The Speak Easy program, Part 1: Becoming a mentor

Speaking easy, really?

Speaking in larger groups or in front of people has never been easy for me. My heart starts pounding every time I’m in front of people. Some times I have to look down at my chest, certain you can see my heart pounding through my t-shirt, like in a cartoon.

I used to hate speaking in front of people. If I could avoid it I would happily do so. Ironically I’ve chosen a career where I need to speak in front of people; in project meetings, to my team and in all sorts of context at work. It is also quite funny that my new job will be teaching software testing in a vocational program. To hate is a very strong word and a very serious matter. I don’t hate speaking anymore. I don’t love it either. Yet I choose to do it! (I will get back to why I do it and when I actually felt comfortable in a new post)

In my career I have done very few official speaking events, such as speaking at conferences and meetups. Though the ones I’ve done have been a real challenge and a great experience.  Now a days the biggest reason for speaking very occasionally is the time it takes for me to prepare ( I will get back to this part too).

My reasons for becoming a mentor

Given the background it might seem strange that I volunteered to become a mentor for Speak Easy. But the program which Fiona Charles and Anne-Marie Charrett have started is something I am very passionate about and the main reasons for me are:

  • The possibility to influence bringing diversity to the arena, specifically tech conferences.
  • The possibility to support speakers or new speakers who might share my experiences.
  • The opportunity to give something back to the CDT community and people who have supported me and helped me throughout my career.

I will go deeper in to some of the reasons in a few upcoming posts.

Kudos to Eric Proegler for the idea of creating a series of posts!

This is the first of a few post in a series related to being a mentor for the Speak Easy program.

I am a professional tester – are you?

I am a professional tester

This post is a response to Gil Zilberfeld’s post Why Tester Are Losing The ISO 29119 Battle which I actually think was a great post describing Gil’s experience from working in an ISO certified company.  It also gives me more reasons to reject the ISO 29119 standard.

What actually triggered me to write this post was the following piece:

“The uproar against traditional ISO standards is not new. When we decided that code reviews is needed, we had to document them, just so we can meet the standard. I needed to sneak in “documentable” features and tweak the form to pass an inspection. And all I wanted is an abstract framework for doing code reviews, where people pair and inspect the code for problems, not the location , of braces. But that’s life. I had to compromise.

There’s a whole system out there that works fine for most people. A vocal minority won’t change that.”

I believe by not accepting the system that Gil describes, by raising my voice and not hiding the fact that ISO 29119 is a fundamental threat to the skillful performance of software testing, is one step towards winning. I believe though this battle has been ongoing for ages( perhaps under more quiet forms) we still must continue to fight. The fact that an objection comes from a vocal minority does not invalidate the objection. I won’t let that stand in my way. We lose if we stay quiet!

That is why I raise my voice through this post. That is why I chose to sign the following petitions:

http://www.professionaltestersmanifesto.org/

http://www.commonsensetesting.org/news/files/PetitionISO29119.html

Karen Johnson has described her thoughts on the manifesto in a way that almost mirrors my own opinions and experiences. There is one big difference. In my early years as a tester I was certified. I do not regret this. I am not proud of it. But for this reason I also know how useless it is.

I believe it is up to you to make your own judgement by taking part of the discussions/information. You can decide to ignore it if you wish to. Personally I can’t choose to ignore it since it has a potentially devastating impact on my profession!

 

 

For more information on the matter:

For more information from voices opposing the petitions:

 

 

The year of the challenges – 2013

Year 2013 is coming to an end. Usually by this time I’m looking forward to my new challenges for the next year. I often get stuck in my ideas about the present and the future figuring out my next step and challenges. Once I decide for something I just hop on the train and go.

For once I’m jumping off the train and stopping for a while to reflect over 2013 which has been a very interesting year to me.

