It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me…..

…..and I’m feeling good

Life can certainly throw you some curveballs.

Last Monday, my world felt like it was falling apart. All of a sudden, my latest, greatest and most exciting role to date, came to an end, all of a sudden.

It was only the second time in my life that I can remember hearing my heart beating and I didn’t know what to do.


Fortunately, past-me had my back – I took on more of a leadership role in a new job in 2016. I invested my time heavily in learning more about wider industry trends, I looked and found wonderful resources in the form of blogs and webinars. I started this blog back then, and it became a vehicle for presenting ideas, expressing myself and giving back to the testing community.

My network began to grow, as I attended meetups and conferences hosted by Ministry of Testing, and volunteered at EuroSTAR and UKSTAR conferences in the Community Huddle.

My wife jokes that I can meet someone once and stay in touch for years, and she thinks that somehow that is an odd thing, but it comes naturally to me.

During this pandemic, that network has grown further, as I have felt compelled to join in with Lee Marshall‘s Testers’ Hangout, Ben Dowen‘s #TesterOfTheDay initiative, Huib Schoots, Bart Knaack and Alex Schladebeck‘s monthly online meetups, Maaret Pyhäjärvi‘s online exploratory testing workshops, Ministry of Testing‘s wonderful weekly virtual coffees. I have had the pleasure to talk at a couple of meetups and facilitate various workshops and lean coffees at EuroSTAR. Perhaps most prominently of all, the launch of the Testing Peers podcast, out of our own community of accountable peers in testing.

Why is that relevant? Because one of those peers, Russell Craxford, jumped on a call with me straight away.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t keen. My wife and I were still in a state of shock and frankly wanted to just reach for the comfort food and sleep on it, to do something about it in the morning.

Russell encouraged me to not dwell, but to work on updating my social media profiles straight away, and that’s exactly what I did.

The response to that Tweet and my LinkedIn post really blew me away.

It is often said that the Testing Community is a supportive place, and this was a prime example. A healthy community is like a healthy open-source project, it’s free at the point of entry, but the more you put in, the more you will get out of it.

I not only had recruiters, but hiring managers and others sending me links to jobs where they worked. I had DMs from friends and old colleagues checking in on me, to make sure I was ok and to ask if there was anything they could do to help.

Before I went to bed, I had two phone calls about possible job leads.

Imagine how my night would have been if I hadn’t put up those posts that evening – the difference would have been stark.

Night and day

In the days that followed, I had no end of people offering to help, be it reviewing my hastily updated CV, or introducing me to recruiters and even finding out if anyone had ever heard of the companies that I was talking to.

The testing community raised me up this last week, I feel so incredibly blessed to call myself a part of it.

In fact, it was while The Testing Peers were carrying out our fourth retrospective on Wednesday evening, that I received something that wasn’t even on my radar two days prior – a job offer, an offer that I eventually accepted the role of QA Strategy Consultant at Provar Testing.


New job so quick? How did that happen and why did I choose them?

In a little over 48 hours from first point of contact to job offer, there was a lot going on. It’s easy to look on paper like a reflex, panic acceptance of the first thing that came along, but honestly there was more than speed to why I am so excited to be starting this new role.

I spoke to so many amazing testers, hiring managers and recruiters about some wonderful roles at exciting companies. We truly are blessed in these times to be working in an craft and industry that has been able to adapt to the changing landscape that this pandemic has brought us.

From the first call with Provar’s VP Customer Experience, through the Head of Product, CEO and COO, there was something special that happened. Call it serendipity, synchronicity, or simply great minds thinking alike, my time spent on these calls were special. Not only was I sold a vision, but I was made to feel like I could be a part of something special.

Provar had done their research on me and they offered me a role in which I can grow professionally, continuing to be a part of the community that I love, while helping to build a quality culture internally and externally.

In the Testing Peers’ discussions on interviews and CVs, we talked about the importance of not wasting a candidates time, of looking for culture add instead of culture fit, of taking the time to learn about your candidate and respecting them.

For me, all of this was done and more.

I find myself really excited about what the future holds, starting now.



Blog post title lyrics from: Feeling good– by Muse (well their cover of this awesome song anyway).

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

All my life I’ve been good but, now what the hell…..

…..What? What? What? What the hell?

What a weird year 2020 has been. There’s so much that has been experienced from just one seat in the home office.

I have a habit of not finishing those blog posts that I have in my drafts, and my good friend Bruce (the Legend) also has the same problem.

After they posted this, I suggested a follow up to their Self-Retrospective post (https://undevelopedbruce.com/2020/09/30/the-self-retrospective/) – and they kindly suggested that we attempt some sort of collaborative self-retro post.

So what we have done is come up with the some questions via one of our favourite whiteboarding apps (hello Miro!), put them in order and we will each answer them and then publish at the same time.

Here’s Bruce’s post: https://undevelopedbruce.com/2020/12/20/paired-2020-retro/

What is this and why did you agree to do a double self retro?

I’ve been advocating for personal retrospectives for quite a while now, and I posted about it earlier this year (https://christovskia.blog/2020/04/16/i-reflect-on-my-reflection/). I find it useful to recalibrate.

Bruce had also been working on something similar in the year, and we have talked about how we have found it valuable.

As for doing it jointly….well, who doesn’t love an extra bit of impetus to get something done? I really believe in the importance of accountability and this will get done if I have someone else pushing for it to be done as well.

Plus who is going to turn down the chance to collab with Bruce?

What did you think your goals were when you started the year?

I flat-out failed on the snacking front, there’s nothing like a pandemic to encourage you to snack. I know that some people took the opportunity to get into shape, but that did not happen for me. The added anxiety of the pandemic increased general tension in my back, which has had troubles for over a decade.

As for calls for papers, I started well and was able to speak at an actual in-person conference, the wonderful Geordie Test Atelier. I covered that whole experience here (https://christovskia.blog/2020/03/02/listen-to-the-sound-from-deep-within/).

I also got to give the same talk at a couple of international meetups, and I can highly recommend putting yourself out there and trying it out.

How did your goals change through the year?

My goals changed even before the pandemic hit our shores. I accepted an offer to move on from a comfortable family of a workplace to try something completely different….but starting at an airline as a pandemic takes hold made things suitably turbulent. I had big plans for the new role and I didn’t even get to start a single one.

So quite quickly and disappointingly, I sought an exit strategy.

I found a new role at a start-up and have been refreshed and now fully stimulated and looking forward again!

The only other goals for the year, beyond survival, were all related to the side project that has been a wonderfully fun highlight of the year, the Testing Peers podcast (https://testingpeers.com/). That definitely wasn’t something I anticipated taking off!!

How did you recalibrate in the year, when things changed?

