Rapid Software Testing – Before

This is the first in a series of posts on my experiences of RST and the TestBash conference this week.

I’m on my way to Brighton today, to facilitate Rapid Software Testing, led by Michael Bolton. I’m nervous about that, but I’m more nervous about this. 

My day is off to a great start. Overslept by 30 minutes, I need to wear my layers rather than pack them, and my train into Brighton is cancelled. 

Bus replacement service to Eastbourne

So, to anyone who travels regularly on the British transport network, you’ll be familiar with the phenomenon that is the bus replacement service. 

The bus is full, and I’m sat in the jump seat next to the driver, having picked up everyone from Hastings to Eastbourne on the way. There are probably many buses and bus drivers doing similar work across the country. (Subsequent seat moves to allow an elderly lady to sit down, and I’m now on the train from Eastbourne to Brighton, via Lewes.)

It makes me think of the services we test, when they are non performant or under stress. What do systems do when they are under heavy load, or a link in the chain is broken? How do you monitor and check that the system is performing as it should?

Clearly a system of checks and monitoring have come together to arrange this bus I’m travelling on. Service performance was seen to be dysfunctional due to a systems failure, so an additional service was put in place to pick up the slack.

What can testers learn from this?

Well, my first observation is to consider what your weak areas are. Is it the infrastructure, the application or the connectivity between systems? Do you know why they are weak, or can you improve or replace them.

As I’ve seen today, a replacement or temporary service isn’t necessarily better or more comfortable, but it is getting where I need to go.

I could have easily waited to get a lift from my Mum, but she was off conducting her own business elsewhere. I would still get there, but maybe not on time.

What monitoring do you have in place?

Monitoring isn’t just for your operations teams. At NewVoiceMedia, the DevOps team use all sorts of tools to allow us to keep an eye on performance, load, volume, through put, page impressions, browser usage as well as where any breaks in our systems might be. 

It’s hugely important so we can adapt to problems, or see them off before they become issues to our customers. Peak times (like the rush hour on the transport network) are one of the main concerns. 

Why is this a problem for testers?

Well, it isn’t a problem really. It’s more of a change of mindset. As organisations have to change and evolve to meet customer needs, testers need to adapt too.

Testers can and should be more aware of the wider needs of customers who need to use performant systems, rather than just having a narrow focus on the applications only.

We should be clear and concise in our communications, and be involved in the decisions that underpin our systems.

Why?

Well, in a DevOps organisation everyone has to muck in and get their hands dirty. Sure, there are people with specialist roles and positions of responsibility. But I see testers as the glue that holds systems together. We can get involved at any point, and not just on the application layer. 

More and more will be expected of testers as organisations change to meet customer need, and we will have to meet that challenge. 

So…RST

I’ve been wanting to do this course for years. And by chance, luck or fate I have the opportunity to do so now. I’ll be facilitating, so my priorities will be on the needs of Michael and the group, rather than my own.

It’s going to be a huge challenge, and like the needs of any complex system I will need to adapt.

I like to ask a lot of questions, but I anticipate a need to allow the group to generate those questions rather than myself. I’ve been told in the past that I can sometimes “not shut up” or “meander” during groups discussions.

It’s taken a lot of time and mindful thinking to try and control my natural instincts to ask questions or share knowledge, where others might not be willing, unable or be nervous. And I need to be be aware of that for the next three days.

It’s going to be epic.  Just like the scenery today.

My home, The South Downs

Distance Learning

Hey testers. It’s been a while since I have blogged last. This has mostly been because of such a massive workload, but also various personal events taking place. I normally blog when either I feel that I have something to share, or if I have a reaction to something I have learned – such as on this occasion.

CAST2015 – The Conference of the Association for Software Testing  is running as I type this, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. This is the first year I have been able to monitor the live stream. This is a fantastic service, offered to allow folks who aren’t attending to listen, watch and take part (via Twitter).

I want to reflect first on yesterday’s opening keynote speech by Karen Johnson entitled “Moving Testing Forward”. This was a very personal exploration of her career, learning and life; much of which resonated with me.

This is something I have sometimes had issues with in the past, and sometimes with great detrimental effects. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been places where I have been unable to establish good working relationships, or had personal problems intrude on my working life and vice versa.

