Quest for Quality Strikes Again: The Impressive 2018 Edition

Last year’s Quest for Quality conference had a huge impact on me: it was the best conference of 2017 I’ve attended, I spoke there and I was humbled to have my talk evaluated the highest by the audience, I made wonderful connections with which I’m still in touch up to this day, and being there even initiated my move to another country for a new career challenge!

This year, I had the honour to be a part of the programme committee and help choose the talks. What a hard candy that was! Conference’s theme Reinventing QA for the New IT Era was refreshing, yet challenging: there were so many great talks, but looking back at the theme, I could not see some of them being heard at Q4Q. Knowing well myself how much work and effort goes into each tiny abstract, with a heavy heart I rated the talks as objectively as I could with the information I had. The total of a diverse programme committee’s votings was considered, and, I must say, the speaker lineup was pretty impressing: there were quite a few new voices sharing the stage with the experts, and there were even speakers who normally do not speak at testing conferences.

After being in the programme committee, I also got to enjoy the conference as an attendee. I did not think that 2017 year’s experience I had at Q4Q could be challenged, but I believe it was. Both years Q4Q was in Dublin, and I just fell in love with the atmosphere there, what to even say about the inspiring thoughts I heard at the conference, and wonderful people I met again. After the conference, I was just smiling from ear to ear with the new ideas buzzing in my head.

To give you a glimpse of what kind of an experience Quest for Quality conference is, I’ll touch on the 3 key areas where Q4Q2018 excelled: organisation, content & people.

Organisation

Quest for Quality wins hearts with a welcoming atmosphere: many nationalities attending, speaking, and even organising this event. This diversity definitely speaks up to many and makes people feel included. While Dublin is an absolute gem of a city in itself, the beautiful Marker’s hotel as a venue was a lovely addition.

The organisers are very kind and helpful people as well: always there for you, looking for feedback – I still smile remembering one of the main organisers Nikola turning to me to see what I thought of the talks or the event in general. It is important to be with an open heart and willingness to improve.

With all this, even the usually scary filming crew was not that scary at all. The friendly Andjelina was taking interviews and really making sure everyone feels comfortable. She was so kind that even not knowing me much after hearing that I’m coming to Belgrade – she invited me to meet up for a coffee. It still is rather weird for me to see myself in a video testimonial on the conference, but I am sure that it helped a lot to have such good support.

Content

After attending many testing conferences, content for me became one of the very top priorities. Presentation skills matter, of course, but if there is no useful content – what is there from that! I am happy that Quest for Quality met my expectations and differently than some other conferences I attended, it included some topics which were not just testing related – that helped us learn something new, broaden our minds, and just get inspired.

Here are some of the talks that really left an impression on me.

Anna Royzman from Global Quality Leadership Institute delivered a keynote Test Leadership of the Future: New Challenges, Big Opportunities. She spoke of challenges we are facing right now, how important it is to be a quality leader, and how our role may actually change. I really enjoyed this talk – I ended up writing down 2 pages of notes. One of the key takeaways I took was how being yourself is powerful: you can help others learn, so you have to embrace that. Also, her 8 principles of modern quality leader are just something that speaks very much to me. It’s important to share knowledge and speak up in order to inspire and coach others.

Davar Ardalan from IVOW told us about “Storytelling in the Age of Robots and Artificial Intelligence”. IVOW is a storytelling agency that wants to create a deeply inclusive AI. Very often when talking about AI we forget the human aspect of that: what about the culture? Wouldn’t it be great to have an AI that can help us recognise cultural events and stories? Or an AI telling us stories about our ancestors? I loved the idea that we have to work on making AI be inclusive and have the context of culture. Also, Davar’s storytelling skills are just wonderful – she has worked at NPR, so hearing her speak alone is quite an experience, what to even mention about such a content.

The closing keynote by Fabian Dittrich from Helpando “Agile living and the future of work: What I learned as the CEO of a nomadic company” was very refreshing and inspiring. Fabian quit his job and decided to work while traveling the world. He shared all the adventures he had and what it taught him. From productivity tools to the fact that it matters more than anything to live a life that you love.