Looking back at all the things I’ve done this year there might be a reason for feeling really exhausted. In addition my job as a Test Manager added to the list of unexpected challenges to deal with this year. But that is a different story…

2013 was a challenging year filled with frustration, laughter, fear, excitement, pride and joy. These are the highlights:

  • Episode 1: Beyond the fear of presenting…
  • Episode 2: Behind the scene at Öredev 2014
  • Episode 3: PSL – avoiding getting arrested in Albuquerque
  • Episode 4: Öredev is on!
  • Episode 5. Next?

Episode 1: Beyond the fear of presenting…

January – May

My bewildered experiences from SWET4 the year before triggered a few goals for this year. That breakfast meeting with a coach on communicating and presentation skills ended up in six sessions to prepare for my talk on Tester Skills in February. The preparing itself was somewhat of an experience. My coach really challenged me to do things I wouldn’t imagine doing. He was sort of  the opposite of who I am. At times it felt that we were way apart. In the end I took what I learnt and did it my way, feeling more comfortable about my presentation.

A few things which still surprises me are how I got the participants to talk, to laugh and interact during the presentation. My coach gave me a few very good tools for how to set the stage so to say. It’s amazing how very tiny tweaks in the preparation can make a huge difference.

The preparation for my Tester Skills talk was really about getting ready for the real thing; Let’s Test! I was terrified to do this talk. I had been accepted on a specific proposal but on the way I realized that I really didn’t find any inspiration or joy in that subject. I’ve learnt that I can only do a talk on something that inspires me. So I froze and I felt so bad until someone just asked me “Why don’t you just ask if you can change your talk to something that you are more interested in?” Imagine the relief I felt when I got to change my talk!

The feedback I got on both my talks were very positive. Though I still haven’t dared to watched the video recordings ( Maybe a challenge for 2014!).

My takeaways from this episode:

  • I learnt a new English word during this journey…procrastinate! I am the queen of procrastination (though this was not really new to me).
  • My presentation is not a monologue, it’s a dialogue.
  • I can always ask the question.
  • Ask for feedback – (I asked James Bach for feedback on my talk, since he is an experienced presenter. I also knew he would give me an honest, tangible and thorough feedback.)
  • Engage someone more experienced. I decided to get help from a talking coach since this would probably get me quicker up to speed. I learned a lot from this!

Episode 2: Behind the scene at Öredev 2014

January – May

Late 2012 I was asked to join the program committee for Öredev. I felt humbled and nervous about taking over this assignment from Sigge who has done a really great job the years before. So it was with fear and excitement that I accepted the responsibility for the Testing track. So what was my fear? Well at first I’m not really the most extroverted person. Somehow I had the assumption that it would be beneficial being more extroverted meaning networking and talking to people. I love talking to people, but I’m more of a non mingling one to one person. (And yes, If the phone would ring I’d rather wait to pick it up and hope someone else picks up).

It turned out that e-mail and chatting on Skype worked out just fine. And occasionally I did a few calls too.

I had a goal with the test track. I wanted to have a mix of international speakers. I wanted it to be diverse and attractive also to developers since Öredev is a developers conference. I wanted to be proud of the test track. It had to be something I would want to attend.

I was actually the first to have my track fully booked and I could relax long before the program was announced.

My takeaways from this episode:

  • Skype is great, time differences are not.
  • It was not as difficult as I thought it would be.
  • It was really fun working on a/the program committee!

Episode 3: PSL – avoiding getting arrested in Albuquerque

August

I remember the first time I heard about PSL. I was in Colorado Springs on my first CAST conference in 2009. We were out walking in the Garden of the Gods when this workshop was mentioned. I never really understood what it was. To me is seemed to be some sort of secret society where only people on a special list were allowed to participate. And in addition it was really expensive. It seemed like something completely out of reach for me.

During the years that passed my perception of PSL changed and the more information I got the more I wanted to attend (it is really not very expensive the course itself, but adding accommodation, flight, food and days away from work it gets kind of costly).

In December last year I had prepared a list of arguments to present to my boss assuming he would demand such. But I had forgotten what a great boss I have and once he had read the very brief course description I was in!

