Friday, April 22, 2011

Going from Memory to Automatic

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me. It was, for all intents and purposes, the end of snowboarding season for me and my family. Sure, there's mountains still open for a few more weeks, but with a number of time commitments that I have and other things I need to do, this effectively ends the season for me. thus I bid adieu to what was an epic season of great snowfall and record breaking conditions.

To celebrate our last day, I brought my older daughter up with me. As is often the case, when we have our ride days together, I tend to play the role of coach as well as Dad. She's come a long way in the past few years, but I always have to remind Karina the day she beats me down the hill is the day I'll stop playing coach (LOL!). Also, i like to see her get better and more focused as time goes, so I keep offering her suggestions. Yesterday she looked at me and asked "Why is it so hard for me to remember all of this? How come you do it so effortlessly?!"

With that, I had to step back and think about that. Part of it was that I have literally hundreds of snow days to draw upon over the years, and I've just done this a lot, but it's true, when you are first starting out with anything, it seems like you are being overwhelmed with information. When it comes to snowboarding, it's a matter of "put your weight on your front foot, don't let your rear hand trail behind you, square your chest and shoulders, look over the front of your board, bend your knees, drive your rear knee towards your front knee to help flex the board and maximize turn efficiency..." come on, that's a lot to remember if you have to remember it. Is it any wonder why we feel overwhelmed at times? Still, little by little, these things recede into the back of our mind, and we just do them by instinct.

I often think about the experiences I've had in the AST Black Box Software Testing classes. Even in a Foundations class, I still find there is a lot that I learn each time through, because of the different participants and their unique experiences forces me to not rely on instinct, but to look at the situations fresh from their perspectives. the advantage of doing this is that we keep our minds fresh, we remember what it is like to be in that "first timers" shoes, and often, it catapults us back to first timer status as well. there have been several times where I have said "Hey, I hadn't thought of that approach" and I've been through this class five times now!

Bottom line, every one of us goes through the uncomfortable experience of having to "remember everything" and try to hold onto it all,.and feeling like we are not up to the challenge. At those moments, all I can do is think back to my first days riding, and how much I had to juggle in my brain to keep upright. With time and practice, I got better, and with time and practice, the juggling in my head for testing topics will fade back, too, and instinct will take over. Unlike riding, though, I hope I never get too comfortable in my testing knowledge that everything is run on instinct. Context changes, and what I knew for certain as a sure fire approach yesterday, might not serve me so well today. Automatic is good, but we have to be careful that automatic doesn't become our default mode.
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