Category Archives: First Edition

Get Started and Don’t Stop!

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.

The Mother of All Testers

The Mother of All Testers

We live in a world where things that are precious to us are labeled with a feminine title.  Mother Earth.  Mother Nature.  People refer to their cars as “she”.  Why do we do this?  Because there is something genuine, tender, caring, and special about the female aspect when it comes to our lives.

We are witnessing a change in the world we live in.  Women are taking more leadership positions in government, corporations, and within various other communities.  The right person is being selected for the positions, regardless of whether they are male or female.

Women have paved the way through the years for others to follow and build upon.  Imagine what life would be like without these influential Women:

  • Mother Teresa – she led a cause to the orphaned, sick, and dying among the poorest worldwide and became an inspiration to so many who followed in her servant leadership.
  • Diana, Princess of Wales – she chose not to just live in royalty, but to lead many causes (such as acceptance of AIDS victims, and a campaign against land mines). She inspired the world with her life.
  • Marie Curie – first woman to win a Nobel Prize in two areas. She coined the term “radioactivity” and was one of the first to suggest radiation to treat cancer.
  • Mary Kay Ash – she founded Mary Kay Cosmetics, and gave jobs to thousands of women, along with the chance for each to earn a “pink Cadillac” car to drive.
  • Maya Angelou – during the writing of this article, Maya passed away. Of all the many great things she did, one of her quotes that stood with me for so many years has been “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel“.  Never forget this quote.  Make it something you live by.
  • Grace Hopper – how could we have a software testing discussion related to women in testing without talking about this lady? This Navy admiral was also a math genius and founding mother of computer languages, which led to the development of COBOL.  She is credited with the term “debugging”  One notable quote from Grace was “The most important thing that I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people.  They come to me, you know, and say ‘Do you think we can do this?’ and I say ‘Try it’.  And I back them up.  They need that.  I keep track of them as they get older and I stir them up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”  What an inspirational quote to live by.

In the testing profession today, being a test practitioner is nothing like years ago.  The dynamic nature of the industry, combined with the exponential growth of new technologies gives so many great, new, and interesting areas for the thinking tester.  We are seeing the ratio of male to female in the practice changing.  And with this change comes a new group of women testers that are providing new insights and inputs to the testing community.  I am encouraged by the articles, presentations, and teachings of many of the women in testing.

My challenge to the community is this: let’s bring on testers who want to change the world.  Let’s encourage them to expand and help others grow along the way.  Let’s get more women testers in our communities, and let’s encourage them to be seen and heard and to lead major changes as we face the future.  We have no idea what the next 10 years will bring us.  In the 1980’s, we had not even heard about the internet or mobile phones in everyone’s pocket.  Now these two things are responsible for so many testing efforts conducted today.

Congratulations to Women Testers magazine and Testing Circus on this effort.  I look forward to the many articles that will rise up from writers around the globe.  You have my support and following!

About the author

ML

Mike Lyles is a  Sr. QA Architect with over 21 years of IT experience. He has led various aspects of testing: functional testing, Test Environments, SCM, Test Data Management, Performance Testing, Test Automation, and Service Virtualization.  In his current role, he is responsible for defining and implementing tools, processes, and methodologies to support the QA teams.  Mike is an international/keynote speaker at multiple conferences, and is regularly published in testing publications. Mike’s passion to help others improve and grow in the field of testing, leadership, and management is his key motivation.  He is available for mentoring and coaching on testing via Skype (mikewlyles).  You can learn more about Mike at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikewlyles, www.MikeWLyles.com or http://about.me/mikelyles

From A to Z; 26 ways Testers can work with UX designers

The team needs to build a product. The team readily recognizes the testers need to work with the developers but the same team often doesn’t consider that the testers need to work with the UX staff. Often the UX staff is tucked away in a different part of the office, working with multiple teams and yet, rarely working directly with the testers. Why? How can testers review a product without a good understanding of the design? Testers need closer access to UX and UX designers would benefit from working directly with the testers. Following are 26 ways a tester can work more closely with UX designers – from A to Z. 

Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing is a growing need as more websites and apps are becoming ADA compliant.  While ADA compliance can be included on the design, it is only through testing that compliance can be checked. In addition to “checklist” testing, the W3C has an accessibility guide mentions the concept of using a persona with disabilities which inspires a more holistic way to test for accessibility than testing solely with a checklist. Offer to work with your UX designer on the persona and execute testing through a different perspective.

Browsers

As designers layout web pages, they might not be aware of the nuances of page rendering from browser to browser and this is an opportunity for testers to share their experience at the concept phase to ward off issues, as well as to offer access to testing during development.

Be fluent in browser settings and coach your UX designers when they introduce ideas that require specific browser settings or when they make browser assumptions. Browser assumptions – meaning the designer is assuming users are using Chrome with cookies enabled but you know from watching browser stats that your user audience is different – and may prefer Firefox with privacy settings turned on. In fact, you could be reviewing browser stats on an intermittent basis with your designer to make sure you are both aware of the production reality of your site usage.

Content

The expression “content is king” may bring to mind the stark reality that many websites and mobile apps are free but the money is made in charging customers for access to content. While website and app designers are focused on the end user experience, it is in the testing of permission and user roles that we can ensure who can access what (and for that matter – when).

A second well used expression: “content is everywhere” refers to the separation of content and the form being used to display content.  Think mobile device versus tablet versus website; think about your site’s content and whether that content is ready to render as it should based on the viewing device and layout. Designers and writers can “tag” content but ultimately, it is in the testing to see how it all really comes together (or not.)

Data

My data, your data, whose data? What can you see? What can you access? Like content, data is what makes a website or app really matter to the user. Screen mockups often show personal information but without test data or occasional production spot checks, how do you know what data is visible? Or how it looks?