The work/life balance has always been a hard road to travel. Family, friends and other personal commitments should take priority. Whilst I was building my career often that wasn’t the case, and my personal life suffered.

I also made possibly poor choices, but yet choices that have ultimately gotten me to where I am now – a great role, testing, learning, working with great people at an exciting business. A business that does it’s best to support its employees when they have personal issues and gives them breathing space and learning opportunities to be able to craft and shape their own careers. I am very lucky.

Secondly, I’d like to reflect on the keynote from the second day by Ajay Balamurugadas, entitled “The Future of Testing”. I haven’t met Ajay yet, but I feel that I know him through his work.

As a facilitator at Weekend Testing Europe we are part of his vision to provide great learning opportunities for the entire testing community. This tweet from Maria Kedemo sums up this attitude succintly.

A long time ago I did not feel empowered at all to learn for myself. I felt that all my learning needed to come from my employer, be paid for by my employer, if they were ultimately to benefit from it. Employers invariably are businesses with their own priorities and concerns – not necessarily with the personal learning and welfare of their employees.

As Ajay said, not being able to afford to go to conferences or attend courses should never be a blocker to learning. We have blogs, books, free webinars, meetups and tester gatherings, brown bags, Skype sessions on Weekend Testing, and any number of other roads to learning.

I had an epiphany on this several years ago. I was never going to get to where I wanted to be – be a home owner, clear my student debt, start a family If I didn’t take control of that learning. So I read blogs, I joined the Software Testing Club, I started looking at the work of other testers I had heard about, I even started implementing some of their approaches and techniques. All great learning.

But to take that further and on to the next stage, I had to get away from companies that didn’t support that approach to learning. I decided to go freelance, and this I have done for about 4 years or so. Now being at New Voice Media has allowed me to expand that learning into avenues that I hadn’t thought possible, exposing me to thinking and choices that may take me away from testing to focus on security, as I do at the moment.

Thanks to the organisers of CAST and making it available to all.

From Tallinn, With Love – Looking back on Nordic Testing Days 2015

It’s been a week since I have returned from Tallinn and the Nordic Testing Days conference, which has again been brilliantly organised and executed by Grete Napits and her wonderful team in Estonia. Helena Jeret-Mäe led the curation of this years content alongside her colleagues, and without doubt the organising team had certainly raised the bar again.

Santosh Tuppad, Rob Sabourin and Helena Jeret-Mäe out in the Old town of Tallinn

Santosh Tuppad, Rob Sabourin and Helena Jeret-Mäe out in the Old town of Tallinn

There were speakers from almost all corners of the testing globe, from Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, India and of course Estonia. A fantastic achievement! As a result of this breadth and depth of testing talent, it was hard to choose whose talks and workshops to go to, but choose I did.

Warming up

The hospitality and warmth of the conference, and Tallinn is evident. It began with an impromptu walk round the old town with Helena and a whole bunch of other great testers. The amazing architecture, the views from the city walls and the discussion made for a fantastic evening.

Relaxing with the Friendly Tester - Richard Bradshaw

Relaxing with the Friendly Tester – Richard Bradshaw

Snap happy! Rob Lambert

Snap happy! Rob Lambert

But first on to the tutorial days! Bill Matthews and I had already run “Exploring App (In)security” at Let’s Test the previous week, and without a doubt we had learned from that experience. So, we aimed this time to rebalance the session to make it much more interactive and practical at the outset. Many of the challenges of security testing come not only from understanding the threats to applications and therefore businesses, but also understanding how those threats can be translated into real world vulnerabilities, which attackers can then exploit.

Bill Matthews - telling it like it is

Bill Matthews – telling it like it is

Bringing forward those experiences in early, so the attendees were doing practical exercises from the beginning  was our primary goal for the day, so that they got the most out of Bill and I, the material we produced and the learning they could elicit from the discussion.

Again, we started out with an exploration of the application under test, but then we burst straight into a group threat modelling exercise!

Threat modelling with these budding new security testers!

Threat modelling with these budding new security testers!

