What a long strange trip it’s been

I like to think I roll with changes pretty easily anymore. Even so, there is a change I have avoided for a long time. A few of you know just how long I have been trying to ignore this one. I’m nowhere close to Alan Page‘s level, and since I prefer to get things out of the way early…

After 14 years at Hyland Software, I am leaving. My last day is February 24th.

My time at Hyland has encompassed the vast majority of my time in testing and leadership, as well as the majority of my professional career. I don’t count my time working in the stock room of a Pier 1 Imports in college. I’ve held a number of positions at Hyland (seven in fact) and learned something from all of them.

I may write more at some point to give more backstory, but the short of it is I feel like I need something new. I need a change. Moving to a completely new place, with new people, and new approaches to things will help me continue to grow as an individual.

I am sad to leave. I will miss many, many people, but I hope to stay in touch with the ones I have built the strongest relationships with over the years.

As for me, right now I have a plan, but nothing lined up. I have a few more weeks on the clock, and enough of a buffer to allow some time to figure out what I want, and hopefully find it.

I’m excited at the possibilities I have before me.

Don’t make my mistake

I ashamedly admit that I never really paid attention to the AST Board of Directors election until now… because I’m in the running. If you are a current member of AST and want to have a say in the future and direction of the organization, do not make the same mistake. There is a great group of seven people running for the four open seats.

Electronic voting runs from August 11th at 12:00 (GMT) – August 13th at 12:o0 (GMT). Please see the AST BOD elections page for more details.

What the hell am I thinking, OR, Why I’m running for the AST board

As you probably deduced from the title, I am running for the board of directors of AST. If you already think I am a worthy candidate, feel free to go about your day–assuming you remember to vote for me when the election gets under way in a few weeks. Otherwise, please keep reading.

I suppose you can take this as a kind of stump speech.

In short, I want to see AST do more.

That enough for you? No? OK then.

In… long(?), I attribute much of what I am today to the CAST conference, the BBST courses offered by AST and the people I met from both. I appreciate what AST has accomplished so far, but I want more.

  • Only getting to have the CAST experience once a year is a real drag. I would like to see AST host smaller, regional conferences in addition to CAST.
  • I have so far taken part in one of the BBST courses, and it was one of the most intense learning experiences I have been through. I want more people to learn what this material has to offer.
  • The AST grant program has helped with a number of special events and meetups. But the number is so small it’s frustrating.

Do I have a five point plan to carry out any of these? No. So why do I think you should vote for me? Why do I think I should be on the board?

  • I have worked with a number of current board members in different capacities over the past few years and have yet to find anyone in the group that I cannot get along with.
  • I have been told that I have built a reputation as someone who can get things done. When I didn’t like the direction of my local professional tester organization, I joined its board and helped change it. When I didn’t like the lack of tester meetups in my area, I started NOTiCE. When my company needed to stop talking about redesigning our internally built bug tracking system and start doing, I got the project started.

So Erik, you’re saying you did all of these things, and because of YOU they all succeeded? Well.. no. But I will say that all of these things are where they are today because I gave a shit and got involved. Did I know how I was going to be involved when I jumped in? No. But that’s not a bad thing (imo). For NOSQAA, I am the lead of the programs committee, I’m not the programs committee. I have a team of people that I work with. When I started NOTiCE… OK I went it alone. I found out after a while that I needed some help with various parts so I found co-organizers. As for that internal project, I ended up handing it off after almost a year. In the end, I wasn’t the right person to keep the project going, and I realized that.  But, I was in the right state of mind at the right time to get the thing rolling.

My point is I feel that I can work with the current board, get along with any newly elected board members, and help get things done for AST.

Whether or not I am elected, I plan on continuing to work with AST on a number of initiatives. If I am elected, it will be that much easier to get things done.

The full list of nominees for the AST board is available here.

Manager of Testing – That’s one way to get the QA out of your title.

Some of you were aware that I have been investigating a potential new role at Hyland (*gasp* I just said where I worked!!1!1!!! more on that later). I asked for, and received a flood of ideas, concerns and contacts to reach out to. As best as I can tell, there are too many positions exactly like the one I ended up in. Not that I’m claiming a world first or something, but the role focuses on things that a lot of people (imho) already do, just not as their primary role.

