Category Archives: personal retrospective

Conferences 2018 – a reflection

It’s been a busy year for conferences and teaching – so here is a quick summary…

UKSTAR 2018

This was in London, UK, in March.

I enjoyed day 1, with excellent keynotes from Christina Ohanian, and Gustav Kuhn. Christina’s messages on building teams were full of insights. As well as Gustav’s keynote, I’d also enjoyed Gustav’s workshop with Alan Richardson. The application of magic to psychology and then to how we observe (or don’t observe) the phenomena about us was very revealing, and certainly applicable to testers. Do we see the things other people don’t see? Can we be tricked? Powerful stuff.

Day 2 of UKSTAR 2018 was a very – extreme – experience for me. I was booked to present the opening keynote and then a workshop, and just before I was due to go on stage I had a completely unexpected phone call to say my mother had died. I made the decision that I wanted to go ahead – she would have wanted and expected that – discussed it with the programme committee and the UKSTAR team, and with their full and immense support went ahead to give my keynote – on Leadership, Followership and Fellowship – which went well, on a surge of adrenlin that also carried me through my workshop where we shared information around the UX of testing tools for testers – contributing data to my research and allowing delegates to share experiences and learn some UX techniques to apply to their own test tool acquisitions.

I used the data I collected during the workshop as one of the inputs to the Webinar I did for EuroSTAR, which also allowed me to open an online survey, and collect more data. The webinar and survey are still available here: https://huddle.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/webinar-questionnaire-no-shelfware-lets-drive/

Thank you so much EuroSTAR and UKSTAR teams for your support during UKSTAR and beyond!

Romanian Code Camp

This was in Iasi in March. I was so pleased (given my personal circumstances) to be there with my friend and colleague Sue Atkins. Again the conference organisers were so supportive! As well as a masterclass on quality in use and UX, and a masterclass on Leadership, Followership and Fellowship, I presented on Human Factors for Test Automation, Sue and I presented a joint session on State Transition Testing, and also we both gave lightning talks. I was delighted to meet Vijay Kiran, who gave an inspirational lightning key on the importance of ethics in development – that excellent software is not just well engineered, not just exhibiting excellent UX, but also is ethically sound – doing good. I’ve been quoting him all year since! It was enjoyable to be at a conference with a range of tracks as well as a testing track: architecture, design, frontend, web, IoT, engineering, leadership, agile, entrepreneurship, and – my favourote track title – “funa dn fearless”. This conference was also beautifully hosted, ending with a cocktail party for speakers, hand made, natural ingredients – and the most delicious non-alcoholic one featuring apples and peanuts! I wish I could remember the name of the people who produced them!

STAREAST

STAREAST is always good fun, and this year was no exception…  I presented two tutorials: “Influence Diagrams – a new way to understand testing” and “Transforming Testing: building your road map”. These were both half day workshops, although closely linked together. I also presented a track on “Devices and Desires” about our attitude to technology and how that matches against the needs and desires of people outside IT. An interesting couch discussion with a group of delegates about leadership completed my contributions to the conference. Photo:  https://stareast.techwell.com/conference-photo/se18-couch-session-isabel-evans

While there, I enjoyed the Women Who Test day; each time I attend I learn something new about myself, and enjoy the perspectives of the other attendees (men and women are welcome, by the way).

HTB Workshop and HUSTEF preparation

During 2018, I was honoured to be the HUSTEF Programme Chair. More on the latter later! In June, while in Budapest for the programme planning meeting, I also presented a workshop for the HTB on Quality in Use, and at the Tezst and Tea meet up presented “No more shelfware!”

The programme planning went well, it was a real joy to work with the programme committee and the HUSTEF organising team!

BCS SIGiST

This meeting took place in London in June. Stuart Reid and the committee had organised an “all keynotes” day, which was really good fun. I met up with old friends, and enjoyed their talks, as well as presenting “Devices and Desires” to an appreciative audience.