It can be tough to try and take stock when you are in survival mode for so much of the year. I am lucky to have an incredibly supportive wife and hug-giving children, and along with that there is the little corner in the software testing community in which I have found my home.

No matter the problem, or how stupid anything I have to say, I know that there are people out there that I can talk to and I am ever so grateful.

Getting muddled thoughts out of my head and into something that can then turn into a plan, or just a clearer picture has really helped.

Highest point of the year

There is a post on Ministry of Testing’s forum that covers this, I highly recommend taking a look for some real good vibes (https://club.ministryoftesting.com/t/win-for-the-year-career-and-personal/45583)

Overall, the highest point in my year would be before the pandemic hit our shores, when I got to take my family to Disney World, which was a dream!

Lowest point of the year

I think this has to be when I realised that everything that I signed up for at the airline wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t established and I found myself performing a very different role to anything I had ever wanted to do.

I didn’t really know any of my colleagues or how things worked.

Each day I didn’t want to be there, and felt like I couldn’t have made a worse decision. Couple that with uncertainty around the future of the industry and fearing that I could lose my job at any point.

One day, Bruce asked how I was, this is what I sent.

Which item of clothing have you worn the most?

If we aren’t including my headset, then it is probably my slippers. My shoes think I have passed away, I only wear slippers now.

Have you discovered any new tools?

Before this year, I had used Zoom once and Teams only as a chat tool. So they aren’t new discoveries. I had been whiteboarding for a while on Google Jamboard, the improvements I see in Miro and MetroRetro are great as well.

But I think my favourite new tool is the online RiskStorming app (https://app.riskstormingonline.com/). So much kudos to Beren van Daele and the team.

It’s been the perfect tool for me in this new remote world. I have run RiskStorming sessions at my new job, for the Christmas episode recording of the Testing Peers podcast (coming very very soon!) and also at EuroSTAR 2020, where they made me a big banner and everything to look very official.

Best coping mechanisms

Talking about it, if I can. Lee Marshall made a Google Hangout that has been open all year that has been a place of salvation for me this year.

This may be the biggest salvation professionally.

Otherwise, I bought New Super Mario Bros. to play with my 6yo, this has been a wonderful escape, as well as the greatest pleasure to share my absolute favourite computer game franchise with my son.

My wife has been nothing but supportive this year. This year has been my most introspective ever and she has been able to draw me out and been a constant. Knowing what I was like before I met her, surviving this pandemic would have looked incredibly different.

Did any songs help you cope with the year?

One of my coping strategies early on in the year was to look back at the last 28 years of the Eurovision Song Contest, and I ran a thread building up to the date when this year’s grand final should have happened.

As I always do, I checked out this year’s entrants, that sadly weren’t able to actually compete, but undoubtedly the song Think about things by Daði Freyr has been a real highlight in helping me cope.

TV shows that helped you cope

I’m a sucker for routine, so the pandemic threw a lot of that out of the window this year. But in the summer I decided to watch Brooklyn 99 all the way through from scratch.

It was so much fun and Captain Holt is the best.

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Bruce?

I think while this may have been quite the tongue-in-cheek question from the legend, it is true that Bruce and I didn’t know each other before this year and it is an absolute pleasure to call them my friend.

Just look at why I nominated them for Ben Dowen‘s Tester of the Day:

What’re you hoping to Get Done next year, even if it’s another 2020?

The initial goals of snacking less and answering more conference CFPs still stand.

But on top of that, it is to ensure that no matter what, I continue to let my friends know that I am there for them and that I really appreciate them so much.

I hope to see my boys grow up more, and hopefully not in fear!

I would love to see the Testing Peers podcast continue and to hopefully be relevant and for us to always strive to improve and not stagnate.

At work, I hope 2021 is a year of exciting growth with so many exciting projects on the horizon.

Oh and probably blog more than seven times in a year!

What have you learnt about yourself this year?

I honestly thought that the past-me who used to put forward a version of himself that wasn’t so true to himself, was only in the past.

But, I still internally process things and sometimes struggle to articulate what I am going through, even to those closest to me.

Hopefully being away of that will help me going forwards.

Secondly, the art of positively building up others is free and insanely valuable. I cannot tell you how it has lifted me when I have received a positive shout out from someone. I love helping others and will strive to do so more in 2021.

Any regrets?

A bit of a continuation from the previous question here, I think simply that I wasn’t sharing quite how low I was with those closest to me.

Also, I have found myself pining for my commute time, simply so I can listen to all the awesome podcasts that I have loved over the years, I really haven’t found the time to do that since I’ve been working from home.

What have you enjoyed?

I have enjoyed so much.

Disney World was insanely fun. Spending so much more time with my family has been awesome. In the summer, I would go out on the trampoline with my boys every day after I finished work. I have had more time with my wife, taking a walk most lunchtimes with her.

I have been able to make some new wonderful friends on the Tester’s Hangout and I really enjoyed all the conferences I attended virtually (although I miss those in-person ones so much!).

The Testing Peers podcast taking off has been so much fun, and the other three who have gone on this journey with me are some of my favourite people.

Thank you David, Russell and Simon!!

What advice would you give to past you…January 2020?

Be open, be kind, be thankful, talk, share, and give back.

Don’t ignore the bad things, but do look to accentuate the positives.

Don’t forget to hug as many people as you can before mid-March.

Join that Tester Hangout and make some super tremendous and awesome friendships.


Blog post title lyrics from: What the hell– by Avril Lavigne.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…..

I haven’t blogged since July, and since then I have taken part in a Ministry of Testing AMA on blogging, in August.

The conversation flowed into a thread on the Ministry of Testing Club

It was a really good session, but I was filled with a little bit of imposter syndrome as I hadn’t blogged much.

Life can be pretty cyclical, and this isn’t the first time that I have found myself in a bit of a rut with writing blog posts.

But a recent series of unconnected events led me to this post today.

  1. I have been getting my house ready to sell
  2. I was starting a new job at a start-up
  3. Stu Johnson put out this tweet

These three things got me thinking about lessons that can be learned from the past, current struggles and most tenuous of all ‘Everything in its right place’ – track one on the mighty KID A by Radiohead.


Nostalgia plays a really big part in my life, my children love me regaling them of tales of the olden days and quite frankly, I enjoy telling them.

Looking back at the past, we can see a lot of things that we can learn from.

We should place a lot of emphasis on learning from our experiences to mitigate things in the future.


Firstly, the recent pandemic has afforded me a lot of time at home to sort and organise that which I have not sorted and organised in the past. This is an example of recent historical decisions causing me real problems today.

Houses often come with what is referred to as a ‘box room’, a bedroom that is so small that it barely qualifies as a bedroom. In our case however, we had taken it a step further and merely populated the room with boxes.