Some of you have already been to PSL and might know what the title refers to. For those of you who haven’t you might find out if you go. I say might, because you never know what will happen at PSL. Though what you learn and take away is up to you.

My takeaways from this episode:

  • Two problems might appear to be the same. But they are not necessarily the same.
  • People most of the time really want to help. They believe they are helping. People act from different set of values.
  • I confirmed following; I definitely prefer hanging out with a very small group of people or a larger group where I know everyone really well.

Episode 4: Öredev is on!

November

And so finally it was time for Öredev in action. It started with a dinner on Sunday for my dear new friend Martin Hynie and his colleague Daryl who came all the way from Canada to attend Öredev.

And from Sunday to Friday it was all about Öredev. Monday was the famous skinny dipping in the Baltic Sea at “Kallis”. We were a few brave people who refused to do this madness. My excuse? Oh, I live in Malmö and can go do this whenever I want (the fact that I’ve lived here for more than 15 years and never done it doesn’t matter).

From Wednesday to Friday the conference was on. Most of the sessions are available here. I attended most of test sessions though unfortunately a few of the sessions were on at the same time. All in all I had a great time at Öredev!

My takeaways from this episode:

  • What I like to attend is not necessarily what others like to attend. The feedback on the test track was mixed. For next time there will be a few more hands-on sessions.
  • It will be difficult to attract developers to the test tracks mostly since there are other sessions that probably appeals more to them. It might be better to focus only on testers ( Though I know a few developers showed up on the test sessions. My husband was one of them!)
  • Space Pigs sucks (the room where most test sessions were held)! Don’t have a room that can be used as a short cut to go to another room or area.

Episode 5: Next?

December –

I finished off this year with a challenge for next year. Erik Davis and I sent in a proposal for CAST 2014. A few months ago Martin Hynie, who is a common friend of us came up with the idea for us to do a co-proposal. We have a few things in common when it comes to test management and leadership. It is also a topic that we are both very interested in.

To add to the challenge, Erik and I have never met. We live on two different continents. I am keeping my fingers crossed as hard as I can for this challenge!

My takeaways from this episode:

  • I can’t say no to challenges!

I hope you had the patience to read the entire post. Thank you for being part of my 2013!

I wish you a very Happy New Year and All The Best!

Reflections on a new retrospective

One of the most important things to my team and myself is to learn from our experiences hence I think reflecting over our actions is essential for creating such an opportunity.

I don’t get to facilitate retrospectives that often since I’m not really a part of any project or any team on daily basis. But I love to do it whenever I get the chance.

I like trying out new methods in my meetings and adjusting them trying to increase the personal  ROTI for each meeting member( I find this method very efficient). To be fair though my goal is at minimum 4.0 as an average. Note that I have been using the scale 1-5 since I am not sure if it makes a difference from the 0 – 4 scale.

My team has grown quite lot during the last year and lately my ordinary type of retrospective had gotten a lower and lower ROTI average. The main reason have been the lack of discussion and the time for individual notes written and communicated. With 19 people today it was not a very efficient way of facilitating a retrospective any more.

Today I tried something new during a retrospective we had for a three day testing activity. I accidentally stumbled on a tweet about Dialogue sheets. If you haven’t heard about the technique before you can read about it here. I thought it sounded like a really fun way to facilitate a retrospective. It even gives the possibility to remove the facilitator role. But facilitating is something I really like so I decided to do at least some facilitation including preparation.

Sixteen people (excl. myself) participated. There were a few challenges with this:

  • Two of my team members are physically on another site.
  • The room was not really designed for this type of retrospective. It is a conference room with a long table for 16 people.

It was possible to break this long table in to three different tables so the second problem was easily solved. The first problem was supposed to be solved by video communication but of course the technology didn’t work. So the two guys on a different site were left in isolation to work on the dialogue sheet.

After the tables were moved around I asked the team members to group in two equally big groups and take place around the tables and start. Most of the team members had informed them selves about Dialogue sheets. Then I gave them 60 minutes to complete the Dialogue sheet. I left them managing them selves and tried to observe the two different groups.

