Testers are second class citizens.

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This week I attend the London Agile Discussion Group which had an interesting debate topic:

“Testers are second class citizens”

To give the evening some structure we were split into two groups, the proposition and the opposition. Each group had 15 minutes to prepare their statement which they would then present back to the audience.

The Proposition

Up first the proposition who agreed testers are second class citizens.

As they began I was actually surprised how passionately they put across their statement. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout “You are wrong!” but at the same time i found it fascinating to hear this side of the debate. The debate spurred up a strange sense of emotions. It made me thankful that i don’t have these discussions in my own team otherwise i’d be a very angry man!

These are some of the arguments put forward by the Proposition.

Testers are second class citizens because……….

– Testers are paid less
– Testers are generally more junior members
– Testers are less skilled than other team members such as developers
– Testers are just a “distraction”
– Testers don’t add any value to the software
– You can make money without testers
– If you do TDD or BDD you don’t need testers
– Why use testers when your customers can do testing for you in Production
– Testing can be done by anyone
– It is commonly sent off shore
– Testers/Testing is an entry level for IT industry
– Testing is not seen as a career
– Testers are failed developers or individuals that want to eventually become developers
– We should aim for generalising specialists not specific roles. So based upon this the “tester” role itself doesn’t exist, as doesn’t “developer”, “BA”. We are all just team members.
– If you had to sack all your developers or all your testers. Who would you sack?

The Opposition

Second up was the opposition. I’d conveniently been placed in this group. There were 3 other testers in my group and as you can imagine we passionately believed in the value testers can add however being testers we did have questions around the debate topic:

– What do we mean by “Tester”?
– To whom are testers second class citizens? Developers? Business Owners? God?
– Who may think this?

To present our opposition we first looked at why people might think testers are second class citizens. We all had experiences where testing had been sent “off shore” maybe to cut costs because testing is seen as an unwanted cost, we also had experiences where developers had thought anyone could test and that as testers don’t add value to the product they are not needed.

These were the arguments we put forward as the opposition:

Testers are NOT second class citizens because……….

– We think its important to look beyond roles in Agile Teams. We are “Team Members”
– There should be no “class system” within agile teams
– Whole Team approach to quality is important
– We value that idea of “T-Shaped” team members and having team members with a deep knowledge and understanding is very, very important. We feel that its important for the following skills to be present(many of which are found in testers):
— Communication
— Problem Solving
— Analysis Skills
— Creativity
— Development/Programming skills
— Understanding the domain/business
— Put the customer first
— Perseverance/Determination

We also identified a relationship between ability and second class citizenship in teams. Often team members, sometimes testers, with less ability can be given less challenging tasks within a team, this can create a “class system” within the team. An example from the testing world would be “Lets get the testers to do the regression testing, we’ve got more important things to do.” This in turn becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, rather than bringing these “second class” citizens into “first class citizenship” we further push them away.

It was a really fascinating debate but upon reflection I was disappointed at how i struggled to clearly articulate my position. Over the past year I’ve worked in a team were everyone is treated with the same level of respect and valued equally(or at least that’s my perception) so i rarely have to justify my position in the team.

I’m planning to spend sometime thinking about how in future i can more clearly articulate why testers are not second class citizens.

I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts on the debate topic, either those for or against. Please leave a comment or tweet me!
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A Retrospective – My first conference talk (longer than 99 seconds)

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So earlier this year i did a 99 second talk at Test Bash. This was a good start for an aspiring public speaker like myself but since then i’ve been determined to get a longer slot. When i was offered a slot at Agile Testing Days it was time to hit the big stage.

What was my talk about?

“Practical tips for pairing with developers to test.”

You can read the full abstract here: http://www.agiletestingdays.com/session/consensus-part-v/

You can view the slides here: http://slides.com/tobythetester/deck#/

So how did it go?

As it was an Agile conference what better way to do this than a retrospective. In one of the Lean Coffee mornings we talked about how Retrospectives can be a bit boring. However the last thing i want to do is write a boring blog post, so i’ve come up with my own simple twist on your usual retrospective format – “The Conference Kit bag”

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I asked for feedback at the start of my talk so luckily it made this retrospective pretty easy!

What should i keep in my kit bag?

    • Great Content and topic
    • Confidence and enthusiasm was great
    • Humour was good, especially use of video
    • Clear and Understandable
    • Reference other articles from people in the testing community
    • Ask for feedback, i got some really useful advice.

What should i take out of my kit bag?

    • Stop looking at the floor during the talk. Engage with the crowd more
    • Stop using slides.com They didn’t display well on screen
    • Stop adding too much detail to slides that isn’t talked about

What should i put into my kit bag?

    • Talk a little bit slower, especially when talking somewhere there might be people who don’t have english as a first language
    • Talk about my experiences in more detail, go deeper
    • Mac VGA Connector
    • My slides were hosted online, look at better software so that if the wifi doesn’t work I’m not screwed
    • Download videos locally rather than streaming incase wifi is unreliable

A good retrospective always has actions. I like to phrase these as:

Where should i carry my kit bag?

