The UKStar legacy

Wow!!!

I’m back from the inaugural UKStar event in London, where I was privileged to co-present a talk with   on communication, and it seemed to go down really well. But that’s not the only reason that it was such an enjoyable time.

The venue – County Hall, with a view across Westminster Bridge to Parliament and Big Ben. As a Londoner I have never managed to see the view from there so it was something special. I do have to say that etc.venues did a good job of keeping us fed and watered, and the guys at Eurostar who organised the event were great. They all seemed to really enjoy the event and were super helpful.

The talks – so many great ones and I missed a couple due to clashes that I would love to have been in, but then thats always the case with dual tracks.
I attended the ‘Hey what just Hackened’ half day session with Declan O’Riordan, which helped us look at security testing in a new light, the keynote with Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Llewellyn Falco on the concept of Mob Testing was something new to me. I also enjoyed seeing Paul Collis of the FCA (who I know from the Test Management Forums) do his first conference talk about the transformation of the testing function, Dan Ashby & Hannah Mason speaking about the mentoring and learning opportunities at the Software Testing Clinic (http://www.softwaretestingclinic.com/) and also Stephen Janaway’s journey from Test Management to a broader Software Delivery Manager role gave me a lot of food for thought (http://stephenjanaway.co.uk). The talks were inspiring and I really like the fact that new speakers were encouraged.

The atmosphere – there was a noticable buzz for the whole two days, with so much interaction going on. I think this is one of the best things about any conference – a chance to meet old friends and make new ones, which I did during the Tuesday morning Lean Coffee session, ad-hoc chats over coffee and lunch, and a very nice evening meal after the Monday evening drinks.

So – would I encourage people to attend a conference? Yes! Choose carefully though, as there are many and you want to go to one with a good range of talks so you can maximise the opportunities to learn, contribute to discussions and network.

Would I encourage new speakers to apply? Absolutely! I’m really pleased to see a change in focus at events to actively encourage new speakers, and I will be helping at the BCS to mentor someone this year. I will also speak to Dan Ashby about opportunities to give something back to the testing community.

If you commit to do just one thing this year, then go to a great conference. Be challenged, learn new things and meet new people. What have you got to lose?

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2017 – 3 weeks in.

A little belated, but I can get away with posting ‘Happy New Year‘ as this is my first post of 2017.

So, here we are, about 3 weeks in to the year and a lot has happened already:

  • I have taken on a new role in my company as Director of Quality Engineering – essentially Director of the QA function, for a different brand to where I worked before so this has opened up some new and exciting opportunities for me within https://www.flightglobal.com.
  • I recently joined the BCS and am hoping to get involved in their mentoring scheme for new conference speakers – I’d love to give something back to our testing community!
  • An article which I worked on late last year has been published in Test Magazine http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk//launch.aspx?eid=f785b07c-90bd-42be-b7fb-832c6c6bdd86 – and they have done a cracking job of the presentation and layout (thanks 31Media). Its all about where we should focus our efforts as testers when looking at honing our skills, so I would love to hear any feedback if you do happen to read it.
  • I am speaking at Testing Showcase North in Manchester in February on the subject of Tester Training, in a similar vein to the magazine article, but of course delivered as an interactive talk. Details available here http://conferences.unicom.co.uk/testing-showcase-north/.
  • Then a week later I am joining my colleague Bhagya Perera https://bhagyagdm.wordpress.com/ in London at the inaugural UKStar event to deliver a session on ‘The Communication Bridge’, which I am very much looking forward to as well. More details here https://ukstar.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/.
  • Oh, and in May I will be speaking at the National Software Testing conference in London!

I cant believe how busy it’s been already, and that is without the workshop that I am running with my new team next Friday, and our ongoing QA Chapters that we run in-house.

But I am not complaining, I get bored easily (something that I am not proud of, as I wish I had more patience overall!), so doing a lot of things is good for me. One of my old team asked me last week how I found the time to do so many things. I do wonder myself sometimes, but my reply to her was that it comes down to having an in-built passion to do something of benefit. No-one can be forced to do anything extra – we have to want to. The secret is to find something that excites you, helps you grow as an individual, as well as in terms of job related skills. Giving something back by helping others where you can (it shouldn’t be just about personal gain), and making a difference – these are important to me, and I really hope that 2017 is even more awesome than 2016. Of course that depends on the amount of time and effort I am prepared to invest, so the incentive lies with me – but that’s what is good about it. I am in control and can do as much or as little as I feel capable of doing.

