Testing Testing 123 Stories

I wrote about goals at the beginning of the year. One of mine this year was to write more. When a fellow tester tweeted about wanting to collate, collaborate and create a book of testing stories I jumped at the chance.

I had until the end of March but I started that weekend. For the first time ever when writing anything, I set out headers and themes for the sections for what I wanted to write. I made some progress and then entirely forgot about it until it was March.

The same week I was made redundant I also got a reminder that my story needed to be in by the 31st of March. Both these deadlines were exceptionally motivating.

In between scattergun applying for any testing job with merit, I also ploughed on with turning my slightly non-existent story into a cautionary API tale of adventure and mischief.

My rather bare-bones WriterP file got moved into a OneNote first. Then, everything was being compiled into GitHub for this project. I hastily knocked up the second .md file of my life and googled various kinds of styling to dress up my story (.md files take unicode emojis, such joy)

Next, I made my first ever pull request to GitHub on to a shared branch and totally merged way before I meant to. So far so failing forward, huh?

I saw other testers had also merged in branches with stories needing reviews and I was all over it like a rash. I realised I was actually getting advanced previews of other testing stories and quickly got addicted to code reviewing their files and applying comments.

Here I need to apologise for anyone who suffered one of my code reviews. I live in an en-GB world where American spellings of British words make me actively twitch. I spent a lot of time over the years checking content that was prone to having Americanisms even though business language at the time was en-GB and have a literal NOPE policy on them. I have a similar furious reaction to Oxford commas. Seem to be specific age group which was taught and & commas don’t live together.

“Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?”

I do, Vampire Weekend! I do. Anyone I raised these very specific bugbears to was a total sport, actually listened to me and inspired me. I had power but learnt to be less verbally insular. I have no idea why some developers don’t like doing code reviews. Totally loved it but I am a sucker for process. It was also influenced by the context of the kick-ass book I was lucky enough to be involved in.

This was an awesome extra to an already incredible project. Other testers testing other testing stories. Raising bugs, making suggestions, raging about Oxford commas (only me, I know) and most of all encouraging each other. We had a fantastic Slack group where everyone was super responsive, supportive and happy to help.

Wading through having been a solo tester for 6 months and trying to find direction for my career in the din and the dark, Testing Stories was a beautiful beacon of amazing just at the time I needed it. I am thankful to every tester who is a part of it and we’ve really made something special.

When my own story for reviewed I was so happy to have great feedback and each comment helped me shape it into a shippable work that I’m proud of. I have since had such lovely comments from testers who have read my story.

I’ve yammered on for an age and I haven’t even given you a link to this fabled tome of testing triumph, intrigue, adversity, heroes and villains. Great battles with Poll Tax, Pyramids, Agile, Automation, APIs and Ourselves. These sagas built to inspire, caution, instruct and marvel all. It is a pay-what-you-want system (with a minimum currently) and the proceeds are raising money for this perfectly themed charity.

Thanks for reading both this and hopefully Testing Stories ❤

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting #TestingStories

The Kintsugi Tester

I had been looking for a new job now for just over two weeks and it is very different to the last time I looked. Previously, I had a role I enjoyed but not at a company I chose to work for. I had as much time as I needed to find something more suited.

This time, with my redundancy, I had a sword of Damocles (or unemployment as is it traditionally know) floating over my head swinging wildly like a pendulum of doubt. That was extremely hard to ignore but I tried to keep my focus on looking for what I want from a role and not just a job.

The testing community really had my back and I got floods of advice, applications to fill in and info on tonnes of roles. They gave me strength, reams of motivation and as always had perfect empathy for my situation. (Thanks guys)

The problem was my career is at a branching point. Testing itself has so many avenues to explore, ways to evolve and tools to tinker with. I had spent time doing automation and working on the more technical parts of my testing ability so I had more roles I could in theory apply for, so I did.

The format of interviewing changed as well. It was Zoom/Google/Teams 6 months ago, but there is more structure now and it feels more polished. Even though every one had the same sort of process, the conversation were completely different. You’d spend time inhaling the company website only to be told it all anyway. Other times the website wasn’t enough you’ll need to know much more. I just ended up extra confused, conflicted and who I was felt diluted like badly made Ribena.