ODIN

Off to Oslo in September for a delightful conference, I gave tutorials on UX, and on Human Factors for test automatio, as well as a keynote on Leadership. At ODIN I also met up with Lorraine and Siobhan of the EuroSTAR team, who took me aside for a coffee, a catch up… and an interesting request…

TESTJAM

Straight from Oslo to Utrecht, where I presented at Capgemini’s Testjam, on Devices and Desires, and met up with old friends (Nathalie and Kimberley and Rik) from Capgemini… A lovely evening, ending with a dash to the airport as storms disrupted air travel… 

STARWEST and STARCANADA

Before STARWEST, the various personal events of the year meant that I could get to conferences and deliver, but was unable to take in any information! By STARWEST and STARCANADA, I felt more settled, and enjoyed listening to the keynotes and tracks. STARWEST was busy busy busy and great fun!

Across the two conferences, I taught 5 tutorials (test design, requirements testing, UX, influence diagrams, automation: a human-centred approach) which all went well plus a lightning key, 2 track sessions, 2 couch sessions, and a talk on failure at Women Who Test.

I’d also been on the programme committee with Rob Sabourin (the chair) and Julie Gardiner. That had been a really interesting experience, and I was delighted to have the chance to contribute, and to help choose the speakers. My feel is that these were two great programmes – but that of course is author bias!

Great keynotes! Jennifer Bonine and Janna Loeffler on story telling – great production values, wonderful illustrations by a Disney illustrator, and a great message well delivered. Jon Bach’s courageous use of a live survey with the audience via an app was really enjoyable, as well as his thoughts on how one’s behaviour changes with one’s role. Dona Sarkar on “be the lord of your own rings” was a fireball of energy. Max Saperstone showed a brilliant use of mutation syntax testing. Fiona Charles discussed leadership and how it differs from Management. Alexandre Baudin showed us how to test flight simulators, and Sophie Benjamin eloquently told how to transform testing.

Among the tracks I enjoyed Jane Jeffers from Riot Games on asking Why, and Julene Johnson from Lucid Software on Anxiety. ALso Stefan Marceau and Keith Turpin on User Stories, Fiona Charles on Gaining Consciousness, 

Women Who Test maintained its celebratory nature, in particular from a rich day, I’ll pick out getting to see the first printing of Tania Katan’s book on creative trespassing…

HUSTEF

My first big conference as programme chair! It’s been hard work, but what an experience! I am so pleased to have done this… In fact, I think it deserves a separate post…

EuroSTAR

The final conference of the year… and as always like coming home. Old friends abound, so many greetings, embraces, and conversations! Friends from all over the world! 

I think this one deserves its own post too – lots to say, and this post is already…. too long!

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Improvement: My target may not be your target…

I was swimming slowly up and down the pool at the fitness centre this morning, and reflecting on how my attitude to swimming pools has changed over the last few years, and that to gyms has changed in the last month.

Life-long – since earliest school days – “swimming pools” and “gyms” have been a source of fear, shame and avoidance; the noise, the smells, the bullying – overt and implicit – all intimidating and preventing me even stepping inside.

In the last few years I have shed my fear of swimming pools to some extent, and although a poor and slow swimmer, I do go to swim fairly regularly. Still – if people are noisy, if they shout or splash, if the water is oozing chlorine, if the lanes are crowded with strong, intent, heads down swimmers, then it takes all my mental strength to stay in the water. But, in calm water, I enjoy myself.

In November I moved to a new house-sit, in a new town. Knowing that I was in a town for the winter, knowing that I would need exercise, I joined the fitness club that had a pool. So far, so good. Then – to my horror – they offered me a PT session. All my fears of gyms, changing rooms, and equipment resurged – gut wrenchingly. But, as part of my personal and professional development in the last year, I have adopted a spirit of “try it once” so I went. It was surprising good. The PT instructor was supportive, kind, and  encouraging.

One of the things we discussed was my fear of going into a gym, as I believed that other people would laugh at me, at my lack of expertise, my lack of fitness, my incompetence. The instructor helped me to see that no-one else in the gym was interested in what I was doing, and also that they fell into a number of categories none of which needed to alarm me.  These were:

  • the local professional rugby players. Huge, fit, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • the body builders. Rippling muscles, serious demeanors, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • the youngsters. Slim, beautiful, practised – cycling, running, on their phones, ears focused on their downloads – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • middle aged and elderly people trying to get fit – oh hang on…. even if they are fitter than me, now, they’ve come from somewhere…

Guess what – I can go in there, and do the things I want to do, at my own pace. And no-one is laughing at me. Even more – if I need help – for example to adjust a machine – everyone I have asked for help has been helpful.

