2017 in Review: Public Speaking, Amazing Testing Community & Self-Growth

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” –  Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

This quote sums up 2017 for me pretty well: with hard work, determination and motivation some of my dreams materialized and I met amazing people who were willing to help me reach my dreams as well. I will slice up this blog post to milestone-like sections. 

From unaccepted speaker to accepted-to-every-one-I-applied-to

I kicked off 2017 reflecting on how I failed getting accepted to speak at conferences. I had a few useful lessons after my first abstract got rejected 5 times, and, I felt like I learned them – I had a bubbling new idea of what I should talk about. Something that I actually know best – my own story.

Don’t try to reinvent the topic and present something far away from your work – best stories are your own and there is a lot for people to learn from them

So, I created a new abstract called “Testing Big Data to Predict Your Perfect Fit”. I was surprised that sometimes it takes just a question to get some support from the experts: there were so many people who proof-read the abstract and were open to give feedback (Speak Easy, for example, introduced me to the wonderful Nancy Kelln). Once the abstract was ready, I submitted to 3 conferences.

I got invited to speak at all of them: Testing Cup 2017 in Gdansk, Poland, Quest for Quality 2017 in Dublin, Ireland and EuroSTAR 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark! The last one being the biggest European testing conference with around 4-5 speaking tracks at the same time.

Before the very first talk I was so nervous that I couldn’t even sleep the night before. Technically I had some difficulties, but once it was over – the feeling was wonderful! I received great feedback, it was so rewarding to have audience members come to you and tell you that you inspired them or just to talk to you about work problems they have. I felt like I broke the ice and that was absolutely right!

Once you start stepping outside your comfort zone and deliver your first international talk at a conference – it gets better and you feel more comfortable

Quest for Quality’s experience I loved the most (thoughts on why it was the conference of the year for me). Theme spoke to me, talks were very interesting and the fellow speakers and audience in general were lovely people. I really wanted to deliver the best I could and it worked – the audience and my talk definitely clicked. I was voted the best talk of Quest For Quality 2017 with a rating of 4.61/5!

EuroSTAR was a great learning opportunity as it was a very big conference and I could meet a lot of people, but I did not feel the same click as at Q4Q conference. I met wonderful people there, heard good stories, but it wasn’t as cozy as smaller conferences.

In general, I loved public speaking – it was a great challenge. It taught me more about myself and enabled me to meet like-minded people. I am definitely thinking of some talks for 2018 now as well.

Give it a go at public speaking – it will help you grow

Meeting the old & new heroes

Participating in multiple conferences, meetups and online communities I got to meet so many amazing people. That is the best thing that happened to me this year.

Get to know the testing community – be it at conference, meetup or just online gathering. There are so many inspiring people with whom you can bond almost instantly

Imagine that you get to meet Michael Bolton who has been your inspiration since you started your testing career, you exchange stories and he looks at you and says “Impressive, you are going to be big”. It leaves you speechless. And there are so many known faces in conferences – having a chance to meet them in real life is unbelievable. Most of those people are so helpful and friendly that it will give you a kick of extra motivation to reach your dreams.

What surprised me more than known heroes were people of whom I hadn’t heard before. There are so many inspiring, wonderful professionals who add up to the experience of conferences or communities.

Looking at photo archives, I see this heart-warming picture from Quest For Quality conference. With 4 out of 6 people around me here I kept in touch and plan to continue doing so – if you ever meet any of these beautiful humans, tell them a warm hi – they are awesome!

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Also, online testing community has been such a great discovery – a lot of great people in testing are open, friendly and willing to share experiences!

Thank you to every single person I got to meet in 2017 – I am very grateful for every encounter!

Shift from Omega tester towards QA role at my work

For more than 2 years, I was a lone tester or as James Bach calls them Omega Tester. I worked a lot spreading testing awareness in general, not only building automation checks from scratch or getting to participate in groomings/plannings and collaborating a lot with other departments.

This year has been pretty generous to me as I got a new team member! So, now, I am shifting more to the QA role in a sense that I can actually ASSESS quality more – I use New Relic to monitor and spot quality issues we may be having. This ability has given me a lot of knowledge about the product, in-depth understanding of the internals and even got me invited to priority meetings with CEO, account manager and the head of engineering. I am becoming more of a quality professional (which I do love a lot) even if I still do a bunch of testing as well, but my new colleague now helps me out with most of the tasks and we can distribute accordingly. I think it was one of the main lessons in my career:

Clear communication, collaboration between teams and being open to everyone has helped me grow and learn a lot about the product

When it comes to testing, I also got to finally play around more with APIs this year and learn more about back-end. That was so fascinating that I would love to learn more about it in 2018.

2017 in Numbers

My personal numbers:

  • Speaker at 3 international conferences
  • Multiple amazing professionals in testing met at conferences/communities
  • QA & Testing department doubled (from 1 person to 2!)

My blog’s numbers:

  • 7 post published
  • 1404 unique visitors – record number since the start of my blogging
  • 2033 views – second in place after 2016 when I did 30 Days of Testing challenge
  • 338 people read the most popular post: Dear tester! Others care about quality, too.

Resolutions in 2018?