Error Handling

While the “works as designed” scenarios may be more fun to design, UX designers (like developers) need to think about troubled situations that may arise and how those conditions will be handled. Have you ever used a graceful application only to face a hideous error message? Offer to preview error messages with your UX designer and to test software such that you see the error conditions evoked.

Forms

So many forms! From shopping carts whether on ecommerce or mcommerce payment is the most essential transaction on many websites and apps. The experience might be well designed but someone has to make sure the financial aspects and the forms of the site or app work and work well.

Gestures

Websites and apps need to function well in addition to the look and feel. Learn what gestures are available and offer to test gestures in collaborations with a UX designer.

Hacker

With security problems being displayed on the front of the news, everyone on a software development team needs to think like a hacker. Be aware of security flaws and help guide your UX designers to be mindful of potential security issues.

Installation

Installation testing is back in the forefront of concerns with mobile and tablet apps. Upgrading one app or many apps at the same time, as well as testing an upgrade to the operating system is needed. Work with UX designers to identify moments during installation for messages to users and like error messages, offer to preview messages.

Jail Broken Devices

Clean and pristine devices might be the ideal used during design but most users’ cell phones are jail broken or rooted and contain a multitude of apps. Testing on a more realistic device is helpful. Perhaps BYOD can help you achieve realistic testing? Help your UX designer by offering BYOD sessions for testing.

Keyboard

If you can navigate your site with just a keyboard – and not the use of a mouse, your site is ADA compliant (that is the only checkpoint). You can test for ADA compliance together.

Localization

Is your site or app suitable for international use? Do you need to test with international keyboards? Does content need to be adapted for global usage? Coordinate with your UX designer to address multi-lingual checks.

Multi-Device Experience

The multi-device experience promised by Apple computer ‘s TV ads shows a person moving from home to office, to the local coffee shop and back again but data synchronization, Wi-Fi access and retrieving information from the cloud is all just a magical promise without testing. A UX designer can dream and design but a tester can road test concepts best.

Navigation

In design, the flow through a shopping e-commerce experience, an e-learning system or even the login process is often designed with the “happy path” in mind and while it is important to think of the “typical” path, it is the tester on the team that can highlight alternate or problem flows that also need to be designed.

Open Lab Time

As the team’s tester you might have access to multiple computers and devices, you can offer to your UX designer open lab times for them to come and view and use software for themselves.

Personalization

It is easy to think about personalization through the mental lens of a single user but what happens to web pages like My Account and My Order History when the user is a longtime customer with pages and pages of history? A tester with access to the database can build account history and then review web pages with a UX designer to do a sanity check of how personalization pages look with deep order history and a variety of interesting past orders.

Quirky scenarios

UX designers may focus on more typical user scenarios but as the team’s tester, you may be able to envision more gnarly or quirky scenarios.  Sharing your ideas early on about twists in typical usage paths helps designers plan for the less expected scenarios.

Responsive Web Design

RWD – responsive web design – building in the ability to resize, pan, and scroll all while auto-detecting the way a device is being held or rotated and having that instant fluid presentation takes planning and testing. Work with your UX designer to test on an array of devices to ensure a smooth user experience.

SEO

Search engine optimization and the continual change in search order ranking is an ongoing “art” in the quest for companies and their websites and apps to be “findable.” From glass box testing of the HTML to black box testing of search results, testers can help UX designers.

Target Users

Marketing efforts often rely on A/B testing – providing two different looks of a website to see which is more successful. UX designers design those two layouts and while testing the success of the marketing efforts is a different form of testing, checkpoints workflows and shopping carts regardless of which entry point is used is something testers can coordinate with UX designers.

Usability

Offer to help host and attend UAT sessions your UX designer may host. Once you have a chance to see the software through the user’s perspective, your own testing approach may change.

Versions

Version control and compatibility especially when web services and APIs are in the background and being updated at a variety of times and not always updated and released at the same time. Coordinate with your UX designer to ensure compatibility.

Web Services

Testing what cannot be seen such as web services and APIs is a challenge for people who don’t know how to test what they cannot immediately and directly “see.” Testers can work more closely with developers to provoke or stimulate services that are down or disrupted to test challenge scenarios that designers are dependent on.

XML

Extensible Markup Language defines precise formatting for information and while designers plan for data and information to be available, testers can test those dependencies on data.

Y2K and other dates

Y is a reminder to test with sensitive dates and date formatting that may otherwise “quietly” appear on web pages and confirmation emails.

Zip Files

Browse to file, upload file, drag and drop file and other ways to navigate to files to include, attach and upload files is not the most exciting part of a website but the end result is important to users. Zip files are not the only file types to test with but compressed hefty zip files do provide a reminder to consider boundary conditions.

About the Author

KNJ

Karen N. Johnson is a software test consultant. She is frequent speaker at conferences. Karen is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at: http://www.wrestworkshop.com/Home.html Visit her website at: http://www.karennjohnson.com

Foundations of Ticket Writing

For web development test engineers, one of the most common tasks is lowly defect ticket creation.  Each ticket is a valuable nugget of feedback provided to the development team, but the caveat is that it is provided at the end of a project. Nerves become frazzled while timelines get tighter.

Key Ticket Concepts

A vital requirement for each ticket is that it is clear, concise, and distilled as much as possible. I try my best to use an editing eye with my ticket, knowing that the developer may look at hundreds of tickets. I highly recommend using a tool like Hemingway for a few tickets, which dissects the text readability levels. When I write a ticket, I try to keep the non-technical language at an 8th grade reading level – this distills the information to the developer diagnosing the issue.

