Thursday, November 4, 2010

Does Volunteerism == Passion?

I had a smile when I saw a post made by Markus Gaertner on Twitter in which he quoted something I said… “the good news is that I’ve not been this excited about the craft of testing at any other time since maybe my initial arrival in 1992”. Some people may not understand why I said that, or in what perspective I said it, so I’ll help fill in the blanks for those interested.

The simple fact is that I had a sideways entry into software testing. For those who heard my interview with Matt a few weeks ago, I described how my desire to be a musician consumed my life for many years, and that my enty into testing came at a time when I was looking to provide a little stability in my life. It so happened that I also discovered Cisco Systems at an early point in its rise to prominence and had a deep need for testers, so much so that they would literally let a guy who had never tested before learn the ropes and get into the game on the ground floor. Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal and participated in a number of projects. I’ve had many different titles and I’ve been called many different things (Development Test Engineer, Application Engineer, QA Specialist, Quality Assurance Engineer, etc.) but they all come down to the same thing… I’m a tester.

For many years, being a tester was my job. It was what I did. My passions, however, were in the other avenues of my life. I was a musician with dreams of stardom. I enjoyed snowboarding, and I competed in events and wrote about them. I developed a snowboard team and mentored riders and racers. I became a Scout leader and worked with all aspects of the program. These were my passions, and these were where I put a lot of attention and focus. If someone asked me if I was as passionate about testing, I likely would have said "testing is what I do so that I can do those other things".

Last year, I asked myself some hard questions… why am I a tester? What do I do as a tester? What is it about the job that I do that I like? What is it about the job that I love? Most importantly, why did I feel that I did not not approach testing with the same passion I did other things in my life? It was then that I decided to do some digging, to really see what it was that I was passionate about, and why. I enjoyed music, no doubt about it, but being holed up in the studio and writing music wasn’t the draw. It was the ability to perform for others that was my obsession. When I was a competitive snowboarder, it was the community of racers and riders that I became friends with that made that time so special. As a scout leader, it’s not the activities themselves that are the draw, but the way that I can see both young people and older people literally come alive at the realization that they can do something they never believed they could, or do it better and with greater ease the next time. It’s in seeing the sense of accomplishment on people’s faces when they reach that top rank, whether it be Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout, Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts, the Silver or Ranger award in Venturing, or an adult receiving their Wood Badge beads. What do all of these have in common? It’s not really the activities themselves that I’m passionate about… it’s the fact that all of these things, and my involvement in them, effect people that I interact with!

Over this past year, many people have commented that I have become really involved in many different areas within the testing community. Between my involvement as a student and mentor in the Miagi-Do School of Software Testing, my participating in and teaching classes with the Association for Software Testing, my volunteering and coordinating with the Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference, my contributing a chapter to the “How to Reduce the Cost of Software Testing” book, producing the “This Week in Software Testing” podcast and now my early involvement in bringing Weekend Testing to the Western Hemisphere, it looks like I have little to no time to do anything else! To many this may be seen as something that would guarantee burn out, but this excites me! It energizes me. It shows me that I can teach and help others, and at the same time, reminds me that I have so much more I still need to learn.

In short, the activities themselves are not the drive, it’s the people that I interact with and the relationships that I develop that make it all worth it and makes me want to do more. I’ve become passionate about testing because I’ve become passionate about working with and interacting with the people that make testing a passionate endeavor.

So yes, “the good news is that I’ve not been this excited about the craft of testing at any other time since maybe my initial arrival in 1992”… and now you know why :).

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