I tried to find myself in the noise. Not only from constant interview prep and responding to recruiters, technical tasks and considering questions to ask potential new employers. I didn’t want to say no to anything in case it was what I was looking for. You think this amount of attention would have imbued me with confidence. Ha! Never underestimate impostor syndrome’s ability to swoop in, steal your lunch and make it complicated.

I was horrifically honest throughout with everyone I spoke to. I’ve had some really great, motivating conversations with recruiters / HR people/ Team Leads and some less so. In house technical recruiters are an amazing idea; the ones I’ve dealt with have been lovely, lovely people and are definitely my new heroes.

The people pleaser / appeasement parts of my personality were on overdrive and I agreed to conversations I didn’t want to be in and applied for companies that weren’t for me. At the beginning of week 2 I felt wrecked, exhausted and stressed beyond belief. Then I got an offer but didn’t even react to it – I was so entrenched in preparing for the next interviews. I wanted to just take it, step off the merry-go-round without thinking but I knew deep down that would be a mistake.

Something shattered in me and I got to the point where I’ve had to ask for more time, to chase people and for people to get back to me by this or that time. I made time to find my voice: reassemble and carve out courage. Amongst the chaos I reached a beautiful point of clarity and calm.

Underneath it all I felt a stronger, more confident creature emerging from the rubble. I did not expect any of what has happened over the last couple of weeks but, retrospectively, it has been a valuable, empowering and enriching experience.

I got 3 offers in total. All distinctive roles with great, unique opportunities and scope for me to be very different kinds of tester. It was an extremely hard decision, as I felt connected to these teams and people I had met and I didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch.

In the end I went with my gut. I joked about dice and I had an extremely elaborate spreadsheet but I chose the one I had the biggest and strongest emotional reaction to. The one that will really challenge me both short and long term. It puts me on the biggest learning curve and I am so ready for that.

Thanks for reading!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Cor Meum Ex Machina

I struggle with assertive. Not with it being a thing, to be assertive you need to be neutral. It isn’t possible for me to say something without emotion behind it most of the time. This often leads to me saying what I want to say too forcefully, defensively or too nervously.

Over the years I’ve tried to regulate the level of emotion I speak with depending on whom I’m talking to. With members of development or tech I use it less. With consultants/non IT people I have to show more emotion. Every interaction however needs consideration, thought, tact and when I aim to be unfiltered and genuine, this can be exhausting. I found also I end up using less emotion even when talking to myself and they then have a habit of sneaking up and overwhelming me.

As detail focussed humans we notice everything and are often the ones to say something about changes or ask the questions others don’t. That doesn’t mean others haven’t picked up on these details too they just don’t feel the need or feel comfortable enough to say anything most of the time. It seems to be a strength that is often forgotten about, the courage to say or to ask something.

In these times of zoom/teams/hangouts/meetups it is harder to empathise when you are faced with not only a wall of glass between you and your colleagues/friends/family but that wall is also reflecting you back at yourself. The black mirror hasn’t anything helpful to say and is mostly just a distraction stopping you connecting.

As a Tester/QA emotions are an important tool and caring about quality is vital. Empathy is an ability we require to consider all the ways something could be used and to help us examine where it could be broken. We place ourselves in the position of anyone who has touched and will use the product even from before it exists. We try and mimic patterns of behaviour or problem solve where things may not have been contemplated, bombard areas of weakness and exploit previous experience.

I mean most of this tells me I should stop shying away from how I’m feeling about things and shape it into something I can use. Stop testing my heart out and try again once more with feeling.

@Meowy24

…She’s delicate and seems like the mirror but she just makes it all too concise and too clear, that Johanna’s not here The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face…

Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna

Goals: What are your posts made of?

January is always hard work. The list of potential goals to have and resolutions to follow is endless. The new year expects a lot of us and sets us up to fail with its lofty expectations.

I’ve carried around several goals for years; dragging them year to year never really making much headway. Even if I ever did I would just move the goal posts.

