A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Since mid-February I have been working as an interim Project Management role on a GDPR project, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I am now in my last week of the mopping up activities. This had followed a discussion around my previous role being at risk of redundancy (which I shared in a post here).

Knowing that this had an end date, I’ve been looking on and off for my next opportunity/adventure, and had been looking at roles within Test Management or Head of Testing. The problem is that a lot of the roles I saw were not a great fit. I was looking for something where I could make a real difference, coaching a team, improving the testing process, making things better, but job specs were highlighting experience with writing a Test Strategy, and implementing automation, and none stood out as asking for anything different. It seemed that there was already a plan – they just needed someone to come in and work to it. There was little mention of all the other areas of testing that need to be covered – Exploratory, Performance, Load, Security, UAT, and hardly anything about developing people.

I’ve also been reading posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack and other forums on testing approaches, and find I am out of step with what seems to be a popular opinion. There seems to be a simplistic view that testing is all about automation. Even those who should know better – large companies with reputable names who purport to have experience with testing – are still perpetuating the myth that you can replace all manual tests with automated ones. Well good luck with that!

I delivered a talk in May at the National Software Testing Conference on talking about testing, not just automation, and that testing is bigger than just automation. It seemed to strike a chord with a few of the people there, so I know that I am not alone in this, but I still feel that I am in a minority. Do you ever get to the point where you feel you are trying to hold back the tide?

It actually worries me that as an industry, we are allowing ourselves and others to see testing as just automation. And it saddens me that the hard work that many of us have put in over the years to elevate testing and ensure that test roles are seen on an equal footing with other tech roles is being eroded. A testing role is not a pseudo Developer role, but that is how we are being seen more and more. We do a lot of analytical work, but are we getting the credit for it?

I was starting to wonder how long it would take to find the right role for me within Testing – if indeed it existed! Should I stay within testing? Was it right for me? Am I out of step with everyone else? Where would I go? What kind of organisation? Where will I find a good match with the values I hold? So many things to consider.

Then, purely by chance, I found myself having a conversation about how my experience would be a good fit in a Project Manager role! I had considered other avenues from time to time (a few years ago I spoke about transferable skills) but had thought that my experience would preclude me from moving. But the great thing about working in a larger organisation is that as a known quantity, my overall experience and achievements are taken into account, whereas looking for a different role externally would be hard to break into. Whilst there are some gaps, I will undertake training to plug them, but as a PM with experience of testing, and good organisational skills, I should be in a great position to influence how we deliver a quality product.

I started to think about the things that drive me to come to work each day:

  • Doing a job that I enjoy
  • Doing a job that is interesting and challenges me (I am not good when I am bored)
  • Making a difference by doing what I do
  • Getting satisfaction from delivering something
  • Working with good people who have the best intentions

The GDPR project has given me all of the above, and I have really enjoyed it (people give me funny looks when I say that!), therefore continuing on project work makes a lot of sense, especially given the concerns I have around finding a Test Manager role where I would be a good fit.

So – the decision has been made, and in one week, I embark in a new chapter in my career as a Project Manager.

What about testing? That’ll still be a part of my life (it’s been 30 years and I still find website errors without meaning to), it’s instinctive, but I just wont be involved on a daily basis. It certainly wasn’t the move that I had anticipated, but things happen for a reason, and I am looking forward to a new and exciting chapter in my career where I can make a difference.

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My hope for Testing in 2018…

It’s the 1st of January 2018, and at 3pm the rain and grey skies have cleared, and a little blue sky and a few rays of sunshine appear. It’s that little ray of hope in an otherwise grey day that helps make me think of the future, and to wonder where we as an industry will be at the end of the year.

What will be have learned? What will we be doing differently? What new skills and approaches will we have adopted? How will our jobs have evolved?

I have one overriding hope for the testing industry this year, and that is to finally put aside the obsession with just one aspect of the testing craft – ‘Automation’.

There have been so many debates and I think to be honest it’s time to move on, as it is an unnecessary distraction from other things that we should be discussing.