So as of this week, I am officially the first ever Manager of Testing at Hyland Software. No, that isn’t what I was before; that was the Quality Assurance Manager of Workflow. Previously, I managed a team of testers responsible for a portion of the product. Now, well, now I have a giant list of responsibilities that I created. Oh, and instead of testers reporting to me, I have our two awesome internal QA Education team. (I will give you a dollar if either of you see and read this). Luckily, when I wrote my position plan, I didn’t attach time frames to most of these, so I don’t /have/ to get them all done this year.

Here are some of the responsibilities I will be focusing on:

– Study serious issues that make it into production to look for patterns that are correctable or reducible, on the Dev and Test side of things
– Promote testing internally – make our testers aware of the opportunities they have to improve their skills and help them become better testers
– Promote testing externally – continue to build a network of testers locally (and not), by promoting testing in my community, and by working to make Hyland a destination for career minded testers
– Attend conferences and training (at least four a year) – I booked 2014 out before I got this written into my position plan, but having it be “work time” will definitely help
– Review conferences and conference sessions and help choose who gets to go to what, and what they have to do with the things they learn when they get back
– Bring new testing ideas in to the company from conferences,  meet ups, blogs, articles, books, and external training
– Create and run internal training on testing techniques and other needed skills
– Shadow new testers in the department to review their abilities and supply feedback to them and their manager
– Shadow teams in the department to offer feedback on their strengths and weaknesses and suggest or build specialized training for them
– Oh, and did I mention I wrote in 20% time to test?

As of right now, I am super overwhelmed. I haven’t even started yet and I already have a ton of ideas running through my head. First up, I need to create a short talk based on the results of two issues we found recently. Second I need to finish my talk for QA or the Highway (I promise Joe, I’ll have something). After that, it’s full on doing the awesome stuff.

Oh, and with this position change, I will be able to pay a little better attention to Twitter. I really do see that as one of my primary avenues for learning (about) new ideas.

Thank you again to everyone that helped me over the past couple of months. And thank you in advance to everyone that I will be asking for help in the future.

10 years in

Note: Tonight I found this post sitting in my drafts folder. I wrote this back in January, and for some reason I never published it. I’m not sure what made me want to write it back then, but I definitely know that I feel this strongly right now.

Eight and a half years ago, my solitary goal in my career was to be able to write two years on my resume next to a job. Yes back then I thought of it as a job. I had also only lasted 18 or 19 months at my two previous employers before getting downsized (remember when that was all the rage?).

Eight and a half years later, and I am now celebrating 10 years with one company. I like where I work, I like the people and the product, and I can see room for growth and change in the way we do things. Much of the time in the middle, I spent without setting any real goals. Sure, I filled out my S.M.A.R.T. goals on my review each year, but I didn’t have a vision for where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do. I didn’t see what value I could add to the organization or the people in it beyond accomplishing the tasks defined for me in the goals that were passed down from multiple levels of management.

Today, I stand at the beginning of a new decade. I find myself awakened to what I can and still need to learn, and find myself coming up with ideas of ways I can help educate others. I spent far too much of my past heads down completing tasks, or managing processes. I lost sight of my career; I was fumbling around with no real direction. Now I have it back, and I can see here I want to go.

If you feel lost, or directionless, WAKE UP! Sitting in a chair just to collect a check sucks. Going to work because you are excited to accomplish something is awesome. Basically, DO something. DO something that excites you, that fits with your passions. If you are out of ideas, there are lots of people out there who can give you some (like Pete or Huib or Michael or James or Twitter)

Two Easy Steps to Success!

I’m tired of whiners.

I hear people complaining about the way “things” are. They come and vent about how they don’t like something, and then… silence. They just stop talking just when the story SHOULD get good. They don’t have a “and this is what I want to do about it” portion of the story, let alone a “this is what I AM GOING TO DO about it” part. Why is that? Can’t they see that if you don’t try to fix the problem you have, it’s not going to go away on it’s own?

I’m also tired of people half-assing things. If you don’t like where you are, then get yourself to where you want to be. Sounds simple, right? Why would you continue to go somewhere, either to a job you don’t love, or to a company you don’t like day after day?

