By Oliver Erlewein
It’s winter in the southern hemisphere: The weather is getting cold and windy, and people are staying inside. But not all! Testers from all over Australia and New Zealand were flocking to one of the testing highlights of the year, the two day long Kiwi Workshop on Software Testing (KWST) held in Wellington, New Zealand.
This is the third time round and we’re going from strength to strength. This time 19 people were sharing their experiences – LAWST style – about “Lighting the way; Educating others and ourselves about software testing”.
Special guest from Sydney was Anne-Marie Charrett. She started off with her experience reports (ER) on how to teach testing at university level. As you can imagine for a CDT tester, her take on how testing should be taught is a little different to the usual university fare.
She went through a lot of work coming up with a concept that is actually about “testing things”. I could just imagine how it set itself apart from the pure study-like courses. Much of what she taught was derived from previous experiences with running AST courses and one-on-one mentoring. Topics in the course were things like mentally modeling your software under test, using state models, exploratory testing, critical thinking and reporting & communication.
After constructive Open Season it was Tessa Benzie’s turn. She came at the topic from a very personal angle and shared her story on how she became a tester.
The surprising bit was how she felt like a fraud most of the time. She wasn’t convinced she was being a “proper tester”. I can assure you she was, but it seems we all have this nagging feeling.
She explained how she realized these fears. The beliefs of inadequacy were rooted in events prior to her test career or even in her youth. She developed a strategy around dealing with them effectively.
She would look at the belief she held and either dispel it as something that just wasn’t true or – if it was true – she would harness it.
Harnessing meant to face the problem and deal with it openly. She told us of an example, where she did just that with her testing team. It empowered the whole team to help her find solutions to problems, that at a time, she could not solve on her own.
Shirley Tricker absolutely aced it on the voting for ERs. The reason was probably her fantastic quote: “Your dogma ran over my karma”.
She told her path of how she educated her junior testers and how she managed to motivate them to embrace testing as a learning topic and not a closed curriculum. She argued for them to shed the belief that certifications would make them into better testers.
One thing she mentioned was the fact that some of her “junior” testers were discouraged by the behaviour shown in online testing discussions.
This of course in turn created lots of discussion. It was excellent to have this reflection as these things are rarely visible on in our day-to-day testing life. Those of us that openly discuss, blog or twitter need to think about how we say things and what goals we are actually trying to achieve.
Most of us want to share know-how and educate where possible. Often this is through fruitful discussions. If we are turning people away that is certainly not the common intention. I think this open season gave everyone something to mull over going forward.
Colin Cherry’s ER was announced as giving us some methodologies to take home with us and it certainly did so.
He visually showed us the ways he used to assess and prioritise/risk on projects. It gave insights in to how to distribute work amongst team members and how to communicate results easily to stakeholders.
Eye opening was Alessandra Moeira’s presentation of the model on testing and self development. Below is the schema she used to guide her talk.
Here again there were themes of feelings of inadequacy as a beginner tester and having the self-awareness to harness that into a catalyst for seeking knowledge. She really managed to distill how large parts of our testing community(ies) works. In wise foresight we convinced Alessandra to blog her inspiring ER. I could not do it justice here anyway so watch this space.
Mike Talks kicked off day 2 with a welcome bit on the lighter side of testing. He set about, with the help of his son, on testing a shield. And I do mean a real life shield! It was tested with punches, a wooden sword, a small axe and finally a big axe. Every time the damage was assessed and the defects fixed (i.e. the shield was banged into shape again). As you can see on the pic below, cute head gear was worn too.
(No wood-chips were harmed in the testing of the shield)
But on a more serious note Mike highlighted, how testing and learning in general can happen while having fun and actually doing something. He elaborated on the teaching styles he had used effectively so far.
Probably this year’s most surprising ER was Erin Donell’s moving story on how she and Jennifer Hurrell carved out their own form of testing, never knowing a real community or necessarily the “right” way forward.