After that, all the testers broke into small groups and pairs as we all found ways to exploit the threats we modelled, by exploring the vulnerabilities that might lurk under the covers.

Pairing up with Katrina Clokie (and another tester whose name I can't remember, sorry)

Pairing up with Katrina Clokie (and another tester whose name I can’t remember, sorry)

It was a long and exhausting day. Bill and I were rarely off our feet. We had a great time working with all these fantastic testers. One or two have even got in touch since to ask follow up questions and look for further study. Very encouraging and inspiring! It’s also inspiring me to do a whole lot more in 2016!

On to the first day of the conference proper, and following an interesting keynote by Mart Noorma on the Estonian contributions on space exploration and technology, I had my first major decision to make.

Spinning up your own influence

Katrina Clokie’s workshop “Become someone who makes things happen” was one of the highlights of the conference for me. In this workshop we were challenged to make sense of what our problems are in terms of making an impact on our teams, and influencing the decision making process.

Communicating our beliefs, needs and thinking is a huge problem for testers. I often have issues on influence myself, as I have explained in this blog post: The MEWTation of Communication. So, Katrina’s workshop really resonated with me because of that. We usually worked in pairs or small groups, working through scenarios where our sales skills specifically would be challenged – selling our own ideas, thoughts, and needs in testing.

Katrina Clokie - Becoming someone who makes things happen

Katrina Clokie – Become someone who makes things happen

Katrina referred to SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need) is a sales methodology that focusses on the needs of a customer, and attunes their offerings based on a mutually agreed solution. The problem here is not necessarily getting another person to recognise that the situation you have identified is a problem, that needs resolving, but also the impact to the person you are working with.

For testers there are always scenarios where this technique, and others like it, would be useful. Communicating your thoughts and feelings on acceptance criteria, resolving issues surrounding test planning and estimation, ensuring that you have effective resources and tools to do your job, bug advocacy – the list is endless.

Katrina encouraged us not only to explore the feedback we received, but also attitudes and feelings. Whether you are respectful and caring to those you work with, the difference between aggression and assertiveness, asking the right questions at the right time and using non verbal queues can all have an impact on your influence and ability to get things done.

This was a fantastic workshop that drew the best out of everyone in the room, both new to testing, experienced and hands on, and managers too!

Testing? Thats insanity!

Next up for me was Santosh Tuppad. His energy and enthusiasm for his craft was tested to the full, as Santosh lead us through a beautiful and colourful journey, as he became inspired to begin his own journey by starting Test Insane, his own exploratory test consultancy.

Santosh Tuppad from Test Insane

Santosh Tuppad from Test Insane

The great thing about conferences of any sort is that it can bring people together. Santosh and I have been in touch for many years now, but we have never met until we came to Nordic Testing Days. It’s like we have been friends for years, so a warm hug was in order, for this strong man had traversed continents to come and speak for an hour! However his love of testing and learning permeated the social side of this conference completely.

The impressive thing about this talk though was not just Santosh’s clear love of testing as a craft, but also his contribution to the wider community. Sure, Test Insane is a consultancy, but much of the material, tools, mind maps, and papers his team produce are shared across the board – for free! A valuable resource indeed, and Santosh and his team are a very valuable addition to the testing community.

First time speaker – but not the last

My Weekend Testing colleague Neil Studd made his speaking debut at Nordic Testing Days with “Weekend Testing Europe: A behind the scenes guide to facilitating effective learning”.

Neil loves Fonzie

Neil loves Fonzie

Neil came across with a confidence that belied both his nerves and trepidation at speaking for the first time. He not only talked about the drivers to establishing an exciting and dynamic learning community for testers online, which was the main thrust of his talk – but also some of the psychological thinking that was involved in that process.

Neil talked about the imposter syndrome – where people who are extremely skilled and competent in their chosen field, and yet still feel as if they are frauds, not deserving of acclaim, attention or feel their achievements are of any worth. I think that this is a phenomenon that a lot of people encounter – only the most arrogant of people wouldn’t question themselves occasionally.

However, I feel that this is something that Neil should have no issue with. He is a highly skilled and intuitive tester, with a great breadth and depth of knowledge, and he expresses it well.

