2018 in retrospect – PART 4

2018 in retrospect – PART 3

Conferences and blogging

This year I was invited to do my second keynote at RTC in Cluj, Romania (I wonder how many keynotes you need to do to stop counting them?). My first keynote happened last year at Testing Cup in Gdansk, Poland.

Also that first invite to talk at a conference feels wonderful – and so do the ones that follow. It is still rare for me to get invited to talk at a conference. But it is a sense of pride and joy when I do get an invitation. It’s payback for all the hard work I have put in so far in my talks.

This year my conference gigs took me to two new countries, Romania and Scotland.

Romanian Testing Conference

It was a great event and a nice atmosphere at the conference. As a speaker I was treated well and was picked up at the airport when I arrived. I had been invited to keynote and in my talk Testing through Space and Time I chose to talk about how the essence of testing is the same though our context is changing. I also shared how widely spread the misconceptions around testing is, unfortunately increasing the belief that testing can be replaced by automation.

I tried to enjoy as much as possible of the conference but like always I am a wreck before hitting the stage. But I managed to get to meet a few new people and have some interesting discussions around software development with Jim Holmes and Laurent Bossavit. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to stay after the conference but I got a few hours of walking in Cluj together with Laurent.

Scotsoft

Next up was ScotSoft where I was invited many thanks to recommendations from Maaret Pyhäjärvi since she couldn’t go herself. ScotSoft was my first developers conference as a speaker. This invitation opened up for a great  opportunity to actually do a paired talk together with Peter, my husband who is a developer.

For those of you who have read my blog on volunteering and community involvement bridging between communities have been on my radar for quite some time. One thing that I assign to #bridgingbetweencommunities is,  to overcome misconceptions about testing we can’t stick to preaching to the choir but we need to reach a different audience. And what could be a better way of doing it as a developer and a tester and as an extra twist to it –  a married couple.

I’m not going to lie, getting the talk was quite a challenge. Peter, my husband normally takes care of everything when I am preparing a talk. This time he was preparing it with me. In the end it all worked out well and we were happy with our talk and the feedback we received.

We also got to enjoy Edinburgh since we stayed a few days after the conference. It’s a beautiful town and we also found some great food and beer places.

Agile Testing Days

I was happy to get to be part of ATD’s 10th anniversary. ATD is really a very big conference and  it is easy to feel a bit intimidated with all the attendees and speakers. Luckily I knew quite a few people there already from other conferences I’ve been to and people I follow on social media. I also really appreciated all the women from the Women In Testing group who were there and supported each other. A big thanks to Anne-Marie  who was my support and comfort in my workshop! 

At ATD I ran my workshop creativity on testing and how limitations can be both boosting and hindering. I had run a similar one before but as most people I learn and adjust from each workshop and I talk I do and I improve my workshops. This was really fun to do so I hope to get to run it again at some other place.

Oredev

bild1

The last conference for this year was Oredev. Since Peter and I had put so much time and effort in to our talk for ScotSoft we wanted to run it again and also be able to update it with some of the feedback we had received. So I took a long shot and sent it to Oredev in case they hadn’t filled their program yet. We were lucky and got accepted. Being in Malmö where we both live made it easy to arrange for someone to look after our children.

A few years ago I was part of the program committee for a while but this was my first time as a speaker at Oredev. Getting to see the conference from the other side was really interesting.

The talk did not go as well as it did at ScotSoft. We are still not sure what parameters affected our talk this time. It didn’t flow and it wasn’t as natural as it was the first time but we got quite a few questions after the talk, which I think is a good sign. The talk made people think.

Blogging

First I thought I actually didn’t write anything this year. But I realised I had written two posts, just not on my own blog but for IKEA. It’s an initiative, part of the transformation they are currently going through. Since I really enjoy writing and have plenty of stuff to say I volunteered. Funny enough I left more drafts than actual published ones.

You can read the two post I published here:

Take aways from this episode

Four conferences this year was almost too much for me due to other commitments I had. I wrote too little and I want to be able to write more next year, because I have a lot to share.

I still prefer running workshops to talks because I can improvise and go with the energy in a completely different way than on stage.

Stay tuned for my 5th and last post.

I found it!

PART 3 – of a short series around creative thinking and testing

Part 1 – Boosting your creative thinking 
Part 2 – Where did my creativity go?

There it was. Monday, the day before the workshop and an entire day of work meetings and fire fighting before I could put my workshop together. There would be no room for pondering any ideas during the day.  Once back home I locked myself into my small working room with a pen, a paper and a laptop. I scribbled, I tinkered with some of gadgets for my exercises, I went through my stash of stuff I use for teaching, I drew some pictures for my power point presentation and put it together.  Four hours later I was satisfied with what I had come up with and I could finally go to sleep.