I am going to quote James Bach here (see Testing vs Checking), and the White Paper that you can link to from that page:
“The trouble with “test automation” starts with the words themselves. Testing is a part of the creative and critical work that happens in the design studio, but “automation” encourages people to think of mechanizable assembly-line work done on the factory floor.”

Testing is a craft. It is something that requires thought. It requires a skill to be able to identify what needs to be tested and how to go about testing.

Automation is just the ‘how’, which is fine, but with the focus very much on the ‘how’, we seem to have overlooked the importance of the ‘what’. 

Various comments on LinkedIn by other testing professionals have suggested that this demeans the craft – and I have to agree. Anyone who is not a tester/has no testing background, maybe in a senior management position with budgetary control, may well look at the testing activities, and assume it’s basically writing code to perform tests. This does not help us to showcase the thought processes that we have to go through to identify what needs to be tested – using risk based approaches, exploratory testing, story walk-through’s and our own experiences in general to work out how to try to break something that hasn’t yet been built.

Test automation looks great on paper – who doesn’t want to save time, and get rid of the boring repetitive work. It’s an easy sell. And in theory if we can automate a bunch of repeatable tests, then we have time to spend elsewhere. However this is not always the case. Because we only ever discuss automated tests, senior management can lack visibility of the other types of tests that need to be factored in, not to mention that if you leave an automation pack untouched for any length of time, it will need some work to get it running as there are bound to have been changes to the application in the mean-time.

Lets assume we are testing a new web page. The testers do some manual tests and then start to write automated tests to cover the scenarios. Unless they know otherwise, a team can then assume that the job is done – we have repeatable tests so lets move on. But the automation that is so often talked about covers just ONE PART of the testing needed – Regression.

So – what about performance and load testing for example? Where do they fit in? Another tool is needed to create load tests, but there is also the critical thinking needed to establish what the acceptable performance benchmarks are for 1 user, 10 , 100, 1000 etc. And then the understanding needed as to how to scale up the load tests – do they all repeat the same scenarios, or do we try to mimic user behaviour? The running is the last element of a long thought-driven process.

And I haven’t really covered the benefits of exploratory testing. I’ve raised this point in a previous post – automated tests cannot stop part way through and do something different. Not yet anyway – maybe that’s something that machine learning will introduce! But for now, automated tests will just keep doing the same thing over and over again – checking.

This is not testing.

I’ll repeat myself here – testing is the thinking, the investigating, the risk assessment, the planning of what we need to do, looking for things that have been missed by whoever created the requirement – something that they had never considered could happen. After that, it becomes the ‘how’ – what is the best way to perform the tests – as a person using a keyboard to navigate our way round a web application or by writing automated tests to do that for us in a repeatable way.

My wish for 2018 is that we stop making it seem as though testing is all about the automation. It is not. We are far more than writers of testing code, so let’s showcase what we do that adds real value to our organisations.

We are the critical thinkers – let’s be proud of that.

Happy New Year!

 

Manual Testing is dead – long live Manual Testing!

This posting is a little later than planned (by about a week), as I had intended writing it after attending the National Software Testing Conference in London, where I was fortunate to speak as well as attend some great talks. I came away with 4 blog ideas, and this is the first one of them.

The demise of manual testing is being discussed in blogs, magazines, conferences, meetup’s etc. If you look at job ad’s, you’d think that manual testing has already died a death and been buried! They all mention ‘Automation tester’ – like its the ONLY thing that testers need to do. So, it was refreshing to attend sessions where people took a different view of things.

I’ve mentioned before about the need for testers to be able to do manual exploratory testing, and it was great to hear Ingo Philipp from Tricentis discuss this in a conference setting. As an industry we need to push testers back towards performing manual exploratory testing, to be complemented by automated regression testing, otherwise we are going to start missing defects due to deficiencies in the overall coverage.