Neil’s story is a shared story however, and with Amy Phillips, and their journey to bringing back to life the Europe chapter of Weekend Testing. My involvement in that is a footnote in this story, but I hope to be very much of its future.

Gaming the system

Next up was Kristoffer Nordström and his talk “Gamification – How to Engage Your End Users”. Kris is another tester that I have known about for a while, but had neither met not seen speak. Another great opportunity to learn from someone new.

Kris’ talk was a fascinating exploration of using gamification to encourage the teams he worked with to not only produce great work, but enjoy doing it. By using elements of game thinking and mechanics, developers and testers on his teams were able to contribute to the product by finding bugs and fixing code; and were encouraged to do so by earning points (and points mean prizes).

Kris's Moomins on tour in Tallinn

Kris’s Moomins on tour in Tallinn

Here lies the problem that Kris elaborated on. How do you get people to want to work on code and bugs, but to not want to do just because they are going to earn prizes for their efforts. It’s a complex balance to strike. Renumerating them enough, with branded, high quality pencils, mugs and t-shirts; AND trying to make it fun and exciting for the dev teams.

Kris even gamed the talk, with attendees playing bingo, trying to pick out the key words from the talk. I think I would need to spend some more time with Kris to get more of a handle on this topic, as it is an interesting one. I’ve had to use similar techniques during my time as a trainee teacher and Scout leader to help children become more engaged with activities – collecting stars or badges for examples. Great stuff!

Valuable lessons

Like the rest of the conference, this keynote was another one full of firsts. Rob Sabourin is another tester who I have never met, but had heard many interesting things about. His talk ‘Value Sync’ was an exciting and dynamic discussion about what we value as testers, what people on projects and teams value, and what our stakeholders and customers value – and seeing the relationships between those values.

Rob Sabourin - Value Sync

Rob Sabourin – Value Sync

Rob’s main point was whether the conflicts in these values could be resolved, where one person values low cost over quality, or speed to market over market saturation. There are a lot of elements to balance in teams, organisations and businesses; and testers have a part to play here in expressing what they value, and ensuring that the needs of stakeholders are also met by their testing.

It was a great ending to a long hard day of learning, networking and testing! But it wasn’t over yet.

Lightning in a bottle

So, there was a big sheet of paper on a pillar in the conference lobby – Lightning talks 9pm! I was tired, but there was so much energy in the room. Bill Matthews had already pressed ganged me into speaking – 5 mins of talk + Q&A. So, I contributed the short talk I did at MEWT and compressed it down…trying to pull out the salient points – about how personal identity and problems surrounding being a ‘geek’ in the workplace affects communication and influence.

'Question Assurance' with Guna Petrova

‘Question Assurance’ with Guna Petrova

Up Periscope! - Richard Bradshaw

Up Periscope! – Richard Bradshaw

A whole bunch of great people got up to talk – Bill Matthews, Neil Studd, Guna Petrova, Pekka Marjamäki, Kristjan Uba, Erik Brickarp and Olari Koppel. Resoundingly my favourite talk of the night was Neil’s on ‘9-5 testers’. Here is his blog post on the topic: Whats wrong with 9 to 5 testers.

In the past I have been a 9 to 5 tester, getting to work, doing my work competently, going home. That’s ok! There is nothing wrong with that. I had other interests and needs – I was in a new relationship and/or recently married, or I was playing in my gaming clan. Later, in 2007 I found other interests and got in to Scouting in a big way, which takes up a huge amount of my time. It didn’t stop me wanting to be a better tester, I just didn’t go to many meetups or do much reading, and certainly no conferences. As I have encountered various family crisis recently, I have scaled back my Scouting to focus on those, but my engagement with the testing community has filled quite a lot of that void; and it has been very rewarding.

A lot of this has to do with a number of factors – and one of the major ones for me was working in an environment that allowed me to be the kind of tester I wanted to be. Some of the companies that I have worked with have been less than supportive about attending conferences, worrying about the cost and the value to the business (perfectly valid considerations, I might add). Sometimes, if they allowed it, they specified the kinds of meetings to go to, rather than the testers choice. I don’t think I went to my first meetup until around 2008/9, almost a decade into my career.

