Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - A Year in Review

by Teri Charles

One of my favorite things to do is taking stock, looking at what I've done, what do I want to do next, and how can I keep growing, learning, and improving. This is something I have always done in life in general as a person, but it holds a special place for me as a Tester. And this time of year is a perfect time to reflect on my past year as a Tester.

James Bach and RST
One of the biggest highlights this year for me to was to attend Rapid Software Testing (RST) with James Bach in Orcas Island, Washington. Getting to spend a week with James is one of the highlights of my career.  And I admit it, I geeked out and had to pinch myself a few times that I was in the same room with James Bach. Learning from James about RST was great, but more important to me was getting to connect with him, having meals together, and having one-on-one conversations with him. I made a decision before I even arrived on the island to put myself out there, take chances, and experience every single thing that I could. And I did. And it changed me. I left wanting to be a better Tester, a better contributor to the testing community, a better learner, and a better leader. And I am blessed to say that one of the things James said to me in private was that he wanted me to teach. He saw something in me and I'm glad he voiced it. That had a profound effect on me and I've taken it to heart.

Giving back
One of my goals this year was to start a local Meetup group for Testers in Boulder, Colorado. Lucky for me, right before I was about to start the Meetup, some other folks started one! But within a few weeks, I became one of the co-organizers of the group. Community is something that is near and dear to my heart. My passion is helping others to learn, grow, and have the support they need. This Meetup has also given me the chance to take James's words to heart. I've had the opportunity present and teach and it's something I want to do more of.

Challenging myself
This was a year that I decided to challenge myself in getting more technical to help me to be an even better Tester. I started that journey by not only taking courses from sites like Udemy and Codeacademy, but I was lucky enough to join a new group in Boulder called GDIBoulder. It's an amazing group of women who want to help other women (and men) to learn how to code. How fortunate I've been to get involved with this group, and I've got some great new friendships as well! I've taken every class they've offered which includes, HTML, CSS, Javascript, a Git workshop, along with code and coffee sessions. I'm looking forward to next year's classes! Python, here I come!

One of my other passions is writing. I never seem to do as much as I would like, but it definitely is one of my goals to do more of it in 2014. But I am proud of the posts I've written in my blog, and very excited that I had my first article published (Tea-time with Testers). I hope to do more of that this year!

I ended 2013 getting promoted to Software Test Lead for the company I work for. I enjoy mentoring and leading. I had been doing the job unofficially, and it was nice to be recognized and I appreciate my company having faith in me to lead the team. But now I want to help my team even more and do all I can to help them grow and succeed. That's the fun stuff!

I started this year knowing I wanted to continue my growth as a Tester. This journey is not just what I've listed above, but it's also doing things like contributing to our worldwide testing community through Twitter (and getting to know some amazing people as well!), reading and commenting on other Tester's blog posts, sharing what I've learned on my own blog and one-on-one with other Testers, joining a new Tester's group call ISST (International Society for Software Testers) as well as taking some of their first webinars, keeping up with articles on groups like the Software Testing Club, donating to groups like @PerScholas and @BlackGirlsCode who are doing so much for our communities, reading books, mentoring, mindmapping, Weekend Testing, practice testing, and much more. It's all part of the journey and what a journey 2013 has been! I can't wait to see what 2014 brings my way!

Teri Charles

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Be A Student For Life

by Teri Charles

This is an article I wrote that was published in the September 2013 "Women in Testing" special issue of Tea-Time with Testers.  My article is on page 49, but please also enjoy all of the other wonderful articles by some amazing women!

Tester1: Have you heard of James Bach?
Tester2: Who?
Tester2: Ummm… Who are they?
Tester1: Do you use heuristics in your testing?
Tester2: What does that mean?
Tester1: Does your team use Context Driven Testing?
Tester2: Context driven what?

Are the people and concepts that Tester1 asked about completely foreign to you? If so, you’re not alone. But there are resources out there that that can help you make sense of them. I would like to open up a whole new world to you, my fellow Testers!
It's very easy for people who know these names and terms to take them for granted. However, there are many, many Testers who have never heard of any of them-- not to mention the dozens of other test leaders, trainings, books, and other resources that are available. And I am not just talking about people new to testing. I am also talking about experienced and senior Testers.
Because you know what? Tester2 was ME not too long ago.