For the first group, stop complaining. If you actually cared, you would do something about it. For the second group, if you’ve decided you actually want to make the place you’re in better, I came up with a simple two step system that will lead you to success in almost anything.

Step 1: Give a shit

Step 2: Prove it

Now, before anyone gets on my case about how simple these steps are in theory and how hard they are in practice, all I have to say is, I know. If it wasn’t difficult, it wouldn’t be worth it. I’m sorry if that isn’t what you wanted to hear.

These steps must be used together. If you give a shit about something without proving it, you accomplish nothing, change nothing, and only end up annoying yourself. If you don’t give a shit about what you are doing, you have nothing to prove and therefore will likely give up shortly after trying.

Wanting to be good at something, or wanting to change something along gets you nowhere. It affects no change. If you actually want to change something, you need to want it so bad that you DO something about it. In essence, you need to give a shit, and prove that you give a shit to yourself, or others.

But Erik, that still sounds ridiculously oversimplified, this can’t actually work, right? Do you have some examples? Why yes, Erik pretending to speak as a reader, I do.

Fed up with the way testing certifications are pushed on testers and organizations with wild claims of ROI and other garbage? Keith was, and he did something about it.

Think adults should fucking be allowed to talk like adults sometimes? Ilari sure did (and he proved it too).

Want to help disadvantaged people learn skills that can get them a decent job with a future, oh, and maybe turn a few of them into kick ass testers too? Done. (If you’re reading this Keith, Joe or Paul, keep me in the loop about Columbus)

Feel opportunities for testers in your area are lacking? Are you going to prove you care, or just sit there?  How about founding something like this, or coordinating something like this, or planting seeds for things like peer conferences in your area?

Looking for ways outside of the existing, accepted training systems to help raise the skill level of testers in a meaningful way? Matt did, and he proved it.

Are you working as a consultant somewhere and feel you need a desire to influence things outside the scope of your role? Do you sit there and ignore it, or do you do what Pete did and reach out to outsiders who can freely share their perspectives and ideas (because they aren’t on the clock) and possibly help sway things in the right direction?

Do you think kids, especially those with special needs could be represented better at the administrative level? What do you do, sit in your classroom (give a shit) and continue to get annoyed, or do go through administrative training (prove it) so you can get yourself into a role where you can affect change? Sorry no links for this one, but trust me, it happened.

Want me to keep going? OK

Did you just wake up as a tester or test manager with years of “experience” only to find you really don’t know jack crap about testing? OK, don’t hate on yourself too much, it happens. The real question is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit there and feel sorry for yourself, or are you going to prove that you give a shit? Here is what I did when I found myself in this place (all since August 2012):

  • Attended CAST 2012

  • Started following key people (now over 400) in the testing industry on Twitter

  • Got Matt Heusser and Pete Walen to come onsite to do training/consulting

  • Started running tester games at work

  • Started facilitated tester discussions at work

  • Gave a lightning talk* at the first ever MMTMD

*I didn’t actually speak per se, but my thoughts were eloquently conveyed thanks to the Android text-to-speech British chap.

  • Started a tester meetup

  • Put together a team to compete in the NRGGlobal tester competition run by Matt Heusser

  • Convinced Paul Holland to bring RST to Cleveland so I (and others in my area) could attend

  • Registered for BBST Foundations this fall

  • Accepted to speak at CAST 2013

  • Registered for CAST 2013

  • Signed up for TestRetreat

  • Promised participation in the AST Leadership SIG TLC event the day after CAST 2013

  • Bugged various members of the Miagi-Do school until one agreed to challenge me at TestRetreat

  • Oh, and I almost forgot, I started a blog

I don’t mean to brag with this list. I am not trying to sound like I am better than anyone but myself.  A year and a half ago, none of these things were even on my radar, let alone things I was thinking of doing “someday”. This is my attempt to show that over the past year, I started to give a shit about my career and education and the growth and opportunities for those around me.

So what is my point with all of this? I have a few. The idea of my two step process has been floating around in my head for a while. The more I thought about it, the more I needed to get it out for my own sanity. I also hope that somewhere in all of this rambling, one person finds something that makes them want to get up and DO something. Oh, and if you are that person, it doesn’t count unless you actually do the thing you want to do.