Confronted with having to work from home, this was the challenge. Things that previously I could close the door on and ignore, now had to be dealt with.

This reminded me of the last time I moved house and I lost an entire weekend to a garage that needed reorganising to even begin to think about packing, let alone moving.

At that time, I thought you could draw interesting parallels between debt in software development and in what was before me.

Then I forgot about it. But here we are, confronted with moving house once more, it really proves cyclical, and there are lessons that I need to learn.


Secondly, I have recently started a new job at a start-up. Before I began, I once again became nostalgic.

Nostalgic about all those anecdotes I have carried with me.

Thinking about all those examples of things done badly, of people having given up, of politics getting in the way, of bad decisions burning us later.

Regrets.

It feels so much worse to look back and regret than it does to look back at failures, or at least failures that I have learned from.


Everyone’s favourite Zac Efron movie, 17 Again, has this poignant conversation between the main protagonist, Mike O’Donnell and a janitor in his old High School hallway.

Janitor:

“What might have been”. Seems to me you guys are living in the past.

Mike O’ Donnell:

Well, of course I wanna live in the past. It was better there…

Janitor:

I bet you wish you could do it all over again?

Mike O’ Donnell:

You got that right.

The Janitor and Mike O’Donnell talking in the halls of of Mike’s High School

I don’t want to dwell on that movie, but the thought of wishing you could go back and fix things, while time travel is not possible (yet) I now found myself with a chance to really think about all those debts in the workplace and how I would want to tackle them, now that there was a chance to try and do things right from the ground up.


So, thinking more granularly, what debts come to mind and what would I hope to do to mitigate those debts going forward?

  1. Culture debt
  2. Document debt
  3. Shortcut debt
  4. Later debt
  5. Process debt

Culture debt

There are so many examples that I could have chosen for this, but I think frankly the one that I have seen in most places I have worked, to a greater or lesser extent, is the one where you ask why and you are greeted with a shrug and told that’s just how it is, or always has been….welcome to xxxxx.

This has an immediate stink of having given up. I’ve spoken previously about the struggles personally of working where there has been a lack of motivation.

How is it that we get to this kind of culture and how would I hope to work to try and mitigate it?

With a lot of these things this can come from leadership, be it poor communication or micro-management, favouritism or inconsistency.

I know the struggles as someone completely out of the loop and even as a middle manager.

Chris’ culture debt blue sky mitigation: I actually pitched this in my interview, it is to employ the three pillars of empiricism – inspect, adapt and transparency.
What that looks like in practice is spending a lot of time analysing things, collaboratively agreeing on how to adapt and communicating the actions and progress clearly for all to see.

Document debt

I hate the reputation that documentation has, but I do understand it.

I’ve always operated on the understanding that the work we do today should be done for the benefit of those who don’t work on it, be that users or future colleagues.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/the-agile-manifesto/

Unfortunately I have found this line to have been taken out of context, or paraphrased in such lazy way as an excuse for not doing any documentation.

Chris’ document debt blue sky mitigation: As I mentioned before, there is a time and a place for documentation, so we should look to ensure that we document sensibly, usefully and appropriately.

Company inductions, customer-facing documents, wikis are all useful examples.

Shortcut debt

We do live in a world of instant gratification, quick returns, or buy now pay later.

There can be a culture of this in a workplace environment, there’s a change to the scope of a project, or a project manager needs something now, or a ‘superhero’ is brought in to save the day and get that hacked fix in.

There is something incredibly undermining for a team when that sort of thing happens once, but imagine that happening all the time. I’ve had it described to me before that ‘the business’ have seen what they can get if they scream loud enough they can get what they want.

It is an extreme example perhaps, but think of the damage that it can do. Doing things in a rush, or as a hack can lead to a lower quality product delivered to the customer, especially if there is a perception that the work is now completed, even if not meeting any of the standards or good practices that they team have signed up to do.

Constantly being undermined, feeling that there is no room for development and that the focus of the team is no longer a priority, is so toxic in a work environment.

Chris’ shortcut debt blue sky mitigation: It’s fair to say that pragmatism and compromise need to be employed here. You will perhaps have heard the saying, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, so once again this is a case of respect and open dialogue is required.

I know that MVP (minimum viable product) exists as a mitigation for this in some teams, but the problem with that can still be that if MVP is met, then it has shipped and we can move on.

I love to employ a blue sky board with the ideal scenarios, then gather requirements and look at how we can iterate on that over time.

Later debt

Imagine paying a visit to your favourite bug tracker and discovering thousands of open bugs and feature requests.

Why are these still open?

Triage? FOMO?

Are we not being honest with ourselves or our customers?

Chris’ later debt blue sky mitigation:

To be honest with you, I have had a hard time with these sorts of graveyards in the past. A bug that will never be fixed shouldn’t sit there indefinitely, that helps no one.

In ADHD, there is a paralysing aspect called Possibility Clutter:

Enthusiasm for the possibilities of the future is wonderful and stimulating, but it can also be troublesome. It leads to a clutter of unfinished projects, a trail of unrealized intentions, and a squeeze on the schedule.

https://www.additudemag.com/too-many-unfinished-projects-adhd-clutter/

Leaving things completely open ended is not helpful. Even if we spend some time looking to see if bugs are still relevant or not over a period of time, if those bugs aren’t going to get fixed, why are they still open.

If a feature request would be ‘nice to have’, but not possible or financially worthwhile to develop, then I guess closing and marking as ‘nice to have’ is a useful mitigation.

But please, don’t keep a graveyard of these things.

Process debt

How do you work? Honestly, this shouldn’t be a hard thing to explain, but you might be surprised how often that actually in the real work.

I have worked as an End-to-End Test Manager (would not recommend) and in trying to understand the end-to-end flow, I found a lot of dead ends of information, undefined (or hard to find) dependencies, role and responsibilities. I was debilitating, demotivating and above all else, blocking.

Chris’ process debt blue sky mitigation:

In Kanban, this is hit head on in The 6 Practices of Kanban:

You can’t improve something you don’t understand. This is why your process should be clearly defined, published, and socialized. People would not associate and participate in something they do not believe would be useful.


When everyone is familiar with the common goal, they would be able to work and make decisions regarding a change that will have a positive impact.

https://kanbanize.com/kanban-resources/getting-started/what-is-kanban

For me, the best way to address this is by using a charter with the whole team to get everything and everyone on the same page.


I could have written a lot more about each of these debts to be honest, but this is a long read already.