Notice how I did not say that I was done. I am never done but I had a good idea of how I would proceed with my workshop.  On the morning before heading to the conference I tossed down some extra stuff in my bag in case (coloring pens, paper, puzzles etc) I would have new ideas popping up in my head for my workshop.

When I got to the venue and had a look at the room for where I would run my workshop I got the shivers. The room was set up with chairs in rows all facing a huge white board where I was expected to project my presentation. This was not setup for creativity so my first job was to change the layout of the room to create a playful space.

I believe the workshop was a success. I had a lot of fun myself, came up with an exercise on the fly and enjoyed the vibe and energy in the room.

So how did I get from a void of ideas and a loss of motivation and energy to a room full of movement, talking, drawing, laughing and test idea generating? Was it magic?

IMG_20170915_153146

 

 

 

 

Where did my creativity go?

PART 2 – of a short series around creative thinking and testing

Part 1 – Boosting your creative thinking

With only a few days left to the workshop and a void of ideas I was starting to get slightly worried about my abilities to come up with anything. I did have a few old ideas up my sleeve but I wanted to do something new and something different. Something I hadn’t done before. I did buy some stuff online which I thought I might have use for, like empty cards to write on and some Marvel Avengers Trading Cards. I do keep a stash of things which might be of use in workshops I design.

However I was exhausted after long working days and could not find any inspiration or energy to immerse in designing my workshop. On top of this I had a company gathering coming up which would keep my weekend busy.

Part of my process is to bounce off ideas with other people. I decided to use the Open Space we created at our gathering to facilitate a discussion on creativity and testing, particularly in how people come up with test ideas. It fit very well with my colleague Carsten’s topic on “Getting creative on demand” so we decided to combine our sessions.

My main takeaways from that discussion were the following:

  • My colleagues shared following regarding how they come up with test idea:
    • Visualizing by mapping the system
    • Using personas
    • Collaborate with a colleague
    • Using the rubber duck method – talking out load
    • Using different heuristics
  • Discussion around getting creative on demand
    • You need space and time.
    • Difficult to be creative on demand.
    • You can practice to be prepared when the demand comes up
      • One colleague shared how he keeps notes of all kind of things, fragment of conversations, ideas which come up etc.
    • Learn how you get creative – your natural mode
      • Talking
      • Writing
      • Moving
      • Focus or defocus

The discussion was interesting though I didn’t discover anything which I did not know or had experienced before, except a tip on a video on creativity by John Cleese.

When coming home from the gathering I still did not have the energy to design my workshop. Our gatherings are very intense, but in a positive way.  Instead I decided to watch the  video tip and read some blog posts on creativity. That was Sunday evening and barely two days before my workshop.

On Monday I woke with a twitch. It was crystal clear why my creativity had disappeared. Understanding this, my energy came back as well as my creativity. I was ready to design my workshop!

Part 3 – I found it!

Boosting your creative thinking

PART 1 – of a short series around creative thinking and testing.

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop on creativity at a local conference Testit in Malmö. The purpose was to share some ideas of how to boost your creative thinking and some tools of how you can improve your thinking around test ideas.

Our testing is only as good as our thinking and many times we are held back by deadlines, limited time, poor communication, knowledge and pre-defined roles and responsibilities.

I have a certain process which I go through when ever I create a workshop or an exercise. Usually I start with an idea and a purpose of what I want the participants to learn. I trust my process of where I will come up with exercises which fits the purpose. This is the part which I get the most excited about, where I let my creativity flow. I play with different ideas, tools and media. I might experiment and try my ideas on colleagues and friends. I want my workshops to be interactive, fun and experiential where my work is much more about facilitating learning and creating opportunities than traditional teaching. I want my workshops to be fun. The most difficult is to balance the fun and the learning. What I mean is even though I aim for fun and play, that can’t take away the focus on the learning.

Like many times before I trusted my own process about putting my workshop together in time for the conference. I wasn’t worried, I had some ideas pondering but nothing really tangible. I knew I would come up with something. Surprisingly that didn’t happen. I realized I kept procrastinating my preparation and the day for the conference just kept coming closer and closer. I could not even force myself into designing my workshop.

My creativity was gone! What happened?!

To be continued…

Part 2 – Where did my creativity go?

The Speak Easy program, Part 2: Arachnofobia and Fear of Public Speaking

This is a very personal story about my fear of speaking in public.

I have previously indicated I have had a great fear of speaking in public. It is not limited to a public event but in fact to mostly any kind of groups of people I don’t know. In fact even with people I know, I get nervous. Why? I think it is the feeling of being observed, judged that scares me. With that in mind it might be difficult to understand why I have chosen a career which in fact requires speaking to groups of people I don’t know very well, almost every day. It actually sounds crazy when I think about it.