She recounted the insecurities and the hard work that was put in to counter these, how she used any means possible to expand her testing knowledge and distill what was right for the tasks at hand. In the end she effectively cold-called/Skyped James Bach to help her in her development as a tester.
To us all it opened our eyes to the fact that we need to create more accessible communities and that we need to be open to include such pockets of exciting testers and learn from them.
Next up was a report by Katrina Edgar about her reactions to a presentation at the government test professionals forum. Most CDT testers would be at odds with the picture that was painted for the “perfect” government tester for 2015. The amazing thing for her was the apathy of the audience to what they were hearing. She highlighted, that the lack of challenge to the ideas and concepts of testing is still prevalent.
The open season discussion focused a lot around how the ideas of CDT and other testing ideas could be presented to such audiences and influence processes for the better long term.
After lunch we met back for some serious tester gaming. We were all excited to see Anne-Maries’s BigTrak robots. But that was not all there was. We had break-out sessions of SetGame and Dice games too. All I can really say was, that it was competitive and loads of fun!
Offshoring testing to China was Lee Hawkin’s topic. He has had immense success with teaching his Chinese test team CDT methodologies. This he did by training them in China, as well as providing training remotely via the internet.
His success at CDT inspired testing has moved other test teams to adopt the methodologies. Lee’s success proves that the methodologies work and thereby naturally spread adoption.
And finally we heard from Andrew Robins (aka Captain Stubing) who told the story of how Tait radio in Christchurch became a fully 100% Context-Driven testing shop in a mission-critical and life-or-death industry. At Tait testers also get 4 hours a week for self development. This is an important practice too often forgotten.
All in all KWST#3 was a resounding success.
This KWST also had the subtitle of “raising a new generation of thinking creative testers” and I think we did reach this key goal. The talks ranged from all the way of how to convey information and educate to the tales of testers on how they got to where they are now.
I know that all the organisers we were blown away by the two days. The odd eye misted a bit at what we heard and saw. It was the 1st time that we actually realized what a difference KWST has been making in our neck of the woods. We hope we can keep this momentum up and expand on its effects.
As take-aways from an organisational perspective in running KWST were noted the following things:
- We will introduce the “+1” or “I agree” orange card suggested by Paul Holland next year. There were many yellow/red “I agree’s”.
- KWST is generally geared towards senior CDT testers but we think there should be one space reserved every year for a “junior” tester. This KWST has proven that there is a lot to gain for everyone by doing so. I think we can also learn a lot from searching for the right person to invite.
- Going forward we will continue to use the CITCON-inspired style of voting on the ER succession. This means all attendees hand in a 1-2 paragraph description of their ER prior to the conference. The topic will then get presented before voting begins. All topics are hung up on a wall and people mark those that they’d like to hear. The content owner will tally results and define the ER order. The CO still has the last word though.
- Testing “games” will remain an integral part in every KWST. They are just so much fun!
KWST#3 was also the 1st time we worked together with AST for funding the event. We are very thankful for the support, which is essential for making this event happen.
As KWST wound down we were all shattered but everybody was secretly hoping for more. We all reluctantly resigned to the fact that we had to set the timer back to 363 days and let it slowly count down towards KWST#4.
Oliver Erlewein is a performance test consultant working in Wellington, New Zealand, Co-creator of KWST together with Brian Osman and had the role of Content Owner at KWST#3
Have you considered / already recorded the sessions and made them available online for anyone who’s interested? Seems like another way to reach junior testers and/or broaden the reach of KWST.
The whole two days were recorded but more for my use to write the article above and to be able to show people their own ERs if they so wish.
The resistance by attendees (that includes me) to releasing such recordings is understandably high. KWST (and similar workshops) are there to discuss things in safe surroundings. Making such material available would change the whole dynamic and would need a whole new IP agreement.
KWST is not like a CAST or StarXXXX conference, which has a bigger audience per-se, where the content is geared towards such an audience.
So the idea is simple and on 1st take sounds reasonable but upon further deliberation it would change the whole dynamic and be counter productive for the event as such.
Hope that makes sense.