I named the groups A, B and C where the latter was the one on a different site.

I had to time box the completion of the sheet to have room for comparing between the different groups. I chose not to include Group C when comparing the dialogue sheets since they would have to follow the discussion on a normal phone. From previous experience of discussions over the phone where many people are involved it gives very little ROTI for the few persons on the other side. I decided to catch up with Group C later.

Observations

During the meeting I did following observations of the two groups, Group A and Group B.

Group A

  • Some one in the group said “Let’s stand up and read the instructions”
  • The group stood quietly reading.
  • Then some one said “OK lets sit down again”.
  • The sheet was not place in the center of the table.
  • There was much less laughing then in group B.
  • There were mainly two people talking.
  • Little notes on the sheet itself
  • The group was ready after 40 minutes.
  • One person was writing on a paper.
  • Notes were handed to me after the time was up.
  • Mainly one person spoke when sharing what had been discussed during the 60 minutes.
  • Lower average ROTI then Group B

Group B

  • The person closest to the first point started reading the instructions out loud.
  • The discussions started almost immediately.
  • The sheet was placed in the center of the table.
  • The discussion were vivid and pretty loud.
  • Not everyone had a pen at start.
  • There was an intense discussion on the meaning of success.
  • There was a lot of laughter.
  • Most of the people in the group was speaking though I noticed that there were a few people speaking more than others.
  • Far more notes on the sheet.
  • When time was up the group continued writing on the sheet.
  • During sharing what had been discussed several people talked. There was one person who did most of the talking.
Dialogue sheets

Dialogue sheets

ROTI rating the personal time invested 

After a quick hand raise in the end of the meeting and after checking with Group C  we ended up with 4,4,4,5,4,4,4,3,3,2,4,4,4,4,4,2

Following up on the numbers:

5 – The method opened up the possibility for discussions. We eliminated the writing post-its part where every one sits quite and glances on the others writing post-its.

2 – The discussion sometimes felt constrained since we had to “follow”  the board. There was a good discussion on going but it was interrupted because some one mentioned that we were not supposed to talk about that subject. So the discussion ended and went back to something else. To change the rating perhaps facilitating the discussion would help. Or when we get a better grip of how the board is used.

2 – Personally I don’t have a lot to benefit from the retrospective since the result will not affect me (the purpose of the activity that we did the retro for is quite different for this person). I did like the setup though.

3 – The new method was good though it didn’t do any big difference from other meetings. It was difficult to focus on one question at a time. I like the Action plan. One thing negative thing is that some one can dominate the discussion. 

3 – There was more discussion then in previous meeting. Unfortunately there was no one leading the discussion. Once we had a great discussion on going some one noticed we were on the wrong topic and that it was something that shouldn’t be discussed now. Some one in the group had the idea that positive events was supposed to be written above the time line and negative events below and some people thought you could write it anywhere. A facilitator would have helped.

Reflections

I am not going in to detail about my analysis of these observations and personal grading of the meeting. But I found the result of the different groups very interesting. I also wonder if the groups forming was a conscious action or an unconscious action. I think the difference in the groups depends on a few things:

  • the different personality types of each individual
  • and the amount of time people have known each
  • how well they know each other

In Group A the majority of the people have worked less than a year at the company and in Group B the majority of the people have been working for several years together.

Actions for next meeting:

For the next retrospective which will be in a month I am considering a few things that I might do. I haven’t yet decided. I also have a few reflections and a few decisions to make:

  • Should we keep the same groups next time ( It will probably no be the same any way. It might be that the same people can’t attend. I might decide this when I know who are attending next time)
  • Should the groups be smaller, maybe break in to 3 groups?
  • Should I let people decide in how to group within certain limits?
  • Should I try to facilitate? Though it will be difficult to facilitate several groups at the same time. If some one else in the group facilitates they won’t be part of the discussions.
  • Should I try to set up some more “rules” then what is stated on the board. For example decide on how to facilitate your own group. How to keep the discussion ongoing before starting.
  • Should I facilitate or just observe?