While working on each ticket, I do my best to give feedback in a neutral manner. It may seem obvious to not include negative commentary in each ticket, but I also try my best to not include positive commentary (smiley faces and similar). Both can cause strife and imbalance on the development team – a developer dealing with a difficult ticket may feel slighted when another developer receives a positive comment. Using neutral language helps a developer simply diagnose an issue without emotion.

Additionally, being careful of language that presumes is one lesson I learned as well. It was pointed out to me that the small word “should” added to a behavior expectation I never thought would irk a developer. For example, “Expected Behavior: The site should include a favicon.” adds presumption with the word ‘should’. It never occurred to me, this simple word, would rankle a developer. Instead, it’s better to simply provide straightforward language: “Expected Behavior: the style guide shows a favicon is added to the site.”. It also references a precise location in the documentation that defines a defect.

Constructing a Ticket

One thing that I believe helps the developer quickly diagnose a defect is a very clear title: “Global – Favicon Missing from Site”. The location ‘Global’ helps define its greater location (or, for example, “Careers”). For the title of the headline itself, I try use MLA Style headline casing, and try my best to keep it as short as possible. I’m dorkily pleased if I can get it under 60 characters. If the defect only occurs in one environment, I display an abbreviated version before the location: “[IE7] Global – Favicon Missing from Site”. More information is provided in the ticket of the specific detail, but the abbreviated environment also helps the developer eliminate possible issues.

Within the body of the ticket, I provide an Issue Description, an Expected Behavior description, affected URL(s), an Environment reference, and a screenshot or short video. If the defect is triggered by a process more than two steps (generally a UI issue not related to CSS), I will also provide Steps to Reproduce.

The Issue Description is a short sentence or two describing an issue, and its converse, the Expected Behavior, notates what is defined as being necessary to the project. These seem obvious, but it is imperative to be clear for the developer’s sake. If a developer sends back the ticket for clarification, they have taken the time to open it, read it, attempt to understand it, potentially switch their train of thought, but then send it back for clarification. This means the developer has wasted time simply comprehending the problem – which I will have to clarify anyway. For me, my personal acceptable rate of clarification is 1-3% of tickets written may need further information.

Environment references are essential for the developer. Providing a simple ‘Google Chrome’ isn’t enough – I also am sure to provide the operating system, as well as the version number. For example, today I’m using the Chrome version “Mac OSX 10.8.5, Chrome 35.0.1916.114”. It’s essential for the developer (and is one of the first reasons the developer requests information from the tester), but there are many times defects that only occur in specific environments.

The screenshot (or video, if appropriate) gives a developer a visual cue of the defect. There are many tools that can gather screenshots, but I use the simplest method of Command+Shift+4 on my Mac computer. Research methods that work best, and the developer will be appreciative and will be able to comprehend the ticket even faster.

I personally do not include Steps to Reproduce if it is a simple CSS issue, or one that can be quickly understood when landing on the page – if there is a button that has an incorrect color, or if a login form is not present on the page. Otherwise, the Steps to Reproduce are the final chance for the developer to understand the problem. I try to make them detailed and almost nauseatingly step-by-step, so that nothing is missed.

But You Test, And You Might Know Some/Most/All of This Topic

Well, I’m really pleased. This makes development easier for everyone, and you’re able to give iterative feedback in a more constructive manner. Perhaps you’ve taken this template and tweak it to your own for your group’s projects – this is definitely the just the basics of a ticket.

When I first started with testing, I learned a bit of this from a fantastic tester, and the rest was picked up along the way. I’m hoping this goes out to someone just starting out, or making the leap to Quality Assurance from another career path. I also find it helpful for trusted folks who aren’t testers that contribute to a project provide feedback to the development team. I think that providing clear feedback throughout any project will amplify your project’s quality, and the basics gets your team started on the right track.

About the Author

Sara Tabor is a NYC-based Director of Quality Assurance for Noise, a marketing and analytics agency focused on the millennial market. She has been testing for 6+ years, having prior worked in quality assurance at The Nerdery and Magenic. Her focus is manual testing, with additional background in auditing, accessibility testing, and localization testing, and works to foster quality assurance standards throughout the agency development experience. When not breaking code, she can be found playing hockey, waterskiing, knitting, or unhooking her cat’s claws from her clothing.

Forget mentors, find a sponsor

I know this heading sounds familiar. Sylvia Ann Hewlett wrote a book with this name – Forget a Mentor, Find a sponsor. I really liked the idea and title and since I was planning to write on fast tracking our testing careers, I told myself – I could just get more efficient by re-using what’s already created to highlight my message instead of reinventing the wheel again. (That’s the easiest way to feel guilty free of choosing a catchy phrase created by other)

A widely travelled lady in my network bought this to my notice that any conference she went to, she would always see a huge line in front of men’s room but there was never a line before the women’s room. And that thought sparked me to notice a series of observations – why just attendees, there were so few women speakers. At our own work place we had so few women managers even when we had a good percentage of women in the fresher’s batch. And this is disturbing.

It’s depressing to see how steep the decline in the number of women is as we go up the ladder. Every year we see more drop outs. If we could find what all is causing women to give up on their career at any stage –we could probably work towards supporting women on these issues and trying to fix them collaboratively. Being a taboo topic, it is difficult to make women come out and talk about it. Since it is easy to think that if a woman is talking about being a woman at work – it means – they are either asking for favors or are complaining.When neither is the basic idea. The focal point is having more women at work. And not talking about it is not helping anyone. The idea is not to portray women as needing help more than men. The idea is however, to want to provide women with whatever support and safety net and encouragement they need, to face the challenges. Can we help them to learn- to stick it out when the going gets harder and not just walk away.

NOTE: We can’t mistake this phenomenon to be local and assume that it’s something to do with the Asian culture that I see so less women at work. Mind you – I work with global workforce scattered all over the globe.

