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

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