People

One word: wow. Crazy, beautiful, smart, inspiring, charming people at Quest for Quality. Just to name a few extra things apart from constant networking at the conference: breathtaking discussions on security testing the night prior to the event with Milan and Amela, spontaneous pub crawl in Dublin after the networking event with the most fun people (Stuart – I absolutely adore him, highly recommend to follow him – great things will come out (and some already did like him being featured in The Guilty Tester podcast or his new TestingBants podcast); Lewis; Saga; Pieter; Jarl  – you are simply treasures), inclusion talks during breakfast with Niranjani and Gabrijela…

So many topics close to my heart were discussed: testing, culture, machine learning, communication, diversity & inclusion. In Quest for Quality networking goes so smoothly, maybe it’s because it’s such a family-like atmosphere. As for me people is the number one thing that inspires me – this conference was just breathtaking with amazing new friends I gained.

A blurry memory from the wonderful Long Hall during the pub crawl ❤

So, Quest for Quality did it again… With amazing organisation, people & content it yet again was one of the highlights of my year. People matter a lot to me and it is a conference which allows you to meet so many amazing people and learn a lot as well. What could be better! I left the building admiring the skies of Dublin and the neighbourhood with a huge smile on my face – thank you, Q4Q!

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Lean Inception: How We Tried to Make It Leaner and What We’ve Learnt

“Build it from scratch your own way and don’t let yourself be influenced by the existing system” – words that are rarely said by the stakeholders, right?

It’s been almost a month that I started working on this new engagement. New in all possible ways: we are advised to think of the future and build a future product from the very start without clear directions. This may sound like a wonderful opportunity (and it is), however, it came with an enormous sense of uncertainty. We had no idea what we are supposed to develop, there were 3 teams assigned and for 2 weeks all of us were trying to find out where we should start. There were no user stories or lower-level vision of a product. What is more, all 3 teams are starting with the back-end products which are just a first step towards the goal which will be this huge modern platform to be launched in several years.

The vague high-level vision and no directions from stakeholders led us to worry slightly. With the first checkpoint approaching in a couple of months, we had to try to understand the product more. So, we decided to try out a leaner version of already Lean Inception.

My role is a QA in this project, so being a part of such an early stage is pretty new to me. I took the Lean Inception book, read it over the weekend, and tried to understand the concept more so I could contribute as much as possible in the activity.

Starting the Lean Inception activities

Agile needs some pre-work and inceptions can help to find out about the project more. Usually, they last a few weeks, but because of time constraints, Paulo Caroli created a one-week version to find out what the product vision is, discover features, and define MVP (Minimum Viable Product). During this Lean Inception week these activities take place:

  • Product vision definition
  • What product is – isn’t – does – does not
  • Describing Personas
  • Discovering Features
  • Technical and business review
  • Defining the User Journey
  • Display Features in a Journey
  • Sequence the Features
  • Build the MVP Canvas

For the same reason as Lean Inception became a shorter version (time constraints!), we also felt like we have very big deadlines approaching and don’t have much time, so two activities were picked to be done by all 3 teams:

  • Describing Personas
  • Discovering User Journey

Within our teams, we tried to define product vision and do some pre-work. However, it still remained very high-level and teams had to align with their work, so the user journey seemed to be something we really would need. For the Persona definitions, we also invited the client’s departments with which we may need to work in the future. Our ways of doing exercises were not exactly following every step from the Lean Inception concept – we adjusted some exercises to fit us better.

Describing Personas

We had only 2 hours scheduled for the Personas description. When all of the participants met, we split into groups of 3-4 and discussed all the possible personas for the product. Firstly it was just like a brainstorm of all possibilities (funnily, some of our personas were other back-end systems because we had to cover those, too, so it was not only people). We needed this to actually start going somewhere – it was hard to think of a usual person using the product, the product looked way more complicated than that.

Each definition of a persona includes nickname and drawing, profile, behaviour, and needs. The exercise was also pretty fun as we could imagine funky characters that may be edge cases of actual user spectrum.

For example, let’s say our product is a ticket booking platform. Then, we should collect all kinds of personas who may use this platform. And some of personas could be: elderly man who wants to buy a ticket to gardening convention nearby (wants it to be easy to use, can be slower than usual, less tech-savvy), a teenager who follows trends and wants to quickly get the ticket to the hip concert or an employee of a tech company who is very tech-savvy and wants to use ticket platform’s API to build their own service for buying tickets, etc.

