Friday, 15 June 2012

Be the best known if not the best!

This blog post is a summary and might not justify the zeal, the enthusiasm, and the humor the original keynote had. Again, this is my view about the track. There might be something that I have misunderstood, so challenge me. The first day's last keynote at Nordic Testing Days was done by Torbjörn “Tobbe” Ryber, a Swede with great sense of humor* and huge talent in speaking about testing**. I was never heard of this guy before although I had a book written by him in my bag!

Torbjörn "Tobbe" Ryber

I had expectations*** that we were going to receive a rant about getting oneself certified and perfecting the art of writing test cases, or something of that general direction. Little did I know that this was going to be one of those life changing experiences. Before the keynote I had some views about my own testing career and the direction I was trying to go, but the insights Tobbe would give. The track was called "How to become a really great tester"

The presentation started with simple introduction to what kind of career Tobbe had earlier, and ended into this magnificently inspiring talk about building a software testing career. From year 1995 he had been reading testing books and doing testing to some extent. If I remember correctly he was appalled by the bad quality of something their company was developing and he was thrown to test it. He had different experiences and events that affected the career choices he had made, but he tried to get as much information about testing as possible. Around year 2000 Tobbe decided that he was going to be the best known tester if not the best. Also there were no suitable classes for him, so he started to teach testing.

So, this guy decides that he wants to be a tester, and to be a good one. Can we just decide that we want to be something and then get it? Obviously we can. This reflects to my own career as a tester. If Tobbe started his career in 1995, mine began at 2007 by getting thrown into the deep end of software testing. I was assigned to do test planning, design and execution to a mail/parcel logistics software project. Having no experience of testing theory or practices, I began to search every single Finnish testing blog, book, and/or expert from which I could illicit information. I said to my boss that “I want to be the best tester in this company”, which was fairly easy as I was the only one.**** Nonetheless I had similar start on my career as Tobbe had; we made a decision and we started acting on it.

Back to the business! Tobbe describes his career in three acts: the second one beginning around 2000 and trying to float in the IT-crisis. He fought the situation by getting certified, by joining the Swedish Association of Software Testing, and by contributing to the community by teaching testing and applying his accumulated knowledge to his work. This all seems like an easy job, but I can assure you that while trying to do the best job at the office and simultaneously trying to gather as much knowledge and skills as possible is not a walk in the park. He started to build his fame by writing about testing, joining peer workshops and all kinds of activities. Eventually he published a book about Software test design and thus building even harder foundations to his career.

So if you want to be well-known in the community, you might consider the following:

  • Have something to say*****
  • Go and talk to other testers within your community
  • Hold  workshops, trainings, tracks, experience reports******
  • Write about what you do and what you would like to do

I started my career first by reading blogs and articles. Then I went where other testers were and started conferring with them. I got my first testing connection by sending an email to Maaret Pyhäjärvi and asking does can I have some of her training slide sets. Then I started going to events and trainings to get more connections and eventually started holding workshops on my own. I also started writing a blog about testing, first I wanted to challenge the community to be more loud about itself and then about what I did and what I wanted to do. So basically I started to spread my network, and gathering experiences and connection.

Tobbe had achieved his status in the community by doing all kinds of activities that supported his career, skills, job opportunities and familiarity to others. He chose to do things that he liked and not to do things he didn't like (thereby making testing more FUN). He wanted to enjoy testing. During the keynote he never said “certify yourself, “do this” or “read this book”, he stressed the freedom of choice for people to develop their own career to the way they choose. One thing he stressed, though. Everyone should have a plan how to develop oneself. The route chosen is one’s own business, but without a plan the route is hard to be travelled. The plan may get changed during the travel – even the destination might change – but that’s a part of growing and developing. Nobody knows everything, but one could consider planning it ahead.

When What How Why
2012 Have a public presentation Search for conferences near Helsinki and propose a track or a workshop. To gain confidence in performing and to gain familiarity
2012 Publish an article Search for a suitable publisher and offer an original article about something testing related To gain familiarity and to establish a base of references for myself or others
2013 Take the BBST examTalk to people who have done it and find out how, when, where it can be done, and WHY ...

I made my 5-year plan a year ago. I have almost achieved the goal in the first year, but I still have a long way to go. And I have also made a 10-year plan to complement the first. I have had a lot of sidetracks on my plan, but the overall direction has been the same all the way. I think Tobbe had had his share of sidetracks and obstacles during his career, but he is the best known Swede testing expert to me.

Just like Tobbe asked after his keynote, I will ask you: “What is YOUR Plan?” How are you going to become a great tester?

The first step is the easiest: Want it.

PS. My plan looks like this:

*) A Finn saying a Swede has a sense of humor means that he has an enormous sense of humor to the rest of you.
**) I haven’t seen him test so I cannot say he has a talent in testing. ;) I assume that he has some talent, but again this Finn-Swede-competition-thing might mean that he also has a huge talent in actually doing the testing.
***) Yes, I’m still a Finn. ;)
****) Later I rephrased it to be "I want to be the best in the company in testing" and later "I want to be the best known tester in the Finland".
*****) If you don’t have something to say you could start by challenging someone who has something to say. A good place is to challenge those whose blogs, papers, book you read. Even though the challenge might be Devil’s advocate –kind of challenge, it usually generates conversation and thus give you something to say (and you might learn something new).
******) You could start at your own office to get familiar with speaking out loud and to face challenging. You can then join peer conferences and share what you have already done to your colleagues. Eventually you can proceed to talk in conferences and events, if you feel like it.


Tobbe Ryber said...

I am glad you enjoyed the presentation and even happier that you have a plan. Hope to see you at Let´s Test 2013 if not before. Bring some finnish friends!

Ilari Henrik Aegerter said...

Hi Pekka
Great to see you have a plan. If you want to talk about BBST Foundations, I offer my view on the experience. BTW: It is less about the exam and much, much more about the whole process. The exam part is not the most important. Keep on wanting more!

Pekka Marjamäki said...

Actually, Ilari, my plan is quite more complex and has more threads than just the three. I made a mind map of my plan this morning. I could share it when I make it digital. :) And yes, please contact me via Skype to share some thoughts about BBST. I'd like to hear more about that stuff!

BR, Peksi

Unknown said...

Hi Pekka,

Nice one on getting your plan together - I really need to do that! There's so much to do though, I'm starting with a broad plan & diving deep into topics that interest me.

I'll share my syllabus with you when I've updated it - I'd like to see how it compares to yours.

I've done the BBST Foundations as well, same as Ilari, & I'd agree, it's the taking part that counts!

Id definitely recommend geting yourself to Let's Test as Tobbe suggests as well.