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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Shaking your Agile self to a better testing community.

Well, it's been a shaky few days here (quite literally) not to mention the flooding and gale force winds that apparently come along with an earthquake now-a-days. But we're on the up and up again!


Our testers have just done something super agile together in the past few weeks. We've all been feeling a bit down after some big structural changes that have left us without the single point of leadership that we're used to. After months of this, we decided to get together and work something out once and for all, do we actually need a named lead? Or were we relying on them for things we can do ourselves?

Agile to the rescue!

In a fit of inspiration (*cough* and with the help of one of our Agile coaches), we decided it was time to have a QA Retro to actually talk about how we're all feeling and what we want the future to look like.

We used post-it's to write our points down beforehand, then one by one we put them up on the board, then silently grouped them into topic areas.

One of the things that really struck us is that we all had some very similar concerns about how things were going. With that done, we moved to the lean coffee format and timed a discussion on each topic group. Now came the fun bit. We talked, and I mean really talked, with a no interruptions rule and a mindfulness on if you were contributing perhaps a bit too much (so that other's get a chance to talk too).  Most importantly, this wasn't about solutions, solutions were forbidden.

We worked a lot of stuff out, the most important though, was that we could be doing a lot of things that we had been relying on a QA lead for. Our sense of community and learning, career progression, internal and external tester perceptions, all these were things that we could tackle ourselves. In fact, these were things that in hindsight it seems strange to rely on someone else for. No one can make you have a community, no one can make you learn. These are things we need to push for ourselves.

We did see that we definitely needed someone to represent testers and testing at higher levels, but that person didn't need to be a "lead", just someone with our interests at heart.

We all left our retro feeling a mixture of hopefulness, optimism and apprehension. It's an easy kind of thing to forget about, well, doing anything about. But all you really need is a few really passionate people to push these things forwards. Luckily we have those passionate people who are willing to take the time to put some ideas together.

Agile can be used for so much more than just pod level things, and never be afraid to just get everyone in a room to talk through things. We forget that we're not alone when things are feeling a bit down, it's so easy to just retreat into yourself and your own work, never realising that there are many others who are feeling the same way and that together, you can really make some changes.

Have a great week nerds!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Why you need to market testing and yourself.

I remember the very first time I found out that testers weren't always seen as the valuable people that I always thought them to be. As someone who started in support, testers were my buddies. They would help me find problems, and put them to developers who would fix them for us and our customers. I spent a lot of time talking and interacting with testers, which is probably a big part of why I ended up here.

But alas, the rose-coloured glasses had to be slapped off my face at some point. It was maybe four months into my new testing career that I read the fatal words. On Facebook no less, ouch. A developer friend of mine started what no doubt was an innocent and wide-eyed-fun thread about the worst things in development. "Javascript!" went one, poor Javascript. "The customers!" went another, har har, they're always getting in the way, those crazy customers.

Then it happened, "F&$*%ing testers!" went the next. My heart started beating faster and I just stared at my screen. "Why?" I thought. "What have I ever done to you?", my mind made it very personal, very quickly. It didn't matter to me that maybe this guy had just come across a tester who may have been a bit of a douche, he'd just put us all in the same sweary basket. There's no way this dev takes his tester or the work they do seriously. I wrote a detailed, long response reprimanding this developer, which I stared at for about 5 minutes, then deleted. I find that sort of thing cathartic, I don't actually need to post things to get them off my chest.

But this kind of anger is something that no doubt a lot of us have to deal with. The perception that testers are there to literally ruin your day. For those of us who don't experience out-right hostility, what we deal with is a little more insidious. We deal with apathy and a general lack of understanding of what we do. The two things kind of go hand in hand.

I work in a great team, full of great people, who care about the quality of their work. I asked them a little while ago, just at a stand up, what they thought I did. Everyone stared around a bit, looked a bit awkward, then one hazarded a guess of "You...test...things?." Huh. I guess she was sort of right, but I've always thought I was doing my job wrong if I was spending more than maybe 15% of my time physically testing something. What did they think I did with the rest of my time? Did they think I was just sitting there shopping online? Well, to be honest, yes, but I have 3 screens and I'm great at switching my focus between them.

After my little pop-quiz though, I started to ask around. I know my team is pretty up there when it comes to what I'm going to call "enlightened individuals". For some of the other testers, it was even worse. Not only did no one know what they did beyond the physical act of testing, but a lot told me that they weren't even expected to do anymore. Instead of Agile, they were working in mini-waterfall, and the cracks showed. More roll-backs than you'd think was alright and testers who felt dismissed, under-appreciated and just generally sad. Not only does this lead to poor software, it leads to retention problems. You can lose some great people because of a lack of care.

So something needed to change, we needed to start marketing ourselves. We need not just our teams to care about quality and testing, we needed our CEO, our managers, everyone, to get involved. And it's started with something that Kate Falanga of the previously ironically named Huge Inc (it's not ironic anymore, they really are huge), gave us a head start with when she took us through her "Teaching testing to non-testers" workshop.

Getting everyone involved in what testing really is means that they start to understand, and with understanding comes care and enthusiasm. Re-engage your testers by re-engaging everyone with testing. You need to market who we are and what we do, or else we remain that other thing that's always raining on everyone's parade.

P.S - Did anyone watch BlizzCon? Oh my nerd, the recreation of D1 in D3 may be my favourite thing this year. It may not be a Warcraft 4, but it'll tide me over ^_^