So, watch this space 🙂

Oh, one final thought – my job title is now Director, not Manager, but I think I will leave the site titled as ‘Musings of a Test Manager’, as I still think it sounds good to me. I tried thinking of alternatives, but ‘Doodles of a QA Director’ doesnt really have the same ring!

My reflection on 2016

This will be my last post for 2016 so I thought it an idea to reflect back on what has happened this year.

2016 has been a great year work wise (and personally too, but this is more of a ‘work’ type blog, so I’ll skip that). I’ve continued co-running our RBI global QA Chapter with Bhagya (https://bhagyagdm.wordpress.com/), bringing 75 testers together on a quarterly basis to create a testing community, where we help each other, ask questions, give support, perform demo’s etc, and we are looking at how we can reboot the Chapters for other disciplines.

I’ve also been jointly running the Distributed Teams workshops with Bhagya which we both learned about at the March 2016 Test Bash from Lisa Crispin and Abby Bangser – we have done 3 internally, and all were very successful.

In April at the UK Test Management Forum, I presented a talk on the Challenges for Test Managers, as there are less of us. What does the future hold? It was an interesting discussion and led onto another talk in December – see below!

From TestBash, I brought back to my team the concept of Lean Coffee meetings, and we adopted those for our team meetings and also for the QA Chapters – hugely successful as it gives every tester a voice, whether they are shy and unused to speaking openly or not.

Then I found that I spent the summer preparing for a busy Q4:

In October I presented by first Webinar, thanks to Unicom, on Being a Better Tester. It went down so well, that I am now presenting it as a talk at Testing Showcase North in Manchester in February 2017!

In November I had an amazing visit to India, where I was privileged to speak in front of a large number of testers about Being a Better Tester – essentially delivering my webinar live. Also I ran a smaller version of the Distributed Teams workshop for the team we work with and they found it hugely informative. (More details on my India visit blog page).

And in December, I spoke at the British Computer Society, Testing Interest Group on ‘Challenges for Test Managers’ after being invited to do so, following on from my April session. It was a privilege to be asked and to be able to run an interactive session with a larger number of attendees, which I felt was very rewarding. I have just typed up a small article for the BCS Tester magazine to report back on the talk and the ideas that came from the audience, as I find that a lot of conferences don’t do enough of this – we should do more interactive thought gathering sessions and share that around.

It feels that this year has been about adding value to others. Giving something back and helping others to do their jobs better – this is the reason I go to work, and why I do conferences, articles and this blog. If I am not making a difference, then what is my purpose? It’s something that is very important to me.

So, now I am starting to look forward to 2017, and there’s a lot lined up already:

  • I have a magazine article coming out in January (Test Magazine) on ‘Changing our approach to Training – how tester training needs to evolve’.
  • In February I have the Manchester talk.
  • A week later Bhagya and I are leading a session on Communication at the inaugural UKSTAR event, which I am hugely excited about.
  • In May I am hopefully speaking at the National Software Testing Conference.
  • I have also volunteered to be a mentor to a new speaker, which will happen later in the year.
  • And I am still involved in helping with the UKTMF, which will be getting a revamp in 2017.

It’s great to have all this planned before getting to the end of 2016, but it takes effort. Nothing just falls into your lap – I have had to put myself forward to do these things, and it is definitely worth it.

If you have read any of my postings this year, I would like to say thank you. I do enjoy receiving comments – I know that someone has either found it useful or challenged enough by what I say to respond. Without readers, it wouldn’t be worth doing!

I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and successful New Year. Here’s to 2017!

My first Webinar!

A week ago I delivered my first Webinar, courtesy of Unicom Seminars (www.unicom.co.uk). They had approached me to see if I was interested, and after blogging, writing a few magazine articles and speaking at conferences, this was something I had not done before.

The theme was around learning and it worked well for me as I have been on a bit of a mission to help my team to do some tester pairing and Thought Leadership to stretch themselves, and I felt I could deliver something of value to others.

As I was writing the slides (and notes), I noticed just how much we focus as an industry on the purely technical skills that we want testers to have. It struck me that we are ignoring the analytical skills and soft skills that we want as well, which are the three areas I feel a good tester needs to work on. There’s no point in hiring a good technical tester who lacks analytical skills as they wont be able to plan the tests to actually automate. There’s also little point in hiring someone with little or no soft skills. Good communication skills are vital.

I managed to get the point across in a 30 minute slot, with 40 ‘live’ attendees listening in, and I was very pleased to have around 10 questions to answer as well.