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Illustration is taken from the post of Paulo Caroli at Martin Fowler’s blog on Describing Personas

Then, we discussed the persona ideas we had, combined them (for example, security conscious users or one type of the system, etc.) and assigned certain types of personas to the groups. Back in the groups, we had to think of personas for our assigned category of personas.

This exercise, unfortunately, took us way longer than we thought – we reached our time limit and had to schedule a follow-up session. So, in total, we spent around 4 hours and in the end, we had around 14 personas described.

After persona definition, we did not feel a relief. More of a vice versa – we still had no idea what we are building and personas in our context did not seem very helpful. We could not discover features as Lean Inception recommends. There were certain levels of stress with this outcome. We wanted results quicker and after spending 4 hours on something that did not really help – we were frustrated.

Discovering a User Journey (and Features!)

For the user journey discovery, we decided to involve more people and asked at least a pair of developers from each team to join (persona definition was done mainly with product owners, business analysts, QAs and UX designers).

First of all, after some heated discussions, we decided to choose 2 personas out of 14 only, we split into two groups and tried to come up with user journeys for both of the groups. It was a challenging task, especially, since our personas did not really touch on what we were doing it seemed. So, after two hours yet again we didn’t feel like it became clearer.

After this, we had another meeting to present the user journey to a wider audience. And this was actually extremely useful. What I think helped us a lot was having a great facilitator as well as a big group of people to add their questions.

What we tried to do is to look deeper – user wants to do an action, but what happens on the back-end? What kind of features should we provide for this action to happen?

We used a bunch of post-its to write down our assumptions and also must-do back-end actions for the user to succeed. These felt like features (finally!).

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Our mapped user journey (blue post-its) with features (assumptions are above the user story)

After feature discovery

All three teams met to discuss all the features in the journey and assign them accordingly to the teams who are responsible. This actually helped us to even see the first MVP’s scope clearer. As we had a lot of assumptions and had the story in front of us – we could see where we could already deliver value working all together for the first iteration. All this, left us with certain features which will be split to user stories or become epics within the teams responsible. It was a great relief to finally come up with something.

How did we do it in the end?

As we had not much clarity about the product we were working on, our leaner Lean Inception had these steps and outcomes:

  • Personas definition
    • Took way longer than expected and was not as fruitful as we thought it would be.
    • We ended up with 14 personas and only 2 were used (out of which 1 was enough for the MVP).
  • User journey discovery
    • Was very challenging without features to create a user journey as we were not sure what actually should happen.
    • When reviewing the user journey, we went deeper and added what features we should have for certain steps – that was super useful!
    • In the end, user journey helped us to actually realize what features we may need for the MVP!
    • We ended up with MVP which was suggested by the user journey and left the business and tech review to be done within the exact teams.

Summary

A lot of us were involved in the Lean Inception for the first time. As a result, there were some learnings on the way. What we tried to do was to save time, but not always it was saving time actually. If we had to do it again, likely we would strongly aim for shorter Personas definition meeting (most of the work done there was not used anyway). Then, what our user journey discovery ended up being was a mix of feature discovery, sequencing features and even helping to form the MVP.

What helped us a lot was in the user journey session to have a great facilitator. Looking back, I realize that a good Lean Inception facilitator is something that can help a lot! If we had to do it again, we would not consider it as a game as we likely did for Personas definition, but rather find a strong facilitator who would be consistent and allow the group to maintain a good pace of outcome and not to deviate away too much.

Also, I feel that sometimes some of us were tired of meetings and would jump to conclusions which weren’t the best, so in the end, I would say these are my 3 summarised learnings:

  1. Strong facilitator helps Lean Inception to have a more structured format and better outcome.
  2. Take your time with Lean Inception activities not trying to skip steps, but also do not deviate too much on tasks which do not provide wanted results.
  3. Do not follow the book blindly. Lean Inception is not always the best format to take to find out about the product – it all is contextual and for your product, some steps may not be as necessary or useful. Try to adjust it accordingly to your needs.

In the end, being a QA and questioning from the start was a very challenging, but also a great experience. I would highly recommend aiming to have a diverse set of cross-team members in the Lean Inception – everyone may have something to add which can build a great basis for the product and clarify any possible misunderstandings.

 

 

 

Replacing QA Column in the Work Board

It was quite a journey. I started as a completely manual tester who could occasionally do exploratory testing. Then, I made a drastic change of transforming my work ethics, learning automation, using monitoring tools and moving my role towards the more generic QA role where testing in production is a part of the quality assessment. And now, with yet again a bigger change in my quality professional’s journey… I promote replacing QA column after development with something like “Desk Check”. 