My Journey
I've been a Software Tester for over 10 years. Like a lot of other Testers I have met, I was in the dark for a lot of those years. I didn’t know what it really meant to be a Tester. There was no test training out there when I started (or, at least, none that I knew of). I had no idea that people actually wrote books about testing. The only other Testers I knew were the few I worked with. I call those years the "I didn't know what I didn't know" phase of my career.
There's no such thing as the "University of Software Testing", so we come from various backgrounds: Computer Science majors to high school graduates (or dropouts) and everything in between. I went to college to study music, played in a band, and wrote songs and lyrics. Then I took a circuitous path, working in political non-profit organizations and a bookstore, writing screenplays for movies (no, nothing ever produced), and dabbling in documentary filmmaking. Yep, sounds like the perfect journey toward a career in Software Testing, right?
But it was.  Because it was my journey and it was perfect for me.  

Every experience on my path let me do the things I love: learning new things, being curious, working through challenges, helping people, and exploring. (Now is my journey starting to sound like a Tester? I thought so!)  My curiosity and love of learning were the qualities that convinced my first manager to pluck me out of a group of candidates --some of whom were more technical and more experienced than I was-- for my first testing job.
The Past
I look back now and am a bit surprised that, without a lot of training, I figured out how to do the job pretty well. I found lots of bugs, brought teams together, dove into learning new things, found ways to innovate and improve our processes, and was a well-respected leader and team member. If it hadn’t been for my varied experiences and natural curiosity (and probably a little luck), I wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as I was.
But here's a secret: I was also unhappy at times. But I didn't know why. And I had no idea what to do about it.
My Aha Moment
Being laid off is part of our industry. If it ever happens to you, don't take it personally. It's business. But if you let it, it can also be a blessing.
My layoff came about a year and a half ago. The blessing that came with it was the opportunity to stop. To just "be". I was able to look within and do some serious thinking. What I realized was that, while there were a lot of things I liked about my work, I also had to admit that I had been unhappy because there was SOMETHING MISSING. But what was it? And how do you find out what is missing... when you don't know what is missing? I just knew there had to be more to this thing called testing. And I knew right then and there that the only way I wanted to go was forward-- and discover what this “more” was.
My Education
So, I did what I usually do. I dove in. And I didn't just dive into the shallow end of the pool; I dove into the deep end. But I was swimming blind. Remember, I didn't know what was missing.
So I started with Google searches. Of course! I started Googling everything to do with testing, test trainings, Testers, software testing, test books, and test blogs. It was amazing! Every link took me to another, then another. One of the first things I stumbled upon was James Bach's book, "Secrets of aBuccaneer Scholar". How lucky that this little miracle fell into my life at the exact time I needed it! His journey was my journey. So many of his experiences and feelings were exactly what I had experienced in the past or what I was going through in that very moment. It was an inspiration for self-learning.
From there, things took off. I couldn’t believe that this whole world of testing information existed. I had so much to learn and I didn’t know where to start. (I still feel that way even today! So many things to learn!) So I just took a deep breath and chose one thing to start with. And then I chose something else. And on, and on, until I had done these things (among others):

It Never Ends
Here's the thing, though. The list above is just the beginning. It's a journey, remember? There are SO many other things to learn, to read, to create, to delve into, and people to meet. My list is long and keeps growing! Yes, there are times when it's overwhelming. There are times when there are so many things on my to do list, that I get paralyzed and do nothing from the list for days. But that usually doesn't last very long; pretty soon I remember to take one step at a time and choose the next thing I want to do. You can’t beat yourself up if/when that happens to you.

Your Journey
If you don't know this yet, YOU are responsible for your own education. No one else is responsible for it. If you want to be a better Tester, you can't just wish for it. You have to work on it every day. If you don't know where to start, that's okay. But don't let it stop you. And I'll let you in on the one of the most important things you can do.
Ask. Just ask for help.
You will find that we have an amazing and generous community of Testers. Take your first step and reach out. Do you know you want to improve in something but don’t know how to start? Is there something new you’ve heard of but don’t understand? Look around you and ask a fellow Tester. If they don’t know, suggest you figure it out and learn together. If you meet a new Tester, strike up a conversation and ask your questions. When you learn about a new test guru, reach out to them. You will be pleasantly surprised how helpful these busy people will be.
It doesn't mean you'll get the right answer or the wrong answer. It doesn't mean everyone will give you the same answer because everyone's journey is different, and their journey is right for them. So ask a lot of different people. Sift through their responses like a gold miner looking for gold. Find the gold nuggets that feel most true to you and keep them-- then search for more. There's not just one answer.
It really is about choosing to take that first step. I have found that once you get up and have the courage to take the first step, it's easier to take the second, then the third. I am always looking at ways to get better as a Tester. That’s the key. It's what motivates me. But the other thing that motivates me is helping others. If I learn something, I want to give it away. It’s the main reason I started my blog and most of my posts focus on sharing things I’ve learned as well as my own journey.
In the spirit of helping others take their own first steps, I recently created a presentation for my local test Meetup (bouldertester.blogspot.com/2013/08/testing-resources.html). It's a list of different people, organizations, trainings, books, and resources to help Testers who are looking for some of the same things I was looking for when I started taking my first steps in learning to be a better Tester. If you’re looking for answers, maybe it will help you find some of them.
And if it does help, pass it on!  Because it is true. The more you give, the more you receive. You will not only help others in their journey, but your own journey will grow in ways you can’t imagine!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Be the Leader You Want in Your Life