What I will do:

  • Get pens in different colors to make the board more colorful. It might increase the writing on the board.
  •  I’m keeping the facilitator role to facilitate the exchange of information in between the groups, to keep track of time and make sure we retro the retro (ROTI).
  • If I decide to observe, which is what I would prefer to do I need to define my method to make better observations. I will time box time spent on each team. I will choose a few specific things to observe.
  • During ROTI I will also ask the participants who rated the meeting balanced something that I have totally forgotten about.

ConTest – a very short summary from 2013-09-05

I was asked by @TestPappy to blog about the last ConTest meetup and I will try to give a short summary on what happened. Unfortunately I had forgotten my note book and I am only left with trust in my memories from the meeting, so please if YOU were there feel free to add to the post in the comments.

If you haven’t heard about ConTest you can read about it on Sigge’s blog.

The theme this time was very broad; Planning, strategy and organisation. About thirty people showed up but only two lightning talks (of 5 minutes each) was suggested. It turned out to be enough though to cover the entire meetup.

Baldvin Gislason Bern was first to give his lightning talk about  “The rise and the fall of the test plan”. He shared his story on how he went from introducing an ISO standard inspired test plan template to getting rid of it. The test plan that he is working on to introduce in his organisation, is based on a lot of questions  to trigger the test leaders to think.

The insights he shared from this journey was:

  • Introducing the test plan template had one positive thing in the organisation. Showing the existence of software testing.
  • Introducing the test plan template was also positive triggering discussions to avoid shallow agreements.
  • The test plan was/is not a living document. This is something Baldvin wants to change with his new format. This is the fall of the test plan template. They have now reached a plateau where change is needed. Either change of the template or perhaps eliminating the test plan itself.
  • The test plan template was much appreciated by some managers who used it as a contract for allocating resources.

The open season trigger many questions and comments. Some of the discussions were about:

  • What is shallow agreements?
  • What do you mean by test plan? We had any different views of what a test plan is.
  • Who is the test plan for? If the stakeholders are not interested who is it then for?

After the break where carbs, carbs, carbs, grease and a few slices of protein were served it was time for the second lightning talk by Håkan Ramberg.

Håkan shared his experience from being a very administrative test leader. He worked in a project where he had testers in five different scrum teams. Håkan coordinated test activities, got rid of obstacles and coordinated activities with different stakeholders.

The insight he shared from his experience:

  • He prefers to be a hands-on test leader. He does not like to work as an administrative test leader
  • The test plan was some sort of a contract with the customer.
  • The set-up with one test leader, one project leader, scrum masters for each team and testers in each development team worked very well for this project.

And sorry to be honest some where by 19:30 I went in to a carb coma…

Next ConTest is honoured by James Bach’s presence. See you there!

(I will try to bring my notebook next time)

Tweets:

Introducing Lean Lunch at work

Lean Lunch

“What do you mean? I always have a lean lunch” was the response I got from one of the testers when introducing this new forum for meeting and discussing test related topics at work. Well I actually did have a lean meal during Lean Lunch but this is not about food…

So what is Lean Lunch?
Lean Lunch is a forum that I just started at my company. The purpose of this forum is to be able to meet and discuss testing at work in a relaxed and non-compulsory get-together.

Having this get-together with testers that works for the same company eases the discussions since we don’t need to think about confidentiality.

The concept is the same as Lean Coffee but since the get-together is during lunch I call it Lean Lunch.

How we did it
All testers were invited. Out of a group of sixteen, five turned up which was a really good number since everyone got the opportunity to talk.

1. We brought our lunch and occupied a conference room
2. We chose two topics each (max per person) and wrote them down on a post-it.
3. We then very briefly explained our topic
4. We got three points each to use to vote on the topics we wanted to discuss ( at first we had two but too many of the topics got the same amount of points)
5. We started of with the topic that had the highest number of votes
6. We did a quick recap on what the topic was about
7. We set the timer to 5 minutes and started the discussion
8. When time was up we voted whether to continue or not,  using the thumb-up or the thumb-down sign.
9. If thumbs-up then we went on another 5 minutes.
10. We then went on to the next topic if we were finished with the previous.

