Career Composting


As kids, my brother and I loved to dig into our family’s enormous compost pile of oak and pecan tree leaves, vegetable scraps, and dried horse manure to find worms for Grandpa’s fishing trips.  Our rewards:  his ear-to-ear grin and 10 cents for every worm we found.  As an adult, I sift through a much smaller pile in my backyard and tend a tiny family garden.  Using my hands there goes a long way in clearing my head and often helps me turn over my work experiences.

I love to unearth bugs in software and appreciate help finding bugs in my thinking.  Like composting, growing into new habits take practice and patience. Here is the goodness which surfaced over time in the bins of the greatest personal challenges in my recent software testing history.

I have a voice and I trust myself to use it.

  • Test leadership – I articulate my strategy and my role as a tester.  I narrate 3 stories – status of the product/how I tested it, how good that testing was/why you should be pleased with my testing, Is there anything else you want to know? (Credits and thanks to Paul Holland’s Track Tutorial on End-to-End Agile Testing at CAST 2013 conference). I am not a gatekeeper or Product Owner, so I speak up when someone asks me to “make the call” to launch. I re-iterate my role in support of the business stakeholder team making an informed decision.  I make recommendations based on testing and quality issues.  I adjust the test strategy to explore areas of concern as project scope changes.
  • Management – I am responsible for providing direction and for communicating clearly;  I am not responsible for other people’s happiness. To be of best service, I direct my attention to the former, to the clarity and content of my message.

I will not underestimate the importance of community.

  • The above phrase resonated with me at CAST 2013 closing remarks by Scott Barber and Rob Sabourin.  I am continuously bolstered by the generosity of the software testing community through reading many blogs, my participation in a few sessions with Weekend Testing Americas, online coaching from Anne-Marie Charrett, learning from interactions and resources from online training through the Association for Software Testing, attending conferences.  I use techniques, tools and resources from the all of the aforementioned.
  • Now is the time to begin to give back.  I did a lightning talk at CAST 2013 on Leading Testing: Lessons Learned from Gumby. The positive responses and encouragement from those 4 minutes was part of the nudge I needed to draft my 1st post. I will devote energy to the fledgling meetup group I founded, Gulf Coast Software Testers, and I will eventually follow Claire Moss’s lead on co-branding this group as she has smartly done with Software Testing Club – Atlanta.

I ask for help.

  • I recognize emotional triggers as an invitation to cultivate self-awareness and an opportunity to grow my emotional intelligence (EQ). There is something (within me) that is asking for my attention.  No dillydallying!  I promptly confide in someone I trust to ask for feedback about the situation.
  • If I feel like something is technically over my head or if I get bogged down isolating failure conditions, I step away from my desk to get a 2nd opinion.  When I have been on the same test project for a long time, I reach out to my teammates to discuss testing with a developer, architect, and/or another tester to discover there are areas of the system, other scenarios, or approaches I have not considered.
  • Thank you to these great folks for their contributions, which have inspired me in this area:  Eric Jacobson – blog post, You’re a Tester, Relax;  Anne-Marie Charrett – Article [PDF], Beware the Lotus Eaters: Exploratory Testing; Paul Holland – YouTube video commentary on Skilled Testing.

Catch any worms lately?  What lessons did you learn in 2013 to apply in 2014? I wish you a hardy and prolific new year! 

– A heartfelt thank you to @aclairefication for her effervescent feedback, which helped me refine this post.

 

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