I raised a question – ‘isn’t this about bad testers?’ not whether you spend every waking hour testing? It’s a different question, and not one we focussed on. Bad testing is not the same as being someone who doesn’t want to do testing or talk about testing in their spare time.

Neil also talked about introverted behaviours and how they might be a blocker to getting people engaged. It’s a complex problem, and not one easily solved. Except that creating a safe space for learning, either physical or not, that allows anyone to learn at their own speed and their own time can only be a good thing.

Rob Remaining Relevant

Friday morning brought new experiences and new challenges, namely watching Rob Lambert’s opening keynote on the second day of the conference. “Why remaining relevant is so important” reflects on the fast pace of change needed in businesses and services, and our place within that change. Do we sit on our hands and do nothing to meet that challenge and let opportunities pass us by, or do we skill up and start adding lots of value to our teams and businesses.

Ten Behaviours - with Rob Lambert

Ten Behaviours – with Rob Lambert

Whilst it may seem to be basic to talk about how you can remain  employable, it talks a lot more to ensure you remain valuable to your team, and continue to be valuable throughout. It’s a challenge we face every day, not only as testers, but as members of a wider development organisation. And ALL of what Rob talks about in this talk is valuable to everyone, not just testers. One of the main points here I took home was adding skills. Add as many skills as you can, become good at them – it might be coding, or using a particular tool, or being knowledgeable about a particular testing approach, or domain knowledge in your organisation. These ALL add value!.

I’d like to reflect further on these points in due course, but it would take too long here to discuss. However I would say this. Rob’s book “Remaining relevant and employable” is a great read. I read it in one sitting by the pool in the Canary Islands, and was one of the main reasons I decided to take a permanent role at New Voice Media. I’ve told this to Rob myself, and I don’t mind telling you now.

Preaching to the unconverted

Lastly, before I wrap up, I wanted to say a word about Katrina Clokie’s talk, which was a last minute substitution to the programme. “Sharing Testing with Non-testers in Agile teams” was a fantastic case study on how Katrina went into a business with little or no testing, little or no agility and was expected to give them all that in a 90 minute training session.

Super sub - Katrina Clokie

Super sub – Katrina Clokie

Katrina’s experience here was an expression of a depth of knowledge and skill, but also patience, timing, communication, tact and learning. Something we all should pay heed to.

Fantastic Revelations, Amazing Revelations

I’m not going to write much about my own talk “The Testing of Fear” here. I can’t really reflect on this easily in public. Giving this talk was emotionally difficult for me. I had practiced the talk before, at meetups in the UK. All the talks went well.

Due to the unfortunate and untimely death of an early mentor in my career, Adrian Smith, I changed the initial few slides late the previous night. Adrian was important to me, not least because he helped me get my first step on the ladder. His encouragement, leadership, skill and fortitude was an example to all who met and worked with him.

I went to his funeral this afternoon, and I learned a lot about him. As a lad he learned to be a butcher in his home town. He was a Royal Marine Commando, and served his country on many occasions. After leaving the Marines, he served as a police officer, where he met his late wife Deena. After that, he began a largely self taught career in IT – project and people manager, developer, tester, architect, DBA – almost everything you could think of, he could do! We all respected him and loved him. His funeral service this afternoon reflected that, as many of his friends and colleagues joined his family to celebrate his life today.

He was an agent of change – no fear of that.

Farewell…but not goodbye

Nordic Testing Days 2015 was an intense three days of learning and development for me. I hope to be privileged enough to attend again next year, and for years to come. It is a dynamic and exciting conference, with a wide breadth and depth of excellent testers and experiences. I know it will go on being that way! I can’t wait for 2016!

Life is always better with two – Let’s Test 2015 Reflections Day 2 & 3

Day 2

Crunch time. Day 2 comes and so does the Exploring App (In)Security workshop alongside one of my most important testing mentors, Bill Matthews.

We had been planning this workshop for some time, and we really wanted to make this work for the attending delegates. Bill had pulled out all the stops to create a really brilliant learning resource in the Ace Encounters web application, and together we planned the learning objectives we wanted to achieve.