So to recap or a little TL;DR – my tips for mitigating some debts:

  • Three pillars of empricisim
  • Document sensibly, usefully and appropriately
  • Use a blue sky board and iterate
  • Don’t keep a graveyard of tasks you will never action
  • Use a charter

Blog post title lyrics from: History Repeating – by Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.


Motivation such an aggravation…..

…..Accusations don’t know how to take them

I know that I am not alone that this pandemic has been a real struggle.

This year has not gone to plan.

I left my old job, where I had established support networks, people I loved and respected for pastures new, and exciting challenges.

My farewell from my old company was taken up helping set up anyone to work from home, in advance of the announcement from the Prime Minister that we should work from home if we could.

The build up to starting my new job had been a mad panic, feeling that I genuinely wasn’t going to be able to start the new role. I had my reassurances, and I made it to my new office just the one time before working from home became my everyday.

My relationship with working from home was established to the point where I felt I had my balance: The long and winding road…..

bad-day_o_2478021

Starting a new job and then immediately working from home was something that I wasn’t prepared for, not for the length of time that we have been in. I had one person in the company that I knew and couldn’t have felt more isolated.

It was a struggle.

Then loads of my colleagues, including my line manager and the person I was scheduled to be inducting into the company working alongside, went on furlough.

I managed three weeks without caffeine before caving in, I really need it, and my good friend sugary food!

Meeting all your colleagues remotely, when you’ve never done it before and you believe you have it all sussed with face-to-face engagements, is not easy.

I always had a notebook open, and took it upon myself to reach out to as many people as I humanly could do to have one-on-one calls with. I had a whole introductory spiel that I had, and hoped to glean whatever information I could about my new colleagues.

This was a time of learning, I also had online training and everyday was new, so despite the destabilising situation going on globally I was taking on board so much new stuff and was super stimulated mentally!

Good things were happening outside of work, prior to lockdown I made my software test conference speaking debut: Listen to the sound from deep within…..

I had the privilege of giving that talk twice remotely.

manila

The Testing Peers finally launched our podcast, our recording evenings have been weekly highlights.

testing-peers-faces-title-3200x1600

The testers’ hangout setup by Lee Marshall has been a place of rest and support.

TestBash Home, Online Test Conference and DevTalks: Reimagined provided me with the opportunity to get just a little piece of the conference buzz that I was missing.

But it wasn’t the same.

And all the things that I look forward to in the year were being cancelled (quite rightly).
No in person conferences, no major sporting events to watch or attend, no holidays.

Work was all new, dizzying, and it was lonely.

 

The words of Sum41 came to mind and became more and more relevant to my everyday.

 

What’s the point of never knowing at all?

When every step I take is always too small.

Maybe it’s just something I can’t admit,

But lately I feel like I don’t give a shit.

Motivation such an aggravation

Accusations don’t know how to take them

Inspiration getting hard to fake it

Concentration never hard to break it

Situation never what you want it to be

What’s the point of never making mistakes

Self-indulgence’s such a hard habit to break

It’s all just a waste of time in the end

Don’t care, so why should I even pretend?

 

I wasn’t enjoying my new job and if I was asked how I was doing, it was always just that I am tired. It has to be said that it wasn’t anyone’s fault that I wasn’t enjoying my job, just that the pandemic changed everything and I clearly didn’t handle it as well as I wanted.

Before headcount reductions were announced, I had already decided that I wanted to move on and I am thankful that I have been able to find a new role that I will shortly be starting in August.

There are no guarantees that moving on to a new job will be any sort of fix, but I feel enthusiasm where that has been missing and sometimes hitting a reset is the right thing to do.


Why am I telling you this?

  • It’s important to recognise that this pandemic hasn’t been easy for so many of us
  • Even the most positive people can be struggling
  • Good things can happen even at the worst of times
  • It is ok to accept that you are in the wrong place
  • Community is so important for mental health
  • Burnout is real and seeking accountability for even the smallest thing is important


Blog post title lyrics from: Motivation – by Sum41.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

 

Just one on one…..

…..That’s the way we do it

One thing that I have enjoyed above all other things while leading a team is the one on one meetings (1:1 hereafter) we have had.

A quick bit of search-engining reveals that there are lots of articles on how to run a good 1:1. Some of which are a good read, I can heartily recommend some of the output from Rob Lambert!

I have had so many different 1:1s as the subject, some that I have enjoyed and some that I really haven’t. I have tried to frame 1:1s that I have led, informed by how I have felt coming out of those meetings, changing things that I know I didn’t enjoy and adopting things that I have. We all have our own style, experiences and perspectives. This post is informed from my experiences running 1:1s, and what stands out to me as the key things to consider, broadly speaking, for these meetings.

I have two main points that I focus on, that I will elaborate on:

It’s all about them

tailored

A 1:1 should be shaped by the subject of the meeting. Not everyone that you will have a 1:1 with will have the same personality, needs, requirements and so on.

Your personality, biases and whatever you are going through should take a backseat. You might have an awesome anecdote, or story to show that you can sympathise with them, but they probably don’t need to know that, unless they ask!

I have always called for the importance of pastoral care for our people. By that I mean, sometimes we need to strip away everything else and just make sure to check how they are.

In my talk at Geordie Test Atelier, I focused on our inter-personal relationships in the workplace. There are a few points from the book on which the talk is based, by Gary Chapman, ‘The Five Love Languages’. Those directly relevant to 1:1s are:

  • Humble words:
    • in my conversations, I always try to present with humility, never presuming to know more than others, condescension never leads to a relationship of respect or trust, the foundation of which a 1:1 must be builtThe-only-true-knowledge-is-knowing-That-you-know-noThing-meme-40139
  • Learning to talk:
    • not all conversations need an agenda, we are human first, real and unforced interactions can be so vital in getting to know people, not just small talk
    • knowing what stresses each other out, pushes your buttons, grinds your gears, what makes people uncomfortable means you can do something about itgrindinggears
    • the same is true of things that people like, building relationships on shared likes and dislikes is the easiest way to work
    • It is important to note these, especially in relation to Quality Activities below. 
  • Quality activities:
    • having a shared positive memory bank can form a bond; that’s why these team building activities exist……even if they feel like a pain or forced sometimes, they do come from a good place
    • where I work now, especially in these times of social distancing, we have a daily call as a team…no shop talk…and with themes. This has proved to be especially useful for me, as I haven’t met almost anyone I work with, but I know that whenever we return to the office, I will have something I know about my colleagues
    • at my old office, some of us would play in pool tournaments, or casually at lunch time. I learnt some really interesting things about and shared more about myself with colleagues in that setting than in many others.
    • Good examples of quality activities are pairing, mobbing, sharing knowledge etc.
  • Best Investment:
    • how you choose to spend your time, resources and skills can often frame your relationships with colleagues – in ‘Radical Candor’ by Kim Scott, she talks about a process called “Get Stuff DoneRadicalCandor
    • am I selfish, or do you share my time, resources and skills appropriately?
      • I share an affinity with my eldest son, where I want to share new information all the time. It’s not because we’re trying to be a ‘know-it-all’, it’s because we’re excited about what we know and want to share it (within all good reason)
    • we talk a lot about servant leadership, this is a prime example
  • Gift of self:
    • which follows on to this…I need to be held accountable with these things
      • am I present in my interactions? – or am I thinking about something else (food, is often the culprit)
      • does the 1:1 feel like an obligation?
      • do I give feedback when requested?
      • do I do what you say you will do?
      • is there credibility in what I say?