  • Content might also suit a workshop on pairing. Look into how that might work. Richard Bradshaw has some thoughts. I’ll buy him a beer.
  • Do this talk back at my workplace.
  • Invite one of my developers to present with me next time. Might be an interesting twist on the pairing topic.
  • Submit the talk to other conferences. Look on Test Events for Call for Proposal deadlines.
  • Dan Ashby is interested in me doing a brown bag session at his work. Buy him beer.
  • Ben Williams suggested doing the talk at “Canary Wharf Agile Forum”. Buy him beer.

I’d like to develop further so get in touch if you’d like me to talk at your conference, workplace or even just in the pub.

Thanks to the following people for their feedback:

David Evans, Ben Williams, Tom Roden, Dan Ashby, Alan Parkinson, Chris George, Richard Bradshaw, Christina Ohanian plus those who i didn’t remember your names!

My Top 5 experiences from Agile Testing Days Conference

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So Agile Testing Days(ATD) is over, but really, this is where the hard work begins! With so much learnt the challenge over the next few days will be to debrief, reflect and identify how i can turn some of this stuff into actions. To help me, and maybe others, here are my top 5 moments from the conference:

1. Conferring – Everyone

Before going to ATD i had the objective of conferring with as many people as i could. Thankfully the way ATD was structured meant that there were plenty of breaks in the day and events(samba dancing included) in the evening to encourage people to mingle. The Lean Coffee each morning was also a great way to meet others so thanks to Lisa and Janet for organising.

On the virtual conferring platform Twitter was going crazy, as usual! I’ve just started using Tweet Deck and found that really awesome for keeping track of different tweets. Highly recommend it if you haven’t got it. It still surprises me how popular Twitter is now within the testing community, its great to see so many people interacting and sharing their thoughts. I also saw various tweets from people watching from the sidelines who seemed to get a lot from the tweets.

2. A Test Management Carol: The Ghosts of Test Management Past, Present and Future – Ben Williams and Tom Roden

Rather than put this one into words. Just watch this, you’ll soon know why this was a highlight:

Their workshop at BDD Exchange also made my top 5 so well done boys.

3. The struggles of my identity and how i got my developers to start testing – Kristoffer Nordstrom

On Day 1 Kristoffer talked about struggling with finding an identity as a tester. I think many people can connect with this as teams move to more “generalising specialists” in cross functional teams.

In his talks Kristoffer referenced three interesting topics. Firstly he brought our attention to the “Impostor Syndrome”:

“A psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.” Wikipedia

Also in the talk he referenced “Social Identity” theory which refers to our need as humans to feel like we belong. This has an impact on the relationships we form in teams as we don’t want to upset people and as testers it can be difficult to give certain information.

The final reference i’d like to mention was “The Presentation of Self in Everyday life” by Eric Goffman:

“According to Goffman, the social actor has the ability to choose his stage and props as well as the costume he would wear in front of a specific audience. The actor’s main goal is to keep coherent and adjust to the different settings offered him.” Wikipedia

I appreciate Kristoffer for sharing his personal stories with us all.

4. “Don’t put me in a box!” – Antony Maracano

Day 3 kicked off with a very motivational talk from Antony Maracano “Don’t put me in a box!”. The talk touched on how as individuals we use job titles to identify ourselves, for example when we meet others at a conference and we get asked the question “What do you do?” the answer usually pulls reference on your job title. Antony challenged us to break free from these titles and to not be constrained by our job title. It was great to see someone challenging something that we accept all too often. I’m a big believer of moving away from titles and referring to one’s self and the skills i can bring rather than specific title.

Leaving the talk one thing that was going through my mind;

“What influence does the recruitment industry have on our obsession with titles?”

How many job adverts have you seen without a Job Title, what would that look like? Maybe something to think over for a blog in the future.

In the opening Keynote Janet and Lisa talked about the future of testing and i certainly think, working out our identity as a team member is something which testers, or people who do testing, may have a challenge with over the coming years.

Having spoken to several different people after many agreed it was a great motivational talk and i’m sure many people have been inspired to “break free from their box!”

5. Dan Ashby Lateral and Critical thinking

I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Dan(#Legend) at the conference so i knew his talk was probably going to be great! He introduced us to:

Critical Thinking – “the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion” Dictionary

Lateral Thinking“The solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing theproblem in a new and unusual light.” Dictionary

(He also tried introducing me to Whisky one evening, but that wasn’t as enjoyable as this talk)

What i found really awesome in the talk was how Dan uses Puzzles to practice these skills. In fact we did two of these  awesome puzzles on Tuesday night. I hadn’t thought about doing that before but i can already tell I’m hooked, its just a shame i missed the Big Agile Games night on Wednesday.

Beyond the obvious benefits of improving your thinking skills i think these games are a great way to engage with the team, even those outside of testing. I’m actually thinking of putting puzzles into my email signature of work so that these ideas can spread within my organisation, if anything, hoping that it sparks a conversation with someone who i wouldn’t normally have spoken to.

