Friday, December 21, 2012

Same As It Ever Was?

According to the Internet, and Mayan prophecy, December 21, 2012 is supposed to be the end of the world. I figure, if this proves to not be true, this will be something to allow me to celebrate a wonderful year of testing. If it does prove to be true, well, no one will be here to read this, so I suggest reading this quickly ;).

2012 was a pivotal year for me, in that I had a chance to do many things I'd never done, I had a chance to participate in a number of unique opportunities, and I made some decisions that have really made me question if it made sense to do things the same way I've done them for so long. Also, for those astute musical nerds out there, I'm referencing Talking Heads "Once in A Lifetime" once again with the title. It's proven to be quite a versatile song for these posts over the past few years.

When I wrote the first of these recaps in 2010, I was preparing to leave a job I had worked at for almost six years, and very much looking forward to a new adventure in a new capacity. In 2011, I shared many of the lessons I'd learned from making that step, and how being involved in the broader community had become very important to me. Thus I find it interesting that, here at the end of 2012, I am writing this message at yet another company, at the start of yet another "excellent adventure". "Same as it ever was?" seemed rather fitting, as this was not a year of business as usual. Not by a long shot!

2012 was a year of travel and outreach, and the opportunity to learn about and work with a number of interesting initiatives. I concluded my dive into Ruby and learning as much of the language as "Learn Ruby the Hard Way" would inspire me to do. This was a project started in 2011, and it ran for three months. I learned a lot along the way, and grew to appreciate many of the nuances of Ruby and how it works. My personal library of Ruby titles is huge now, which is a little ironic since, in my new role at Socialtext, I am looking at code that written mostly in... Perl :). Some might comment that I've wasted my time with all this Ruby focus, but I don't think so at all. What I've been able to do is approach a language at a deeper level than I ever have in the past, and do so with the eye of sharing my experience with others. That helped me internalize a lot more of it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not what I would consider a great programmer, nor even a moderately good one. Still, there's a level of appreciation and achievement I'm quite proud of, and I feel it will help me look at other languages and be a little less intimidated.

My friends Lynn McKee and Nancy Kelln invited me to participate in the POST 2012 workshop up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, back in March. I was the facilitator for this event, and help the participants present their topics, discuss their ideas and critiques, and I also had a chance to present the idea of Weekend Testing as a service that any company could incorporate and associate with its test teams. An aded bonus, Lynn took me to Sunshine Village, one of the ski resorts in Banff National Park. Yep, I got to tick off a bucket list event... I snowboarded in Canada!

I had the pleasure of going to New Orleans to help plan out many of the events that would be part of the CAST conference for 2012, and visit some of the areas of the city (Bourbon Street, Royal Street, etc.) that I'd only heard stories about. It also gave me a chance to participate in the first Workshop day of STP-CON Spring 2012, likewise in New Orleans. I had the experience of being able to go and participate in and live blog five different workshops, and participate alongside many other intelligent and engaged testers.

I presented my first full paper and presentation at a conference this year. It was originally to be at PNSQC 2011, but a broken leg sidelined me and I was unable to present it. A friend who felt bad that I couldn't give my talk contacted Lee Copleland and suggested my talk would be a good fit for their conference. Lee read the paper and decided "yes, we'd like to see this presented" and offered me a spot on the program at STAR EAST 2012 in Orlando, Florida. I acepted and presented my talk. Additionally, I won Best Paper for "Delivering Quality, One Weekend at a Time". For the record, that was a seriously cool experience!

Weekend Testing in the Americas had a more regular schedule at one session per month. As we held our sessions throughout the year, we noticed an interesting pattern. There is a group of regular attendees that often participate. We have a number of brand new testers that come on and try it out a few times, then disappear. We have a number of one-offs, those who try it and never come back. Because of this, I determined it would be a good idea to get some additional brains into the mix to help develop sessions, content ideas, and other areas of focus. Albert Gareev has continued to be a great help to me in this regard, and we welcomed JeanAnn Harrison and Dan Gold into the mix of regularly contributing facilitators. Seriously, thank you to all of you, it made this year's sessions more enjoyable, and it gave me peace of mind to know that, if I couldn't be there for a session, that it would happen and all would be well. Additionally, I appreciate the influx of fresh ideas and different approaches.

Early in 2012, I had a chance to answer an article written about the SummerQAmp program, and what it hoped to accomplish. That proved to be a fateful message, in that I started a collaboration with the organizers of SummerQAmp and, along with members of the Association for Software Testing and other interested test professionals, we started writing what we hope will become a complete and practical introduction to the world of software testing. We delivered several modules and ran a beta test of the materials with a number of interns, and the response was "This is great! Can we have more of this?!" The answer, I hope, will be "Yes", and make no mistake, that will be a primary focus for me and for the AST EdSig in the new year. If you'd like to participate, please drop me a line!