 

unpredictable

Unpredictability – sometimes

A predictable conversation can be very disengaging. I can remember attending stand-up meetings that were just a case of going through the motions, no one wanted to be there, and everyone just wanted to get out of the stand-up area as soon as possible. It was some sort of race to give your feedback and say ‘no blockers’ as soon as possible, and then switch off. No one really cared what anyone else was doing, it was a bad meeting.

The same can be said of any meeting. I used to run test team meetings, and I could see when those in the meeting were disengaged. The challenge there was to mix it up, otherwise what was the point?

If a 1:1 is important, and I believe wholeheartedly that it is, then you need to strive for it to never be completely predictable.

boredom

I should note that I do believe that some predictability is important, think a metronome ticking away whilst an amazing tune is being played on the piano. The common thread and purpose of a 1:1 is that pastoral care, but mixing up the format and location can really help.

When the weather is nice, why not sit outside, or go for a walk?


It is important to note that one thing that works with one person, may well not work with others.

There are things that you may well need to accept:

  • not every 1:1 will leave you feeling positive
  • not every 1:1 requires mentoring or coaching
  • you may not be the right fit for everyone with whom you have a 1:1, that really is OK
  • you may have to address things that make you feel uncomfortable
  • 1:1s won’t always be fun
  • it is an honour and a privilege to have this time with someone, don’t waste it!

Blog post title lyrics from: Be the first to believe – by A1.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

I reflect on my reflection…..

…..and I ask myself the question, What’s the right direction to go?


This blog has served as a few different things; it’s been an echo chamber, a vehicle for getting my point of view over, and a way to share what I have learnt.

I love telling a good story, and even more so, telling them to my boys. My father-in-law has this wonderful game with my boys, where they ‘feed’ him a story tablet and then he spins a tale that simply encapsulates their attention. It’s wonderful and I’m only slightly jealous…slightly.

Science-of-Story_Hero_650_FINAL

Storytelling is an art, and it’s my favourite way to consume media, even more so when it is personal experiences that you can tell is coming from within.

Here is my story of my personal retrospective.


I had a problem last year, where I was struggling with feeling like I wasn’t being effective anymore. I felt like I was going through the motions a little and I was getting irritated.

That’s not the person I want to be.

So, rather than looking at the world outside of work for inspiration – as fans of the blog will have noted with my wonderful Crossover Observations section will confirm I have done so very well (sorry) – I looked to the Scrum ceremony of retrospectives.

As described in the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.

https://www.scrum.org/resources/what-is-a-sprint-retrospective

There are so many different resources, and ideas to keep these ceremonies fresh and engaging for the team. I had the pleasure of attending one such talk at an internal conference last year by a good friend and colleague, where he introduced the value of retrospectives beyond just sprint cycles.

If I was using artistic licence, I would tell you that he inspired me to do this, in reality I think it was inspiration that I was seeking and it was before my very eyes, every sprint cycle.

It’s not a unique thing, I’m sure. I remember in a. 1:1 with my manager, he even brought up the idea when I told him that I was struggling. And when he did, I had this with me, but I didn’t share it with him, and I regret it.


So, what did I do?

I decided just to note a bunch of headlines down and write where I felt inspired to do so.

The headlines were:

  1. What helps you to be successful?

  2. Where and when has it gone wrong?

  3. What do you expect, from who?

  4. Which tools or techniques proved to be useful? Which not?

  5. What is your biggest impediment?

  6. If you could change one thing, what would it be?

  7. What caused the problems that you had?

  8. What’s keeping you awake at night?

  9. Which things went smoothly? Which didn’t?

I can tell you I never completely filled this out, but these questions made me think. The part that jump out was number 3 – the one about people….

For me, this job that we have is all about the people. Tech stacks, tools, languages, methodologies are all important in the workplace, but people are what bring software and the place you work to life.

They can also be the biggest blockers, and I didn’t want to be one.

help

So, I broke it down into four points – but the one I will concentrate on in this post is about what I expect from myself, and that now stands as my personal relationship values as a software tester and a leader.

I expect myself to be:

    • Available
      • If I am not visible, and cannot make time for my colleagues, then I am letting myself and them down.
    • Driven
      • Without drive, I will let complacency in, go stale and not be a positive force.
    • Continuously learning
      • If I lose that curiosity that got me into testing, then I have lost who I am.
    • Setting an example
      • If I truly believe something should happen in a certain way, then I should model it, I should talk about it, people should see that in the way that I work.
    • Empowering and enabling others
      • No man is an island, and I by myself, cannot achieve much. I take the greatest of joy in giving opportunities to others, to help them to find their path, not to direct them.
    • Supportive
      • There is so much power in feeling supported. We had a story around the dinner table when I was growing up, that my sister was in a long-distance race, when my mother stood up and started vocalising her support for my sister, and all of a sudden she sped up….simple and perfect analogy.
    • Approachable
      • I worked with colleagues who genuinely looked at me with disdain if I ever approached them about anything, I promised myself I would never be like that. I may wear headphones to concentrate, but I absolutely don’t mind being interrupted. The same goes for IM. I want to be here to help, I can’t do that if I am unapproachable.
    • Flexible
      • When I am working, my time isn’t always my own. One of the earliest compliments I received from a colleague, was that I was always willing to drop what I was doing to help. And while that can be detrimental and context is important, it is vital that you can be flexible to help accommodate others – not to the extent of working insane hours….all hours…losing sight of the work/life balance, but still the point stands.
    • Coaching and mentoring (seeking it for myself and encouraging it for others)
      • I don’t want to get into a semantic debate about what these terms mean right now. But, if someone wants coaching or mentoring, then they really should have it….not necessarily from me, but I would actively encourage it and hope to help put the right combination together.
    • Humble
      • I am not perfect, I do not know everything, and that is OK. I want to present an honest version of me, that’s the version of me that I would respect and want to work with.
    • Accountability
      • Off the back of honesty and humility, I want to share when I am struggling, when I know that I’m getting into bad habits and so on, and I will seek it out.
      • And that was the genesis of The Testing Peers

My hope is that by publishing this and any further posts on this subject, that I can be held accountable against these words as my public declaration of who I want to be as a tester, a leader, a colleague and a friend.