Our aim was to provide a safe learning environment where the delegates could learn about security test design techniques, the key vulnerabilities in web applications and how to exploit them. It was also our intention to elicit discussion around these issues in the context of software testing, rather than hacking.

Bill Matthews in Action!

Bill Matthews in Action!

There were lots of great opportunities for Bill and I to learn as well, feeding off the needs of the attendees, and also their experiences. It’s the best way for us to get better at presenting the content, making it more relevant and exciting for everyone. Here are some photos of the day, where we got to work with some really great testers!
          Let’s Test is famous for it’s more social activities. You can’t go far from the conference venue, as it is in the middle of nowhere. So, we all have to create our own entertainment.

As Day 2 drew to a close and after a great chat with some awesome people in The Test Lab, a few of us retired to the games room – ostensibly to play pool, but as always things descended into testing games and chat!

This is part of the attraction of Let’s Test, where you can just hang out, with a few beers (or whisky in our case) and talk about test, the universe and everything.

Chris Chant, Dan Ashby and Phil Quinn

Chris Chant, Dan Ashby and Phil Quinn

On to Day 3, which was again a fantastic day of learning. This conference was my first chance to speak to many testers that I had admired and followed for sometime – such as Patrick Prill – @testpappy on Twitter. I hooked up with Patrick, Christina Ohanian and Dan Ashby at lunch time, and we did an impromptu recording of Testing in the Pub! I can’t wait for that episode to come out.

Patrick Prill

Patrick Prill

The morning lead me to more facilitation responsibilities, this time trying to manage the events at Jean-Paul Varwijk’s very well researched presentation and debate on the proposed ISO 29119 standard.

It wasn’t my job to get involved so much in the debate, but ensure that all the participants of the meeting at least got a chance to take part (If they wanted to) and ensure there was some sort of order to the questions, follow ups and burning issues being raised.

There was a lot of passion in the discussion. Clearly this issue has sparked much interest and concern within the context driven testing community. My main issue however that there was no real moderate or conflicting view arising from this discussion  – most if not all people who spoke up had little that was positive to say about the proposed standard, or opposed it out right.

Still, Jean-Paul had presented a tonne of material he had researched and gathered over time, and presented a cogent argument in as balanced a way as he possibly could. All in all, I am glad I volunteered for this session, as it allowed me to see testers debating in action!

Jean-Paul Varwijk

Jean-Paul Varwijk

Without doubt the highlight of Day 3 for me though was the fantastic session “Coders to the Left” lead Jan Eumann and Philip Quinn. This workshop encouraged us to work in pairs and small groups, with each activity with a different focus, for example working as a tester, developer or observer.

They had created an excellent resource for learning via a GitHub project called Fixture Finder. It essentially allowed you to search football match fixtures, using date and country as search criteria. More than that though, the workshop allowed us to explore what working like a developer might be like – and it was a challenge.

Rather than just finding bugs, we would isolate the cause and fix it on the fly, within our own instance of the app in Chrome. There were some very interesting bugs to find, such as blatant security flaws, or little bits of code that stripped search results from the list, or tampered with the results of football matches under certain conditions.

I know a bit of code. Not so much that it would allow me to call myself any kind of developer. I can use code, and other tools to help me solve testing problems. However this activity really did let us get to grips with how testers and developers can really work well together, reducing and improving the feedback loop as we test and code together. A brilliant exercise in collaborative learning.

Jan Eumann and Phil Quin

Jan Eumann and Phil Quin

Anders, Dan and me pairing up

Anders, Dan and me pairing up

So, as my first experience of Let’s Test draws to a close I want to reflect on what has been a most rewarding and exhausting experience in equal measure. The learning from the workshop I ran helped us feed this learning into the following session at Nordic Testing Days, yet it made me realise that I don’t really blog much about security. I should rectify that.

Let’s Test allowed me to engage deeply with my personal approaches to testing, and what I value about myself as a human being. The impromptu chats, podcast recordings, Reiki healing workshops with Dawn Haynes, the testing games, workshops and talks I attended all helped with that. I do attend to go again, as it is such an intense and engaging place to be.

The MEWTation of Communication

It’s taken a while for me to digest and understand the impact of attending MEWT a couple of weeks ago now. I normally try and blog quickly after an event, whilst my memory, notes and personal response are fresh. In this case, I haven’t been able to do so.

