Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Under the Rocks and Stones

I've deliberately taken some time to step away from blogging and post less the last few weeks. Part of that was because I had completed a large multi part series (more about that in a bit), and part of that was a conscientious decision to spend some more time with my family during the holidays, but I can't let the year end without my "the year that was" post, and see if I can find another line from the Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime" to keep the string going. For the fourth year, I'm still able to do that :).

This year was definitely one of digging into my mind and my experiences, and taking advantage of the fact that what I can learn, and what I struggle with, has a value to others as well. I focused the first part of the year on running through the Practicum approach and Selenium 2, specifically David Burns book. I found this process to be enjoyable, enlightening, and yes, it required me to be willing to dig further than the printed material. Plain and simple, even with the best guide, the best materials, and the most specific examples, the natural drift of software and software revisions means that we need to be alert to the fact that we have to do some digging of our own. Sometimes, we get frustrated in our efforts, but if we continue to dig, and ask questions while we dig, we can do more and get better at what we are doing.

SummerQAmp was an important focus for me and others this year, and we expanded on the modules that were offered. We made inroads on what we covered, but also discovered that the materials and the model we were using was less effective as we tried to branch out and try different ideas. The biggest challenge? How to make the material engaging with self directed readers and interactions. Much of the best software testing training that is out there that focuses on skills-based testing is best learned with a group of people discussing and debating the ideas and approaches. Taking that approach and making it work for a single individual that needs to learn the material is a challenge we are still working on, and I am hopeful we will make good on improving this process in 2014.

Weekend Testing in the Americas has had a great run, and it has been blessed with additional facilitators who are helping to take the weight off of my shoulders and bring in ideas and approaches that are different from mine (which is great :) ). Justin Rohrman and JeanAnn Harrison have been regular contributors and facilitators, and to both of them I owe a huge debt of gratitude. There's definitely more opportunities to dig for more and better ideas when there are additional facilitators helping to look for and pitch ideas.

If there was one concept or test idea/approach that became foremost in my thoughts this year, it would have to be "accessibility" or how to interact with systems and information for those with physical disabilities. Much of my work this year was associated with learning about and working with stories that focused on exactly how we can make our interactions better for those who cannot see or interact with systems in ways that most of us take for granted. I worked primarily with an intern to help make this a better focus for our product, and to learn how to continually ask questions and consider ways that we can better focus on what we do to deliver a usable and worthwhile experience to all of our users.

I participated in three conferences this year, two of them here in the United States, and one in Sweden. STP-CON in April (held in San Diego, CA) was a chance for me to talk about Agile testing and how I adapted to being a Lone Contributor on a team (a situation that I am no longer specifically doing, as I am now part of a larger testing organization, but still small enough that many of the lessons still apply). August 2012 saw me presenting in Madison, Wisconsin at CAST 2013 and Test Retreat and Test Leadership Camp (a continuous week long event of learning, interacting, and developing ideas that I would present in other talks and places). Finally, I was invited to speak on two topics (balancing automated and exploratory testing, and how to "stop faking it" in our work lives) at the Øredev 2013 conference in Malmö, Sweden.

In addition to formal conferences, I participated in numerous Meetup events in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, and what's more, with Curtis Stuerenberg, helped to launch the Bay Area Software Testers Meetup group. This is a general interest software testing group, with the goal of expanding into topics that, we hope, go beyond just testing and into aspects that can help software testers get a better feel and understanding for more areas of the software development business.

An interesting challenge came my way in 2013. I've been blessed with additional outlets to write and present my ideas beyond this blog. Smartbear, Zephyr, Atlassian, Testing Circus, Tea Time With Testers, and StickyMinds have all been outlets where I have been able to present ideas and write to a broader audience, and my thanks to the many readers of this blog who have seen those articles, shared them with others, and helped make it possible for me to keep writing for these sites. I appreciate the vote of confidence and the comments and shares of my work with others, and if you will keep sharing, I will keep writing :).

The project that, for some, will be the most recognizable for 2013 was, in many ways, just another bold boast that I figured would be some basic ideas that I would write on each day. Instead, my expansion and developing workshops on the "99 Ways to Become a Better Software Tester" e-book offered by the Ministry of Testing in the UK became a multi-month process, and one in which I had to do some significant digging to bring to completion. While the series is now finished, the ideas and the processes I learned are still having ripple effects. I think there is more where this came from, and I want to explore even more how I can expand on the ideas I wrote about, and make them better.

Through the process of being on the Board of Directors for the Association for Software Testing and working as the chair for the Education Special interest Group, I learned a lot about how to better deliver software testing training, and to help expand on the mission of AST and how we deliver training and the people involved in that training. I took a step back this year to let others teach and become leaders, and I am grateful for the level of participation and focus given by so many people to step up and help teach others. It cements my belief and testimony that software testers in our broad and worldwide community contain some of the most giving and helpful people I've ever met.

This year saw me interacting with two additional initiatives, one I've been involved with for a few years now, and one that is very new to me. Miagi-Do had a banner year, in which we started a blog, developed more challenges and sought to get more involved as a group in the broader software testing discussion. We brought on board many additional testers, many of which are doing so much to put into practice ways to help share and grow the skills of the broader testing community (many of the current facilitators for Weekend Testing around the world are also Miagi-do students and instructors). Additionally, I was invited to participate in a mentoring program through PerScholas, and have interacted with a number of their STeP program graduates (many of whom have also come through and been participants in Weekend Testing as well).

All in all, this has been a year of digging, a year of discovery, a year of new efforts and making new friends. It's been a year of transition, of picking up, and letting go. A year of seeing changes, and adapting to them. It's been a year of learning from others, and teaching what I can to those interested in learning from me in whatever capacity I can teach. Most importantly, it has shown me that there are many areas in testing I can learn more about, perform better, and get more involved than I already am. What will 2014 bring? My guess is that it will be a year of new challenges, new ideas, and more chances to interact with my peers in ways I may not have considered. Once thing's for sure, it will not be "Same as it ever was" ;).
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