younger people accept me and they are also a little apprehensive! They are wiser than me in many ways, and I get good advice on networking, social media and smartphone apps…
We visit the LinkedIn offices and Olga is a great host, showing us around, sitting and chatting with us. We start to share experiences. It’s fascinating, hearing the similarities in what we experience. Also, I would like to work somewhere that has a meditation room. And we visit Stanford University. Pink fountains, wildly funny celebrations in music, dance and teddy-bear impalement of the upcoming match with Stanford’s big football rival (CalTech? I cannot remember, all other memories overshadowed by the sight of beefy football players attempting cheer-leading dances.)
In the evening, the reception at the Computing History Museum. Interesting place, but I become overcome with nerves, and my attempts at networking flounder. Thank you, Ari, for your intervention. I survived…
The conference itself, 2 days of great talks, with insights on the need for speed and value in test automation. Over and over, people talk about the need for improved usability and user experience for tools, to enable better productivity for engineers. I listen to people who have research results with evidence that points to how we can improve, to people who have solved practical problems to automate tests in diverse and challenging circumstances, who have succeeded in providing value and speed. I make notes till my hands hurt. My brain fills with ideas and sparkles.
In the evening, there is a funfair. It is worrying. People, noise, strange things to do. I do them anyway… I survive, I enjoy myself.
The highlight talk for me among so many great talks: Niranjan Tulpule gives a keynote where he talks about the democratisation of the development process. I am blown away. He is focused entirely on the need to widen the group of people who can engineers software successfully. He is talking about the drivers that made me think about the user experience of test tools. I start to think more, as he speaks. It is not just engineers who test. It is not just engineers who solve problems. The problems that need to be solved are not just engineering problems. If the tool set allows a wider range of people to engage, we are more likely to reflect the diversity of people in the world, and we’ll get software that solves people’s problems, allows them to work as they want, instead of building software that forces people to be like software.
I finish the conference elated. My brain is happily buzzing, and I want to take the next steps.
And I have learnt in these few days – you can out of your comfort zone and survive. Doing something that makes you look foolish is not as bad as doing nothing. At a conference, we have a lot in common. More than separates us across our diversity. I link to some of the others, and make Facebook friend requests – another small step into the world.
- Enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim
- Estimate or forecast
- Extend outwards beyond
- Throw or cause to move forward
So what next? Where will I project myself? How do I move forward? I have two areas of work to explore. Story telling and TX: The tester experience of tools.
Storytelling project: I applied for and have been accepted on a story telling and art workshop in Italy 2017 run by Tania Katan and Angela Ellsworth (The Topography of Memory). This is so exciting! And, succeeding getting a place at GTAC was one factor in building my courage to apply. This blog is a piece of storytelling, as are the haiku that I wrote yesterday on a plane, reflecting on GTAC2016.
TX project: I will do a project on the tester experience of test tools. I made a small survey at a conference in Lisbon last week, to try out a tools usability questionnaire that I wrote. I am going to talk to several people about how to make this project happen. Watch out world: GTAC2016 has given me confidence, motivation and the will to make this happen.
Thank you GTAC2016: organisers, speakers, other attendees, fellow diversity scholarship winners: for being you, for welcoming me, for helping me reboot. With your kindness and friendship, I felt accepted, welcomed, enabled to learn and grow.
GTAC2017, London: looking forward to seeing you all again.
I’m lucky enough to be presenting at several conferences this year… Here is a quick list of what I am presenting, where and when. My themes for this year are:
- teamwork and people;
- test design;
- story telling;
- user experience and quality in use;
- influence diagrams;
- which are all contributors to the workbox we each carry with us to perform our roles.
- Workshop: “Using Influence Diagrams to Understand testing.”
- Workshop/discussion: “Learning to tell our testing stories.”
- Tutorial: “Your testing workbox.”
- Tutorial: “Using influence diagrams to understand testing.”
- Lightning keynote…
- Keynote: “Telling our testing stories.”
- Presentation “Quality in use: the beating heart of the user experience.”
- Keynote: “Telling our testing stories”
- Workshop: “Build an influence diagram – practical” (with Stuart Reid).
- Workshop: “Leave me alone: Hey I’m hiding from my team” (with Nadine Raes)
- Lightning key “I was so much older then…(Rebooting to 25 and re-imagining my career”)
Webinar on 21st July “Stories: realising their potential and power in projects”
- Tutorial: “Quality in use: the beating heart of the user experience.”
- Tutorial: “Your testing workbox.”
- Tutorial: “Using influence diagrams to understand testing.”
- Tutorial: Leading, following or managing? Efficient and effective ways to help your group thrive
- Keynote: My Failures in Software Testing
- Tutorial: Human factors for test automation
- Keynote: TX – the UX for test automation
- Webinar on 21st July “Stories: realising their potential and power in projects”
- Workshop: “Learning to tell our testing stories.”
So the passport will see some action this year!
This year I went to three software testing conferences:
- #btdconf Belgium Testing Days in Bruges;
- #sigist BCS SIGiST in London; and
- #esconfs EuroSTAR in Dublin.
It had been a couple of years since I’d been able to get to a conference, let alone speak at one, so I particularly enjoyed them this year.