I recently joined a new project engagement where we can build the product from scratch. This means that we also are creating our work culture from the bottom up. It looks like our favorite phrase nowadays is “adaptable to change”. With all this, we are trying to identify the first version of our work board.

When one of our team members automatically added a column called “QA” after development, I suggested to rename it to “Desk Check”. You may wonder why would I do that when I am still a part of the team with a role of QA?

Quality should be in-built, not tested in

Thinking of quality should start as early as the user story or feature is being created. How will we gain confidence that development was successful? What metrics will we use to measure implementation? Can we recover from the worst case scenarios easily? Questioning is a huge part of quality promoting. This should be done throughout the development process before even the desk check.

Desk check is not assigned to any role specifically

If development was successful can be evaluated not only by testers but also product owners or even other developers. Desk check is more of a concept where developers show their work (and their implemented checks), get asked questions, and sometimes pair test. It can be very useful to get a product owner to give feedback on the feature before it is marked as done.

Quality of the product is a shared responsibility

When I suggested using “Desk Check” instead of “QA”, one of the developers smiled and said “Oh, so you’re not a control freak gatekeeper. We all have to be responsible.”. This is exactly what I aim to promote. However, what matters here a lot is also the fact that your team is engaged in this.

Having the attitude that all the team is responsible for quality is quite a task and I won’t say you can do it on your own and change people overnight. You can’t. They have to be willing to work in these ways and it can be very challenging. Being responsible for quality as a developer has certain benefits: you gain confidence about your work’s reliability, learn to question your own work, get to collaborate and understand better other team members like product team, and, actually help with your developer skills to improve the automated checks. The drawback of this is: you need to put effort. Way more effort than if QA is responsible for quality.

In summary, it is a challenging change to actually shift left and not only talk about it. You may find yourself wondering what QA role does if the quality is inbuilt and developers write their own checks… And that’s normal. I did, too. What is important to understand is that teams still need Quality Evangelists to question, promote quality, investigate CI/CD clutter, analyze requirements, tackle misunderstandings and share their testing knowledge with others. 

5 Tips on How to Make Yourself Respected as a Tester in a Company

A lot of times testers feel like they are not valued enough or that their efforts are not visible. Good quality usually is an expected outcome so it is hard to show that the role of a tester is actually very helpful and added up to quality improvements.

Possibly the most challenging work environment I had as a tester was becoming the first full time tester in a startup. There was no testing awareness prior to my role. It took time and effort to prove my value, but in the end, when I was changing jobs, some people openly admitted that they felt that I was one of the most valuable people within the company. So, what tips would I have to reach this state and become actually respected and very valued working as a tester?

  1. Open up to learnings and collaborations

    Take every chance to collaborate with other team members. It does not matter what their role is – it is extremely beneficial to collaborate and learn from others. Be it a developer, sales person or manager. Be proactive in this – tell colleagues that you’d love to learn more and maybe just shadow then for a while. It can add up a lot to your domain knowledge as well as interpersonal relationships with team members. Sometimes a programmer may even think of you when they are working on a new feature and ask you for your input for unit tests, for example.

  2. Be transparent about what you work on and ask for feedback

    If you have daily standups, then during them share the summary of your findings: it has to be concrete and informative. Try to be specific and mention what areas were tested, what was overall quality, if there was a big issue found – feel free to share it. If your organisation does not have standups, try to communicate this information in other channels – be it weekly discussion, plannings or just certain quality reports. Why not to make a quality newsletter? Keep people updated. Also, if you need any help or think that testability was causing some issues – let the team know. Sometimes all the team needs is to know about the pain points in order to help you solve them. Another tip is to arrange regular learning sharing meetings or show-and-tell sessions on what you created – maybe you learned some tricks in test automation or found an interesting bug which had to have a lot of investigation. Let the team know.

  3. Promote pair testing

    Do some sessions with developers, managers, product team members or even sales people. It will help them to see your role differently as well as possibly uncover unexpected bugs. Every person has a different set of experience and their usage of the product may be different. A lot of times developers may even sense what parts of the product are buggy, while product or sales people know what is actually important and where to put extra attention when testing.

