Monday, October 14, 2019

Timeless Skills for Modern Testers - a #PNSQC2019 Live Blog

This is going to be fun! I've shared a podcast or a few with Gerie Owen. She's been a frequent guest and panelist on "The Testing Show" over the past few years and I realized today that this was the first time I'd actually met Gerie in person :).

Gerie's talking about developing and enhancing a new set of skills for "Modern Testers", the skills that are timeless and would/should carry us through our entire careers. Selenium is a transient skill. It can be important but it's likely to be superseded by something else. Communication, however, is a skill that transcends tools and will ultimately reward people who emphasize and put the time and attention into mastering that skill.

The irony with this talk as I'm liveblogging it is that we are talking about devices, and the fact that to really understand what is going on, we should put down the devices and actually listen.  Ummm, I plead the fifth ;).

Seriously, though, there is an ever-present reality that we don't really listen to "listen", we listen to reply. I'm guilty of that, I confess. It takes a real commitment to step back and say "I'm going to really listen here. In fact, I'm going to completely de-emphasize my "need to reply". Often I find that that can be surprisingly effective. Frustrating, yes, but effective.

Collaboration is an often-used word and we like to believe that we are working towards collaborating with others on our teams. Again, it's important to understand hat the purpose of collaborating actually is. Why are we doing it? What do we hope to gain from it? Yes, we can be working on a common goal, or we can be trying to accomplish a particular task. Sometimes one of the best ways to collaborate is to steer a little clear of the people who always talk or dominate the conversations. I have found value in starting with the quietest person in the room. Not to the point of having that person dread the idea (I will change up who I ask questions or who I encourage to talk first) but I strive to hold off on the main drivers going first out the gate.

It's not always possible to have complete and open communication all the time but we should all be aware of the silos that can develop. I've had the experience of both being the person with the knowledge, or trying to work with another person with the important knowledge and having to deal with the issues of efficiency vs. effectiveness. I've struggled with this much of my career where I've just said "oh heck with this, I know what to do, I'll just do it myself." Is that efficient? It certainly can be. Is it effective? Maybe not. What makes me think that my knowledge and skill are the best ideas for that moment? The fact is I don't know and I won't know if I always do what I've always done.

Creativity is a dark art. It's an aspiration and so often it's something we feel we are lacking in. The fact is, we are not creative, we create. Let that sink in for a second. Creativity isn't an ephemeral state, it's a verb, an action. We do stuff and we get better at doing stuff if we keep doing it. This is a tangent, but I hope it will make sense. My kids and I are actively involved in re-enactment of different eras. To that end, I work on clothes and garb for many periods. On the surface, you might think that would mean I'm an amazing bespoke tailor. Well, no, not really, but through practice and effort I can do some decent stuff, or at least make items that will pass the "five-foot test". It may fail at super close scrutiny but for the primary purposes, it works well enough. Also, over time, as I get better and more practiced, I get to a point where my work can be looked at more closely and feel good about the efforts I've put in.

One thing we need to be careful of is the biases that can filter into our efforts and activities. As testers, we are often taught to identify biases and fallacies. However, it's one thing to identify fallacies in others. It's another to identify them in ourselves and then counteract them.

Most of the things that Gerie has talked about are all within the realm of each of us to accomplish but they will require effort and practice for us to get good at them. None of us will become experts overnight. It will take time and experience to get good at these things :).

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