Blog post title lyrics from: Man or Muppet – by Jason Segal – The Muppets cast.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

So much is new but somethin’ in my life remains the same…..

…..’cause everything changes but you

What does change mean to you?

context

Now, I could go on to talk about context driven testing at this point, and yes that is something that might be worth doing at some point.

But true to form, I have something else drumming around in my head to talk about.


As I write this, some pretty huge changes have been going on in our lives. I don’t really want to dwell on the enormity and severity of what has been happening around the world too much; only so much as to say that I am grateful for those working and/or volunteering out of the relative safety of their homes.

4cf97b9c-5723-4a3d-b406-37c356fd49ed-w1200


Change is a word that can strike fear into our hearts, or be something that you long for.

Change can be something that we instigate, or something done to us.

Change can be sudden, or something that is so subtle over time you don’t even notice it is going on until you look back.

wordcloud

I made this wordcloud out of synonyms for change.

So many of these words are in our everyday vocabulary in the workplace.

Research & Development – the department that we might be working in.

Shift left – the practice of involving test earlier (I may have simplified that explanation)

Technological / Digital / Agile Transformation – magical buzzwords for bringing about change!

And so on…….

If change is in our everyday life, in the words we say and the things that we do, then why is there resistance to change?


https://twitter.com/deermolar/status/1235977358546436097?s=20

 

I stumbled across this tweet and I stopped and dwelt on it for a while.

It seems incredibly cynical doesn’t it? But, it made me think.

 

Context time:

I never enjoyed having change happen to me, to not be involved, to not be consulted. I once came into the office and was told that I was changing teams that day – no handover, no chance to finish anything I was doing. I was in a different room, with different people, with a new product, I was unsettled.

I got comfortable and used to it.

Then it happened again!

It wasn’t just unsettling, it was out of control and changed everything, from my focus to my drive.

I’ve mentioned before that something in me broke at one point (look back at the wordcloud – break is there!) and I stopped just towing the line, or trying to say what I thought my audience wanted to hear.

What good was it me whining about things to my colleagues or my wife?

Why wasn’t I looking for solutions?

Why wasn’t I telling the people who had that illusive influence about them?

Why wasn’t I being the agent for change?

Broken-Achievement

The break within me, was liberating.

I spoke my mind (tactfully, I hope). Where I had ideas, I shared them, I spoke to others about them and found myself willing to change the way I see the world and perceive things.


So, did I just change my own position in this scenario?

I hope not. I haven’t forgotten how it felt to have change dropped on my lap at short notice, and I never want to do that to anyone.

I had the distinct pleasure (!?) of being a JIRA admin at my old job (in classic BBC parlance, other tools are available), which certainly at times tested me, but the opportunity that it gave to me to learn how other departments worked, and to help bring them into the same ecosystem as the rest of the organisation was really enjoyable.

I found out pretty quickly that if you dropped a way of working on someone’s lap, that they would resist it and do what they could to not take part, or worse look for reasons to not use it.

So, I took time to get to know the end users, I didn’t aim to have a complete solution as a first pass. I gathered requirements and formed the projects/boards/filters etc. to their needs.

Then gave them the initial release and asked them to try it and feedback. Regular feedback loops and iterative changes and improvements made it work, and those that the change was happening to, were now directly influencing what I changed.

There is some sort of Agile metaphor to all of this, but it really is something that works. It is inclusive and the change was seen as a positive change.


I can’t say that I have become a perfect salesman or agent for change. Convincing people to make a change that they don’t want to do is a hard task. I tried for years to have unified reporting and test planning across multiple teams, to no avail.

I was asked in a job interview how I would bring about change in a team full of established engineers, who wanted to just keep their heads down and get on with their work.

The answer I had was simple. just talk to the people. I guarantee you that the majority of people in the workplace have ideas of improvements, or more likely things that aren’t working there.

Also, as someone new in an organisation, if you don’t talk to people, you might never know who has been there before you. What promises have been made, and maybe broken? Why are they in a particular situation that irks you?

By involving people in your requirements gathering and giving them the opportunity to add their perspective, as well as using others as your sounding board for ideas, it leads to a more inclusive, almost team ownership for change. Surely that is a more positive way to approach it in the workplace?


Blog post title lyrics from: Everything changes – by Take That.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

Listen to the sound from deep within…..

…..it’s only beginning to find release


Thursday February 27th 2020 will be a date that I will always treasure.

It was the first ever Geordie Test Atelier, and I made my debut speaking at an external test conference.

IMG_20200227_083200


I thought I would take the time to note down a few things that led to getting this opportunity.

Here we go….

Why would I want to talk?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a software testing conference until 2013, 9 years after I first started testing. It was EuroSTAR in Göteborg….starting small there.

Special props to Michael Bolton, Maaret Pyhäjärvi and their committee for organising something that was so life changing.

The speakers whose talks stood out for me at that conference were:

Zeger Van Hese, Pekka Marjamäki and Alexandra Casapu.

The whole experience blew my mind, I found it such a positive and uplifting experience, that I felt wholeheartedly motivated to give something back.

So, after the closing remarks, they invited people to answer the call for papers.

I didn’t what that meant, but I felt that I wanted a piece of that. If I could feel so motivated from such an experience and some wonderful sessions that I had attended, why wouldn’t I want to be able to inspire others.

How do you come up with an idea?

This is a loaded question, because we all have ideas, but being testers all our ideas come with questions.

I started to think about my journey as a tester, and what I could bring to the table, that maybe others wouldn’t. I’m less a teacher, and more a storyteller. But I had an idea.

Then there’s imposter syndrome and other reasons that we don’t even entertain the idea of submitting an abstract.

Submit an abstract…..what the hell is an abstract?

Well here’s the thing. If I didn’t know what a call for papers was, then I wasn’t going to know what an abstract was. But, in general it was like filling in a form, suggesting your ideas and takeaways that you hope that the delegates will have.

In retrospect, I can highly recommend a few things to look at, if you want to submit an abstract. As you will learn, I need to take this advise still….

Rob Lambert wrote an article on LinkedIn: Blazingly Simple Guide To Submitting To Conferences

Rik Marselis did a webinar on the subject (and he’s the committee chair for EuroSTAR 2020): How to Write an Incredible Submission for a Conference

I can’t write an abstract.

Yeah, I’m not so good at this. My thing is that I’m better in person that in prose. I find that when I make a proposal in person, I go on an interesting and meandering journey to who knows where, until we sometimes find the right route.