Wishing is not a strategy

Have you ever spent time in your career and life wishing there were more great leaders in your life? I'm not talking about a title someone may have. A title does not make you a leader. I am talking about true leadership.

Perhaps it's time to stop looking around for others to lead and decide to be the leader you want in your life. Be that leader for yourself. Be that leader for others.

Simple first steps

1. Give away what you know. If you have an expertise, share it. If you learn something new, teach others. If you see someone struggling, help them out. There is only an upside strengthening others knowledge. And it not only feels really good, but you will endear yourself to those you have helped.

2. Praise others. It sounds so simple and obvious, but many only hear what they are doing wrong, not what they're doing right. Next time you see one of your co-workers doing something great, no matter how big or how small, say something to them. It takes only a minute. Isn't one minute worth the possible change you could make in one's life?

3. Learn what NOT to do. Some of your best teachers can be people in "leadership" positions that have a negative impact on you or others. When you see this happening, take notes. Remember it. Know how it makes you feel. Because then when similar situations arise and you're in a position of leadership, do the opposite. Don't do what they did, do what you know the right thing is.

4. Choose kindness.
Enough said.

So be the leader you want in your life. Not for a promotion or for recognition but because it's who you want to be in your life and those around you. Inspire yourself. Trust me, you will also inspire others.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Testing Resources

I recently gave a presentation to my local testing Meetup, Boulder QA Meetup.  This presentation came out of several conversations I've had recently with different Testers that weren't aware of a lot of the different resources available to Testers.  So, I decided to do my part and pass along some of the things I've been fortunate to find out and learn about.

I believe that when you learn something, give it away.  It can only make others (and you) better.

Here is my presentation on different resources. It's a way to help anyone to start towards a list of their own set of resources.  It's by no means everything.  How could it be?  There's so many sites, trainings, people, blogs, articles, tools, books…it could go on and on.  But one has to start somewhere.

I hope some of these things can help you as much as they've helped and continue to help and enrich me. I know my list will continue to grow!

I've also put the information (plus more) from my slides into a mind map below. You can go directly to Mindmeister to get a closer view.

Friday, July 5, 2013

More Thoughts on My Rapid Software Testing Class with James Bach

I've recently returned from a great experience.  Last week I attended Rapid Software Testing (RST) with James Bach.  For those of you that don't know, I would say RST is a three day boot camp for Testers!  "RST is a Testing methodology to give you the skills of testing any software, any time, under any conditions".  Before I even left for the trip, I made the decision to be open and fearless. I wanted to experience everything James had to offer. I wanted to embrace it all.

The three days were jam-packed with teachings by James, testing exercises, the famous dice game, great food, a beautiful place on the island (Orcas Island), a wonderful group of eager Testers, and magic tricks!  Honestly, we learned so much, I wouldn't know how to write it all down.  At the bottom of this post I'm attaching two of the documents so that you can see for yourself the amount of information we got.

So, instead of telling you in detail all that we learned, I would rather pass along a few things that I hope you will find helpful:

1. RST:
   -RST is like being a survivalist! Use any resources & tools available.
   -Rapid Testing = Rapid Learning
   -Pillars of RST: Diversification, Costs vs. Value, Skill, Heuristics
   -To "adopt" RST is to adopt a discipline for studying testing.
   -Indulge your curiosity.

2. Questioning:
   -Before you start testing something, ask questions, lots of questions.
   -Example of some questions you could ask to the customer, product owner, developer, etc: How does the product work? How does the system work? What is the data used? What are the risks? What is the product used for?
   -It's okay to jump in and learn about the product before or after asking questions.

3. Models:
   -Make a model of what you're going to test.
   -All testing is related to models. Test the product against models.
   -A model can be diagrams, spreadsheets, a list, a demonstration, a  program.
   -Learn the thing you have to test. Drink it up
   -And get good at mental models as well.

