By Jean Ann Harrison
Motivation is critical to maintaining quality work. How do you motivate yourself or your team of testers? What inspires you? Do you have a team that seemingly does not care about testing? Are you the lone tester on a team of disinterested, perhaps negative testers? Industry events and conferences may be the answer.
I recently attended CAST 2014, a software testing conference in which I interviewed presenters and attendees about their experience. One quote resonated strongly with my own experience. The quote came from Alex Bantz, director of quality engineering, ExactTarget, “seeing others passionate about their craft, and those willing to help others as well as those thirsting for knowledge motivate me.”
Matt Heusser of Excelon Development, a recent keynote speaker at CAST 2014 shared, “around 2003 I started going to conferences; my professional life changed. It was as if I had discovered outdoors for the first time, a real breath of fresh air, a recharge, a retreat, a chance to start anew.”
Before I started attending and speaking at industry conferences, I was on a team of testers not interested in learning. When I wanted to go out and further my education and knowledge, I felt alone. However, once I started attending industry events, I recognized that I was not alone in my passion to build on my knowledge.
I feel lucky to have found this community of active, intelligent, and motivated testers. As Simon Peter Schrijver, an independent testing consultant at TesT-PRO in the Netherlands, points out, attending a conference is an investment—an investment to learn and to grow as a testing professional.
Another peer, Phil McNeely, QA manager, Homeaway.com, says that conferences show us that we are not alone, and remind us that individually we can be a powerful voice.
Andrew McDonagh, a director of product quality, likens it to “a great incubator for new ideas, connections, friendships, and opportunities.”
Becoming an active part of the software testing community and speaking at conferences is the one reason why I write, mentor, and participate in online discussions and free training sessions. I do this on my own. I am not paid for these activities. I learn. I get inspired. I improve on myself and the reward is the satisfaction that I am doing a better job than I did yesterday.
If you think about it, I have a hand in improving software around the world by simply sharing and inspiring others with my experiences.
New ideas, connections, friendships, and opportunities are all a recurring theme at industry events. It is a vital link to the testing community as a whole—meeting like-minded people, having discussions in the wee hours of the morning, often with an adult beverage. These conversations happen after a full day of training sessions and workshops.
They solidify relationships and present opportunities to inspire, commiserate, and share. I paraphrase Claire Moss, QA lead, Huge, when I say, “these relationships have a long lasting effect in other areas of my life.”
We all need new scenery to see something in a different perspective. Wade Wachs, QA manager, Infosys Technologies Ltd., says, “it’s important for me to step away from the routine in which I get stuck.”
For example, Ambrish Gandhi, test lead, Liquid Web, out of India, came out with a new perspective from attending CAST 2014, “I learned that you can unlock the true power of testing if you practice it like an art. It’s not just following test case.”
Gandhi found that the science of a systematic routine and the rules of test design limited his coverage. Trying something new with his test team—something he learned at the conference—expanded his team’s results. It also has a hand in helping his development team increase the quality of its products.
Events Drive Motivation
Each conference offers something that can be directly applied to becoming a stronger tester. John Stevenson, a principal test engineer out of the U.K., says, “I learn, I confer, I learn some more and this motivates me to become a better tester.”
Josh Meier, principal tester, Salesforce.com, concurs, “conferences let us learn from each other and stay on top of new trends.”
Becoming stronger testers and gaining new perspectives has a direct impact on their companies’ bottom lines.
New trends, insights, and perspectives can inspire new ideas. It is important to remember that what works for one test team may not work for the next.
I’ve attended a few conferences this year and met many new testers. As a veteran of many industry events, I already know many testers from all over the world. These peers are engaging, passionate, and smart.
“Exploring and discussing the ideas of others as well as my own face-to-face inspires and creates a space where magic is likely to happen,” says Helena Jeret-Mäe, a senior software testing specialist, Nortal.
Magic… yes indeed. There is that sense of magic when inspiration strikes or when the light bulb goes off over the head. It’s even more fascinating when you see the magic as a speaker.
Bernie Berger, a strategic software tester, uses the term “magic” in another way. “When you get 250 of the world’s best and brightest testers in a room, of course magic will happen.”
If we give an extra effort to invest in being there, passion goes a long way to creating magic. The creative thinker appears. Test design becomes more efficient with larger test coverage scope. Less time is used to gain stronger coverage—what product manager wouldn’t want to invest in the formula?
In my own experience, I’ve learned many impactful tidbits, such as how automation can be performed outside of regression testing.
Richard Bradshaw, automation tester, Equal Experts, of the U.K., described different opportunities to utilize automation, which inspired me to come up with other ways. I knew you could use automation in different ways, but Bradshaw gave me more of a specific roadmap, which helped me out.
Testers from different parts of the world impress me when they invest in traveling to North America to attend industry events. They are so thirsty for knowledge. Their passion and motivation re-energizes me.
Testers have the opportunity to engage with one another when attending conferences. However, some—especially new testers—make a common mistake, they are afraid to deviate from the “official” schedule. However, often the social portions of conferences—such as hall conversations, evening gatherings, and meals—lead to the most interesting opportunities to learn from others and share experiences.
Shy individuals need to feel confident enough to discuss their work. This comes easier when they hear other testers doing the same thing or going through similar challenges. Testers are a curious lot and want to resolve challenges.
Collaboration among testers occurs all day and night. Don’t expect to sleep much, as we’re playing testing games, holding competitions, bug hunts, and other social activities that encourage testers to work in teams, learning how to collaborate in situations in which they are not familiar.
Skills are learned by osmosis and some may not even recognize they are learning. They are simply having fun, hanging around with people with similar interests.
As a result, some skills start to grow or sharpen, such as active initiative, keen observation, heightened awareness, sharp listening, cooperative collaboration, conceptualization of abstracts into solid heuristics, creative thinking, leadership, and ability to apply experience to different subject matters.
Testers who continue to hone their skills make excellent and efficient test designers. Skill development and new perspectives are gained under the guise of social activities with like-minded people. No classroom or book will give you this level of skill improvement. Managers cannot cover this type of training, but testers can come home from this kind of experience and share with their own team, usually seeking to help train their own team.
A Career Investment
Anna Royzman, director, functional testing group, Liquidnet, offered her take about attending and planning CAST 2014, “what metrics can measure the amount of intellectual power? This is really something for managers and companies to consider when investing in their testers’ careers.
Attending conferences is an investment in us and with each other. Kate Falanga, director of QA, Huge, says our investment results in our commitment to learn, teach, and to learn how to teach. Her colleague, Adam Rosenberg, senior QA analyst, Huge, reminds us that we are part of a community of passionate professionals that are actively working to improve our craft.
The question remains, have you attended a conference yet? Maybe it is time you did and experience the results for you and your team.
Coming up this Fall, consider the Software Test Professionals Conference, taking place from November 3 to 6, 2014 in Denver, CO. Visit softwaretestpro.com for more details. SW
Jean Ann Harrison has been in the Software Testing field for over 14 years including eight years working with testing mobile software on various devices including medical devices, city police ticket generators, phones, tablets, and various other proprietary devices.
Oct2014, Software Magazine