On getting deeper into, I could see few glaring issues, which could be really managed well with some help. One of them was mentorship and then mentorship versus sponsorship. First challenge is to make women understand they need help and they can get it. And they deserve help. Initially, I didn’t see much happening in the area but now I see lot of collaboration from both men and women on giving and receiving ends of mentorship, as individuals and community forums too. This is a very refreshing change but it has its own limitations too.

Let me stop here for a moment. Women need mentoring mentorship does help women a lot in ways one can’t imagine – simplest one being – knowing you are a part of a community who wants to grow together and in turn just being a role model for another woman can be a very encouraging and satisfying feeling. But I notice that women seek lots of mentors but don’t focus as much on sponsors. This needs to go hand in hand. They should seek mentorship and learn from the mentors but they need to step up and look for those powerful decision makers whose support can actually get them more help and support, in order to achieve their goals. Sometimes mentoring is not enough; getting access to all the right resources in time becomes the key to success.

One needs to engage with the key people at work. Depending on the kind of sponsorship you may be looking for, these could be – People who matter in board rooms, People whose decisions are honored in the company or People who are visionary or subject matter expert or some peer working at another location. Sponsorship doesn’t mean money. It means opportunities. It could be opportunity for one to showcase their abilities.Opportunity to get that one chance that could tell the world how special you are. It could come in any form – a key assignment , a key posting, a conference, a training, a promotion, an appreciation, a public acknowledgement of abilities – could be anything including money.

And key people have so much to do all the time. One can’t expect them to be interested in your career growth exclusively at any point. Even getting noticed seems luxury sometimes. So, what can you do? Unlike, the relationship between you and your mentor – which is unidirectional take only relationship, the relationship between you and your sponsor has to be bi-directional give and take one. Find out what all really matters to the sponsor because unless it matters to her/him, it’s difficult to get their attention. Then find out where all you can help and then engage with the sponsor on those areas. You should consider to first taking the sponsor’s interest in account and that should help you win what you need.

Another aspect I noticed is women don’t invest in their skill up-gradations through trainings. My personal observation (I mean no bias or offence) for population at large is that- Men treat their career differently and with more respect. Most of the women look at their work as something they do to just earn money and are so caught up in the daily fight to manage their work and home they forget to plan for their future at work. Men are meanwhile focused on learning and eventually get ahead. No one interviews a candidate to hire them for their gender. People want talent – most of the times, it’s not a bias against women that’s stopping them from being in the board of director of organizations but a lack of talent and attitude. How many times would you hear a woman talk about becoming a CEO eventually? Or working towards a new role and going through trainings, conferences and networking sessions to learn more.

This aspect should not be taken lightly. This is one of those key areas where we could improve on our own and get prepared for a better work life. This alone can prepare women to stand up against biases. One can’t expect to get promoted to a higher position for which multiple folks are contesting – men or women unless they are the best suited in all required ways.

It is apparent that – Talent can be enhanced/improved and shined by appropriate planning.

However, there are many other such areas, which can’t be changed as quickly. Aspects which are inherited through one’s culture, aspects which could be non-progressive in nature but could give a sense of belongingness.

“Attitude” is one such area that we could do better. Different cultures teach women to behave differently, think differently. More cultures are patriarch on the planet than neutral. This gives women a feeling of being less since the very beginning and directs them to think in ways which are detrimental in the long run. Independent thinking and ability to decide for one’s own self is very important. It is important to be able to say one is proud and happy of their own achievements. One should be able to freely express themselves.

Lean In is an organization for women, that asks women – what would you do if you had nothing to fear. Various aspects of attitude need scraping to bring out your true self. Could we unapologetically accept our abilities, take compliments and be assertive in our style of working? We are trained to be self-limiting and that gets in our way to achieve more (fighting patriarch society thoughts and principles). Can we accept ourselves as we are and face the world with no guilt and feeling of being less? Enjoy with the team, be a part of the team. Learn with them. And grow with them.

There is a certain part that other men, women, families and society in general can play in supporting growth of women. Those can be listed and assisted with. We need to learn on how we can work around to get that support and how a supportive family does make an impact on one’s growth in life. A family is one’s biggest and most demanding and unreasonable client. At the same time it’s the one you thrive on for bigger successes and happiness in life. So you need them but you need them to be supportive. Learn to support each one in the family in what they are doing. Apply the science we learnt while building sponsorship for ourselves. We can win their confidence by showing our passion and abilities and sharing responsibilities too. The more we respect each other, the more we get back.

With all these taken care of we sure can see more upcoming women stars in every field. The process has begun, results can be shortly seen but scale can be improved drastically.

My message to the readers – With all this said here, at the end of the day – one will still face challenges and will have low times. Sometimes things won’t work. And won’t work out for a longer duration than one can really handle. But one needs to just hang on. Time takes care of many problems that we can’t solve. The key is to ‘KEEP HANGING IN THERE”. Look for any and all support you can get from any direction. Stop fearing. Just go out and find your solution. TAKE CHARGE – simply, because it’s YOUR problem. DO NOT GIVE UP OR GIVE IN – EVER.

If this article motivates you to invest in yourself – please attend conferences happening near you.