Trying on a few hats

As I have intimated here before, I have held several different roles in my career, all in the testing arena (or should I call it a stable, what with the farming metaphor-for-a-title thing and all…).  I have been a tester at three different companies of varying size/environment/culture.  At my current company, I started as an individual contributor, testing various parts of our product suite.  I was promoted to be a team lead, then a manager, and then a senior manager.  After four+ years in that role, that layer of management was removed and I moved back to a manager position.

After spending some time reflecting, especially on my more recent position change, I began to realize how much I had learned by wearing all of those different hats over time.

The time I spent at my first company (testing ATM software) taught me that I don’t like working in heavily regimented environments.  This company was (at the time) an ISO shop.  That meant I had stickers on all of my books and binders telling people, who may accidentally pick them up, that they contained out of date information.  It meant I had to go talk to the tester-turned-guard who manned the locked file cabinet if I wanted to see an actual “current” version of a document (this was the late 90’s).  I was eventually let go (along with all of the other contractors and some full time people) to help raise their stock price.  With that, I learned one of the consequences of working for a public company.

In my next position, at my second company (testing the print accuracy of engineering documents on wide format printers), I learned that I liked working in an open environment where I was allowed, and even encouraged, to work with my developers.  I was eventually let go (along with the newest 20% of the staff) to help prevent the office from closing (it was gone within a year).

At my current company, as a tester, I learned to really enjoy testing.   I was able to finally remove a (in my eyes) wrong approach to testing that my first employer had ingrained in me.  Later, as a team leader, I learned that I liked coaching people.  I felt satisfaction helping others to grow and mature as testers.  When I was promoted to manager, I had to completely change what I did every day.  I was no longer involved in testing the software.  I spent most of my time managing teams of varying sizes, trying to create training out of thin air, figuring out how to help develop and grow a team of people (up to 28 strong at one point), oh yeah, and making sure the software got tested.  After some time, practice, training, advice from others, and just possibly a little luck, I got my hands around most of the role.  I would never say I was awesome at it (I am a fairly strong introverted thinker if you follow MBTI), but I was able to manage (pun intended) and grow my people (yeah, and get some software tested as well).  Then, in the spring of 2008, I was asked if I would take on the new, not yet defined, role of Senior Manager.  A coworker and I were each given half of the department as reports.  I spent the next four years trying to manage my managers and stay connected with their teams.  I was too far removed from testing at this point to have any role in the development or advancement of testing.  Or at least I felt I did, despite some people’s best efforts.  I tried very hard to metricize everything.  I built Excel spreadsheet after Excel spreadsheet.  I reached the data filter limit of our internal support ticket and bug tracking system trying to report on the age of issues per manager.  I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to sum everything everyone was doing into a simple, easy to digest number that I could pass up the chain.

NOTE: If you are thinking of trying this yourself, please take a look at Paul Holland’s wonderful post on Bad Metrics.

Eventually, I realized this was all in vain.  Sure, I could measure some things, like how long issues have been in test, or how long it’s been since a support ticket was opened, but trying to boil it all down so that I could compare testers of differing backgrounds, on differing teams, testing issues of differing size on different portions of the product in differing environments with differing complexities is ludicrous.  It took me too many years to figure that last line out.  So, my one and only peer and I started trying to affect change as best we could.  We took control of our hiring process and worked to find new places and ways to find tester candidates , we worked to improve processes, and tried to find ways to get the testers we hired to stay testers for the long term.

Last March, when this layer was removed, I was initially dumbstruck.  I was angry.  I felt let down, and didn’t know what I was going to do.  A couple of days later I came up with two demands:  to be sent to our user conference to regain a connection with our customer base (I ended up participating in three half day training sessions, and co-presenting in a total of five informational sessions) and I wanted to go  to CAST for the first time to reconnect with testing (I was at CAST2012).  Over the past year I realized that in the end, I didn’t really like the senior manager hat that much.  Sure, I learned a lot about myself.  I was eventually able to function at that level fairly well.  I spent four years focused at a level above where I currently work.  That makes it even easier to do what I do now (manage a team of nine instead of 65).  I’ve experienced managing translation teams, international test teams, remote employees (in other states, and other continents).  I grew more confident as a leader in that role, making many of the decisions I make in my current role seem like child’s play.  As of today, despite all I learned from the role, I don’t know that I would take that position again if it were offered to me. I wouldn’t go back and undo my time as a senior manager, but that is not where my passions currently lie.