I did this recently. I had finally solved a problem in some automation code I’ve been writing. A problem I had been trying to solve on and off for months. It was very much boom fixed and after the briefest celebration I just moved on to the next part which was even more complex. It felt good to finally make progress, but the overall goal was still incomplete and the full sense of achievement wasn’t in focus.

I should really question my long term, lingering goals and their influences. What are the reasons for these goals genuinely? What are they made out of and what is at their core?

It made me think of this picture (which I know is probably fake or whatever)

The more insidious goals feel like this sometimes. Goals that when if you think about it, you aren’t entirely sure why you are doing them and if you will even finally complete them, but they live on regardless. This year is inordinately difficult and even that doesn’t seem to keep them at bay. The posts move, adapt and evolve over the years potentially into something realistic, likely or even liveable.

Achieving these goals or any goal requires that you are motivated by them or at least the concept of the reward they bring. If your goal is too big or out of reach it can dampen your spirits. These type of goals need breaking down to appear more manageable and their final bounty needs to be in view.

This year I wanted to take some of my goals and split them out into smaller more attainable chunks. We do this all the time at work. We take a story/PBI/Item/BUG and if it is too big we break it down into smaller parts. I’ve started an automation board (Trello have a great template for this), a project board which will store my L&D tasks that aren’t automation related and I have a OneNote which have my overall goal with individual stages. I’m applying a Kanban rule to it as well where I can only have 3 parts of my goal in progress at anyone time to stop me getting overwhelmed.

I have only been doing this for a week or so now, but I feel like I am advancing. It has really increased my overall positivity which I didn’t expect. Something else that has helped me realise I am actually accomplishing things is Top3 emails. The company I now work for do this weekly; we all email a mail group 3 triumphs from the past week. It makes me consider my progress a bunch more and look on my progress during the week and in general more favourably.

With having a new job my impostor syndrome is rife, but these processes have helped massively particularly at right now and breaking goals down makes them feel less daunting. In the long run I think it will be beneficial to my wellbeing and ultimately keep me engaged with what I want to implement.

I encourage thinking about your goals, long term not short term and work out why you want to see them through then whack them into a shape that seems easy to stomach and feel good about.

Thanks for reading!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Groundbreaking

This word stuck in my head while reading Sandi Toksvig’s Almanac mostly because she used it often and rightly so as the book was about women who had achieved the first of something. Some centuries ago and others more recently and as much as I enjoyed reading and learning about these pioneers I haven’t retained any of their names.

If pressed I could probably name a handful of men and women who were the first to achieve something; find a cure, swim the channel, invent electricity. No one is remembered anywhere near as well as they should be or in the case of many who appeared in the book they were actively forgotten as they were women and not worth writing about at the time of their achievements.

After all this effort made I haven’t maintained any of the details, but I am left with the word groundbreaking and its imagery but also a palatable dread of the ground left to break.

“You’re pounding on a fault line”

The Perfect Circle

I guess this is true of how we deal with others achievements in this din. We are constantly connected to platforms that encourage us to boast, beguile and belittle.

I don’t reread as a rule as there is only a finite about of books that can be read in a lifetime but I feel compelled to reread this until I retain more of it. It could be the constant achievement on every page all individually important that causes a cascade diminishment.

What does this have to do with testing?

I guess our job is sometimes to pick apart achievement, lay it out into its components and confirm achievement has been realised. We critique, poke and prod achievement. Sometimes we get tools to do this for us that are built to understand what achievement looks like. Who died and made us John Wayne?(Totally paraphrasing from Buffy there)

This makes me think of Judge Dredd. Very black and white sense of right and wrong in a dystopian hellscape. One of my favourite villains from this universe is the Dark Judges from a reality alternate to Dredd’s where they have deemed life is a crime as the only people causing crime are the living. Certainly this achieves a very low crime rate but their conclusion could be labelled as extreme.

“The crime isss life. The sssentenssse isss death !”

Judge Death- 2000AD

Are we as testers diminishing achievement or evolving it? If our job is mostly analysing others achievements how do we break our own ground? Do we even allow time to stop and celebrate what we have managed? It is difficult to be visible at the best of times.

