Takeaways from Rob Lambert’s “How To Thrive As A Web Tester”

Rob Lambert released a new book on testing early this year, with title “How To Thrive as a Web Tester“. Like “Remaining Relevant and Employable in a Changing World” and “The Problems with Software Testing“, the new book only takes a few hours to read through and is focused, this time offering ideas which challenges testers to think more about how they perform their day-to-day work and their skill set. Rob wants us to flourish as testers, and the book provides us with tidbits of actionable items.

Here are a few gems from the book:

  • Understand who your customer is.
  • Your job is to keep up to date with what’s happening, ask how it might affect your job or how you approach testing. Your job is to get involved with new ideas, movements and embrace the technology that floats your boat.
  • Pick something and learn it. It will likely be out-of-date soon, or surpassed by something else. Don’t let that stop you though – just pick something and learn it. What never goes out-of-date is a Tester’s ability to find problems, ask tough questions and work well with others. Focus on developing those skills and you’ll make a great Tester whatever the tech stack you’re working on.
  • The tech moves on, the way we deliver it has moved on, the pace of delivery may change but the same problems exist; how to get people to work well together, how to understand customer’s needs, how to scale, how to make profit, how to dominate a market, how to learn, how to build an effective and efficient businesses, how to stop bugs affecting customers. Same problems, different tech.
  • Your job is to ship software. Sure, if there are problems that will affect the customer or company, you’ll stop the release, but you’ll also work tirelessly to see how you can improve to allow safer releases, better monitoring, better rollbacks, better roll forwards and a more seamless release mechanism.
  • You need to remain relevant, employable and effective to a wider business community. You cannot rely on your employers for your career development and security – that is your own responsibility.
  • Let go of your job role, or what your job description says, and take ownership of the actual work and any problems that surround it. Take on problems others aren’t owning. Or offer to help those struggling with fixing tricky problems at work. There are always problems, and most problems exist between job roles.
  • Testing is the art of asking questions and seeking answers. Never stop asking questions. Study how to ask good questions. Study how to listen for answers. They can come from anywhere, at any time. Good Testers know when to ask questions. They build the muscle memory needed to match patterns, to know when and where to ask, to know what to ask, to know who to ask, and to follow instincts.
  • Good Testers solve problems. Even problems that are outside of the responsibility of Testers.
  • If you aren’t as good as you can be, it’s because you haven’t yet decided to be the best version of yourself yet. It’s as simple as that.
  • We are all, thankfully, different. There is no single model we should all fit. The world would be a pretty dull place if that were the case.

Favorite Talks from Agile Testing Days 2017

There are two things that’s wonderful from last year’s Agile Testing Days conference talks: content focusing on other valuable stuff for testers and teams (not automation), and having as many women speakers as there are men. I hope they continue on with that trend.

Here’s a list of my favourite talks from said conference (enjoy!):

  • How To Tell People They Failed and Make Them Feel Great (by Liz Keogh, about Cynefin, our innate dislike of uncertainty and love of making things predictable, putting safety nets and allowing for failure, learning reviews, letting people change themselves, building robust probes, and making it a habit to come from a place of care)
  • Pivotal Moments (by Janet Gregory, on living in a dairy farm, volunteering, traveling, toastmasters, Lisa Crispin, Mary Poppindieck and going on adventures, sharing failures and taking help, and reflecting on pivotal moments)
  • Owning Our Narrative (by Angie Jones, on the history of the music industry so far, the changes in environment, tools, and business models musicians have had to go through so survive, and embracing changes and finding ways to fulfil our roles as software testers)
  • Learning Through Osmosis (by Maaret Pyhäjärvi, on mob programming and osmosis,  creating safe spaces to facilitate learning, and the power of changing some of our beliefs and behaviour)
  • There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s/Developer’s/Tester’s Journey (by Pete Walen, on how software was built in the old days, how testing and programming broke up into silos, and a challenge for both parties to go back at excelling at each other’s skills and teaming up
  • 10 Behaviours of Effective Agile Teams (by Rob Lambert, about shipping software and customer service, becoming a more effective employee, behaviours, and communicating well)

Notes from Rob Lambert’s “The Problems with Software Testing”

Rob Lambert is certain that the current world of software testing is in chaos, convinced that the software testing community is in a state of turmoil in recent years, and he’s actually turned his ideas about some of these software problems into a free e-book, wrote and talked about them so that those of us who continue to test software for a living are guided about the reality of the industry and about what we can do.

Some notes from the book:

  • Automating software testing is no different from automating tasks outside of work. We are ultimately trying to save labor time, do tasks we would not normally be able to do and automate those tasks that are tedious. And on paper that sounds awesome. Problem is, in reality it’s not quite as sweet as that.
  • Best practices are moments in time when something went well, for someone, on some project and in some context. There’s no guarantee that it will work again in the future as your context is forever changing.
  • Certifications are certainly a way to make money. Which is fine, it’s got a good business model. No one can begrudge people for making money. But is the certification helping the testing community or is it ruining it? Is it making testers “better” at what they do or simply giving them some generic terminology and a piece of paper? Is that a bad thing? Is it spoiling testers with false education?

Notes from Rob Lambert’s “Remaining Relevant and Employable in a Changing World”

Here’s one thing about software testing: it is a specialization that’s tough to pursue as a long-term career. It is difficult to know if you’ve become someone that’s remarkable at it. There are no degrees about software testing in school, people seldom discuss what it means (even among software development teams), and it’s hard to find mentors. It is common for software testers to start their profession in testing only by chance, like how I stumbled with the work myself, taking my first job because I wanted to work with computers (but having no experience in both programming and building computer networks) and because I needed some way of earning money. It was fairly easy to get into, but after being in the industry for quite some time I know how perplexing it is to build from the basics, how hard it is to find out where to go next.

Fortunately there are people like Rob Lambert, previously known as the Social Tester, who are concerned about helping other software testers in the industry. He wrote the Remaining Relevant and Employable in a Changing World ebook for software testers who really enjoy what they do and wants to stand out from their peers. It’s a great read, and reading and deeply thinking about other people’s ideas always play a huge role in learning many things connected to software testing as it does too in other fields of work, including how to get better at what what we do.

Some lessons from the book:

  • Ensure that each and every day you are shipping something that pushes you towards the end goal.
  • Learning and building your skills should be a core fundamental aspect to your life as a software tester. Learn about technology, industries, people, the product under test, yourself or your co-workers.
  • Testing isn’t about conforming to standards. It’s about helping to deliver great software. It’s about more than test techniques and approaches. It’s about working with people, communicating clearly, understanding market conditions, embracing technology, understanding end user needs, influencing design, and a whole lot more besides.
  • As a minimum, do no less than one hour of learning per day, ideally two.
  • It isn’t the company you work for who are in charge of your career. It’s you.