Wednesday, October 14, 2020

PNSQC 2020 Live Blog: Test Engineers are the Connectors of Our Teams with Jenny Bramble


If you know Jenny, you know her enthusiasm and her energy. there's no way I'm going to capture that here, but I will do my best to capture her message at leat. 

Testers are in a unique location to bring the squad together, so to speak. In my musician days back thirty years ago, one of my bandmates said that I was the "psychic glue" that held us together. In many ways, I feel testers can be that "psychic glue" for an organization. However, to be psychic glue, it has a specific requirement and that is that we must be engaged. If we are not engaged with our team and with the other people in our organizations, we lose effectiveness.

Testers can be at the heart of communication but again, we need to make sure we are communicating to be actively involved. We talk about requirements, discuss bugs, present new features, and give the user’s perspective. No one else really has that level of reach, so let's make sure we are aware of that place we hold, and LET'S USE IT!!!

Teams are built on communication and teams fall apart without it. Sometimes I have found myself in situations where I have had to push into conversations. The fact is, we are welcome but we are not always invited. I think at times that's because we are often the bearer of bad news, or to borrow an old quote, no one likes the person who calls their baby ugly ;). that means that the ability to openly and honestly communicate belongs to us and it means we need to be careful but also deliberate in our interactions.
I have had experiences with being a musician, with being a competitive snowboarder, with being a scout leader, with being a husband, and with being a parent. That is on top of being a software tester. those are all contexts that require communicating in a little different. the way I communicate musical ideas is not going to work the same way as I communicate to scouts. Likewise, the other way around. It's not that the method of communication is all that different but it's the familiarity with concepts and approaches. Sometimes, I can just say a phrase, and my bandmates will know immediately what I mean. The reason for that is that we have interacted a great deal so we have stubbed our mutual toes a whole bunch. we've had lots of false starts. Because of that, we have a high tolerance for each other's eccentricities and that helps us communicate quickly. However, I know for a fact I could not communicate that way to the scouts I lead, or with the developers on my team. Familiarity breeds contempt, sure, but there's a benefit to that so-called contempt. I rarely get to that point with my scouts or my developers. thus I need to be a little more reserved in those capacities. On the other hand, I find that I can be more focused and granular with scouts and developers the way that my bandmates would pick me up and throw me out the door. again, style is important but communication is essential.

Jenny is highlighting that some people want a lot of details, while others want a high-level summary. A neat example she shared about how to work with a summary person is to have them review emails you plan to send. Sounds odd and awkward but at the same time, I get how that would work to get their attention and to give you hints as to how they prefer to communicate. Jenny also explains that she is a story based communicator (I love this revelation because it reminds me so much of me). The way she is describing this reminds me a little bit of "it's a baby penguin, caught on an iceberg"... and if you are not on TikTok, that may not make a lot of sense but yeah ;). the point is, invest in people and they will invest in you.

Regardless of how good we try to communicate, we often miss the mark ("What's a penguin? What's an iceberg?!"). It's not because we are dumb or indifferent, it's because we may jost not have hit on their preferred way to communicate. Some people don't like speaking but do great with texts. Some people struggle with email but do great on the phone. You just have to keep trying and find the communication mechanism that works. In short, if you intend to be a good dose of psychic glue, be prepared to communicate and be prepared to put in the time to learn other communication styles. By doing that, you can be that indispensable member of the team that no one could see functioning without you.

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