Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hopes, Dreams, Goals: Thoughts About & From TestBash USA

"Motivation clears the head 
faster than a nasal spray" 
- William Zinsser

Sometime back I took a motivational course offered by a lady in Austin. It wasn't a big eye opener, but it did leave me with this interesting little notebook with motivational quotes. I like the quotes because they remind me that if I didn't get much out of the day, other than being with a lovely group of ladies discussing topics, I did get an experience I do remember to some extent with people I liked. 

TestBash is way more than that. 

With what originally started as a writing experiment has slowly, over the last few years, turned into a sincere community for me. The community itself cultivates a diverse group of people, from all over the world, and tries really hard to be a supportive voice for those that are not often supported in the industry. Oh, and it happens to be about testing, testers, and software development. 

If anyone is looking to start any kind of group about a topic of interest, I would point Ministry of Testing out to anyone as a model of inclusion and resource offerings as a good framework to follow. 

I mentioned to a co-worker last night that the next TestBash USA will be in San Francisco. I also mentioned to him that two wonderful women in the tech community, Ash Coleman and Angie Jones, would be the mistresses of ceremony, and they are both African American. The honest look of surprise on his face was wonderful. He's also African American and told me a moment later that he had automatically assumed they were White (Caucasian - which ever term you like to use).

This changed his impression of Ministry of Testing almost immediately in regards to the conference space and the organization Rosie Sherry has built. 

Ministry of Testing is making space, and making a place for anyone, and everyone. They are transcending borders, race, orientation, organizational lines, along with being inspiring, heartfelt, and sincere about their mission to help the testing community achieve goals; whether those goals are learning more testing techniques or raising funds to support a member in community. 

With all this in mind, I want to make a list of things I'd like to accomplish in the years to come. Mostly to set goals for myself and have people remind me about those goals, and remind others that goals are achievable in this community; you only have to ask and be willing to do the work.

Melissa's Goals:

  • Publish twelve of my own articles in 2018.  
    • Make 3 or more of those articles technical topics.
  • Publish twelve blog posts about anything per year (I have three blogs at this point, they should be more active)
  • Continue working as an editor for Ministry of Testing
This might be a given. The future is never a sure thing. I want to make sure I continue working to help new voices find their voice in print as well as encouraging them to speak at conferences. Many of the folks I've worked with over the past year have become speakers as well. I would love to see that trend continue. I'm proud of the work I've done with Ministry of Testing, and I'm very happy to continue being an editor and contributor to publishing efforts.

  • MC a TestBash
 After watching Mark Tomlinson MC four different TestBash'es, and then watch others in the community step up to the job, I have to say, it's become a kind of goal to see if I could manage being an MC or a co-MC of a TestBash event. This might be a few years off or sooner than I think. I'm watching folks who are MC's now. I'm learning. 

  •  Give more talks and workshops
I have a bunch of ideas, one of which a bunch of us came up with at a post TestBash Philly cheese steak meetup (Great story - suddenly wish I had pictures... ). I want to learn about better delivery and approaches to speaking. I want to teach people what I know. I want to share what I've learned. I'll probably have this drive until I leave this planet. Hopefully I'll be able to continue doing presenting regardless of what the future brings.
  • Advocate for mental health awareness
I'm already doing some of this, but I want it to be all encompassing of what I do with other activities. I think it's absolutely important to talk about mental health as much as any other topic which has contention in society. TestBash Philly 99 second talks were raw and open. People spoke from their hearts and minds. It mirrored several other talks from folks that wanted to represent their genuine selves and let people know that they have struggles outside of the community. The community let those speakers know that we are here to support them. I want to be a part of that continuing in our community.
 There might be more later that I think of to add to this list. I might post those in the comments or add it as an addendum. We'll see. 

Dear community - if you see me, and you haven't seen something from me in a while, give me a gentle reminder. Sometimes we all need a nudge to keep going and do something brilliant.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dear Writer: How To Find A Topic To Write

"The most difficult and complicated part of the writing process is the beginning."
 - A. B. Yehoshua

A lot of people want to write, but often have a problem getting started with an idea. Coming up with an idea is fairly easy, but figuring out if that idea is worth something to someone else is the hard part, because most people, including myself, stop themselves before they even write a word and discard an idea or a topic thinking it’s worthless.

Dear writer, don’t worry about the worth of the topic. Get past the idea that it might be worthless and write about it anyway. This will give you a few things to think about:

  1. You gain more experience every time you write something, no matter how relevant or silly it might seem to you at the time.
  2. You could gain insight on how to approach another topic that does have more value, or more details, simply because you’ve written the “fluff” out of your system.
  3. You can always come back to the idea and make it better, expand on it, and grow it into something that has more value than it previously did.

Here are a few ideas on how to come up with topics:

  1. Keep a notebook. When you think of something, write the idea or title for the idea in the notebook. At the end of the day, transfer them to an electronic “notebook” so that you can access them whenever.
  2. Use mind maps to list out ideas around a main umbrella topic like “pies,” or “testing,” or “carrots.” You’ll be surprised how fast you can come up with different ways to approach a broad subject once you get started.
  3. Venn diagrams are pretty useful as well. Play with ideas to see where the intersections are and figure out what topics might be of interest.
  4. With topic in mind, open a blank doc and start writing. Stop writing when the words stop coming to mind. Save the docs somewhere you can get back to them easily.

Use any method to get started. Keep going. I have ideas all over the place. I don’t want to slow down to write something in some moments, but I don’t want an idea that could turn into something great to escape into nothingness. Ideas, even wacky ones, are important. Find your combination of how you generate ideas and run with it.

An Experience Report: TestSphere

“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”- Benjamin Franklin

GeekNight, hosted by ThoughtWorks- Dallas, is pretty popular, and I jumped at the chance to host one as well as give the evening presentation on TestSphere, the testing game!

If you don't know anything about TestSphere, go check this out!

The short explanation is that it's a card game designed to get folks talking about testing topics. 

I started the session off explaining the different colors and basically what topics they were divided up into.

Lean TestSphere

For the main part of the evening, I had everyone divide into groups of three and four. I explained how we were going to do a modified Lean Coffee style to pick topics and discuss the cards everyone pulled. 

Each person pulled a card from the deck and took it back to their group. Each card was given eight minutes of discussion time with the option to continue talking about the topic for a few more minutes before moving onto the next card.

The discussion was lively and interesting. I was asked mostly about the "feelings" cards and what they meant. I explained them as best I could from a tester's perspective. 
Groups playing with TestSphere

I should mention here that pretty much everyone in attendance was more developer than tester. I think there were two other people besides myself that had been involved with testing in some way. 


After we wrapped up the discussions about the cards we went into a short retrospective about what happened with the topics and what people thought about the cards. 

People reported that they enjoyed the discussions a lot. One group thought the topic of Security wasn't important really, until someone started thinking about it from a tester's perspective and then the conversation really opened up. 

A majority of people came to the realization that testing was NOT and easy practice. The cards actually generated sympathy with non-testers about how much testers needed to keep track of and what the role really entails on a day-to-day basis.

At the end of the night, one participant was excited to share the cards with his off-shore testing team. He hoped to spark ideas and conversations with them through using TestSphere. 

Continue The Narrative

The night turned out to be a great success and I hope that I can host/present TestSphere again to another group. I think the biggest win was influencing non-testers and gaining empathy for the testers and their craft. 

Let me know your TestSphere stories in the comments! Or become part of the narrative at The Club or on the Slack channels.