Visiting a conference or attending a few track talks and workshops is an exciting experience. There is always an opportunity to learn more about a technical skill, tools and current thinking around testing. Never before have I been able to learn very much about myself as a tester, and as a human being than I did at MEWT.

Set in the fabulous surroundings of the Attenborough nature reserve in Nottingham, MEWT (Midlands Exploratory Workshop in Testing) is a very intimate workshop day hosted by Richard Bradshaw, Vernon Richards, Bill Matthews and Simon Knight. I felt extremely privileged to be invited to attend, so I wanted to ensure that the content I provided was both pertinent to the topic and expressed my personal challenges with communication, some of which I will talk about here.

The Attenborough nature reserve, Nottingham

The Attenborough nature reserve, Nottingham

My talk was Communication, Influence and the Geek, the slides for which are available from the MEWT website.

During my time on this planet, and latterly as a software tester, I have encountered a few challenges to communication. Being a geek, which to some is a pejorative term for someone who has a deep interest in science, technology, certain hobbies or non mainstream culture; can present certain problems for folk who identified as such, or who have been labelled as such by others.

The photo below adequately demonstrates my main source of geeky inspiration:

The Dalek Supreme

The Dalek Supreme in “The Stolen Earth/Journeys End” in BBC TV’s Doctor Who

Communication is an exchange of ideas and viewpoints, as much as it is about information and facts. Its about disecting and evaluating the information that is presented to you in the context of the emotional feedback you have to it. Testing, in my view, is partly an expression of that.

In deep debate at MEWT

In deep debate at MEWT


I won’t dwell too much on my personal experiences here, because they are not for this place. However, the feedback from the peers that I met and worked with at MEWT was greatly positive, and nourishing. It has fed my desire to learn more about my craft, and support others who wish to learn more. Whilst we should be mindful not to label ourselves, allow ourselves to get pigeon holed by how either society, others and even our own prejudices, it is important to recognise and play to your own strengths.

Simon, Vernon, Christian and Christopher

Simon, Vernon, Christian and Christopher

The environment created at MEWT allows professional, non judgemental, challenging but friendly debate around the ideas and thinking generated during the day. Ahead of this session I was terribly nervous about sharing some of my deepest thoughts and feelings on the problems I have faced as a tester. I am not sure I could have put all this out in the open in any other conference or workshop.  

 

Dorothy Graham

Dorothy Graham

  
Raji Bhamidipati

Raji Bhamidipati

 
This was a message that has been impressed upon me not only by the MEWT attendees, but also a number of my colleagues, to whom I will always be grateful.  One point was made to me, and that was to not be afraid to  embrace the influence that my personal interests and idiosyncracies have upon my approach to testing. They make me who I am, and it is that allows me to add value to my employer and those around me.

  

Critical Mass: A TestBash 2015 Preview

Hey testers!

Spring has sprung on the UK testing scene once more, as it is now seven days from TestBash 2015, held each year so far in Brighton. To those of you living under a rock, TestBash is the one day conference track and two day workshop run by the good people of Ministry of Testing, and especially Rosie Sherry. You can find out more here.

This year there are some established members of the testing community speaking, such as Michael Bolton, Iain McCowatt, Stephen Janaway and Matthew Heusser. I am looking forward to seeing these guys speak again, as they are always excellent, with insights and content beyond the conventional.

If there was a criticism of TestBash 2014 was that there wasn’t a diverse range of speakers. There were no female speakers last year, where now there are three; Karen Johnson, Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Sally Goble. Whilst I have read blogs and tweets by these testers, I’ve never seen them speak before so this is going to be incredibly exciting.

There are also new speakers to TestBash, such as Richard Bradshaw and Vernon Richards.

I’ve known Richard for a few years now, and he is an inspiring and knowledgeable tester. I’ve never seen him speak before other than during a 99 second talk. He’s the first guy I would go to for information on automation. He describes his talk as ““Test Automation” = Things don’t have to be this way”.