The point of all of this rambling is that I learned something from each of the hats I have worn.  Each position has helped to mold me into the person I am today.  I may be lucky, but I work in an environment where changing positions is generally looked at as a positive thing, especially if your passion can be better utilized in a role still within the company.  With this environment, I felt comfortable stepping back into a role I was in previously, without feeling I would be looked at as some sort of pariah.

My advice is to not be afraid to try on different hats.  Sometimes you might even find that an old hat fits much better the second time around.  Without retreading an existing post by my host, I would expand a bit on Paul’s Reinventing Yourself, to say don’t just look at reinventing your tests, or how you approach things.  Don’t be afraid to change your whole role.  Feeling stuck in the day to day grind of testing bug fixes?  Have a penchant for usability?  Begin showing the value of having a dedicated usability tester.  If wouldn’t expect it to work overnight, but if you show the right people where your passion lies, and what they can gain from letting you loose in that direction, it will happen.

If your environment frowns upon people changing roles (and possibly asking to switch back if things don’t work out) maybe it’s time to look for a new environment. If you happen to like the greater Cleveland area, I know a company that’s looking for testers.

So long 2012, and thanks for all the tests

As some people know, 2012 has really been a rebuilding year for me with regards to my career and my love of software testing.  I have been involved in testing for over 13 years, but I spent a good chunk (4-5 years) in a senior management role, which effectively removed me from anything remotely involving testing.  I managed managers and spent all of my energy trying to be good at that.  After that role was eliminated and I moved back to a line manager role, I discovered (again) everything I had been missing all those years.  I really like testing.  I like using the part of my brain that I need to use to think like a tester (which I found had been turned off for years thanks to my focus on HR issues and processes and procedures).  I like sitting with my team (now 10 instead of 65) so that we can have thought provoking discussions.  I like touching software.

Sure, my position change had a part in this, but I really see two other pieces to this puzzle as key to where I am today.  The first thing I did when I got over being mad for being pushed out of my old role (which in the end was a blessing, I just couldn’t see it at the time) was demand that I be sent to CAST to reconnect with testing.  The second key step was making a Twitter account and connecting with anyone I could find that I thought was interesting, starting with the context-driven testing community.

So, with a bit of my back story (and returning to the original intent of this post), I wanted to thank a few of the people that helped me along my journey this year.

Thanks to James Bach for coming out to speak at two NOSQAA events, and to Shaun Hershey for getting him to come talk at Hyland.  Thanks to Michael Bolton for the many Twitter discussions, the offers to help me start a tester community and for a very awakening full day session at CAST 2012.  Thanks also for sitting in on a game of Zendo at CAST and for sharing your beer (I still don’t assume beer on the table is for sharing by default).  Thanks to Eric Proegler for continuing to give me good advice on testing and testers.  Sorry it took me years to catch up with what you were saying.  Thanks to Claire Moss for being friendly to a new-comer at CAST and for incessantly favoriting many of my tweets.  Thanks to Dean Biron for introducing me to Zendo (much to my bank accounts chagrin).  Thanks for Paul Holland for showing me the dice game, blowing my mind, for sharing your The MacCallan and for being patient.  Thanks also to Paul for the many Twitter discussions, and for (reason still to be determined) hosting my blog.  You were key to me actually getting this thing going.  Thanks to Wendy Robinson for being my testing buddy and co-advocate for change during much of the past year.  I am really glad we got you out to CAST.  You started or helped start our internal testing game nights, the re-awakening of our testing forum and our lunch time tester discussions.  Thanks to Mike Talks for the earl (and deserved) teasing about being a recovering senior manager (I got better).  It helped me further confirm that I did in fact want to get away from managing managers and get back in touch with testing and testers.  Thanks to Jari Laakso for the interesting discussions, for letting me ‘peer review’ one of your posts, for pushing me to blog and for giving me the inspiration for the name.  Thanks to Matt Heusser for the numerous discussions, tips, introductions and for the (soon to be) training.  A bit of a warning, I’m looking to pick your brain off hours in January if possible.  Thanks to Anna Royzman for the session at CAST, and for the invite to join the AST Leadership SIG seemingly out of the blue.  I am really looking forward to this group taking off and making a difference in the community.  Thanks to Pete Walen.  I’ve been following you for awhile now on Twitter and find many of your insights interesting.  I enjoyed (finally) getting to speak on the Leadership SIG call last month and I look forward to seeing you in January with Matt.  Thanks to Mike Larsen (and Matt again) for the TWiST podcasts; I’m not caught up on all of them, but I have really liked the topics so far.