  4. Use analytics to prioritize and drive your testing

    Testing in production is more and more of a thing. It is very important for us as testers to get to know our users. A lot of times we cannot really cover all the test scenarios either, especially in the times of big data and microservices. If possible, get to know the monitoring systems – what is being monitored in production? Can you see what features are mainly used by users? What browsers are your users using? All this data can help you to identify what actually matters. You can then prioritize your testing based on learnings and even include impact numbers to JIRA tickets. For example, you could quantify how important the issue is on IE8 by looking at the analytics numbers for users. Same could be done for functionality related problems. If issue you reported is on IE11 and most of users are using it – it adds extra weight. In the long run, business teams will really respect your input as you will be able to provide quality insights based on actual KPIs (if they are related to user experiences). Ability to do testing driven by user data can help you to provide very well respect insights on quality which could be useful even to the CEO.

  5. Involve yourself in support and customer feedback analysis

    If there is feedback functionality or support team for your product, try to get involved there. This will help you to get to know the user and their pain points. Analysing the issues you will learn more about the product and also get asked to join further investigations. This way you will be learning a lot of valuable information about the actual users which will be really appreciated by anyone in the team.

These 5 points really help raise testing awareness and help transmit the value of testing to the company. In the end, we all are working for the same goal of having a high quality product and as testers we promote this mindset.

How Does the Product Make You Feel: Usability, Testing & Airports

Recently I have been thinking about the future of testing. More and more I think that the future of a tester’s profession won’t be about the technology choices or even automation, but rather adding a human quality to the products. We will be the ones to stay alert on ethical sides of products, question design, development and usability (ease of use of a product or service).

As a quite experienced question asker, I get to wear multiple hats and collaborate with various departments during the product development. From my experience, I would say as a QA, you get to work with (not limited to only these people of course):

  • R&D questioning algorithms and their output
  • UX designers questioning design choices and trying to wear user’s shoes
  • Business and product teams questioning requirements and acceptance
  • Development teams questioning implementation
  • Management questioning priorities
  • Sales teams questioning domain

All this questioning for me means representing the user. Making sure the quality of the product is satisfactory and user feels good using it. Usability when it comes to feelings is one of the top qualities.

I am not sure if it’s because of my recent thoughts on people vs. products, but I became very sharp on observing the world and, oh boy, how much it hurts when our lives are affected by poor usability and bad design.

Usability and Bad Design Adventures

I was flying into Munich airport recently and remembered one of the most interesting talks I’ve heard on EuroSTAR 2017 “The Sky Is The Limit! – Or How To Test A New Airport Terminal”. In this talk, Christian Brødsjø shared the experiences of testing Oslo Airport. And, of course, it involved people – they had to see the readiness of the airport, the ease to use and the operational abilities. Airport testing is not an easy task, it requires a lot of time and simulation of the actual airport activities in order to see what feedback people are giving and how it would actually work. Nobody wants to repeat the story of the disastrous opening day for Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

When I was searching for more information on the airports, I found many articles on failed airports and even airport representatives admitting that their airports are a mess. This makes me think that I am not alone having bad feelings about airports. Sometimes I need a reminder that bad user experience is something that we should talk about.

In the past month, I had a pleasure of getting to work in the same team with a very caring UX designer Shawn Lukas. We discussed many times how important it is to care about the actual users. A lot of times we don’t even know people for whom we are creating the product – we have to make sure to get to know them instead of guessing or assuming how they are as we are creating something for them. In addition, as users very often we tend to blame ourselves for the product issues. A lot of times we take products the way they are and deal with their imperfections: it may hurt to use them, we may get annoyed, but we stay silent and just try to find workarounds. It should not be this way, the way we feel about products matters and we should speak up.

So, coming back to the Munich airport… It is one of the busiest airports in the world and I am sure that a lot of people worked on making it a good experience and did as much as they could. However, I travel a lot and usually don’t expect much from airports, but certain design decisions left me a little bit annoyed, frustrated and even angry at some points. I am sure that my mum would get lost in that airport – that is not a good sign, because everyone should be able to use the airport. Especially that traveling already is a pretty stressful thing in itself.

How Munich airport managed to trigger my feelings?