Belgium Testing Days, March 2014, Bruges
It was good to meet up with old friends in Bruges. Mieke and Nadine are great hosts/organisers, and they made sure that both the social events and the conference itself were fun, interesting and participative.
As well as attending the keynotes, a number of other presentations and some workshops, I presented a workshop on planning continuous professional development (CPD) for testers. We were a small group but that worked to the advantage of the session, with everyone contributing problems to solve and solutions to those problems. We built a skeleton CPD plan, based on SFIA scoring. We identified that an 18 month timescale seemed to allow for a plan that allowed scope for significant personal development, and looked at the difference in approach for people with different levels of experience. This choice was based on some of the findings from a survey of tester motivation, presented in a keynote to the conference by Dr Stuart Reid. The survey report indicated a difference in what motivated people depending on their length of service as a tester. The service length bands we chose were:
- test induction (<1 year in test, new entrant);
- test induction (<1 year in test, transferring from another role);
- developing skills (1 to 3 years in test);
- becoming professional/expert/craftsman (4-6 years);
- continuing professional development (7 – 10 years);
- nurturing expertise and mastery (over 10 years).
Then in the skeleton CPD plan, we were able to see that a specific CPD plan for a test team the team leader or manager responsible for CPD could identify for each of these groups:
- their main motivating factor;
- who are the team members in that group;
- commentary to focus CPD appropriately, for example if an individual is motivated by the same approaches as others in the peer group;
- types of CPD activity / experiences / that are appropriate;
- evidence of completion (behavioural and artefacts);
- types approaches to CPD that might be inappropriate for the group – things NOT to do;
- a brief comparison with SFIA/BCS provisions for development for this level of experience;
- a cost benefit analysis.
All the workshop attendees had access to the skeleton plan in spreadsheet we drew up and shared at the end of the session.
In the rest of the conference, I particularly enjoyed the time I spent with Fiona Charles. We spent time together in the conference and also we explored Bruges, on foot and in a horse & carriage, still discussing testing as we went. Those conversations are one of the really valuable outcomes of attending a conference, the chance to discuss ideas with other practitioners.
Also I enjoyed Goranka Bjedov’s keynote where she talked about what worked and what didn’t work when interacting with developers. A very funny and true description of how our enthusiasm for testing and finding defects can be unhelpful to our colleagues. I noticed I was not the only person squirming as we recognised ourselves!
I also spent time with Graham Thomas & Phil Isles who presented a workshop on Python Programming. You can find a really good description of this useful workshop on http://badgerscroft.com/home/programming-for-testers/. If it comes up at another conference I recommend it.
Thanks Mieke and Nadine for letting me present the workshop, and for a great conference.
BCS SIGiST, July 2014, London
The one day conference in London was an interesting day. The highlight for me was the opening speaker, Gojko Adzic, who talked about reinventing testing. His hand-drawn slides were really effective and it was an important message; that as the world changes around us, we have to change how we test and what we test.
EuroSTAR, November 2014, Dublin
This was – for me – the closing conference of the year, and it was a real pleasure to be there. I was inspired by hearing Andy Stanford-Clark among other speakers to start reengaging my technical skills and to update how I communicate with the rest of the world. This blog site is one result of the conference and his influence in particular. Another is that I have ventured onto Twitter.
I’d never heard Shmeul Gershon speak before. His keynote was a real pleasure – refreshingly different, well-illustrated, and whilst about testing also raised wider questions that really got me thinking. The evolution of how information has been stored, and the impact of the medium of storage on its persistency, update frequency, intentionality, ability to self-modify and ability to modify the outside world change as the primary method of storage changes from DNA to brain, to tools, to writing, to the digital world. His talk has left me with many ideas to research and ponder.
Fiona Charles presented a workshop on leadership. I didn’t manage to attend all of it unfortunately, but while I was there it engaged in me in two ways. Firstly, listening to other people really made me question my preconceptions about leadership and management. Second, I really liked the way she led the workshop, with no slides and almost instant group discussion, so I am very tempted to try a similar approach.
Of the other sessions I attended, both Julian Harty’s keynote and Peter Morgan & Fabian Scarano’s presentation both happened to address specific areas and issues that I have been facing at work, and so that information has already been taken and applied straight away at the office.
My own presentation was about the change programme and improvement where I work – what has worked and what has not worked. I had some really useful discussions as a result, and a lot of valuable feedback.
I met many old friends and made some new ones, the test hub in the exhibition space really worked well as a place to bump into people. I had very valuable and helpful discussions and learnt a lot from conference delegates as well as speakers.
The social aspects of a Dublin conference were also excellent. The dinner at Trinity College was a real privilege to be part of, what an amazing building. Also brilliant drummers who led us to the expo party.
Thank you to Paul Gerrard for setting up a great programme, and to the EuroSTAR team for such brilliant organisation. You can follow up on the conference on the Test Huddle if you want.
14 December 2014
At the EuroSTAR conference in Dublin this year I was inspired to do several things, which I hope will improve my professional practice and my ability to communicate. I decided to:
- revitalise my technical skills such as programming;
- join Twitter in order to follow those speakers from the conference who particularly inspired me and to understand the community better;
- start a blog in order to improve my opportunities for technical writing and perhaps for story telling;
- use the blog to log any progress I make with improved technical skills.
This is the first post I have made, and is a test of the process of publishing a blog.