About the Author
Smita Mishra is the founder and chief consultant at QAzone Infosystems, which is a pure- play software testing organization. She is a first generation Entrepreneur and is a Test professional who has spent over 12 years practicing testing and leading test efforts of varying sizes, cutting across all key domains and technologies. In past, she has worked with multiple organizations, likes of – HCL Technologies Ltd, Fidelity Investments, Nucleus Software Exports Ltd, Churchill Insurance (Now RBS) and led multi-million dollars testing projects, set up and maintain test centers for her customers. In her current role, she is involved in creating test teams, managing testing for software companies, leading the overall test strategy for them. She supports her customers in identifying the risks their applications are carrying and / or passing on further to their end customers, through carefully crafted skills of software testing. She is also engaging constantly with different forums to assist growth for women in her field and otherwise too. She can be found on Twitter at @smita_qazone. She is beginning to write blogs (not always testing ones though) that can be read at http://wordpress.smitamishrablog.com Linkedin Profile : http://www.linkedin.com/in/smitapmishra

My BBST Experience – A letter from an introvert

Dear Ellen, (fictional character who has signed up for the BBST Foundations Course)
I am writing to you in order to share my experiences with the BBST Foundations course. There are quite a few other blog posts and recent articles on this topic, but I’d like to contribute with another dimension to what has already been said.
This other dimension – or other story, you might say – is one about how this course was an immensely tough learning process for me personally. At times, I felt despair, alone and insecure. Thankfully, a small group of other testers helped me to get through, and just as they helped me, I hope this letter will help you.
The BBST Foundations is a great course. It’s a living hell as well. This dualism seems to permeate the narratives about this course; mine as well as others. I find it quite interesting that people tell me “it’s the best course I ever took” and in the same sentence “it’s four weeks in hell”. Can it be both? What is going on here?
There are several reasons why I personally found the course valuable and a real eye-opener. Firstly, it has helped me to get rid of a general test-lingo such as “I’ll test this with exploratory testing to find all bugs in the software” which I was accustomed to use. Now I am more attentive towards why “I am searching for this information so I’ll evaluate this piece of the software in this particular way”. A sharpened consciousness I might call it. Immediately after completing the course I began asking more questions: Why are we testing this? How do you want to test this? What is most important here? What information are we looking for? Time spent on this assignment has to be taken from another – which one should not be done then?
I find myself having a better focus, as well as a more critical view on how and why I test and a different way of talking about testing. Yet, in some ways the learning process has been a real tough one. I had help from people and other testers in my network and my hope is that by exposing myself a bit here and sharing my BBST course experience with you I might be able to help you get through as well.

Warnings and expectations
The course had been recommended to me by experienced and renowned testers, so prior to the course start, I had pretty high expectations. I had been warned about how tough and difficult it was too, and how people had fallen ill by taking the course! This combination of extremist information had me puzzled; how can a course that makes you ill be the best in the world? I think I had an unconscious, hidden agenda about finding out what was going on here –
this was going to be interesting for sure! It was more than interesting, and I really was taken by surprise at how the course turned out to be such a challenge for me.

Sharing everything
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock for the past 35 years but I’ve only recently discovered the archetypes introvert and extrovert. Reading about the introvert personality was a revelation to me. It was overwhelming, as I found it an almost exact description of my typical interaction with the outer world. I like to think before I speak, to build relationships one-on-one, I recharge by being alone, I do not like to take risks – and I truly prefer to complete my work before I present it to others. So you might guess – this is where the problems started for me in the BBST Course. Everything you do on the course site (Moodle) is available and “public” to all the other participants and course instructors. Everybody could read and comment on all of my work. My online status, my answers in the Exam Cram forum, my participation in the group work and comments were available to everyone. I could almost physically feel how this challenging process started with a large jerk – similar to that jolt you have as the rollercoaster in a Tivoli starts.
I knew that what I put on the course site was neither complete nor necessarily “correct”, but it was the only way to get feedback and guidance. This was the only way to find out if I was on the right track. That in itself was pretty huge for me to take in. Of course, I wasn’t always on track. Of course, I didn’t always pay attention to the call of the question. And of course, my work was criticized because of this. This was hard for me to accept especially in the first half of the course. It got better, still not entirely easy, but I had become hardier and positively tuned to receiving criticism for my work when we reached the final exam (where your work is graded by two other students and you then grade your own work).

A few notes of frustration
The course site, based on Moodle, which you have to navigate in during the entire course, is neither intuitive nor easy to gain an overview. I overlooked relevant information and almost missed an assignment. I subscribed to the email notifications for the relevant forums and threads and received 450 mails during the 4 week course. The subscription service did not always work, so I didn’t even get all the updates. Obviously, this added to existing workloads and created an element of confusion.

Could I have some more hours in my day, please?
I never had the feeling during this course that I had enough time to do a proper piece of work. The recommended hours to spend on the course are 12-14 hours a week, but I was spending 3 times as much and I felt horrible about it. I was beating myself up thinking I must be stupid or lazy, as I was spending all my time and energy on this course, but it lead me to question my abilities.
Even though I was under such pressure, I still found the course materials and subjects extremely interesting. I was also impressed by the quality, composition and variation. It might not be completely up to date, but it’s still a solid mix of individual assignments, video lectures, quizzes, required and recommended readings, group work, orientation exercises and exam questions. That packs a punch! Each had a variant which challenged me in thinking and writing on different levels and in a multitude of ways. This was great. What wasn’t so great was that I felt as though I never had enough time in general, so I ran from one task to another constantly. There were always additional tasks coming up, and I must admit I was getting more and more exhausted as the course progressed.

To navigate in predictability and chaos
But it clearly did strike the right note. From the get-go I found the curriculum and associated deadlines clearly defined. The program is well-defined and you are given adequate information regarding which groups you have been assigned to and which assignments and other challenges are coming up. To that point, it was good. Just as I was settling into the well-defined course, I fell into confusion as I tried to fathom the instructors’ feedback on our answers. It seemed to have little structure in regards to who gave feedback, which answers received feedback at all, and of which reasoning was given. Was it given to poor answers, those of high quality or the ones the instructors found interesting? I found it chaotic not knowing if any feedback would be given to my answers of the assignments, and not knowing if it had been found of acceptable quality. Was I on the right track or had I missed some important aspects? I guess I was a bit insecure about my answers, and it wasn’t until the end of the course that I could truly appreciate and value fellow students’ feedback. All students are expected to provide peer reviews of the others student’s answers, but I simply didn’t feel I knew them well enough to trust their opinions on my work. When reading other students’ answers or peer reviews, I sometimes agreed with his or her criticism of it, only to read an instructor’s comment later on stating the direct opposite.
One of the learning points for me in this process, were firstly that: yes, things are sometimes chaotic and uncertain and there is always value in feedback, because it will challenge your thinking no matter what.