Now, I knew what I wanted to talk about, in fact, I even knew the format that the talk would take.

I knew what the slides would look like.

I knew what I would say in the session.

But condensing it into something that made a proposal that actually would be enticing.

Not so much.

First rejection.

Unsuprisingly, my first ever abstract, submitted to the only testing conference I knew, EuroSTAR, was rejected.

I took the opportunity for feedback.

Dealing with it.

I didn’t really deal with it very well.

I dismissed anything that came out that was remotely positive, and only dwelt on the negatives, the reasons that it wasn’t accepted.

Then……

Doing nothing.

I really ceased any personal development, drive to dive into the community, drive to give something back and I plateaued.

The reignition came through my attendance at TestBash 2016.

Start a blog.

Having rediscovered some drive and the wonderful world of testing Twitter, I decided to try and blog.

I had started to share with my testing colleagues a bunch of blog posts that I found thought provoking, interesting and directly applicable to our situation.

In doing so, this blog began.

Write about an idea.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but I thought I’d give it a go.

I wrote a post: First blog post – it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it…..

I shared it with some friends and colleagues.

Blog some more.

The second post I wrote, was directly related to that first proposal that I had submitted.

I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret…..

Then I went on to post about different things:

And many more things.

Come across an idea that could be a talk.

Writing blogs is a wonderful discipline to have. It can be a bit of an echo chamber, but also can serve as a way to explain your way of thinking, what you have been up to, or even what you aspire to.

But, how many of them actually turn into something that you might deem worthy of being a talk at a testing conference.

Trial the concept a little in a test team meeting.

I have had the distinct pleasure of running monthly test team meetings at my workplace. The goal for these has always been to bring the wider test team together, to share and to grow together.

There is no better place therefore, to introduce ideas.

At one such meeting, I ran the meeting based on two quizzes:

And then we just had a chat about them after.

Include it in a blog.

After attending some coaching training, I included references to the latter quiz in a blog post: In my mind, my body and my soul…..

Write an abstract, in classic last minute Chris fashion – not saving a copy or anything useful.

So, here’s been my big failing. I’m a touch last minute with these things.

My History teacher at school used to called me ‘Billy No Work’, in reference to the classic moniker ‘Billy No Mates‘.

I had/have an awful habit to leave things to the last minute.

Some of that is due to ADHD, I latterly realised.

Anyway, I managed to submit something.

And, I was invited by a Testing Peer friend to speak at his office’s test team meeting.

Give talk to test team.

Anyway, I made slides and tried to give the talk in a test team meeting.

It wasn’t great.

I wasn’t great.

But, I got feedback.

Try again somewhere else.

As I said, I was invited to speak elsewhere. It never happened in the end, but it forced me to prepare better.

I put out a few feelers to speak at various meetups, and in such conversations got in touch with some more awesome testers who offered there help!

Receive rejections, but always ask for feedback.

Once again, I received a rejection.

But in any of these situations, receiving feedback is so important to know if there is any appetite for the talk and why the submission wasn’t successful.

The EuroSTAR process again was too last minute, even though that talk was formed, the abstract was sub-par.

What I can tell you though, is that the European Testing Conference process was very different. We had a Skype call, for which I felt horribly unprepared for, but nonetheless, Maaret and Julie put me at ease and I was able to talk a little about my ideas.

Give talk at internal conference.

Some of my testing colleagues then had an idea to run an internal conference.

They invited me to submit to speak, knowing what I had been trying to do.

I probably wrote my best abstract to date for it, but maybe they were just being kind?

Anyway, the talk was well received and it gave me new impetus to drive on some more.

There was something here.

Apply to more places.

I threw my hat into the ring for Agile on the Beach and the TestBash continuous call for papers, as well as a new conference in Newcastle and back once again at EuroSTAR.

The good people at the Geordie Test Atelier only went an invited me to talk!!

Receive a rejection.

Even with that good news, I received another rejection.

A lot of the feedback I had received from any submission was that there was a nice idea, but a lot was unclear.

In a proposal you are encouraged to list some key takeaways that the attendees will have, and I think I have been a little too abstract here.

Like, I don’t want to give too much away, but that side of things is definitely letting me down.

Give talk.

Anyway, the big day arrived.

It was awesome.

I wasn’t, but the experience was. I found the attendees engaging and really enjoyed myself.

People were really kind, and I have received some positive feedback.

There’s always room for improvement.

Receive another rejection.

I reveived another rejection from the Ministry of Testing, but with the caveat that this was an interesting idea and that I should continue to work on it.

Kudos to Richard Bradshaw for the time taken to giving that feedback, I shall. But, I will be reaching out to people to help me, as clearly I can be an ideas man and I feel like I can present quite well, but I’m not very good at writing proposals.

Try again.

I will endeavour to try again. I have what I believe is a good talk that is relevant. So keep your eyes peeled.

I’m hopeful that there will be more ideas that could potentially turn into talks in the future as well.


Blog post title lyrics from: Listen – by Beyoncé.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

 

I finally realized, all of this time…..

…..It was in me

Do you have an outlet for all the stuff flying around in your head? Processing those thoughts can be cathartic and liberating.

Is anything in your head something that could help others?

Would it help you to get your thoughts out there?

Here’s my journey to finding my own voice and being comfortable with it.


Take a look at this sadly anonymous post about why you should journal.

TL;DR here are the headlines:

  1. Establish Future Goals
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Self-Dialogue
  4. Writing Skills
  5. A Memory to Remember
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Tap Inner Creativity

I love the concept of journalling, I even tried in my first year at Uni. But I had no idea what I was doing and what I was trying to achieve. I didn’t really know who I was or who I wanted to be. This was very private and as with many things in life, where there was no tangible measure of success or reason for doing it, it waned and disappeared.

I also tried using Tumblr a decade later, it made no sense, I talked about dreams or things I was interested in, but again it lacked any focus, while it technically wasn’t private, it wasn’t anything that anyone would want to read. I never found a satisfactory outlet for my thoughts.

Then there comes the idea of just writing things down, be them ideas, song lyrics, anything.

free-time

Did I really have anything within me that was of value? What could I contribute? Could what I have to say help anyone? What was stopping me?


History is full of enlightenments, moments of inspiration, eurekas if you will.

We all are that way inclined. We discover more about who we are, what we believe, what we stand for, what our sense of right and wrong is? It is fluid, it changes over time, and that’s a good thing. The world doesn’t stand still and fail to evolve, and neither should we.

Learning to fail and accept failures is important as well, I don’t think we learn anywhere near as much without failing.

This week, I received from my parents a manila folder of paperwork of me. They included some golden items like old gymnastics score sheets, school play programmes, certificates of achievement and school records.