4. Heuristics:
   -Heuristics are one of the keys to thinking like a Tester (along with seeing what others cannot see, modeling what you're testing and test against model, and asking LOTS of questions.
   -Heuristics can be anything and everything that helps you test!
   -All oracles are heuristics.
   -Heuristics depend on the context.
   -Heuristics say, "How may I be of service"?
   *I think I'm finally starting to grasp more of what heuristics are, but I'm going to keep studying and learning to add to my expertise as a Tester.

5. Exploratory Testing:
   -Is not a testing technique, it's an approach.  It can work with any testing technique such as 'Exploratory' Performance testing, 'Exploratory' Stress testing, etc.
   -Using exploratory testing and scripted testing together is good testing.
   -Variety gives you power.

6. I don't have to be an expert at everything, but I need to be committed to learning, growing, and teaching.

7. Risks: Where is the fire burning and what do I do to put out the fire.

8. When you run out of ideas or are frustrated, defocus. When you're confused, focus.

9. Okay to be confused as long as you're on the way to be un-confused

I don't consider myself an expert on all of these things just yet, but here's the best part...I don't have to be "yet".  It's an on-going journey, isn't it? As a lot of us Testers know, we need to be continually learning. It never stops.

RST had a profound effect on me. I felt it on the last day. It's hard to describe, but I was changed. Something shifted in me. My confidence as a Tester AND a person had grown. James is a great teacher, but more importantly, a great person that cares about people learning, growing, and believing in themselves. He saw things in me that have made a difference in me that I can't thank him enough for.

As I said in my first post about RST, if you ever have a chance to take an RST class, just do it!

RST slides
RST appendices
Pictures from RST!
RST overview video by James Bach (taped at our RST class, June 2013 on Orcas Island)
James Bach = Steve McQueen!

Me and James!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rapid Software Testing Experience-First Thoughts

I just got back home yesterday after an amazing week with James Bach and Rapid Software Testing (RST) at Orcas Island, Washington.  My head is so full of things I learned and the experiences I had, I'm not even sure where to start.  I will take my time to get my thoughts down to share, but for now just know that if you ever have the chance to take RST from James, Michael Bolton, or Paul Holland, just do it.  Don't hesitate, just do it.  You won't regret it.  You owe it to yourself as a Software Tester to challenge yourself with this intense and information-packed class. 

I was challenged several times by James, but through those challenges a wonderful thing came out of it.  I realized I'm now believing in myself more.  I made the decision before stepping foot on the island that I was going to be fully open and present.  That I was going to put myself out there and take chances.  It wasn't always easy or comfortable, but at the end of the last day I knew something had changed in me.  Something had shifted.  I honestly don't know what all of it is just yet, but that's part of the next chapter of RST for me.  Figuring out what those changes are, what all have I learned and what more do I want to learn, who I want to be, and where am I going.  Pretty heady stuff from a three day class, but I believe that every experience in life is an opportunity to change your world if you so choose.  And I'm very much looking forward to seeing where MY world is going to go and how it's going to change!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why I Am Going To RST

In about a week, I will be on my way to the Rapid Software Testing (RST) course. It is a three day hands-on intensive course.  And this particular course will be taught by none other than James Bach

The main reason I'm going is exactly because of what it says on the RST website, "The ideal student is anyone who feels driven to be an excellent software tester".  That's me. 

I've been a Software Tester for over 10 years, but here's a true confession. During a lot of those years I was a naive tester. A tester in the dark.  Like a lot of us, I didn't have a lot of formal Testing training. I had no idea for almost all of those years that there were ways and people to learn testing from. I never worked anywhere that taught or trained Testers. I knew nothing of people like James Bach, Michael Bolton, Pradeep Soundararajan, Elisabeth Hendrickson, and many others.  I didn't know there were books or websites or trainings.  I didn't know there were test groups like Association for Software Testers (AST), Ministry of Testing, Satisfice, and others. Knowing what I know now, this all sounds crazy to even admit all of this. But it's true.  Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

I just did the best I could.  I picked up tips from other Testers along the way or I made it up as I went along.  Maybe because I'm anal by nature, I would find lots of bugs.  The things I loved about testing kept me doing it, like finding things that were wrong with the software before our customers did.  But I was miserable in a lot of ways.

So, about a year and a half ago I sat myself down and had good long talk with myself. I thought that if I'm going to stay being a Tester, I needed to really LEARN how to be a Tester, what it meant to be a Tester.  Not just do the 'job'. No one was going to do it for me. No one.  My big break was that I somehow found James Bach's book "Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar".  I have to say, this book is a gem and a life-changer.  It woke me up in a very big way about my own responsibility of self-learning.  I can't recommend it enough.  And my journey at that point started in a big way.

