Engineering the solution together!

Like a lot of teams, my team is cross functional. There are several engineers with different specialisms…systems development, performance and security, as well as testing like myself.

When we find an issues, we work on them together as a team. When we test code, we test it together as a team. We celebrate our successes and solve our problems, together, as a team.

The other day I uncovered an interesting bug. It was the sort of bug that still gave me that little buzz of excitement that I got when finding bugs earlier in my career. Not only was it a challenge to identify, replicate and describe but because it was found in a new piece of development which will really help our team solve an important problem for our customers and our service.

If as a team we can work together to solve this problem, then this benefits the customer and ultimately the business. It’s all we are about, day in day out.

The developer who is working to fix this issue feels that has identified the root cause, which has taken a lot of time, effort and frustration on his part. Research, experimentation, consulting with myself and other developers…wash, rinse, repeat…until the solution is found.

Tomorrow morning we start testing (in a VM on the developer’s machine) a pretty radical fix to the bug, which will mean a lot of testing effort for us both before we let it loose in the wild.

To be honest I can’t wait to get to grips with the solution to this problem. The testing challenge will be one of the toughest since I have been working within this team. I’m not sure yet what it will exactly entail, but the fun will be in discovering that in the days to come.

Hackathon! Working with new people on cool stuff!

The last couple of days have brought an entirely new experience. Every quarter the R&D team at New Voice Media has a whole 2.5 days where the team can work on their own ideas that will add value to the business that are outside of the normal day to day feature development. The plan is that developers, testers and product owners come together to learn, create and innovate.

Earlier this morning Rob Lambert wrote in his blog (http://thesocialtester.co.uk/hackathon-how-can-testers-take-part/) about how the testers were getting involved with the Hackathon. Historically it has been difficult for testers to get involved with these kinds of events here, as sometimes there were competing priorities, a lack of engagement on the part of both developers and testers alike, or perhaps a view that our skills and expertise weren’t needed for such a short term project, that might not even make it in to production code.
This time round I was determined to get involved (last time, I was a contractor) as I felt it would be a great way to engage with members of the team that I don’t usually get to work with. As a newbie to the team, I felt it would be key to make sure that I could develop my skills and help others do the same. Also it was a chance to work on actual code that would make it in to production that would help our Professional Services team, and ultimately the customers. I normally work on the infrastructure side, security testing and other bits and pieces; rather than features and user functionality.
In the last couple of days we have collaborated on creating our acceptance criteria, developing a great suite of unit and automated tests, refactoring and improving the UI, performance tuning of the database, as well as some really exciting exploratory testing that facilitated the mentoring of a new member of the team who is completely new to testing. 
It’s been one of the most exciting and interesting times of my career, where the feedback from exploratory tests have been greatly welcomed by the team, exposing some interesting bugs which were then fed back in to the developers to ensure the delivered product was as good as possible in the time allowed.
We also got to see how the other teams got on, the products they produced and how they worked together. There were some really exciting projects and ideas knocking about, where the team really got to stretch their legs, bring together interesting technologies and processes. We all voted at the end for best in show, pushing the envelope and the epic fail 🙂 (no one fails really, its just a bit of a laugh). It’s also a great time for the team to socialise and to get to know each other.
If you are a tester, part of a development team and you aren’t getting a chance to take part in these sorts of activities then get involved by championing your skill set, collaborating with your peers, making connections and generating great ideas that make your customers happy and want to use your products. 
If your team isn’t doing a Ship it, Hackathon or similar, then how about setting something up yourself. You won’t regret it! Trust me – I’m The Test Doctor!

(here’s the team during our Show and Tell this afternoon!)

A year of change and new beginings

2013 – What a year! Both personally and professionally. The last few months especially have been a huge challenge, and those that know me well will understand why. This year has presented a number of huge challenges, and has presented a whole new range of opportunities.
In 2010 I made the huge decision to go contracting, especially where in the South West of England there was a dearth of decent contract roles. However at the time I felt that this was the right move for myself personally and professionally. It has had its ups and downs, but has never been boring. I would heartily recommend it to those who aren’t afraid of change.
However the last six months has brought an even bigger challenge…which is what I would like to share with you now.
Since June 2013 I have been working as a Contract Test Engineer at New Voice Media in Basingstoke. NVM produce great solutions for business to manage their contact and customer service centres, including a raft of call centre applications and services. As part of my work in the development team there has been the opportunity to grow and develop my testing skills, specifically in exploratory and security testing.
The technical and professional challenge is huge, with a steep learning curve. Exposure to a DevOps environment has meant that upskilling and knowledge sharing has been key to developing the test capabilities within the team. Without that, we would be always be on the back foot.
If the environment I was invited into hadn’t been so exciting and interesting, then I wouldnt have felt that moving away from contracting would have been a step forward. Instead, I find myself now a pemenant job in a fantastic team of people, both developers and testers. Sure, some personal circumstances have been a driver to this decision, but at this moment I feel it has been a positive step.
I can hear the cries of derision from my colleagues in the contract market, who would say that I would be resting on my laurels and trying to get comfortable, missing out on the big bucks. Not a bit of it. Skill development and knowledge sharing within a great, positive environment were a major motivator in this decision to go back to permenant work. 
I had a good run at contracting, with several great contracts, including one ongoing for sometime. I’d developed a good, but not great reputation, for reliability, solidity and innovation at other organisations in the past. Resting on my laurels would be to soley rely on that reputation, to remain static despite having the nomadic life of a contractor. This I feel would eventually lead to some kind of professional inertia, where I was only considering my daily rate; not my daily learning.
During the time I was contracting, I felt disconnected with the community of testers. Being based predominately in the south west hasn’t exactly helped with this, but now there is a burgeoning testing community in the Bristol area who are active in their desire to learn and develop from each other. 2013 brought with it the challenge of interacting and egaging with the test community much more. It opened doors to challenges and opportunities not necessarily open to me in the contract world. 
I’m now working with a team of highly skilled people, but also people who don’t get comfortable. It is a team that is constantly trying to find ways to improve how they work and do their jobs, in order to help make fantastic products. I’m also going to get to mentor other testers, whilst not exactly new to me, hasn’t always been my first priority. Now on top of my other work, it is a key part of my role, and one that I am looking forward to greatly.
2014 is going to be very hard work, both professionally and personally. But I know that the community is there for you to support your learning and development, if only you are willing to take that deep breath and big step into giving back to it. 
This photo of Crooklets Beach in Bude sums up what I feel right now…under the crystal blue skies, new beginings and a huge open space to play on. I can’t wait.