Group work and road rage
A significant part of the course is group work where you depend on others to do a decent piece of work and take responsibility for meeting the deadlines. I came to think of it as similar to driving to work where I appreciate and hope the traffic conditions are good and other road users behave reasonably. It’s just not always like that, and neither was it doing group work in the BBST course.
Some people don’t conform to the rules, don’t understand or participate in the problem solving and don’t bring anything constructive to the table. Just like everyone else on the course I depended on the group work to be at least decent and that the deadlines were met.
So I was stressed out by the fact that some other participants didn’t do their part of the work and didn’t respond to questions or requests. I was uncertain of what to do here (in the traffic I might use the horn or gesticulate), was it alright to ignore them and continue solo? Or should I have written to the instructors and ask them how I should address the problem? Or even hold a plenary discussion?
One of the arguments for accepting the time pressure and the challenging group work is that “it reflects real life”. I just don’t feel that way. If people are horrible drivers – or if my colleagues don’t respond to emails, phone calls or don’t show up at work – I consider this and I will let them know how they are perceived. I prefer to conduct this face-to-face, or at least one-to-one, but I didn’t find this possible on the course. I guess that’s why I ended up accepting crappy group work.

Back to the start and all the way through
So here I guess I should address the questions as to why one should even complete this course with all this complaining and symptoms of stress. The BBST course is not “just” an online course, at least not to me. It has gradually achieved a reputation and status as a test of manhood, a possible entrance to a special club of testers and a community. I realize now that from the very beginning, and all the way through the course, I had two coping strategies. These I’d like to pass on to you.

1. Be open, honest and use your network
I was lucky to have been “warned” about the course from several renowned testers so it was relatively easy for me to reach out to them and be open about how the workload and time pressure was getting to me. And the support I received was unbelievable, I am really grateful. They themselves had been there, so they recognized and acknowledged the stress level I was at. This was both a relief and an encouragement (I was not alone!) and furthermore it led me to the second coping strategy.

2. Make fun of it all (use your sense of humor)
Humor as a coping mechanism shouldn’t be underestimated. When sharing an extreme pressure sometimes you just have to look at each other – and laugh. There have been many jokes about the damn “call of the question” and instructors have been portrayed as cartoon characters (sorry, Markus). It was a way for me to distance myself from it all, take a deep breath and go for another assignment or answer in the Exam Cram forum.

One last piece of advice
One night I could not sleep as I was worked up over an assignment. I couldn’t find peace of mind, and my only thought was that I wanted out of the course, I simply wanted to quit. Immediately. Right Now. My husband talked me into persevering, and at the same time I couldn’t come to terms with going “public” by saying that I didn’t have it in me to complete the course. So I stayed, I ‘hung in there’.
A learning point from this is that next time I will be more open about the reflections on leaving the course if the pressure becomes too much for me. Self-flagellation maybe, but I will have that chance in the Bug Advocacy Course I’ve signed up for this coming winter.
So, dear Ellen, I hope I haven’t frightened you or discouraged you in any way by telling you my story. At least I didn’t intend to. On the contrary I wanted to tell you that you will learn a great deal from taking the course and not only things related to testing. For me it was a learning experience on reaching out, being open, it was also about accepting insecurity, fear and uncertainty.
I know more now about Information Objectives and Missions, floating-point numbers and Oracles, but the learning process was tough and I don’t think I was capable of doing my best. That’s not always possible, maybe there’s not enough time to be thoughtful and creative in all instances.
But isn’t that also a valuable learning experience.
Good luck.

Sincerely,
Bolette
PS. I’m @teglbjaerg on Twitter if you need support and encouragement from a likeminded searcher.

About the Author
Bolette Stubbe Teglbjærg is a tester from Copenhagen, Denmark. Combining her passion for people and software (she did two degrees: Master in Computer Science and Master in Educational Theory), the world of Testing beckoned. Bolette has been working in software development since 2001 and testing since 2007. Having recently discovered Context-Driven Testing, Bolette is interested in promoting testing as an independent profession and discipline. She has recently signed a contract with “House of Test” and will start as a Test Consultant from September 2014. She blogs about testing (in Danish) with Carsten Feilberg at http://testrefleksion.blogspot.dk/

Stepping Into Your Learning Zone

The comfort zone is a mental place, or behavioural state of safety, within which there’s little anxiety or stress. In this anxiety-free zone there are few challenges. As a result,
staying there for too long could lead to feelings of boredom and stagnation, both in one’s personal and professional lives. Stepping out of this zone provides an opportunity to learn
and experience new things.

Comfort zones come in different sizes and shapes. Some prefer stepping out a little at a time, whereas others are happy to plunge into the unknown with their eyes closed. Wherever you are on that scale; one thing is certain, sooner or later every one of us will need to step out – either by choice or otherwise. Life has a way of throwing curveballs when it’s least expected; we may be dragged out of our comfort zones kicking and screaming. Think about how many people lost their jobs during the last Global Financial Crisis and were sent flying out of their comfort zones.

