Tag Archives: personal development

And then a harder challenge…

Seth’s course continues with him speaking, giving examples, explaining concepts and exhorting… I am not going to go through everything he suggested (do the course! I urge you… do the course! Seth Godin’s Freelancer course) but I will give some ideas of the challenges in the exercises, what they made me think about, and some of my answers.

The next questions Seth posed (as exercises 2 and 3) are really thought provoking:

  • What do people buy when they buy something from you?
  • Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic stuff… what are you doing that’s difficult?

This really got me thinking, because, the easy answer is “consultancy and training,” but… what do I mean by that? What exactly do people want to buy from me? My engagements with customers don’t necessarily offer concrete deliverables – although they can do. I’m not providing wedding catering, or photography,  where people can see something they have bought. What I offer could seem quite nebulous. The type of feedback I have had from satisfied customers (especially senior people like CEOs) are words like “happier because you are here,” “calmer days,” “more confidence”.  This requires some thinking – what are people buying, really, when they buy from me? This is not about what I think I am selling, but about what other people think they are buying.

What do people buy when they buy something from me?

I provide consultancy, training, coaching, mentoring in my specialist areas within IT. That is software quality management, software testing and user experience testing.

Therefore people buy my expertise and knowledge.

More specifically, if YOU buy from ME: you buy my confidence, energy and enthusiasm, my ability to enthuse others. You buy my diligence, my competence, my ability to find out or synthesise new things from a set of information / data and therefore suggest a (new to you) solution to a problem that you have.

You buy the knowledge that you can trust me, because I am a professional.

Leave out the easy, repetitive, generic stuff… what am I doing that’s difficult?

The difficult parts of my role, the reason I succeed, is because of two contrasting areas: People and Data.

Most of the problems I encounter in organisations, and help to solve, arise from gaps in people’s communication, understanding and skills. I’m an enabler and teacher. I enable others to become more confident and to learn new skills, both technical and interpersonal. After time with me, you’ll have bought the ability to close those communication gaps.

Data arrives on organisation’s laps in vast and unmanageable clumps. I have the ability, the patience and a certain enjoyment in unravelling data, analysing it, researching, thinking, synthesising, making data into information. Ideas arising from this work are often hard to explain and convey, but I have a skill in transferring and clarifying concepts via story-telling and metaphor. After time with me, you’ll have bought knowledge you’ve gained from those stories.

Here are ten things you’ll get from me, if you are my client:

  1. Trustworthiness – if I say I’ll do it, then I’ll do it.
  2. Kindness and respect – I’ll treat people as people.
  3. Diligence and hard work – you won’t wonder whether I could have done more.
  4. Honesty in feedback – I won’t flatter, I will critique, and I’ll praise
  5. Enthusiasm and positive attitude – I will look for ways to make things work.
  6. Stories and metaphors – I’ll seek many ways to explain and transfer ideas.
  7. Listening and understanding – I will take time to make communication two-way.
  8. Timeliness and scheduling – I will work to get things done ahead of date.
  9. Confidence and worth – I want to leave you feeling more capable than I found you.
  10. Sharing and giving – I want to transfer to you the knowledge I have.

Rank yourself…

Then came a really hard question, but one that I found important to reflect on really carefully. How do I rank, against others, against myself as I used to be, and against what I could be in the future? Seth asked: “Compared to others who do what you do, rank yourself on reputation, knowledge, expertise, tools, handiness”

So, how do I compare? And, who do I compare myself to?

I took a long hard look at my skills and expertise. There are some areas where I have specialised, practised, and continue to grow. There are other areas which are no longer my specialism. It’s like spring cleaning a cupboard – what do I want to keep? what do I want to mend? and what do I throw away? As I continue to specialise, it is clearly impossible to know everything.

Then, I reflected again on all the earlier exercises.

  • What are people buying from me? Have I the expertise and skills to offer those things? Yes, I do.
  • My most important skills and knowledge – am I nurturing those well enough? Probably, but still, I made a plan for professional development, focusing on the things that are important
  • Where I have neglected a skill and got rusty, are those skills still relevant? Probably not, so I need to decide whether I revisit them or not.

Lots to do, lots to learn. Even if I was completely satisfied with myself, the world around me changes and I need to keep up to date.

Next: Fear, selling and tiptoeing through the marketplace….

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Rebooting my life: the effect of attending GTAC2016

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.

Summary Haiku

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.

Application

  • 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.

Acceptance

  • 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.

Conference

  • 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.

Project 

  • 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.

Eagle or pigeon? Eagle or Chicken?

Eagles and chickens: Developing testers to their full potential

eagle-cropped

The Fool and the Eagle

A fool saw an eagle perched with the king’s falcons. “You are a strange pigeon” he said. So he cut off the eagle’s talons, and clipped down its beak. He tore off its crest, and shortened its wings and tail. “Now you are a proper pigeon,” he said. The eagle wept remembering its former glory.

Tell me my friends – Are you a fool to your eagles? Are you a weeping eagle?

The Kind Chicken and the Eagle

A chicken found an eagle’s egg, and not knowing what it was, hatched and raised he chick as her own. One day, the eagle was scratching in the farmyard with the other chickens. It looked up and saw a mighty bird soaring above it. “What is that?” it asked. “Oh, that is an eagle. They fly up high, but we stay here, in the farmyard.” “So we do,” thought the cheagle, “I’m glad I’m a free range chicken.” And it scratched the ground.

Tell me my friends – Are you that kind chicken? Or are you the eagle who thinks it is a chicken? In your role as a tester, are you fulfilling your potential? And are you enabling your team to fulfil their potentials?

For me, the lesson from this fable is not to underestimate myself, or others. We sometimes hold ourselves back, through fear, unawareness or lack of knowledge. We also sometime hold others back because of preconceptions about the roles open to people, and their capabilities.