Why I have chosen to follow the path that have led me to where I am today is thanks to my ambition to:

  • learn from my mistakes, even when they hurt so much you think you never want to do this again
  • continuously improve myself
  • share my experience, so that others might learn from it
  • help others to improve and find there strengths

So how did I reach to the point where I held my first recorded international presentation (Visualizing Testability at CAST 2015)? Let me first share a different story about fear.

Capturing the spider

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had what you would might refer to as a light degree of arachnophobia. I would panic in the near sight of a spider. I would start sweating and behave completely irrational.  As a child I refused opening the windows to my bedroom when it was hot outside. I would rather sweat and not be able to sleep because of the heat, than opening up an opportunity for a spider to get in to my bedroom.

One time I was laying in my bed, reading a book, when I noticed in the corner of my eye, something crawling on my pillow. The horror I felt when I saw it was a spider is completely irrational. In Sweden where I live, we don’t even have any poisonous spiders, at least not any that would be lethal to humans. That night I slept on the couch in another room, since the spider had disappeared before my parents could catch it and was not to be found any where.

When I got older I realized I couldn’t rely on my parents or other people to help me out every time a spider appeared. The breaking point was the day where I had just gotten a new apartment and my parents were helping me to move. My new flat already had an inhabitant, a spider and I panicked. I was lucky to have my father remove it. I believe I was in my twenties! This could no longer go on. What would I do next time a spider appeared?

I decided to take control of my fear. My process was rather straight forward. It has taken many, many years to get to where I am today. I still don’t like spiders, but I can control my fear a bit better. So what did I do?

catchspider

When searching for what resulted in this picture, I realized I can still easily lose control over my fear. Search for “spider in a glass” and I think you will understand. I had to bring out one of my tools from my tool box. It’s the same one I use when I get nervous on stage. I use the Deep breathing technique to calm myself down.

  • I trapped the spider with a glass
  • I slid a stiff paper under the glass
  • I watched the spider closely
  • I lifted the paper and the glass and threw the spider in the toilet (yes, sorry all animal friends, this is what I did)

It sounds easy, right? Well it wasn’t. I cried the very first time I caught the spider. The first times I left the glass with the spider in it standing for days on the floor. I also let the glass with the spider in it standing on the paper on the floor for days. I’ve made horrible mistakes using too thick paper, leaving a gap large enough for the spider to escape when trying to slide the paper under the glass. I have used glasses that were too small and completely missed the eight-legged monster. I’ve tried to throw the spider out the window and it blew back and landed on me! Yes it might be funny now. But I was surely not laughing at the time.

When I became a mother,  I had even a bigger incitement to not let fear take control over me. I wanted to be a role model and show them how you can overcome, or at least take control over your fear. When I think back to my childhood and think of how I felt when a spider appeared I can only wish I had dealt with my fear earlier.

Getting control over the fear of public speaking

It might sound like a cliche, but the more you practice the easier it gets. I don’t know how many spiders I’ve captured with a glass but today it feels a lot easier than it did many years ago.

After a speaking incident that left me with low self esteem and tears, and with a new upcoming presentation only six months later I knew I had to do something about it. On top of it, this presentation was THE presentation, my first presentation at a conference, which happened to be Let’s Test. It was THE presentation, where so many of the testers I respect would be. It meant a million to me and I didn’t want to fail again.

I used a similar approach as in treating my arachnophobia. I decided to accelerate my learning and I  was lucky enough to have a boss who supported me and agreed to pay for me to consult a speaking coach. We met 10 times before my presentation. So what was the process:

  • Speak – the moment we met, he made me stand in front of him and speak
  • Recording me speak
  • Watching the recording of me speaking
  • Showing me a structure of the speak
  • Immediate feedback
  • Challenging me – continuously challenge me to take control over the space.
  • Making me practice – over and over again
  • Setting up a sub target – a speaking event where I could practice before THE conference

The process was not easy. I don’t think my coach knows this but I cried at home during the process too. I doubted many times that I could go through with it. I doubted that I could have a dialogue with the audience. I doubted I could engage the audience and get them to respond to me. I doubted I could be or do all those things he challenged me to do. The thing I remembered the most was our second encounter where he immediately told me to get up and speak. I couldn’t get a word out of my mouth.

Since then I have only spoken three times in public counting my first presentation at Let’s Test. My last presentation at CAST went pretty well I think even though I was so nervous I couldn’t remember very much of what I said. Luckily it was recorded and I’ve managed to force myself to watch parts of it. I have also had several workshops which I don’t feel the same about. I actually love workshops.