After 2017’s challenges with public speaking, I definitely want to speak again at a conference (or a few). I am researching biases right now. I want to do a talk related to our own and other people’s biases. Especially working as testers we get to deal with that a lot! A practical talk of stories and tips (if you have some stories to share on what you faced related to systematic errors and/or dealt with it –  I’d love to hear them!) .

Apart from that, I am aiming to continue occasional blogging and also learn more about APIs!

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Dear tester! Others care about quality, too.

Dear tester,

I know that sometimes it feels like people you work with just want to mark the cards in JIRA as Done without proper testing. Sometimes they tell others “…once it passes the QA” or create tasks for you subjected “QA X” like it is being done just because “they have to”. The feeling of annoyance caused by urgency to complete the task immediately without reporting any bugs is inevitable because of the way they tell just to “pass the QA”. I did write of that before on why “pass the QA” makes me cringe, so I can feel your pain really well. Especially, that even after me trying to explain QA vs Testing vs Checking many times in my company and clarifying, the very same wording is still being used. I would like to share with you a story that happened to me which made me think that sometimes we exaggerate a little bit assuming that others do not care of quality as much as we do.

Today one of developers in my company came back with initial implementation and results to “QA”. The task was fairly simple – there is a lot of data generated by an algorithm and we should check it (I’m using here check consciously as it’s not really testing at this point): does it make sense, what patterns of fault we notice, does algo actually work? All of this should evaluate the quality of results produced by this new algorithm.

The wording of this task’s formulation and documentation with the data had QA mentioned around 5 times in various forms and I’m sure you are familiar with most of them: “data to be QAed”, “for the QAing” or my least favorite “pass the QA”. These terms do not feel too good as they are not correctly used and it may feel slightly insulting sometimes that your colleagues may not bother to even understand what you’re doing. However, you cannot teach all people to use the terms and it’s important to let it go sometimes. Remind yourself that we all have biases (and I do have a story on Managing your biases which made me slow down a little bit before judging). I decided not to exaggerate and think from that developer’s point of view: we both know what he wants as a result – the quality should be evaluated even if he is using the wrong terms.

Some colleagues may use the wrong terms and confuse testing/checking/QA, but don’t go and nit-pick on that. Words matter, but not everyone cares either how to name the rose: all you can do as an empathic quality specialist is to show people that you are open to explain to them, but only if they want to. 

This is not why I’m writing to you, though – this colleague of mine may have used the wrong wording, but letting go of that wasn’t the main takeaway I got.

When the colleague created the task description, it lacked one thing: any description of implementation details of algorithm. No documentation was yet created, no code mentioned, only thing provided was the generated data and vague explanation what should be done (compare columns and say if it’s okay or not using some human sense and research on each of options).

I really wanted to see implementation details: how else can I assess actual risks? Maybe there are areas and patterns that are design flaws and can be seen before even looking at the data generated. This developer tends to work alone as well, so there isn’t much of code review going on.

When I asked if there is any documentation on this algorithm, this was the response I got from the developer:
“Not yet, this is not ready for production yet. When it passes QA there will be a documentation page with all the changes that have come out of the QA process.”

This wasn’t something that I expected to be honest – I replied that to do the QA process we need to know the implementation details and this shouldn’t be made visible only when the algo goes to production. We shouldn’t check in the dark.

My reply has made this developer write to me personally and the words that were used by them again were a little bit rough I could say. The arguments on why the documentation wasn’t created were that “it is too big overhead” and then eventually “it seems that we disagree on the QA process here: for this task, there is no need for implementation details”. How would you react to this, my dear tester? Developer is claiming that as someone who is hired to test and give quality evaluations you shouldn’t look at implementation details at all.

As someone who recently encountered several design flaws in built products which caused issues and could have been spotted years ago, I felt ridiculed. Of course testers or QA (whatever way people want to call these specialists) should see implementation details. Is this developer really thinking that their design and implementation is perfect that we should look just at the results produced?

Issues can be spotted when getting to know algorithms and implementation: you may spot a logical error which causes certain bugs before you even look at the data obtained from running the algorithm

I stood my ground then, though. I tried to explain that I would love to see the implementation because it will help me to do the “QA processes” faster, more efficient and may display me some of issues before I actually look at the data. I want to be familiar with what it is actually doing.

And, to my surprise, it worked. This very same developer who was fighting that QA does not need any details on implementation shared with me the code they wrote to produce the results. It turns out that they thought I needed detailed documentation, but even code was enough which could easily be provided.

In the end, I realized that I could have given up. I could have closed myself up and exaggerated thinking that it’s only me who cares about proper quality judgement and people just assign tasks blindly without even considering that there may be issues in their logic of implementation. I could have felt hurt by the words used and impressions I got from this person, but in the end, even if we spoke in different terms, we both aim to finalize quality assesment (not to pass the QA, just understand if this implementation is good enough). I stood up for myself trying just to do my job better and I got help even if it took an extra step.

So, dear tester, believe that your colleagues are there to help you – you all want your products to be successful and of great quality. It is not only you, just sometimes others don’t know what you exactly need to do your tasks – open yourself up and ask for it. Only by sharing your needs and communicating you can make others understand your tasks better.