I was invited to participate in Test Coach Camp, which happened the weekend prior to CAST 2012. This was an open-space conference event, where a number of testers participated and presented a variety of topics. I had the chance to present three different sessions (mentoring interns, teaching leadership skills, and a systematic deconstruction of Weekend Testing and the question "if we rebuilt it, what would you like to see us do?"). CAST 2012 also was the first chance to present the idea that has been my focus for much of the year, looking for that elusive balance between Test Driven Development, GUI Automation and Exploratory Testing. This topic showed up in a number of formats this year, and each time I approached it, I learned something new. First, it was a paper submission for PNSQC, then an emerging topics talk at CAST, then a full presentation at Agilistry Studios, and finally as a poster paper presentation that I gave (dozens of times) at PNSQC.

2012 saw me branch out and start contributing articles to a number of different outlets. Thanks to  ST&QA, Testing Planet, Atlassian and Zephyr for allowing me the opportunity to write for a broader audience, and for their giving me a chance to open this blog up to more testers and people interested in my writing. This year I also set a record for traffic with a post that is now number 1 with a bullet on TESTHEAD. Which post? Learning to Tell Different Stories, where I compared the storytelling tradition in Japan to what us "westerners" are used to, and how the differences and nuances open us up to asking different questions once we see and understand that there are different ways of seing things beyond our own world view. I also enjoyed participating in ST&QA's "Ask  the Tester", where I had the chance to answer a number of questions from the broader testing community. Also, I was a presenter in the Agile Transitions Online Conference for Software Test Professionals, where I presented my talk on "Being a Lone Tester on an Agile Team".

TWiST had another year of great conversations, great participation, and crossing the 100 episode mark (as of this week, we're up to episode #127). I always think of the old television maxim that, for a show to live on forever, it needs to pass 100 episodes to be eligible for life in syndication. I'm not sure if that's applicable for a podcast, but it's great to see that there is an appreciative audience, and that we can bring these discussions and ideas to you each week. I also enjoyed the various panels I participated in, and the shows I could contribute my ideas and thoughts to various discussions. Finally, I would be remiss were I not to say thank you to Justin Rohrman and Mark Tomlinson, who stepped in this year to help me edit episodes and do some of the "grunt work" that goes into getting these shows ready to be packaged and released. Seriously, your help is greatly appreciated!

During 2012, I continued my active involvement with the Miagi-do School of Software Testing, where Matt and Markus decided that I had earned the right to be advanced to a Black Belt Level Instructor. It's both gratifying and humbling to be associated with so many great testers, and while I now have the title of Instructor, sometimes I wonder who the real teacher is. I feel like I learn more from those I interact with than they likely learn from me.

As I have taken on the role as Chair of the Education Special Interest Group within the Association for Software Testing, I made the decision to step out of an active teaching role for the time being. While I will still be teaching some classes, I wanted to focus this year on giving others the opportunity to step up and learn how to lead the BBST classes and encourage those who haven't had the chance to assist and get a chance to teach as well. My goal for 2012 was to broaden our instructor pool, and that will continue to be a primary goal for 2013.

Hanging up my Lone Tester status was definitely not something I could have foreseen earlier this year, but looking at the interactions with others in so many other mediums, perhaps I should have seen it as inevitable. I decided that through all of the interactions I have had with my fellow testers, and with some feelings of frustration with my role as a lone tester, that I would put out some feelers and see if there were some test teams that would be interested in having a "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" join them. I have to admit I was surprised that so many responded, and so quickly. Thus, with the chance to "practice what I preach" regarding interaction, engagement and peer involvement, I made the decision to make the move from Sidereel, where I was a Lone Gun, to Socialtext, where I now work with a small but focused team of four testers... and by the way, we're looking for another tester to join us after the new year, so if you're interested (and local ;) ), let me know.

So many people have made this an amazing year for me, and to mention everyone by name will likely mean I'll leave someone out, so if I do, please don't feel slighted (and hey, if you do, email me and I'll put you in... blogs are cool like that :) ). Cheers and much appreciation to Aaron Scott, Albert Gareev, Anne-Marie Charrett, Becky Fiedler, Ben Simo, Benjamin Yaroch, Bill Baker, Catherine Karena, Cem Kaner, Dan Gold, Dee Ann Pizzica, Doug Hoffman, Elisabeth Hendrickson, Francis Adanza, James Bach, Janette Rovansek, JeanAnn Harrison, Jeff "Toxic" Burchell, Jon Bach, Justin Rohrman, Keith Klain, Ken Pier, Kevin Haggard, Lee Copeland, Lynn McKee, Mark Tomlinson, Markus Gaertner, Marlena Compton, Matt Barcomb, Matt Heusser, Mimi Mendenhall, Nancy Kelln, Patti Swift, Pete Walen, Peter "Pantera" Arzhintar, Rich Szeto, Rick Baucom, Scott Barber, Shampa Bannerjee, Thomas Ponnet, Timothy Coulter, and Zach Larson. Thank you for challenging me, for making me question my ideas, my motives, and my goals. Thank you for helping me make it possible to make changes, take burdens off of my shoulders and help me so that initiatives I started are being shepherded and able to keep going. Thank you for what has honestly been, at least as far as software testing is concerned, my greatest year (and remember, I said the same thing last year, and the year before that).

Oh, and should the world not end on December 21, 2012, then let me suggest that we follow the wise advice of Abraham Lincoln, who said:

"Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!"

1 comment:

Phil Kirkham said...

It's been an awesome read following your adventures

and great motivation for me to see if can make 2013 really rock