coaching insight

What drives your learning?

What drives people to take up my offer of free Skype coaching?
Most testers when asked give on of the following reasons:

1) they want to pass an exam
2) They are having difficulty at work and need to get over some particular obstacle
3) They want to test themselves
4) They want a particular question answered
5) They want to know more about a topic
6) They want to learn how to coach other testers
7) They want to become a better tester – topic irrelevant

Many come to coaching with a mixture of frustration in their work or because they feel disillusioned.

It we seems that for many,  testers need drivers and general discontent to push them into learning something more. Few testers come forward wanting to simply learn.

It’s not all that surprising. I myself have just completed a gruelling year of full time work. It’s hard to allow yourself time to reflect and pause when you hop from one crisis to another and when you do, its more likely to be related to the challenges your working on at the time.

But I really admire the the testers that come wanting to learn more. Willing to take a punt at contacting someone they’ve never met and ask them to be coached. I salute you!

What drives these people? Is knowledge some kind of drug to these people? Do they simply want to know more? Do they want to be the best at what they can do?

I think its important to understand this question as people who want to learn for the pure joy of learning have a major advantage over others. They continue to learn and grow despite the daily challenges around them. Its not the challenge or goal that drives them to learn, its the learning that drives them to challenge themselves.

Common external drivers are completing a project, passing an exam, getting a job promotion and getting external approval from others. But what happens when the inevitable happens and the goal is completed or the challenge disappears? What happens to your thirst of learning? Does it die away?

Does that tell you anything?

Removing external oracles (those things you judge yourself by) casts your thirst for knowledge in a very different light, but its not a bad light, its an honest one and it belongs to you.

I believe we have to own our own learning. Drivers to learning can often be short lived. Have a goal to become a test manager, only to discover you’ve plateaued?  I suspect your learning may be driven by goals.

Imagine a world where you can tap into this love of learning as some testers do. Imagine learning for the pure enjoyment of discovering something new. Feel the satisfaction of overcoming a hurdle you have set yourself.

These testers they have taken responsibility for their learning. They see it as a way to develop and grow themselves. Their oracles to learning are inner satisfaction and self respect. They shine with the confidence of owning their own learning.

So do yourself a favour, spend a little time identifying what’s driving your learning and ask yourself “how is that working for me?”

Post Note:

If you want an example of a tester that learns for the love of learning, read Pete Whalen’s post on Rising from the Ashes.



Exploratory Testing insight

An affidavit of sorts

The last three months I’ve worked specifically with the goal of my testers taking responsibility for their work.
I’m a strong believer that each person is responsible for their own lives. I try to  live by it and I expect others to do the same. Its one of the reasons why I endorse and believe Exploratory Testing is so powerful. The tester becomes centre to the testing. The tester is the decision maker responsible for their decisions(good or bad) and must be willing to stand by their choices and defend them where necessary.

Its a powerful concept, and I think somewhat alien to the way we are brought up and perhaps bring up our own children. Instead we are protected or we try to protect, wanting to prevent harm to those we are close to. Actually, I think its impossible to totally protect people, much better to teach survival skills.

I often hear people saying: “A great test manager removes obstacles so that their team can test” and its true. A good test manager will do that. However, I think a good test manager will also allow their testers to fail. Allow them to make their own decisions and learn to stand by those decisions and then defend them.

If we don’t do that, are we really helping testers to learn and grow?  I wonder.

I’ve had the luxury of procrastination over the past two days. Yesterday, I spent a glorious few hours at the Seattle Art Gallery. It was the perfect antidote to CAST 2011, which was exceptional yet mentally exhausting.

I also missed my flight back to Sydney, which meant I had a second day of whiling away hours at Seattle airport.

Our brains are so fascinating, aren’t they? Just as I’m about to board the flight, a burst of insight and determination hit me. I guess all that procrastination culminated in my powerful thought.

Its this.

As we learn and grow as testers and human beings, we constantly need to revisit our beliefs, values and motivations. I realised mine needed a revisit. (Incidentally, my tutorial at CAST was on this topic, another example of “if you want to learn something, teach it!”)

I needed to rework my ideas, goals and what was important to me. I needed to put myself in the centre of my testing career. I’m responsible for what I do and what I learn. Me. No-one else. Not mentors, not other testers, not thought leaders. Little ole me.

A few testers at CAST really inspired me to be like this. Unfortunately, I don’t know their names or else I would cite them here. But they’re not thought leaders or mentors, they’re context driven testers with a mind of their own. I like that.

I’ve always been able to think for myself but sometimes, you just have to up the anti, you know?

I don’t know what this will mean for me. I’m not sure where it will lead. What I do know that from this point on, I will continue to own my decisions and I will stand by them, just as I encourage my own testers to do.

I guess thats it. Its just something I wanted to share with you all.


BlogRoll insight

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey..

It was my birthday recently, and I got a brand new Digital SLR as a present. Now my expertise on photography goes as far as knowing that DSLR stands for Digital SLR. Say no more.  Having this camera though, now means I can’t blame bad photos on the equipment.
In Ireland at the moment, its the last of the autumn leaves which is my favourite time of the year.  All those crispy days and beautiful golden colour. I’ve been in Australia for so long, days like this are a real treat. So inspired by the beauty around me, I set off in true Ansell Adams fashion to photograph the local park.

I started down the usual path, and took some average to terrible shots, nothing spectacular.

For some reason, I decided to turn around and look behind me. It was then that I noticed some true beauty. I started clicking away.

Behind Me in St Enda's Park

It got me thinking how I tend to always look ahead at things. Often I forget that the best can be simply found by turning around and looking at the same thing with a different perspective.

I think this happens in software testing too. In trying to solve a problem, my thinking is often straight ahead, down the traditional path. Perhaps occasionally, if I looked behind me, I would have a different perspective and find a better answer to my problem?

Anyway, enjoy Dublin in November!

Autumn Leaves

Leaves and Sky