Thanks to Eric Brickarp, Martin Hynie, Paul Clewell, Mike Lyles, Keith Klain, qualitycaptain, Guy Mason, Simon Morley, Matt Hutchinson, and numerous others for the conversations, tips, help, info, re-tweets and everything else along the way.

I appreciate everything that you’ve all done to help me this year.  Whether you realized it or not, you’ve helped me tremendously.  I am a better person, and a better, more connected, more involved and more passionate tester and test advocate thanks to all of you (any the many I have forgotten in my rush to put this together).

So I Started a Blog

First, I need to thank Paul (thanks Paul) for offering to host my blog on his site.  I probably would have eventually gotten around to putting one together myself without his nudge in the right direction, but it definitely would not have happened this quickly.  I’ve been thinking about writing a testing blog for a few months now, but never did anything about it.  At the end of November of this year, I had a Twitter conversation (can you call them conversations if they only take place via 140 character long strings?) with Jari Laakso about possible blog topics.  Somewhere in that discussion, I halfheartedly mentioned needing to set up a blog. The next day, I had a DM from Paul stating “If you are seriously interested in blogging, I could probably set you up on my site. Let me know and I can I investigate the logistics.”

Let me digress a tiny bit here. I may have been in test for over 13 years, but I still feel very new to the context driven community (even if I was unknowingly agreeing with them for some time).  Going to CAST2012 and then researching testers on Twitter and blogs, I came across a tier of people in the community that I saw as the ‘big names’: Michael Bolton, the Bach brothers, Dr. Cem Kaner, Lynn McKee, Scott Barber, Matt Heusser and others.  From my time working with Eric Proegler, I had also heard of, and come to respect Paul Holland. Sure, I played ‘the dice game’ with him at CAST and shared some scotch, but I was still in little bit of awe.

So here I was, with an offer to be hosted by none other than Paul Holland.  What could I do?  I’d look stupid if I said no, and then eventually gotten around to putting a blog up somewhere.

So here I sit, with a blog all configured, several topics in my head (OK, they’re in a mindmap really, my memory is pretty much rubbish), and I have no idea what to call the thing.  So I do what many people do nowadays.  I asked for ideas on Twitter.

I got several things back:

  • use puns
  • make a play on words with your initials
  • write a blog post about trying to name your blog (thank you Martin)
  • an entire chain of silliness revolving around the maximum number of times “enterprise” could be used in the title

I then moved on to the internet for ideas.  How about words containing ELD?

  • unwieldy – That means I’m either fat, or awkwardly pointy
  • sheldrake – Cool sounding word, but I am not duck that masquerades as a goose
  • chield – young man or fellow, it’s cool because it’s Scottish in origin, but I may be too old to be a “young” man
  • Testing Minefield – dramatic, catchy, serious, I’ve just made my blog into the NBC Nightly News, or this
  • wergeld – wow, the monetary value assigned to every person in every class of society to be paid upon their death by the perpetrator
  • Dieldrin – oh awesome, a deadly insecticide that biomagnifies as it moves up the food chain?  No thanks
  • Aceldama – OK, I gotta stop this.  The field of blood so named because it was purchased with the money Judas got for betraying Jesus

I look at songs.  Chemical Brothers “The Test” is a great song, but it’s a but too drug referency for a blog about testing.  Maybe movies would be better?  I love Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.  There’s even the scene with the bridge keep at the bridge of doom, “answer me these questions three” and all.  How do I turn that into a blog title?

For now, I think I’ll have to fall back on a derivation of an idea that Jari threw out in our chat back in November.  Sowing Seeds: A Testing Blog