This is a story about a recent learning experience of mine. It is not that much about actual testing but I hope that it still can be relevant. That said, I still think any kind of continuous learning effort can make me a better tester.
My quick and dirty way to explain what I do as a tester is that I “explore and report”. That statement, I need to improve, as I have to be able to explain what I do as a professional tester and practicing storytelling might help me in my role as a tester. As a tester, I will have to communicate my findings to colleagues, product owners and other stakeholders for my test effort to get value to anyone else but me and that is the main reason why finding my inner voice and practicing story telling is useful to me, and I hope that it can be for you too.
This story is something that I have postponed writing since the first edition of Women Testers. What kept me from getting started was that I thought my ideas were not good enough to be worth sharing and I thought that I had to wait for the perfect idea to come to me, instead of just starting to write and then revise and review. As I opened the third edition of Women Testers and read, “A YEAR FROM NOW you may wish you had STARTED TODAY” and that got me started.
When I chatted with Jyothi, she told me; “I plan to learn from mentors and gurus who critic my work. So I will learn how to be better than last year.” Her words made me see how I need to forget about getting things right the first time and just get on with it. Later in the process, I can review and gradually refine my ideas on my own and with the help of my peers. My next problem was to continue writing. In order to ever complete something you will have to start and you cannot stop there, you need to keep going! The second habit in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey informed me that it could be great to begin with the end in mind. However the end goal that I had in mind was an unreachable goal that I set way too high; working with that goal in mind put me through a lot of my pain and misery as I would never be able to reach that goal.
What saved me was an image that I suddenly recalled – I came to think about an image that I had seen in my favourite book. It shows a the field with the word “Engaged” in between the lines of “Levels of Aspirations” and “Level of Expectations” from Chapter 9 in Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar. Unfortunately I cannot give you the page number because I ripped it right out of the book a while ago and sent it to my sister – that is how much I love the image. It reminded me to set my expectations at a reasonable level and from that point, I started to enjoy writing. The worries I had of not being able to write the perfect article vanished and I started to write in order to learn. I use this approach with testing too.
Then there is my biggest problem, to stay on track. My wandering mind can be my curse and my super power at the same time. It works in a way that I would like to describe similar to as trying to catch butterflies while riding trains of the London Underground. I have to manage to stay on the same track long enough, or at least return to it, in order to arrive at some kind of destination. I easily get lost but I tend to make interesting and sometimes rare findings!
Becoming skilled at anything takes practice. I am thankful that I found the idea about having a growth mind set rather than a fixed mind set in the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. It taught me that it is easier to acquire new skills if I am focusing on my ability to learn here and now, instead of embracing the idea of God given talents.
If you would like to become skilled at something that you love doing, or just want to learn anyway, you have to make room for practice. A friend of mine told me that he wanted to become a writer. A while back, he mentioned how he made the goal of writing one page every night. I asked him about it a few months later, and he reported progress; he said that he was doing well. With his focus shifted from the finished story to the joy of the actual process of writing, he had turned practicing into a habit.
The key to keep on doing something, whether you love it or not, could be to turn it into a habit. Like all sorts of habits, it can be a good or a bad one. Either way, it is likely stick with you until you somehow manage to change it. Recently, I decided to improve my health, my ways of thinking and learn more about psychology. I noticed that if I get ready the day before by preparing a change of clothes and have a great book to listen to, I might even start to crave my ”Think Book Walks”. The book I listened to during one of my walks and that gave me that idea is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
If I would begin with the end in mind next time I am writing something, I would ask the questions “Why am writing this and who am I writing it for?” The answer is that I wrote this for my on sake of practice and the joy of writing. I also wrote it especially for those of you who are about to get started to share your stories. If I have inspired one person to do that, it is a huge win for me. Writing can help you find your inner voice and improve your ability of storytelling.
Looking back at this story one year from now, I hope that I will do so with pride but also that I will think, “I know that I can do better!”
About the Author
Annie Rydholm is a thinker, explorer and a music lover, originally from a tiny little village in the woods of Sweden, who through a detour in Copenhagen and Sydney ended up in Stockholm as a Software Tester.