The machines I am using now at the gym – they are mostly on the lowest settings, the smallest weights. And I realised this week – there is a reason for those smallest weights – it is because people like me have to start somewhere. And now I have started, I can continue along an improvement path as long as want, to the level I need, regardless of what anyone else is doing. My targets are not going to be the same as the body builders, or the rugby players, or the youngsters. My target is to move from 5kg to 7.5kg, not from 5kg to 25kg. That’s all I need to do for now.

Why is this post in my consultancy blog and not in my personal blog? Because my message is to those of you who are not quality and testing experts. You might be as worried about starting on a self-improvement path around your professional practice as I was about going to the gym for the first time. My message is: try it.

Maybe you want to improve your personal practice, but you are not sure how. Perhaps you want to learn techniques, tools, approaches but are frightened that you’ll be laughed at if you ask. Perhaps you want to speak at conferences but feel you are not good enough. My message is: give it a go. Ask for help. There are many of us in the industry who are more than happy to help if we are asked. Go to a conference, or a test bash,  or on a course. Talk to other people at the conference. Talk to the speakers. You’ll be surprised at how much you can already do know, and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. Your target for self improvement need not be huge, just to make a small difference. Maybe to learn one technique, maybe to try one new approach.

Try these for starters:

UKSTAR, London: https://ukstar.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/ 

  • I’m speaking at this one so you can use a speakers discount

Isabel_Evans_discount

STAREast, Florida, USA: https://stareast.techwell.com

  • This includes the free Women Who Test day on the Friday, so make sure to book for that as well.

On my personal list for 2018 is to get to Ministry of Testing event – I just need to get myself together and do it! Have a look at https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/events

And also look at the online resources those conferences support – there is a mass of useful information you can get access to.

I keep a list of conferences where I am speaking on my website: confer with Isabel

2017 – a year of challenges and change

I’ve spent a short time the last couple of days reflecting on my 2017, it has been a challenging year, full of change and disruption, but also progress and successes. This is true personally and professionally, and now as never before I find those merging, affecting each other, blending. I’ll talk more in my storytelling blog about those areas.

This is a brief summary, just of the professional areas:

Work projects: This year, I have been involved in 3 work projects, each quite different roles, and for 3 different client companies based in different countries: one in the UK, one elsewhere in the EU, and one in Asia. Each of these projects challenged me in a different way – challenges of culture, language as well as challenges to be creative and imaginative, to meet deadlines while ensuring quality standards were maintained for both the deliverables I was responsible for and the services I provided. A mix of consultancy, training, mentoring, coaching, writing, and diagramming.

Conferences: in 2017, I participated at 12 conferences – including keynotes, tutorials, panels, workshops, track sessions, one-to-ones, “on the couch” sessions, discussions, where I made new friends, met old friends, and topped off the year by the award of the EuroSTAR Testing Excellence Award. Thank you to everyone who contributed to making that happen – I am so proud and pleased!

Research: also this year, I applied to University of Malta, and have been accepted as a post graduate student, so finally after much dithering, discussion and worry, I have started my research. So far I have taken and passed modules on “how to” research – quantitative and qualitative methods. I’ve also started to read academic literature about the research topic (UX of testing tools) and to make a research design. That’s taken 6 months!

I’m learning how to do this, and as I allowed myself to reset to a “beginner” it opened my mind both to how much I know and how little I know – as thought I have been sitting in the centre of my own paradox. I’ve always done CPD (Continuous Professional Development) and I have always seen life-long learning as essential, but I’ve seen this in a new and refreshing way. Being more open to many new ideas (not just in the professional arena, but personally too) is feeding my ability to relinquish the burden of imposter syndrome and of inflated expectation. I am more balanced.

There are nuances in all this, detail that I don’t want to share online – yet – even though I am sure almost no-one reads these posts!

The award citation for EuroSTAR provided me with a career retrospective from the point of view of my colleagues in the industry. This is a wake up call to what I have achieved and am capable of. That, plus the process of doing a personal annual retrospective has been good, and has additionally made me realise that I have – somehow, at some point – let go of the weekly retrospective that was for so many decades the anchor for my professional self. Something to reinstate for 2018.

2017 – a year of change, challenge and success for my professional life. Now to planning 2018 – what do I want to achieve? What is possible? What do I dream of?