Sunday. After waiting at the airport and traveling, I just wanted to get some rest and get out of the destination airport. After landing, I went to go get my luggage. It is a big airport, so gets rather tricky with turns and quite a bit of walking – that’s alright. However, the way to the exit had these things bothering me:

  • Confusing direction arrow signs. Unfortunately I did not take a photo, but imagine this – there is a space with many escalators, some going up (on the left), some down (straight). There is a sign that baggage claim is ⬆. Does it mean you should go to the left and up or straight down? Apparently you should go straight down even if arrow shows up – learnt it the hard way by first trying to get up.
  • No indications to explain certain experiences. Finally I get to the little room where I see no more baggage claim signs, but what I see is the train. Train going to other terminals, I assume. I hesitate, look around for more signs or where is the baggage claim as I just want my bag, not to fly somewhere else (even if I wish I could at that point) and an angry airport worker tells me to get on the train. And I tell “I need to get to the baggage claim” and he shows me the train and says angrily “This is the baggage claim”. I am already a bit frustrated by this – how could I know to take the train? So, I murmur back while getting on “No, this is the train”. A little bit of human understanding would be nice in this service: add a note that you need to take the train to get there rather than show the train and tell it’s baggage claim. It’s not. It’s the ridiculous train.
  • Green signs for forbidden exit. I reached the baggage claim. Got my bag and looked around – it was a big room with windows and doors and could see people walking outside in the parking lot. Would not expect to get out this easily usually – we always have to pass passages and official arrivals are in the airport, however, this time I decide to check if it’s some kind of shortcut because the doors have green signs on them. Only getting closer I see that actually if I opened this, I’d trigger an alarm and it’s just an emergency exit:
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    Usually forbidden alarm controlled doors or emergency only exits are with red, so why is it green? I walked back from the door and managed to eventually leave the airport in a different way.

This experience I may not have noticed before, I may have taken it for granted or as is, but the more I work in tech, the more I realise that all we do and create is for people. It is not okay to make your users confused with bad design & usability. 

Why should we care about usability?

As QAs very often we get to see the whole image of the product/service. This adds a lot of responsibility to aim to feel the same way about the product as our users. The challenge here is that being involved in the actual development we know why certain design/tech choices were done in a certain way, and, this may add a familiarity bias and make us take things the way they are. However, we have to remember that products are developed for certain users and this means that their quality very often will be evaluated by feelings. As the saying goes:

People very often don’t remember what you did, but they remember how you made them feel. 

So, make sure to question usability and design. Catch any kind of feelings you may have about the experience and voice them. And, for the best result – get to know the actual users in order to understand their feelings.

P. S. Ironically, in order to write this post I had to login to my wordpress account and I was annoyed a bit again about user experience:

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 11.59.35Why would the field say “Email Address or Username” when only username is allowed? I used the correct e-mail and managed then to send a link to the very same e-mail and login via click there (as I could not guess the username field). This just sums up on how you should always think twice about the design: how users will interact with your product and feel afterwards. 

3 Tips for Thriving as a Tester: Impressions from “How to thrive as a Web Tester” by Rob Lambert

There is this one ultimate type of people that I adore the most in my life: smart, but humble. This does not sound like anything rare, right? Yet it is. In tech world there may be tension, competition, even stress-caused forgetting that others are humans, too.

I always get my inspiration from people who want to lift others up rather than bring themselves up. An example here is people who honestly care how you’re doing and actually provide feedback on how you could improve. These people share ideas and their keys to success to anyone who is willing to learn. In my testing career, I was amazed to meet so many professionals wanting to help you improve: be it a colleague programmer willing to share their ideas on how you could create a better automation checks framework, respected experts in the field supporting you on Twitter or sharing their books for free. 

This is how I came across How to thrive as a Web Tester by Rob Lambert: I really like Rob’s ideas on testing, especially on the social aspect of it, and a few weeks back I saw his tweet that you could download the book for free that day. I could not miss a chance: downloaded it immediately and actually read it in a few days.

“How to thrive as a Web Tester” is a collection of great tips and lessons learned by Rob Lambert who has been working in testing for more than 20 years. The book has two parts: social aspects of thriving as a tester and techniques on testing websites.

I found both parts great, but the first part was especially speaking to me. Rob shares a lot of realizations about work as a tester which are sometimes related to psychology and communication. Second part related to web testing had many practical tips which are especially useful for someone new in web testing. I really enjoyed reading the book and here is the summary of top 3 ideas I liked.

