My very long year

2010 was a pretty big year for me as a tester. Actually, I’m not going to be shy about this – it was a pretty big year for me in all respects. I’ll tell you a story.

Chapter 1: The mentor

When I first started work at Campaign Monitor in 2009, I was the only tester in the company, with a team of six developers and two designers. Anyone who’s traveled the lonely highway of the solo tester knows that it’s a tough gig even in the best companies, and it can send you a little stir-crazy. So I was glad to start 2010 with some online mentoring from the Maverick Tester – Anne-Marie Charrett.

I met Anne-Marie when I put up my hand to be mentored on the Software Testing Club website. We communicated over email and Skype, and she was such a great help to me. Even just having another tester to talk to on a regular basis was fantastic. In January we had just hired a junior developer to train as a test engineer, and Anne-Marie helped me with some advice on improving his skills as a tester. She suggested that he take the AST BBST foundations course, and I think was a really great introduction for him.

Chapter 2: The new thoughts

A couple of months later, James Martin joined the company as a senior tester on my team. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it makes to work with somebody who has such an interest in software testing and development. I’m pretty sure James and I clocked up about two hours a day just arguing talking about testing for the first month and a half!

James introduced me to testers on Twitter, which was something of a revelation for me. I already had a Twitter account, but I’d never thought to use it to talk to other testers before. Testers who are passionate about what they do are using Twitter to talk to each other from all over the globe. It’s a global nerdfest in 140 characters or less, and I’m loving it.

It must have been in May that James and I attended James Bach‘s Rapid Software Testing Course. It was like a three-day brain workout. James Bach is an amazing teacher and I highly recommend the course to anybody interested in testing.

Chapter 3: The lengthy bit in the middle of the story where most of the stuff happens

Then about halfway through the year, two things happened at once that changed my life considerably: a LOT more people started reading my blog, and I ended my marriage.

Now, those two incidents of course aren’t related at all. But the timing sure made for a very busy time. While I was joining an STC chat, participating in WTANZ sessions, writing daily testing tips, meeting up with new testers and of course writing many new blog posts, I was also moving house, selling property, signing documents, organizing new tenants and of course dealing with all of the even less pleasant aspects of ending an eight year relationship. During one month I even twisted my ankle, fell up an escalator and locked myself out of my home overnight.

I’ve been writing this blog in some form or another for about six years now. For most of that time, I’m pretty sure my total readership could be counted on one hand. To go from that to having so many testers listening to what I had to say, was pretty overwhelming. Some of these testers had written books that I had on my bookshelf! I’m still amazed by this and it’s encouraged me to write more blog posts. This blog has always been a way for me to share my learning journey with the world, and it still is. It’s a nice feeling to know that sometimes I can write something that makes someone think about testing.

Meeting Marlena Compton was a definite milestone. Marlena, James and I started meeting up for drinks and nerd talk on a regular basis, and lamented that there weren’t many opportunities for testers to meet and discuss testing in Sydney. So we started inviting more people and soon we had a regular crowd of interested testers like Bruce McLeod, Alister Scott and Dean Cornish. And that’s how the Sydney tester meetups were born. I hope this can continue to grow in 2011.

Chapter 4: The parts where I actually tested stuff

I’m lucky to be in a job where I have the freedom to experiment with different test approaches and tools. My bosses are fantastic about letting me try out new things, and they tend to prioritize software quality over hard deadlines. So here are just some of the things I experimented with and learned about in 2010:

Pair testing

Actually having more than one tester in the team allowed me to pair up with other testers for exploratory testing missions. I still haven’t gotten around to blogging about this, but it’s something that I’ve found very interesting and very useful. I experimented with a few different mediums, such as instant messenger, Campfire and just physically sharing the one workstation. It’s something that I’ll definitely be writing about later.

Reporting

As our company’s product is email marketing software, I still use the product to send out an email newsletter to our whole company on a weekly basis. This newsletter contains an update on the testing progress for all projects, at least one link to an interesting article related to testing or software development, and usually a funny picture or website link, just to keep people interested. It used to also contain a large table of metrics to show testing progress, but this was replaced by the low-tech dashboard that James and I wrote about for The Testing Planet.

In the last few months, we’ve been using Campfire chatrooms to update team members in real-time, which has been proving to be a very effective reporting method. I have blogging plans for this topic as well, as it’s been a very interesting experience.

Test Cases

Our existing GUI automation suite managed to survive despite a year of harsh criticism, extreme refactoring, ruthless culling, massive expansion, and merging with several new tools including FitNesse, Selenium, TeamCity and SpecFlow. I started taking a more exploratory and risk-focused approach, and used many of the lessons learned in the Rapid Testing Course.

Chapter 4: Epilogue

My entire life changed last year, and it was a firehose of learning. I’m not sure what I’ll do this year, but it would be nice to attend an overseas conference (recommendations, anyone?). I’m looking forward to finally meeting Anne-Marie and continuing the Sydney tester meetups.

Credits

Special thanks go to the following testers for inspiring me and getting me more interested in testing this year:

Anne-Marie Charrett, James Martin, James Bach, Marlena Compton, Rob Lambert, Bruce McLeod, Ryan Keating, Simon Morley, Ajoy Singha, Michael Bolton, Chris McMahon, Lisa Crispin, Alan Page, Alister Scott, Dean Cornish and Darren McMillan.

A special shout-out goes to software engineers Rob Sanders and David Young who have read this blog for a very long time and always given me good feedback.

And of course thanks to everyone at Campaign Monitor for being awesome people to work with. :)

8 thoughts on “My very long year

  1. Alan

    Thanks for the reference Trish. I’m glad I was able to provide some interest or inspiration – that’s a huge compliment and I really appreciate it.

    Here’s to a great 2011 for testers everywhere!

  2. Darren McMillan

    Hi Trish,

    Lovely read; Twitter is fantastic isn’t it for getting to chat with others in our field.

    I’d been thinking about team status updates for a while & was thinking of putting an interesting daily thing each of our team had done each day on a virtual dashboard for others in the company to view. However I like your newsletter idea much better! It’s excellent isn’t it what you can pick up from reading blog posts from others like yourself :-)

    Also thanks for the mention I’m glad something I’ve done has inspired or got you interested; likewise I’m also a big fan of your writings & the fun way in which you communicate them.
    I’m looking forward to see more of these from you in the following year.

    All the best ;-)

    Cheers,

    Darren.

  3. Rob Lambert

    Hi Trish,

    This is a great post and many thanks for the lovely mentions of The Testing Club. It’s been great to work with you also as your inspiration, passion and positive attitude towards testing inspires many others too.

    I hope 2011 will be just as inspiring and memorable for you. :)

    Rob..

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  5. Marlena

    Thanks for the mention. Meeting up with you, James and the other testers here in Sydney has helped me so much in making the transition from America to Australia. Your posts are consistently great, so I’m glad they are reaching a wider audience. I’m expecting more Oz testing fun from your blog and the other Oz Testers in 2011 :o)

  6. James Martin

    We’ve had some epic discussions in Oh-Ten! This year has certainly been one of the most satisfying of my (admittedly short) professional life. Thank you! :)

    Looking forward to 2011!

  7. Stephen Hill

    Trish,

    What a great and productive year you’ve had! I look forward to reading more of your posts in 2011.

    All the best,

    Stephen

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