Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Benefit of "Intern Fresh" Eyes

It's interesting when a story or set of stories comes together as a big mass, and just by their very nature, they are manually intensive. Just by the virtue of their design, they defy automation, they defy fast checking, they require the physical patience and calmness needed to work through them, one at a time, for a long as it takes. I'm living that dream right now (for some definition of dream ;) ).

Seriously, we have a lot of stories that just fit a similar theme, and to help get through them, I've been assigned my very own intern for the next several days. Nice! He's a good guy, and I'm happy to get some extra help for a bit. Today, we set things up and we worked as a pair for much of the morning. As I explained the rules of the road for the testing we need to do (this is accessibility stuff, so it depends a lot on hearing speech from screen readers and talking into microphones for dictation), it was interesting to see how he interacted with the product, what steps he took, what frustrated him, etc.

What I love about "fresh eyes" is the fact that, often, they do not have any paradigm to hang things off of. In testing, they don't know the rules of the road at all, and that's great. It lets me see how someone would approach a problem without even realizing the problems that are already there. As I am going through and trying to determine what aspects of testing to teach for SummerQAmp, these opportunities are great, because I can often see very different approaches being taken, some very much out of the realm of what I would do because I'm both experienced and, let's face it, a little jaded.

As we were working through some of the challenges, I found it interesting to see why he would go in certain directions, what interested him. What he would do to try to make things work if at first they didn't (which, with a tool like Dragon, is really easy to do).

A few years ago I wrote a post about Pairing with An Expert to help open your eyes to those areas you might not be aware of. Just as powerful is the opportunity to pair with a domain neophyte, since their "ignorance" is a valuable tool... they don't know the rules, so they can much more easily break them, and teach us something new along the way.

1 comment:

Jeff Lucas said...

But the real question is: How do you get them to retain that curiosity and spark? I want to thank you for your work with SummerQAmp. I think that initial training as a tester has an enormous impact on their professional attitude for years to come.

I had a similar experience recently when my (now former) company hired a new IT person. During the interview, they stipulated that he had to support the software product in addition to network management responsibilities. As a result, I was given the responsibility of training him on the software for 2 hours a day.

The approach I used was to introduce him to session-based testing that consisted of 30-minute pre-discussion, a 1-hour independent "exploration", and a 30-minute post-discussion (the times changed over the course of days).

Using that approach, I was able to teach him not so much what to learn but *how* to learn using a chartered approach. But also I tried to instill a positive attitude toward the product specifically and testing in general.