Doing something like this has helped me to give something back to the wider testing community in a different way, and I am grateful for that opportunity. My next magazine article will be in Jan 2017 Tester magazine on this very topic so you will be able to read more there. Unicom have also asked me to do a conference session in Manchester in February on this topic, as they felt it would come across well.

I would encourage anyone reading this to have a think about stepping out and giving something back. The Ministry of testing offer the chance to do 99 second talks on a test related subject which can be put on a website, and this is a great first step towards doing a conference talk, webinar or writing a blog or article. It’s worth it, believe me.

Another great day at work!

Ok, I am a few days late, as the day was actually Tuesday 13th September, but I haven’t had time until today to get blogging.

Back in May, I blogged about taking TestBash to work – well we did it again this week! With my colleage Bhagya  we ran our second ‘Building Quality with Distributed teams’ workshop for over 20 people from four different teams within our organisation.

We had learned a lot from the first workshop, namely to have a timekeeper as well as two observers, which really helped, plus we extended the timings of the tasks a little to see how that worked.

We managed to keep it to 3 hours, and with 100% positive feedback from participants that they all found it useful, but almost unanimously suggesting that we add a little more time as it felt rushed as we wrapped up. So, our next one will be 3 1/2 hours long! Each time we will try to take on board feedback and make improvements, so as to maximise the benefits that the participants gain from the time invested – and it looks like we are in demand. Our parent organisation has asked us to perhaps run a session as a pilot to see how that works, and we may we asked to run externally as well.

All of this arose from attending a workshop at a conference, and proactively taking it from there and implementing it ourselves. So thanks again to Lisa Crispin and Abby Bangser  for sharing the resources and supporting us with this. They could so easily have kept it to themselves, but that isn’t what we as testers do. We share our expertise and knowledge with others for the benefit of everyone in the industry, and that’s what I love about the testing community, so long may it continue.

Here’s a challenge. What have you read about, seen at a conference or experienced that you could share with others?

Test Management Summit

A couple of days ago, I was at the Test Management Summit, organised by Paul Gerrard, and in fact it was the 50th one he had organised having started in January 2004. I was privileged to do a talk on diversifying as a Test Manager, as there seems to be a decline in the number of roles Test Manager roles.

I wanted an open debate and discussion around this as it is important to understand the implications of this. Where will existing Test Managers move to? Where will Test Leads work towards career wise?

We had 18 people engaged in this topic and I have to say that the 75 minutes went very quickly. I was grateful that I had such a good bunch of interested people in the talk, as it was never intended to be a monologue. Sending people to sleep during the day isn’t really my thing!

We concluded a number of things:

  • The stats I used to show a decrease in Test Manager roles were only for a 3 month period. if we look again in 3 months, would we still see the same thing? If we did, then it may be more of a worrying trend!
  • We all have a number of key skills that we sometimes forget about, but can be used in other roles.
  • My role has embraced product Management as well as Test Management and there are new skills I have learned which complement those I have from my testing background.
  • It is up to us to look around and try to create new roles for ourselves – reinvent. One guy said he had spent his career making himself redundant, in order to move on. That is really brave, but it has worked for him.
  • And Testing doesn’t stop at Test Manager – there are Programme Test Manager roles and increasingly people are looking for skills in Test Assurance.

I will review the same stats (number of Tester, Senior, Lead and Manager roles) again in 6 months and see what they look like. In the meantime, I dont see this as a problem – it is an opportunity for all of us to take control of our own careers and make decisions before someone else does it for us.

My advice – list your skills, you may be surprised at the things you do and take for granted.

Look at where you could utilise those skills, and also think of areas where you might like to get into, and plan how to close any skill gaps. We as Test Managers all need to move on to make room for those below us, or we get overtaken and become dinosaurs!

Test Management Forum

Yes, it’s back – and this time its for 2 days!

I’m part of the group that is helping Paul Gerrard to run the Test Management Forums, which in July, October and January runs for half a day, in the afternoon. But…..every April is a 2 day summit, which this year is on 28th and 29th April at Ball’s Brothers in London, and features a choice of half day workshops on day 1, and a choice of 75 minute sessions on day 2.

I’m presenting a session on managing offshore testing on day 2, and am hoping that it is interactive – in fact most speakers will not want to stand up for 75 minutes and do a monologue! I am looking for it to be an interesting discussion on the problems found, the benefits and how we as test managers can be better prepared to manager testing that is not performed within our own onshore teams.

For more details, you can download the programmes and session abstracts here http://uktmf.com/ and there is a link for purchasing tickets. Plus, there is a dinner on the 29th – the food is great and it is a good chance for networking too!

Hope to see you there.