In 1908 an experiment conducted with mice, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson found that stimulation up to a certain level increased performance, but any stimulation above that level causes performance to deteriorate. Based on that research the Yerkes-Dodson Law emerged. This law depicts three major states a person can be
in: disengagement, flow and frazzle. Those mental states relate directly to the comfort zone and to two additional zones situated outside it:
Comfort zone: a place, situation or mental state where one feels safe or at ease (and often
disengaged).
Learning (or courage) zone: area outside the comfort zone where there’s just enough stimulus and anxiety to drive productivity and flow.
Panic (or terror) zone: area furthest away from the comfort zone, after the learning zone, where there’s too much stimulus and/or anxiety. In this zone productivity tends to decline.

As Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” puts it: “If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you’re too uncomfortable, you’re not productive. Like Goldilocks, we can’t be too hot or too cold.” So it’s important to learn and be aware of that little zone between our comfort and panic zones.

I was happy to find out that there was another zone outside of my comfort zone that wasn’t the panic zone! I used to resist getting out of my comfort zone because without
knowing how to step into the learning zone and staying there, I quickly took on too much, and ended up crossing the line to the panic zone.

The size of each person’s learning zone depends on the individual’s personality and comfort with change and the unknown. The good news is that the learning zone needs
not stay the same. It can expand the longer we stay there. With practice, it can become a sweet spot where magic happens!

For example, I remember when I first gave a lightning talk at a meetup (I am an introvert – being in the spotlight does not come naturally to me). Agreeing to do the lightning talk took
me into my learning zone, almost all the way to the edge of my panic zone. Even agreeing to do it (weeks before the event) felt uncomfortable to me. Then came time to prepare
for the presentation. Every time I thought about starting I had butterflies in my stomach. Each of those times I was stepping into my courage zone, and every time I decided to
work and hang in there a little more, I felt it became (slightly) easier. That is the great thing about staying in the learning zone: it is just uncomfortable enough to push us to a place
where we don’t want to go, but not too much that we may be overwhelmed.

Learning is at the core of a tester’s role and learning is a process that involves venturing out into the unknown, processing existing knowledge, asking (sometimes
uncomfortable) questions. Accordingly, being comfortable with stepping out of our comfort zone can prove to be a crucial skill for testers who take their career seriously.

 “In order to do your job you have to learn, learn, learn. Testing is learning. Testing is all about learning. Testing is made of learning. It’s just like being a snowman where snow is learning! That is what testing is all about. You can’t go wrong as a tester if you learn, learn, learn, learn.”

James Bach – Testing in an Agile Software Development Team 

To me, personally, this topic is current and relevant as I have had to step into my own learning zone often in the past few months. When the time came for me to present my first lightning talk, I walked right into my panic zone, mostly because I was not prepared for that step, and didn’t have any practice spending time in my learning zone. Last year I gave another lightning talk, this time at CAST 2013, which was again a panic moment. But with each one of those experiences I learned something new, and a few weeks ago I stepped out of my comfort zone once more. I gave my first full track presentation at the Let’s Test conference. The lessons I learned from previous experiences, as well as the time I spent in my learning and panic zones helped me to be better prepared this time. Here are some things I learned from these experiences that I hope can help you too, if you want to spend more time in your learning zone:

1- Identify your motivation
As Leah Stockley mentioned in her candid blog post, we are all capable of changing, even our deeper traits. All we need is the right motivation. Once you identify why you want to do something, it makes it easier to follow through, especially when you have to step out into the unknown. Channel that motivation, remember it every time you are about to cross the line into the panic zone. That should help you to stay within the bounds of the learning zone a little longer.

2- Change the way you see anxiety
It is true that you can still learn without leaving your comfort zone, but the pace is often slower. I can quickly step into the panic zone once I step out of my comfort zone, so I don’t look forward to that feeling of unease. But I have discovered that if I want to learn fast, experience new things and expand my learning zone, I shouldn’t see fear and anxiety as enemies. In some circumstances these feelings can be a sign that learning, growth and excitement is ahead, if only we learn and practice to keep it to an optimum level.

3- Become more comfortable with failure
Let’s be honest, no one wants or likes to fail, but the harsh reality is we all fail – at something, sometime. There is no point to avoid doing something based on the fear of failing. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t plan and prepare for success, but being paralyzed by the fear of failure doesn’t make sense. We can learn just as much from failure as from success – sometimes more. Sharing our failures and what we’ve learned from them, can be a powerful tool to help us overcome fear, with the added benefit that others can learn from us and not make the same mistakes.

4- Identify your learning style
It can be easier to venture out into the learning zone if you know your learning style and use that knowledge to adapt your experiences to it. There are several learning style models. Find one you most identify with and next time you step out, try to incorporate your learning style. Here are two popular learning models:
– David Kolb’s Experimental Learning theory outlines two related approaches to grasp       experience: Concrete and Abstract Experience and two approaches to transform experiences: Reflective Observation and Active Experimentation.
– Neil Flamming’s VAK Model categorizes learning styles as: visual, auditory, reading-writing and kinesthetic learners.

5- Be proactive about learning
Having to step out of your comfort zone under pressure is not an ideal situation. Take control of your learning. Pick something you have a passion for, the right motivation to do, and are just uncomfortable enough to want to do something to learn more about it.

6- Don’t do it alone                                                                                                                                                     I have a tendency to try new things on my own. It is not only safer that way, but if I fail, no one will see it or know about it. The problem is doing things solo can make it more difficult to follow through. When push comes to shove, if we don’t have anyone to be accountable to (or cheer us on), it is easier to give up. In my experience, having a coach is a great way to have someone support and guide you as you travel through unchartered waters. Coaches can give you the right combination of encouragement, challenge and accountability to help you make the best of your time in the learning zone.