This hasn’t been the year to maintain positivity nor one for achieving much outside of surviving but even that had massive odds this year. We are almost at the end of 2020 and New Year begins the need to set goals, resolutions and the urge to muster up strength to try and be better. I understand the need to draw a line under this year and start anew but allow yourself to examine the accomplishment of surviving even if you don’t feel you really have, shake it up like a snow globe, let it settle and enjoy the lights. (but don’t follow them)

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting

Unboxing: Be More Grey

This often feels like an affirmation at something like an AA meeting, but I am a manual tester. I always immediately caveat this with ‘…but I’ll have a look’.

It is odd that I feel like I need to leap to my own defence so earnestly but I think ‘Manual Tester’ has a stigma attached to it even by other testers. A stigma that I myself subconsciously hold (thanks, impostor syndrome)

Much like the term ‘Code Monkey’ for developers (great song by Jonathan Coulton, the portal song guy FYI), it seems to suggest a lack of thought, comprehension or ability to handle anything overly technical. You just ‘do the testing’.

“Once you label me, you negate me”

Søren Kierkegaard

My testing has always been pretty grey. I’ve had local builds and DBs, I’ll trawl through repos, read through pull requests and will happily poke an API or 12. I cannot code though. While I can read code pretty well, learning to code has alluded me so far. I start off OK but eventually it always starts to feel very much “draw the rest of the fucking owl”.

How To Draw an Owl | Know Your Meme

This wall I hit with regard to learning to code also stops me from being an automation tester, from getting fully in the box or I guess, which is more frequently becoming a term, being a ‘Full Stack Tester’

“Potential has a shelf life”

Margaret Atwood

I imagine there are testers who refuse to code/automate and probably ones that cannot abide by manual testing. I will continue to want to have a look regardless of my total knowledge.

So much focus on how we do the testing and with what tools and defining the boundaries of the testing strategy. In practice, it is always more about the why, what, who/when for and that stuff is rarely as black and white as it seems.

All this grey matters and thinking outside the box/boxes allows curiosity, empathy and problem-solving to happen. It is in flux as well especially within an agile format and as what we are testing evolves.

Amongst the wiggle room and ambiguity is an opportunity to flourish, explore and adapt. Whatever kind of tester you get labelled as, try and be more grey or wander between the shades and avoid the boxes completely.

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting #iamatester

Wheel Of Fortune

Friday was my last day at Cubiks after just over 7 years. I went into the office for one last time which was extremely weird but I got to see my team for the first time since March and Veni, Vidi, Papi.

As part of leaving I received the “Fabled Cubiks Disc”, a bespoke version of one of Cubiks’ most popular product’s report.

I have coveted this for years and years. They are only created for people who have worked at Cubiks for over 5 years and often just people who worked in IT/IPT. They have been a source of great fun over the years and always were part of a decent send off to whomever was leaving. The IT ones are always traditionally more playful and sarcastic as our wheels in reality were always a tad spikier than consultants ones.

My wheel is a lovely summary of my time at Cubiks, shows the impacts I made (beknown and unbeknown to me) and freezeframe snapshots of sagas from over the years. Plus, it is especially spooky which I think I love the most.

The product output itself was always used as a conversation piece and now I have mine which will be proudly displayed alongside my husbands to remind us of good times at the mad place we used to work.

His and Her PAPI Wheels

Thank you for the Cubiks. Slaters Cuboids, we’ll always have Stockholm.

Stay in touch yeah ❤

@Meowy24

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

This is long and ranty, strap in cool kids.

5 years ago I didn’t know my job was a job. I have been working now for 14 years and only just over 4.5 of them as a tester.

I’m been having an existential career crisis but for the first time not because I could be more useful in a different part of the business but trying to figure out what kind of tester I want to be.

It is lovely to find a calling and to feel it in your bones “I am a tester” I am lawful evil, an official product botherer but I’ve always been concerned with the clarity of what others think that means.

When I worked for the local paper people always assumed “oh you write the paper” to the point where an ex school friend now local tory all of a sudden started talking to me again then promptly realised his mistake.