Top 3 my favorite lessons from “How to thrive as a Web Tester” by Rob Lambert

Be the best tester YOU can be

This point particularly spoke to me. We tend to compare ourselves to others constantly. Then sometimes we get unmotivated that we don’t know as much about something as person X does. Or we are not as smart as them or not as quick or not as good of a public speaker and this goes on… It is time to embrace ourselves for who we are. In the book Rob reminds us to confront our own beliefs on what a good tester is to us, not others. Where should we improve? How can we become the best version of OURSELVES? A brave advice that Rob is giving in the book is to avoid mediocrity in your workplace. In order to become the best version of yourself you must have an environment which allows you to experiment, fail, learn, succeed and grow. This means that you have to choose a healthy workplace which supports your growth.

Ask good questions

High quality questions generally lead to high quality answers. High quality questions are the hallmark of good testers.

I wrote down at least 5 quotes from “How to thrive as a Web Tester” which were related to questions. It really was something I aim to have at my work: ask more and by doing so, be more productive. Sometimes a question on implementation can open a lot of “we haven’t thought of that” and it saves a lot of time for you as a tester, too, because it all leads to conversation instead of many bug reports. In the end, we all are working for the same purpose – to build a high quality product.

It is not always around more testing

Sometimes there are tendencies to automate as much as we can, but this is not always necessary – automate where it makes sense. Also, your work can be more productive and faster if as mentioned above you ask questions and also if you use tools to test quicker.

What I liked a lot in the second part of the book was the suggestion to use various tools to ease testing. Rob has a support page for the book with all kinds of resources accessible to everyone and using tools is possibly a tip I would give to my younger self, too. A lot of times I have filled in text fields manually or done other test data preparation routine tasks which took a lot of time and were pretty error-prone. A way to a more productive testing can be as simple as having an extension on your browser which helps you fill in text input fields. One of my favorites is Bug Magnet Chrome extension by Gojko Adzic.

 

 

 

 

Testing to Make Product Better vs. Perfect

Reading Seth Godin’s post Perfect vs. important I realized that his idea is very relevant to testers. To rephrase, the main thought of his post is:

Spend more time on making something better (more useful) than polishing it to perfection

When it comes to testing, frequently testers jump into a habit of reporting every minor issue found which leads to quantity vs quality sometimes. Have you ever reported an ugly progress indicator or not the prettiest alignment of UI elements? I have. And I even fought for these to be fixed.

Obviously, UI is important. Distortion bug on IE9 can make you lose customers who use IE9, for example. Ugly UI is not inviting to be used. However, let’s stop for a minute – what is the actual importance of these issues for your product? Are they more important than a security bug where user can access different user’s account by changing their user id in the URL?

Sometimes we are wasting our energy, effort and even nerves with bugs which are for “polishing to perfection” rather than making the product better.

Think for a moment: what is the main purpose of the product?

The art of being a good tester is the ability to ask good questions, so let’s ask ourselves some questions when we test:

  • Does the product work as expected?
  • Are there any areas which may cause trouble and were not thoroughly tested?
  • Does my testing concentrate on making product better or perfect?
  • Do we (testing + other departments) have time to polish the product to perfection? (If yes – yay, there is time to fix minor issues as well!, if no – then concentrate on the important functionalities)

Sometimes you have to let go of the minor bugs – there are more important features to test/improve. Be smart with your priorities: work on making the product better, not perfect.

5 Tips for Humans in Tech from “The Confidence Code”

During EuroSTAR 2017 conference, there were a couple of discussions about Women in Testing (if here you thought “what about men?” I can redirect you to a good article on whatabouting). Being a woman in tech myself, talking about issues like feeling shy, an impostor and uncomfortable in a sometimes man-dominated tech world has helped me greatly to improve myself and even the way I work. However, I truly think that these discussions can be useful to men, too – maybe not as commonly, but every single human can have issues with confidence. At my company instead of using “guys” we adapted a beautiful “humans” instead and in this post I would like to talk to you all, dear humans.

At one of the gatherings during the conference, there was a recommendation of Katty Kay’s and Claire Shipman’s “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know”. I immediately knew I had to read that book. What I didn’t know was that the realizations I would get as a result of reading this book would affect me, my attitude and even the way I do my work.