I started googling anything to do with Software Testing.  I found people like Anne-Marie Charett who were generous in coaching me about different things to do with testing. I started a blog. I discovered this great test community on Twitter. I started reading about testing from blogs, articles, and books.  I learned about Context Driven Testing.  I found out about and became active in Weekend Testing.  I took the BBST Foundations course. I even took some HTML and CSS courses to help me in web testing. I stumbled onto Ajay's Balamurugadas' first online training and never missed a day, as well as discovering a wonderful test community happening in India.  There was a whole world out there that I never knew existed!  And now I'm constantly doing something every week and most days to keep growing and learning.

And that brings me to the RST course. It's time to take this journey of mine to a whole new level. To accelerate my learning. I want to finally grasp heuristics, learn how to tackle any product instantly, and to grow in my confidence as a Tester. I want to continue on my journey of becoming an expert Tester, but more importantly, FEEL and KNOW I'm an expert Tester. And I have this strong feeling that I will someday look at this time as the before and after of my journey and skills as a Tester. The way I look at it, if you want to be a better Tester, you can't just wish for it.  You have to work on it everyday. RST is a major step in this process. 

Wish me well!

Teri Charles

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Software Tester Pays it Forward

Recently I've been thinking about the fact that I run in to so many Software Testers that have never heard of people like James Bach, Michael Bolton, and Pradeep Soundararajan, as well as so many other Test gurus.  Some of these same Testers have also never heard of groups like AST (Association of Software Testers) and the Software Testing Club.  They've become such a integral part of my professional life that I just assumed other Testers will know of them as well.  And sadly, that is not the case, not by a long shot.

I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of most of these people and groups myself until I made a decision a little over a year ago to immerse myself in Testing.  I was at a crossroads in my professional life and realized that I needed to challenge myself and dig deeper in this profession of mine, Software Testing.  I started with baby steps by Googling about Software Testing, which led me to one article, then to another, and then to many others.  It was while reading one of these articles that I stumbled upon a Testing coach, Anne-Marie Charrett.  It was Anne-Marie that really opened my eyes to a whole world out there that I had no idea existed.  I started to learn about heuristics, oracles, different training courses, and other Testers.  It was Anne-Marie that suggested I start my own blog as well as take the AST’s BBST Foundations training course (which I did and passed!).  I also started following people on Twitter, then more on Twitter, and even more.  Twitter changed everything.  I started realizing that Testers communicate a lot through Twitter.  I would learn about different Testing groups, blogs, articles, books to read, trainings, and other great Testers to follow.  I hooked up with other Testers all over the world.  I took Ajay Balamurugadas’ first online training course he taught and got a new friend in Ajay in the process.  I learned about and joined the Software Testing Club, as well as other groups.  And then recently I became one of the co-organizers of Boulder Colorado's first Software Testing Meetup groups.  And most exciting, I will be attending my very first formal Test training this summer, RST (Rapid Software Testing), with none other than James Bach. And my journey continues to grow every single day. 

But my journey wouldn’t have begun unless I took that first step to explore what was out in this Tester’s world of ours.  So, instead of wondering why other Testers haven't heard about some of our great Test leaders and mentors, trainings, groups, and articles, I'm going to do my part and do what others have done for me this past year.  I’m going to make sure that I'm passing along the good stuff!  Pass along those nuggets of wisdom that come my way like others have done and continue to do for me.  This blog post is my first step.
Whether you’re a new or experienced Tester, do yourself a favor and start following different people or groups on Twitter, then start taking a look at their websites, then start reading their blogs, articles, and trainings they've written.  And if they've written books, add them to your library and start reading them. If you can get to a conference they'll be speaking at, go.  And if they have a training you can get to, go.

So here you are, fellow Testers.  Follow these folks, learn from them.  There's much to learn and it never, ever ends.  And it will keep you busy for the rest of your life!

The following are just a few people and groups to start with.  There are many, many more, so my apologies in advance for leaving a long list of people and groups out, but this is just to get you started on your own journey of discovery.  There are a lot of great people out there doing a lot of great things.

Anne-Marie Charrett:  http://mavericktester.com - @charrett
Elizabeth Hendrickson: http://www.testobsessed.com - @testobsessed

Weekend Testers Americas: http://weekendtesting.com/ - @WTAmericas
Europe Weekend Testers: http://weekendtesting.com/ - @europetesters