On to Vernon Richards, whose epic 99 Second talk on Myths and Legends of Software testing has been expanded into a full blown talk. Again, I have known Vernon for a while in the community. Being isolated down in the South West of England means that I don’t always get to meet testers based and working in the London area, but Vernon has been on my radar for ages.  Vernon’s 99 second talk last year earned him a huge cheer, and rightly so. This talk might turn out to be the jewel in the TestBash crown.

On to the workshops. Sadly I can’t attend the workshop day this year. With the TestBash workshops, it is your learning that is at the heart of it. The likes of John Stevenson, Simon Knight, Karen Johnson, Nicola Sedgwick and my Weekend Testing colleague Neil Studd all providing courses, it should add up to a fantastic day. Also running a workshop on BDD is Rikke Simonsen, who I had the pleasure of having lunch with last TestBash. Such a shame that I will be missing this fantastic opportunity to learn from them all. I’m definitely going to see if I can get in on that in 2016, as a learner or a trainer.

I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of TestBash in my career. I first attended in 2013. This was my first testing conference in three years, after what felt like some what of a period in the doldrums. I felt that I was coasting in my career and not doing enough to learn more, stretch myself creatively or professionally. I was just working.

A number of personal and professional events led me to attending that year, which gave me the kick up the backside that I really needed. As a result, I had my first speaking gigs in 2014. I am now speaking again at Nordic Testing Days this year, and visiting Let’s Test for the first time, running a workshop with Bill Matthews.

Sure, there are bigger conferences, with more tracks and a wider variety of talks, workshops and test labs, Some conferences are more popular with different testers, because of the variety of speakers and the depth and breadth of the content. However, what TestBash squeezes into only a few days in the compact and vibrant city of Brighton is phenomenal.

I’m also very proud to say that Brighton is sort of my home town. I grew up in a village not far away from there. This adds for me an additional pride and gratitude for the awesome effort that MOT and Rosie put into organising and running the event. As a result of the conference, and MOT as a whole, careers have been forged due to the community outreach and sponsorship of new testers so that they can attend courses and the conference for free, as well as other support. Some testers have even sponsored tickets themselves, which is hugely rewarding to the community. They should be thanked!

Two testers that are very important to me have so far benefited from this amazing community scholarship. Emma Keaveny has since moved to the UK from Ireland, secured her first testing role and along with Kim Knup have started to establish the first regular Brighton and Hove testing meetups.

The other was Danny Dainton, an ex infantry soldier, who actively pursued a career in testing after leaving the Army, and who I have the great honour of working with at New Voice Media. I really look forward to what these two fantastic testers do in the future, be it speaking themselves, or organising community events or just being able to work closely with them.

So, if you are going to TestBash next week, I look forward to seeing you there. It should be a fantastic event, full opportunities to learn and grow as a tester. If you want to talk to me, just grab me at Lean Bacon (ahem, Lean Coffee), at the queue for lunch, or at the Thursday or Friday meetups. It’s going to be EPIC!

Back in the game

The last few months of 2014 brought on quite a few new professional challenges. Unfortunately this means that I have been unable to do any blogging of late.

So…a quick catch up.

I’ve recently run two Weekend Testing sessions on Security Testing. The info for these are here:

http://weekendtesting.com/archives/3744

http://weekendtesting.com/archives/3804

I’ve since been invited to help run the Weekend Testing Europe chapter by Amy Phillips and Neil Studd, so keep your eyes open for future sessions! Amy is running one this week on API testing. It should be awesome. Go check out the details here and register:

http://weekendtesting.com/archives/3898

During these sessions I referred to the work of security blogger Troy Hunt. He kindly let us use his website http://hackyourselffirst.troyhunt.com/ , which also forms the subject of his two courses Hack Yourself First and Hack Your API First.

Both courses work together as a fantastic way to get to grips with some tricky concepts, which are explained clearly, succinctly, and with humour.

Often these sorts of online courses can be quite boring, heavily laden with dry facts rather than useful examples and experience. Troy draws on examples in the course material, web and mobile applications, as well as real world vulnerabilities he has discovered during his work.

I can definitely recommend both of them, which are available on Pluralsight. The courses aren’t free, but they do a trial period. It’s worth investing in them if you can. Enjoy!