My advice, if you are at a conference, find Dan and ask for a puzzle!

In fact here is one of his puzzles now:

8910 = 4

1480 = 3

8371 = 2

3472 = 0

8461 = ?

Tweet me with your answer 🙂

Closing thoughts……

So as you can probably tell from all the superlatives in my blog the conference was really awesome. If you get chance to go in the future i highly recommend it. Now there is one other highlight from the conference, my awesome talk, but i’ll debrief that in another blog post once my mind has had time to rest and recover.

Until next year ATD!

Agile Testing and BDD Exchange Conference Review

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On Thursday 6th and Friday 7th November 2014 i attended the “Agile Testing and BDD Exchange” run by Skills Matter in London.

Here are my 5 highlights:

1. Capturing Requirements or Solving problems – @JeffPatton (Key Note)

The conference got off to a great start! Jeff introduced us to a new model for approaching problems and “changing the world” because as he puts it, thats our job as software professionals to change the world with the software we build.

Jeff talked a lot about “Design Thinking” which was a new concept to me:

“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

A key part of Design Thinking is Empathy with users and Jeff challenged us to “Go to where the people work. Get out of the building, way out of the building!” As a tester this really resonated for me as often i don’t spend enough working with my teams user base to understand their problems and what value they want from our products(Quality). Understanding more clearly our users can help inform and guide our testing. This is something i’ll be taking back to my team for sure.

2. Improving the Value of BDD – @DavidEvans66

David talked us through some great experiences he’s had with applying BDD. What i really liked in this talk was the concept of “Yak Shaving

Yak shaving is what you are doing when you’re doing some stupid, fiddly little task that bears no obvious relationship to what you’re supposed to be working on, but yet a chain of twelve causal relations links what you’re doing to the original meta-task.”

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He related this back to BDD and how often a lot of the time in BDD all we are doing is Yak shaving. I’ve seen this in many BDD Scenarios where it’s impossible to see the intent of the scenario as it’s blurred with useless information. It’s also prevalent when people apply the techniques of BDD blindly even to things that fall into the simple domain such as user login.

3. Delivery Mapping – @tastapod and @PapaChrisMatts

With “the band back together” as they phrased it, Dan North and Chris Matts presented their ideas around Delivery Mapping, something they’ve just started to share amongst the community. They talked through a model that brings together Impact Mapping, Skills Mapping and Delivery Mapping.

What really stood out for me was the Skills mapping ideas. Dan and Chris talked through how to use a skills matrix to understand Organisation and Individual needs. The model maps what the needs are of the business are, what skills are currently available and what skills are needed. The ideal is the centre of the model, the gold point. The place you probably don’t want to be is where there is a business need that cannot be met but current skills or desired skills of the workforce. If you ever have the opportunity of meeting Dan North, you can ask him about “The Tiger in the tree”

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Another great learning was the concept of “Skills Liquidity

4. Q & A – Dan North and Lee Nicholls

This was a nice change. Instead of a presentation Dan North did a Q&A with Lee Nicholls, who has managed the Agile Transformation at a “Large American Bank”. This was really interesting for me because i work at “A larger American Bank” so the context of the discussions were directly relatable. Lee’s usage of measurement during their teams Agile Transformation was awesome in particular how they had used lead Time and Cycle Time. He also talked about “Marginal Gains” something which Dave Brailsford introduced to the UK Cycling Team. Using the measurements Lee’s teams can work on frequent marginal gains to improve and track their progress. Some of the concepts raised in “Beyond Budgeting” were also discussed. In particular making information transparent and Lee referenced an example from the book where a company needed to make reductions to their expenses cost. Instead of reducing hotel, mileage, travel allowance etc. they introduced a policy that all staff had to put their expense claims on a big visible board in the office. Everyone soon took ownership of keeping their expenses down for the success of the whole team.

5. Experiments with Flow – @13enWilliams, @Jon_Whitaker and @TommRoden

In this highly interactive session we ran through a game to demonstrate Kanban concepts of Flow, Cycle Time and experiments. Ben, Jon and Tom introduced us to the importance of Limiting Work in Progress and the effect that too much work or too little can have on our cycle times. We broke into groups of 10 and were tasked with the following exercise:

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After each iteration we had a quick retrospective as a team and reviewed our Cumulative Flow diagram and cycle time measurements. We were then encouraged to try some small experiments to see their effect. We tried a few different experiments such as changing the shape of the group, moving responsibilities amongst the team and using a pull based system instead of push. It was amazing the effect some simple changes could have and seeing the results in black and white really helped to review the impact of the experiments. I will definitely be looking to run this game back with my team.

Summary

Agile Testing and BDD Exchange is really a conference for the Whole team. There were many times during the conference i thought, “Our product Owner could find this useful, our developer, our testers, our BA….” I’ve taken away so many learnings that i can share with the whole team. I’m excited to return to the office Monday with all these ideas!

Thanks to everyone who helped make the conference a success!