Think about it. An automated test is only as good as the person who wrote it, and only as up to date as when it was last maintained. An automated test cannot make allowances for something that has changed. It cannot stop part-way through and think ‘I wonder what happens if I click this button rather than following the process flow’. It cannot look at the number of steps and highlight that the application sucks from a usability perspective. It cannot point out that the colour scheme is unreadable, or that the company logo is the wrong colour/shape/size etc. It can only run the steps it has been coded to do and validate against what is has been told to check for. So a test may pass, as the application displays what was expected, but what if additional text is present that shouldn’t be there? The test would pass, and unless anyone manually tested that screen, it would go undetected.

I’m not saying that automated tests are unimportant, far from it, but they have their place within a tester’s toolset and are not the only tool available to a tester. Of course you need to have automated tests in place to be able to follow a Continuous integration process, but automated tests cannot cover every possible scenario.

There is another aspect to this as well. Most applications that we develop are going to be used by human beings, so why do we insist on believing that it is best tested by code, without any human test covereage as well? Automated tests should cover the repetitive tests, the load and performance tests, but a person, a tester, needs to look at the application and think about the different paths that the end user could take.

The fun is in the thinking. The benefits are derived from the thinking. A tester’s brain is needed to assess the tests needed, and I despair when I read of really good manual testers with many years experience who feel that they have to leave the field of testing as they do not have automation experience. I sympathise as I came from a manual background. Coding holds no interest for me – if it did, I would have become a developer. So, my career has been based on testing software and working out how best to do so.

We need to stop this freefall ride into automation oblivion, and look at hiring and supporting multi-skilled testers. If a tester cannot write automated code, does it really matter? Better to have a tester who can look at a requirement and work out what needs testing, than a tester who can code but has no clue how to test something!
Developers can write code, so why not pair a develope with a tester to write the automated tests that a tester defines. If a tester wants to write code, and has the time to do so, then that’s great – but we should not be penalising people for knowing how to assess a requriement and define the tests needed (i.e. the core elements of the job), just because they do not have an additional skill in coding automation tests.

I do feel that there are a number of us trying to push back the tide a little to show people the benefits of doing both manual and automated testing, but the more that speakers such as Ingo and myself are getting out there and promoting the benefits of exploratory testing, the better. We need to stop this damaging trend, and ensure that we retain the best skilled testers before they feel undervalued and move on.

Now, who’s with me on this?

Beating them at their own game!

This is a post about Google Chrome, the F12 Developer tool feature and how I felt very smug after using it to get around restrictions!!

I installed an Ad-blocker into Chrome, which is the main browser I used, and I noticed that certain sites were showing messages asking me to remove the Ad-blocker (like the images below), or sign-up for content – neither of which I want to do to be honest. I have ensured that the sites cannot be identified from the screenshots below, as it is not my intention to draw attention to any specific sites, as there are many out there that have these restrictions in place.

      

There was one particular article I wanted to read and I could see no reason why I couldnt do so, seeing it as it wasn’t something that was exclusive to this particular site. I could have searched elsewhere, but was feeling in a less than co-operative mood, so decided to have a play.

Pressing the F12 button and opening the Developer Tools gave me the chance to inspect the element on the page that was blocking the text, by clicking on the button (highlighted in yellow)….

….and then clicking on the blurred area on the page that I wanted to inspect:

This then showed the element in more detail and I could then investigate further.

I found that I had two different choices, depending upon the type of restrictions imposed:

  1. To read the plain text within the Developer Tools pane rather than on the screen, but that meant having to expand every element in order to reach each paragraph:
  2. To try removing the blocker itself in order to read the text on screen as intended by just deleting that line of text.

On one site I had to use option 1 to open each element to read it as deleting the element actually deleted the text within. On another site I used option 2, and simply deleted the element off the page and the text was then visible with no restrictions.

I was surprised how easy it was and I guess that over time, the website builders will try to make this more difficult to do, but not many people really know about the F12 function, so I feel it my duty to help spread the word a little.

It really is that simple. If you are not sure, just have a play. If you delete things that you didnt want to, just reload the page and try again. It really is satisfying to beat people at their own game sometimes!

 

 

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?

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 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.