73095014_2327166450728166_4039131010598699008_n

It was a lot of fun to read through, in all honesty, who isn’t interested in themselves and their own history?

It was also very sobering. A lot of my school reports were broken records. I stand (metaphorically) before you a man who through his academic years, coasted. Lots of comments where I didn’t meet my potential, where I was good when I engaged etc.

hyperfocus

My maths teacher coined the term, that I has superlative scores in some areas and then a complete lack of knowledge elsewhere.

If I enjoyed something, then I engaged and ran with it.


I hadn’t found what I could truly engage with, and so didn’t stick with anything.

Testing wasn’t something that I fell in love with immediately. It was a job that I was reasonably good at, I got to tell people that I played video games for a living and it was better than working in retail.

It was never a career……until I attended a testing conference….then I discovered all the testers on Twitter…..then I discovered all the blogs, the Slack feeds, the books, the webinars etc.

I blogged on staying relevant in the industry here.

Testers are cool, inclusive and generous people. I needed to let others know about this amazing secret I’d discovered. I had to try and give back….what was my voice?

I applied to speak at a conference…..I covered that topic here. But, didn’t get anywhere with it, actually the feedback was generally pretty positive, but I didn’t know what I was doing still. I am still answering calls for papers and one day it will happen, I hope.

So, my big change was when I changed company and into more of a role of leadership.

How do I see leadership?

I also believe that leaders should be setting an example, and walk the talk.


I began by defining my role, by asking my colleagues how they perceived the role, so that I could shape it that way.

I started our monthly test team meetings, a community of practice if you will (shout out to Lee MarshallThe Pirate Tester).

I started looking through blogs and spamming our team chat.

But none of this was my voice, this was me finding things that I liked, or agreed with, crowd sourced decision making etc.

So, I decided to start blogging….blindly. I had points of view, ways that I saw the world, and things I wanted others to know about. And so the story began.


Blogging is not easy, it is a part of me, some posts are motivated by wanting to get my ideas across, sometimes I want to share experiences, sometimes I blog because I feel like I should to maintain some discipline, it’s a good habit to have.

I posted an internal article at work, after hosting a lean coffee and in selling the benefits of doing such a thing I said.

Discussing different ideas and concepts can inspire us to try new things, they can inform us of successes and failures elsewhere, and even reassure us that we are on the right path, doing things in a way that is positive and can inspire others.

The best people quote themselves, right?

My blogging motivation went from wanting to try and share my enlightenment into the testing community with my immediate test team colleagues, and more into sharing with everyone.

If I could help just one person see this cool thing, see this cool concept, then it was worthwhile.

I was encouraged to read more around a subject matter, to find balanced opinions and engage with others.

Then comes Twitter. I was told last year that Twitter was dead and LinkedIn was the future, I’m not sure that’s the case, it’s not where I’ve found my happy place.

Testers on Twitter share so many good things, from live blogging and sharing things from meetups, conversations, blogs, conferences etc. To discussing anything from mental health issues, to Warhammer. Testers are good people, people who want to hear your story, want to share your story and want to engage with you.

Only today, have I engaged with testers over UX events, upcoming conferences, inductions, sharing book recommendations, holiday destinations and many more.


This is my story, yours might well be very different. Try different outlets. Share your thoughts, engage in the community.

Find your voice.

And send it to me, I want to see it and hear it too!!


Blog post title lyrics from: It was in me – by Avril Lavigne.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

 

Me here at last on the ground, and you in mid-air…..

…..Send in the clowns

Working with people you are comfortable with is important, and I take it as a sort of backhanded compliment that my colleagues felt comfortable to have a laugh at my expense.

I have a small habit of being able to relate most conversations to things that I have a keen interest in.

For example: “I remember this bug in Y2K” …. “Yeah, remember Chris Jericho’s Y2K gimmick?”

So, I’m going to set some context and let’s see if I can find a way to attach something to learn from it.


I love the combination of chocolate and orange, it’s my thing. Whenever I have been unwell, the food that I have craved first once my appetite returns, are Jaffa Cakes.

It was therefore a wonderful thing when I was bought ~120 Jaffa Cakes in total for my birthday this past month. The majority were McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, but a few were from Marks & Spencer.

Obviously McVitie’s are the best – they are the originals after all (I did have to Google it to check).

I still have half of them left, but I am trying.


So what was the rouse?

We had a few conversations about who made the best ones, and also dabbled with different flavours…..although, is it Jaffa if there’s no orange involved?

Then, I went away on holiday for half a week…..

OOO

What could possibly go wrong? We will find out later……


Meanwhile…..

One of my colleagues went to TestBash Manchester this month, by all accounts it was a wonderful conference and so he mentioned a desire to provide some feedback to the whole test team.

I’m all on-board with that, so freed up the agenda in the scheduled test team meeting, one week to the day after I returned from holiday.


The return…..

So, on my return my colleagues were keen to talk more about the Jaffa Cakes; the box of 100 remained on my desk.

We walked to the local Lidl and bought some more to do a taste comparison.

It was all a little fun.

I professed my preference for the McVitie’s ones.

napoleondynamite

They asked for my scores and I was happy to partake and indulge in conversations about it.

Me:

The reveal…..

The presentation went really well, there were a lot of really good takeaways (keep an eye on https://www.ministryoftesting.com/dojo/testbash for the talks to go up on the Ministry of Testing Dojo).

We were a little pressed for time, as I had failed to book the room for long enough.

The final slides came up, revealing some Jaffa Cake images.

I had been eating Aldi Jaffa Cakes, from a McVitie’s box and proclaiming them to be the best.

Fantastic.

Yes, that is a hardware lab and yes a lot of colleagues knew.


So how can this be pulled back to become anything like a tech related blog post and not just poking fun at me?

A little bit.

  • I had an instinctive bias toward a particular brand
  • I was blind to some quite obvious differences (see 12 in one pack and 10 in another)
  • Manipulation of the situation – my colleagues were overly keen to discuss Jaffa Cake comparisons, and stroked the ego of the Jaffa Cake connoisseur
  • The plan only worked because of the focus and work of several people working together
  • The reveal was done with impecable timing

 

The lessons that I have learned, that I can apply to my everyday job are:

  • Assumptions can be misleading and more of a risk than some identified risks, tools such as the One Page Test Plan include a section for assumptions and risks for this reason
  • Smoke and mirrors are incredibly powerful, it is easy to be misled by shiny and new things, or from a scenario that is only subtly different from the norm
  • Bias drives us, sometimes to our detriment, know what you know, question what you know
  • Teams working together make for a tangible impact
  • Timing is everything

Blog post title lyrics from: Send in the clowns – by Frank Sinatra.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.