Then we continued until the Lean Lunch was over (after 60 minutes).

The topics
We had time to go through four different topics:

1. The difficulty of taking notes while testing.
2. Shifting between details and overview when testing
3. How much test design is needed. And what happens when you have very little time?
4. How do we handle system testing/integration testing now that both the team and our system is growing.

I will go through our discussions on the topics in another post.

Reflections over our Lean Lunch
The testers that attended enjoyed the get-together.

My personal reflections are following:

I am very happy I initiated the forum
I am happy that there were testers that came to Lean Lunch. It almost got cancelled since several of the testers that intended to join said that they hadn’t prepared any topics. I said: ” Well just bring your concerns that I know you have and write it down on a post-it. You don’t need more than that”
The group can’t be much larger than five people. It might depend on who is joining though. This was a great mix of testers with different views. There was no one dominating the discussions and everyone was let to talk.
I learned what concerns my team members.
I had to hold back several times to only listen instead of talking though I many times wanted to just talk since I get so excited when talking about test.
Note taking was difficult when eating at the same time. And sometimes talking was difficult too.
It is good to point out someone as a facilitator, to keep track on time and staying on the topic. In this case I was facilitating mostly since I was the one introducing the concept. There were a few times were the discussions drifted away in to something different and then I cut them off.

Let’s Test is on!

Rambling from an Introvert’s aspect of the conference

Well officially Let’s Test doesn’t start until tomorrow, Monday.
But informally the conference has already started and I am having a blast!

Reflecting

I am an introvert but I love conferring. So as an introvert I have now headed back to my small, but beautiful room with a fantastic view over the lake to do some reflecting.

One thing I have realized is how easy it is to for me to get caught up in all the discussions and wanting to meet new people and talk to people I’ve only “met” on Twitter. The thing is I really want to just suck in all of the things going on  but a lesson I made from conferences where conferring is the goal is that I need to listen to myself, take a beak, reflect and regather some energy. Normally I just tend to drift along with the flow.

This time I am trying something new. I will try without too much of structure to actually write down my reflections as the conference goes on.

Arrival

I arrived yesterday, Saturday to be able to mentally prepare for my session on Tuesday. I instantly met up with some dear old friends Louise, Carsten and Henrik with whom I shared a cab. That is when the conference actually started!

During the evening we were about 20 people, including Johan Jonassons little newborn Ingrid. The discussions were somewhat let’s say pending from very low to let’s say more intellectually stimulating subjects in the bar with the Eurovision song contest in the background. I had a great time but forced myself to hit the bed around midnight which I today think was a wise thing to do even though I wanted to stay up longer to chat with all the great people.

Sunday

So after breakfast it was time for facilitating training. The training was held by Ilari Aegerter and his Master Paul Holland (part of the Let’s Test Team). This is the second time I signed up for it and it is a very good thing to do to when it comes to learning how to facilitate a discussion. I was at one time regretting that I did sign up, since I came up early to mentally get prepared (but then I got this awesome Let’s Test jacket to wear when I’m facilitating, so it is totally worth it now ;)). The training was well performed and fun and then we actually got to practice real facilitating in the peer conference Lets Wet that was organized by Simon Morley and Jean Paul Varwijk.
It was great getting direct and constructive feedback on my facilitating. And to me it is not only about learning but also to challenge myself in areas I’m not very comfortable in. I got very good feedback.  These are the three main things I will take with me when facilitating.

1. Recap from the stack, so that the participants knows who’s on next and that I as a facilitator have noticed them
2. Scan the room, notice the participants when they want to talk
3. Find a good structure to keep track on your threads.

I am writing this in the context of me assuming that the reader is familiar with the concept of a peer conferences and facilitating. If you don’t know read Paul Hollands blog.

Now I’m going to rest for a while and get some energy and then head back to the conference again!

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