I believe you too can take control over your fear of public speaking. That is what is so great about Speak Easy. It’s a program where people voluntarily wants to help you! You can choose for what you would like to be mentored for. Some one in that program might be able to help you as my coach helped me. The two main things to summarize my process in overcoming the fear of speaking and to get better is:

  • Practice – As easy as it sounds it’s all about practice, practice and practice. The first time I couldn’t even stand in front of my husband and present. You would think that would be easier than practicing in front of your coach. To me it wasn’t. Practice is not only about practicing your speech in front of the mirror. It is also to practice in front of people, so that you can receive…
  • Feedback – To be able to improve you need some kind of feedback. Perhaps not as part of the process of overcoming fear, but in order to accelerate your learning and improvement. When you know what you do well you might feel better about speaking in public. There are many ways you can do this. I think you can to some extent do this on your own to. You can record yourself and watch it. However I am my worst critic and prefer to ask others for feedback. The feedback I ask for needs to be constructive. If people liked my talk I would like to know what they liked. I also want to know what I can improve and how, though I mostly already know that myself.

I have come far but I still have a long way to go where perhaps I one day will even like speaking in public. Today I have reached the phase of where I have taken some control over my fear. I can now hear some of you asking: “Why do you even bother to speak in public if you don’t like it?” That is a very good question, and I will elaborate on a few of the points I did in the beginning of my post next time.

Now I wonder, what keeps you from speaking? What is your fear? How can you learn to take control of it and trap that spider?

This is the second of a few post in a series related to being a mentor for the Speak Easy program. The Speak Easy program, Part 1: Becoming a mentor

 

Hiring Testers, Part 1: How about a cup of MOCHA?

A cup of MOCHA

A cup of mocha.

Caffè Mocha or café mocha, is an American invention and a variant of a caffe latte, inspired by the Turin coffee beverage Bicerin. http://coffee.wikia.com/wiki/Cafe_mocha

This is the first post of several in a series of post on my experiences in hiring software testers.

Interview or Interrogate

A friend of mine recently reminded me of how different job interviews can be, when he told me about his latest experience. He was upset over the interrogation he had gone through for an hour with out being able to actually ask any of the questions he had prepared for the interview.

I was quite upset myself since I see a job interview as a conversation and I had difficulties in relating to the interrogation style. The interview serves as a discussion where my aim is to gather as much information as possible about the candidate. However I can see that there might be some type of information that you would get from an interrogation.

Perhaps the interrogator was interested in how the candidate reacts under pressure. Maybe the person was looking for very specific answers, correct answers since the questions where very much related to technical knowledge.

I believe most people are already under pressure when in an interview. I think there is enough stress in the situation. Unless you are looking for someone who will handle extreme situations I don’t see the purpose of using the interrogation as a style of interviewing. I prefer to create a relaxed environment and open up for a conversation when I interview people.

My experience comes from many years of interviewing in the role as a test leader and test manager. I’ve researched the field of interviewing in tech and I am very influenced by Johanna Rothman. I highly recommend her book Hiring Geeks That Fit.

I see interview as an art, where you need to follow the flow but also influence it. Asking questions is an art. Based on Johanna Rothman’s suggestions on how to ask questions I have created a heuristic to help me ask the “right” questions in an interview.

A cup of MOC(H)A

A cup of mocha describes my style of interviewing. It’s like having a chat over a cup of coffee ( or tea if you prefer). Mocha reminds me of the type of questions to ask during the interview and how to ask them, and to keep the right blend.

Meta questions
A meta question is a question about questions. I use it very rarely but something I might ask in the end of the interview is: “What question have I forgotten to ask you?”
The reason I ask this question is to find out if there is something the person thinks is important. It might help me to find new areas to discover.

Open questions
Open ended questions are the one’s I use the most. They are questions that reveal information on behavior. Questions might start with why, what, how? I mostly open up the discussion with a : “Tell me about a situation where…”  I listen, observe and follow up with open ended questions.

Closed questions
Closed questions are some what binary. They often lead to very short answers when asked. I frequently use closed questions in the first scanning interview. If there are specific requirements needed for the role I will start with these questions. They describe facts.
It might be questions like: “Do you have any experience in Python?”
I also use closed questions to find out where to explore further. Questions such as: “Have you ever been in a situation where you had to…” If the person have experience from this particular situation I would probably continue with an open question.

Hypothetical questions
I rarely use hypothetical questions (which is why I have put the H in parenthesis) They are not suitable as behavioral questions and often lead to the candidate answering what you think they want you to hear. However I use hypothetical questions sometimes as part of auditions (see below). But in those cases I am more interested in the thought process than the answer.

Auditions
I highly recommend auditions especially when it comes to testers and developers. How else can you tell how some one actually performs? The audition consist of different assignments that I give to the candidates. One of them is to watch them test a product.  This is something I believe most people feel stressed over. So putting the candidate under the pressure that an interrogation causes is completely unnecessary. It is important for me to try to make it as relaxing as possible.
The audition might also contain a simulation where the tester is given a context and special assignment to solve.

My blend of MOCHA contains a high amount of open questions and auditions.  How does yours taste?