In a more technical role these assumptions have only got worse.

“…everyone knows, when you make an assumption, you make an ass out of “u” and “umption”.

IT is the magic team where requests go in and stuff comes out and also they change your passwords and fix your laptops. This is only exasperated by the fact I did use to fix laptops and change passwords and I’d happily have a bash at the former and miss the sys admin powers of the latter.

This lack of understanding I have tried to tackle over the years. Perhaps too covertly. Any training I’ve presented I had slides on how testing is extremely important. Our last company conference I stole TestBash’s unexpo idea (which was quickly ruined by marketing) to have a “Q&A with QA” which I missed completely due to hangover hell. I have also tried just shouting which is mostly effective as the person trying to get you to do something non testing stops doing that. I even shouted at a company partner.

Testing roles do tend to get other roles crowbarred into them. Some of us are doing DevOps, Product Management, Product Support, ISM or niche random admin for creating bespoke client assessments. The latter lead many other the years to assume “dealing with spreadsheets” was my job and for some days it was my job.

That is totally fine if your company is small but a lot of the time it is because no one else wants to and you’ve been lumped with it.

Within testing itself there are about 4 billion different titles and ways to say someone is a tester. I know there is alot of people who don’t like being called testers. I like to say I poke things. I try not to say I break things (it was already broken). I just want to solve the puzzle and for quality responsibility to be owned by everyone.

I’m aware these are traps I’ve put myself in and for years I was fine with them as I was being useful at least. Being a tester you tend to be a product specialist. That plus having been on the support team, people would just come to me for stuff and it was just quicker to help.

I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.

It has caused new people to seek me out and ask me questions that aren’t for me and I’ve frankly got bored of the assumption that that is my job.

This seeking was a catalyst for me to evolve my own understanding of what I need from a role. Before I was drawn exclusively to being helpful and useful as that is safer and I cocooned happily in that for years.

I don’t want to stop being helpful but I need to be better with my boundaries. First and foremost I am a doughnut! No wait I AM A TESTER!!

@meowy24

#alwaysbetesting #iamatester

Elder God Debugging

This is my first blog for a very long while and my first testing blog so please be gentle with me.

Inspired by an exchange on twitter with the fab @ThePirateTester and the wonderful @witchofthetest (epic band name there guys) the other week I’ve eventually got round to attempt to writing about this.

Rubber duck debugging is a known thing. You talk through your code/test plan/process with a friendly little yellow inanimate object who listens intently to your solution and in explaining it the concept of someone else understanding it will make your thing better or at least more well thought out.

“One is never alone with a rubber duck”

What if your rubber duck was in fact the mythos mischief and eldritch god of longest coma ever, Cthulhu? Would this encourage less of a happy path process and inspire you consider more carnage, code in more chaos or play devil’s advocate with an existing, tired process?

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die”

-Would his eons old, unimpressed face steer you towards the less travelled path?

-Could consulting Hastur make you think about your yellow build or console warnings more?

-Does Yog-Sothoth’s concept of time give you a changed view on datetime bugs or waits in your automation code?

-Would “The Colour Out Of Space” make you contemplate the contrast and accessibility of the Hex codes you had choosen more carefully? #needsmorepink

I don’t debug very often by myself and if I am debugging I’m usually the rubber duck or it at least feels that way sometimes. I make attempts to be an elder god (don’t we all) but as I can only read the code that is in front of me I feel cornered by my lack of skills.

As testers we have a strange sort of courage that overides our feeling of not knowing enough / our shyness / our want to avoid conflict with a countermand to go “hey, this doesn’t look right” . We often complement this with screenshots or little GIFS as words can be easily taken to heart or misunderstood.

At times like these it would be better to be more Cthulhu. I don’t mean have a nap (though he does love a nap) be the mischief, weave well crafted doubts and forge talismans to breed better reflection.

“To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth

Even if this means you take more naps I hope you’ll choose Cthulhu or one of his mythos buddies as a companion in the future or at least add a tentacle beard to your rubber duck.

Thanks for reading my half baked ramblings!

@Meowy24

#Alwaysbetesting #bemorecthulhu

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