“The Confidence Code” combines a lot of research on the confidence of women and proves that even if there are some biological differences in the brain of men and women, or there are genes responsible for confidence, but every single person can work on feeling more confident – brain plasticity is a real thing, so we can change at any age.

I have worked with lots of wonderful people and some of the most touching confidence stories I have heard were by men, too. For example, I have this colleague who on the surface looks like a strong confident male and yet once after quite some time working together he opened up that he feels like an impostor. I was shocked – I did not see it coming at all. So, even if a lot of issues described in “The Confidence Code” are more common for women, I would like to share 5 tips that I (re)discovered from this book which are applicable to everyone despite their gender.

  1. Don’t let the stereotypes dictate your life: give things a try

    In one of the studies mentioned in the book,  Zachary Estes, who is a research psychologist with special interest in confidence disparity between men and women, made over 500 students solve spatial puzzles. He made this experiment not only to prove that women have lower confidence sometimes, but also to show that confidence can be manipulated. The results of this experiment were that the women performed way worse than men, but what Estes noticed was that in general women didn’t even try to solve most of the problems. Then, he decided to repeat the experiment with a saying that participants should at least try and… the results were around even. Women performed as good as men when they actually tried to do the tasks without giving up.

    A lot of women assume they are not good at spatial puzzles or… tech. There may be some stereotypes in the air and sadly, but a lot of women themselves get trapped in it. My real life example is programming – a lot of times I would think I can’t do something just because I can’t do it immediately and I am not perfect at it. Last week I got a task to improve my automated checks and I got a little bit scared – I haven’t touched the code for a while. However, once I sat down, I decided to give it a try like I learned in the book. In the end, code review was very kind and I just needed to add an extra validation – the code I created was better than I thought.

  2. Intention is not enough: what matters is action even if it is not perfect

    I see it all around me – wonderful women fretting that something won’t be perfect and sometimes freezing over doing because it won’t be perfect. I had the very same with the code I mentioned above – I even had thoughts that maybe I should sit down with a back-end developer before even committing. However, what is important here is to fail fast – okay, I may commit something utterly wrong, but that is a chance to learn. Not holding back anything and being ready for feedback – I learn and actually get things done. It is not enough to dream to be the best programmer on earth – you have to fail and learn from your mistakes.

  3. Start small and you will overcome your fears

    Inaction very often comes from low confidence. Often we avoid things that we are not good at – we should try to break that and do more of it in contrast.

    In “The Confidence Code” there was a good example of school in the USA versus the schools in Japan. One American journalist was sitting in a geometry class for kids in Japan. One of the kids couldn’t draw a figure right. To his surprise, the teacher pointed out that child and made them come to the whiteboard and draw in front of the class while being given feedback after each time. The journalist was feeling very anxious – in the USA if someone can’t do something calling them out would be rather insulting and embarrassing. And, well, after first try the teacher asked the class if the drawing was good enough and they said no, so the kid had to try again and again… until they got it right. When the shape was good enough – all the class applauded and the child was smiling from ear to ear. 

    This reminds me of an interview with singer Pink who was asked how she got into air gymnastics that she does so well in her performances. And then Pink answers that she was afraid of height and she did not want to be afraid of it. That was the reason why she went straight to air gymnastics – to beat her fear. So, don’t run away from the things you are not good at – overcome them by facing it.

  4. Stay authentic – everyone’s confidence is unique

    One of my friends says that there are two types of confidence: fake and real. The fake one is loud and looks glamorous, but it’s not the one you should seek. It is okay if you are not loud, you can be silent and confident. This I have learned especially working as a tester – I listen a lot, but I still stand my ground and if needed I will express my concerns and risks. It is important to find your own balance of what confidence is for you.

    Being authentic and daring the difference are the best signs of confidence as well: a lot of women seek to be liked by everyone. This is rather impossible – you have to be yourself, it is impossible that everyone would like you, but it is possible to earn respect from your colleagues for the fact that you are being yourself.

  5. Be a role model

    A lot of times we say that the main problem for women not joining tech is the lack of role models. Have you ever thought that some people may see YOU as a role model? We all are different and I can assure you that even if people don’t tell you directly, but some consider you a role model. So, be responsible for your actions, make your decisions clearly because there are people who look up to you. Set the standard. Sometimes people may know less than you and are waiting for you to speak up. From my experience – often people close to you believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

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!

20171003_204208-001

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!

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.