Reinventing Testers and Staying Sane in New York

I did a bonus talk/workshop on Tuesday on Test Masters Academy‘s conference during the Reinventing Testers week. Title was: “Reinventing Testers, Reinventing Myself, Staying Sane.” The talk was an introduction of explorative, valuable, and supportive conversations.

Imagine you are at the scrum meeting. You’ve reinvented yourself as a tester and feel fit in the new team. But today, a senior manager has joined the meeting: The release is in testing and “go live” is today.

The problem is that you are facing some very odd issues. How are you going to manage talking about them?

Testers are often under pressure. We have to stay cool – and sane.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” – Mark Twain

(It was Jess Ingrassellino who tweeted this quote a few days ago.)

An experienced tester on my team recently mentioned that a sudden change in schedule had caused him to fear he would loose sense of himself.

I am very passionate about providing testers with ways to remain true to themselves, even under pressure.

In the talk, I introduced the type of philosophical conversations I practice as often as possible with team members and friends: Protreptic dialogues.

(I have written and talked about it before.)

We formed a circle and I spread Dialoogle cards with pictures on the floor for us to pick from: Pick a card that relates to testing.

Picking a picture of something and associating it to testing requires you to use your intuition better and think creatively about yourself and what you do.

The thoughts enable protreptic conversations in which I as the “guide” and facilitator listens and ask questions. The conversation is personal, but never intimidating as it is always only about assisting you in reflecting positively about your thoughts, ideas and values.

Sane comes from latin sanus, which means healthy, sober, sensible.

Being sensible, sensing, sensemaking and staying sane is linked. The kind of sanity I seek, is that where we seek to understand who we are, and stay true to our values.

I shared this slide in PDF with five helpful principles that you can follow to perform explorative, valuable and supportive conversations with colleagues and friends.

dsc_4307-1
Morning sun reflecting in the rivers as seen from the insanely tall Empire State Building. Far out in the horizon, the Atlantic is barely visible. New York is beautiful in its own ways.

Don’t shoot Sparrows with Cannons: Reassess Yourself

This is the second blog post sharing inspiration from the Reinventing Testers week.

The WITS Sunday peer workshop that preceeded the conference on Monday and Tuesday had some very interesting discussions over this subject. The first I’ll blog about is one Simon Peter Schrijver started.

What he said sparked my mind on contrasts about “reinventing or reassessing ourselves” in new contexts.

At one point in the workshop, I think we were getting high on our fantastic combined abilities around the table to adapt and reinvent Context Driven Testing. Fortunately Simon brought us back to earth, so to speak, as he shared with us that when changing jobs, projects, organisations and contexts, he found that he is really only reassessing himself.

I challenged him on that, after having looked up stuff online about the meaning of the words, but I later realized he was right: We often “only” reassess ourselves. Only is in quotes here, since it is not trivial.

Let me share my understandings of reinvention and reassession.

Reinvention must have something to do with creativity, which is fundamentally about giving up our preformed solutions and starting over from scratch. The only thing we keep is a guiding image, something we wish to achieve, a problem to solve.

But first we have to return to our newborn states of mind, and listen carefully for new and original solutions our minds could be suggesting.

I have an introspective image of how it works: First I relax, give up on everything I know, and accept that I am vulnerable and fragile. In the next moment, I regain a sense where I am, who I am, and what I’m up to. And that’s when the flow of ideas begins.

Reassessment must be totally different.

Originally, assessment had to do with accounting, where an assessing the accounts involving verifying their validity.

Thus, if I am reassessed, I am reverified. Revalidated could be synonymous.

My introspective image of reassessment of myself in a new context is one of me entering my minds’ inner archive of carefully labeled, preformed solutions, finding those that seems to bear the name of the particular testing problem I have, and then apply them, validating (assessing) in the process that this still works.

It does depend on me having experience, but it also depends on my ability to assess whether the knowledge and experience I dig up works in the particular context.

My experience and knowledge is applied, and I assess it. I don’t apply it mindlessly.
Simon is a great tester and thinker with enormous experience. He reminded us that – in many ways -, changing contexts does not mean throwing overboard what we know.

It is often only the pieces that make up the context, which appear different. They aren’t necessarily really new.

Reinvention certainly has its place, and I’ll get back to that later, but Simon reminded me that we shouldn’t shoot sparrows with cannons.

 

dsc_4325
The WITS workshop was run in LAWST format: personal ERs (experience reports) from the participants, followed by an ‘open season’ – a facilitated group discussion. Simon wore a very nice t-shirt at the workshop.