Getting used to the feeling of productive discomfort is an acquired taste. It will take practice and perseverance to get there. If you want to accelerate your learning, be productive, and live outside of the coziness of your comfort zone you may need to make a conscious decision to spend more time in your learning zone. If you do so, it’s possible the next time life throws you a curveball, you may be better prepared to cope with it as your learning zone gets broader. And you may become more comfortable outside your comfort zone by spending more time in your learning zone.

About the Author
Alessandra Moreira is a student and an advocate for the context-driven(CD) school of testing. Ale started testing in 2000 in Sydney, Australia and since has worked in diverse industries and a variety of roles. Ale’s experience working as a CD tester in highly scripted environments has given her a passion to awaken the potential in testers. Ale works on projects such as Weekend Testing ANZ where, as the organizer and facilitator, she has the opportunity to help and empower other testers in their own journey. Ale currently lives and works in Miami FL, blogs at http://roadlesstested.com/and is @testchick on Twitter.

Why Testing?

When I meet testers, I often hear a specific word, “Why?” I thought that might be a great word to use in this article.

Testers often ask, “Why does this feature work that way?” Or “Is this feature supposed to work that way?” I certainly asked that question often when I was a tester. There were plenty of times when it was clear that no, the feature was not supposed to work that way. If I couldn’t log in, if the system crashed, if the hash table was corrupted, I knew the feature was broken. I didn’t have to ask.

But sometimes, I wasn’t sure if the feature was supposed to work that way, and I did ask. That’s what testers do. We ask about the system under test. We provide information about that system, sometimes from our questions, and sometimes from our data.

We are curious souls. We are critical thinkers. We have to worry—are we being too critical of the people and not of the product?
I bet all of you have a story like mine. I was testing, finding problems in a product, reporting them. The developer finally burst into my office, yelling, “If you don’t like me, just say so!”
“Dave, I like you a lot. What’s the problem?”
“You keep reporting bugs against my code! You don’t like me anymore.”
Ah, I saw the problem. “Dave, it’s not you. It’s your code.”
“Well, of course it’s me. I wrote that code.”
“Maybe you were having a bad code-day?” I paused. “You know, normally you have people review your code. I never asked. I just kept filing bug reports. Sorry. Did anyone ever review your code?”
Dave shook his head. “No. No one could make any time for me. They were all ‘too busy.’ And now you hate me.”
“Okay, hold on. I don’t hate you. Maybe instead of testing with tests, I should do a code review with you. Would that be better?”
Dave thought for a few seconds, and said, “Well, you know me. If I’ve got problems in one area, I probably have more. When I’m smart, I’m really smart. When I’m dumb, I’m a real dodo.”
“Dave, this is not about smart or dumb. This is really intricate code. I had to think really hard to write the tests. I’m not sure the tests are right.”
“No, the tests are right.” He used his Eeyore voice.
Dave and I code-reviewed his code. We found a few more problems in the code, and we found a number of places he was able to improve his code and fix some technical debt before it came back to bite him.
“Normal” testers don’t do this—or do they?

What do normal testers do?
I was a developer before I was a tester, so that colors my approach to testing. It never occurred to me to do manual testing first. I automated testing because I was a developer. Why do something manual when a machine could do it for me?
I used version control because machines did that for me.                                                                          And, yes, I used exploratory testing in an automated way— okay, a brute force, automated way—because the machines could do it faster than I could. Was that smart? Maybe, maybe not. It was a reasonable use of my limited time.

I have found that there are as many reasonable approaches to testing as there are testers.
But here’s what I don’t find reasonable:
· People who claim they have the one right way to test
· People who claim they never ask why
· People who never vary their test approach
· People who never automate their testing
· …

I could continue, but I bet you see the pattern. I don’t believe in absolutes.

What is a tester’s role?
For many years, my mission as a tester was this: Provide information about the system under test and report on it.

Anything that allowed me to do that was fine with me. That mission is broad, and allows for a wide variety of activities.

Does a developer need code review? I can do that. Do I think that’s wise on a regular basis? Maybe not. Will it move the features across the board, especially for an agile project? Yes.

During a retrospective will I suggest that maybe I am not the right person to be providing code review? Yes. Not because I become too close to the code, but because I need the time to develop tests. Do you see the difference?

Now, do you think you should provide code review? That’s a question only you can answer. If you think the answer is yes, but you don’t have the technical skills, that’s something you can fix. If you think the answer is no, why not?

Maybe you’re not interested in developing more technical skills. That’s fair. I know some terrific testers who would not be caught dead reading code.

However, I know many manual black box testers who don’t know how to read code. They don’t know any scripting languages. All they know how to do is execute test plans
someone else has written. They don’t have great critical thinking skills. They don’t vary their test approach. They don’t automate their testing.

Those people have a very limited career path. Why would they want to be testers? I don’t know. Maybe you can tell me.

Why Women?
This edition highlights the contributions of many women testers and managers. I have the honor of being one of the contributors for this edition. I just saw a statistic that says the number of female software developers is up 87% since 2001 (http://www.evansdata.com/press/viewRelease.php?pressID=209) to almost 20% of all US software developers. That’s a relief. Why? Because when you have diverse teams, you can create great products. Women and men, together, can create great products. Even better, when you have diverse backgrounds, both of experience and culture, you can create great teams to do wonderful things. People on teams solve problems together. We can’t only have the women on teams be the testers. You might be a different kind of a tester than I was. You might be a different kind of a manager than I was. But, I bet you are a curious, open-minded, critical thinker, who enjoys exploring the product under test in various ways.

I invite you to read the rest of this edition and consider, ponder, and explore. See what our colleagues, these wonderful women have to say. I know that I will.

About the Author
Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” provides frank advice to your tough problems. She helps organizational leaders recognize potential risks, seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna is the author of seven books and more than 300 articles. She writes two blogs on her web site, jrothman.com, as well as a blog on createadaptablelife.com Please do read more of her writing including her newsletter there.