CAST 2013: 5 unconventional traits of extraordinary testers
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CAST 2013: 5 unconventional traits of extraordinary testers

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This talk is about things that may make many non-QA people uncomfortable, but that are integral to our success as testers and in QA. This is about how we do what we do, and why, and what often sets us ...

This talk is about things that may make many non-QA people uncomfortable, but that are integral to our success as testers and in QA. This is about how we do what we do, and why, and what often sets us apart from the rest of the crowd. It has little to do with tests, or how to create the deliverables we leave behind.

There is an ineffable quality around people who are “born testers”. We end up in testing not because of the fame, fortune, and gratitude we get (although those would be nice!). We do this because it fascinates us, it draws us in, and lets us poke, and prod, and challenge the circumstances we find ourselves in. Having said that, it also forces us to have some very different attitudes than others in our organizations that set us apart.

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  • I am here today to talk about things that make most people uncomfortable, but that are integral to our success as testers and in QA. This is about how we do what we do, and why, and what will set us apart from the rest of the crowd. It has little to do with tests, or how to create the deliverables we leave behind. There is an ineffable quality around people who are born testers. We end up here not because of the fame, fortune, and gratitude we get. We do this because it fascinates us, it draws us in, and lets us poke, and prod, and challenge the circumstances we find ourselves in. I have been incredibly fortunate in my explorations of my career to have experienced and learned many things. I hope to share at least one thing with you today that will make a difference in your work. It will be something different for each of you, and I have no way of knowing which of the things I talk about that it will be. It may be something completely different from what I have learned, and I hope that perhaps you will share it with me, or someone else, at some point in your career.Who I consider extraordinary & whyMichael BoltonJames & Jon BachCemKanerLisa Crispin & Janet GregoryGojkoAdzicMarkus GaertnerElisabeth HendricksonRob SabourinBrian MarickPaul HollandHarry RobinsonJerry WeinbergDale EmeryJohanna RothmanEsther Derby& many new people from this weekend
  • My education: many different degrees- learned more about business from theater than I did in business school in some waysMy jobs: retail, to medicine, to academia, to consultingGraduate school: learning how to BUILD frameworks – discovering that I am a pattern matcherPersonally, I have tried to get out of QA, multiple times, because I hate doing counts of bugs, and test executions, and having arguments about what is and isn't a bug. But I have this problem. I seem to keep landing back in testing. It is how I see the world, and I have a passion for it. I also have a quirk that I am ALWAYS thinking, and building connections between things I see and hear. I spent a lot of time in graduate school learning about others' theories and how to build them myself, but theories are hard to apply for most people. Since then I have spent a lot of time listening to stories that illustrate the same ideas in ways that people can connect to. I have pulled together ideas from a half dozen TED talks and biographies in areas as different as communication, medicine, business and conflict, and art that explain why we need to do more to speak out and celebrate our 'oddness' as testers ad QA advocates. I am going to ask your indulgence on this talk. It has been largely written when my head was quite literally in the clouds, on my trips to and from San Diego for my client. Why do I think it is okay to ask you to do this? Because this is a place where there are a lot of people who are good at what they do; I believe that they can become more than good, and be extraordinary. I wish someone had told me these things years ago to make my journey a little less uncomfortable. 
  • Turning shame that hides mistakes in to lessons that can be shared in loving, supportive ways so that others do not make the same mistakes that we did
  • Bringing communication to the disparate audiencesUsing stories over demandsBringing about change through experiencesMaking connections and checking linkagesBuilding acceptance and 360° confidence in the systemEstablishing trust creates a safe environment that permits others to be wrong, dare to disagree, and admit their limits.Scott Berkun: Bad criticism uses the opportunity provided by someone else’s work to make the critic feel smart, superior or better about themselves: things that have nothing to do with helping the recipient of the critique (Or in the case of movie reviews, the reader of the critique). Given the difficultly of creative work, it would seem that giving and receiving useful feedback should be an important part of what designers, writers, programmers and others are taught to do.
  • In Oxford in the 1950s, there was physician named Alice Stewart who was fascinated with the new science of epidemiology. She realized, as a scientist does, that the way to prove herself was to find a hard problem and solve it. The problem she chose was the rising incidence of childhood cancer. Most diseases correlate with poverty, but the childhood cancer of the time was affecting mainly affluent children. She had difficulty getting funding, so she knew that she had only one shot at collecting data. She had to ask every question she could think of.In a blizzard of data, one thing stood out, says Heffernan, “with a statistical clarity most scientists could only dream of.” By a ratio of 2 to 1, the children who had cancer were born to mothers who were x-rayed when pregnant.That flew in the face of the conventional theory, that x-rays were safe up to a point. It also flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that new technology doesn’t harm people, and that doctors definitely don’t harm people. And no practicing doctor, it turned out, wanted to hear it. It was 25 years before x-raying pregnant women was abandoned in the US and UK.“The data was out there, it was open, it was freely available, but nobody wanted to know. A child a week was dying but nothing changed. Openness alone can’t drive change.”How did Alice know she was right? Heffernan tells us about Alice’s collaborator, a statistician named George. He was the oposite of her in all ways. But, Heffernan points out, he said an amazing thing for a collaborator: “My job is to prove that Dr. Stewart is wrong.” He actively tried to find ways of crunching the data that would “create conflics around her theories,” to do everything he could to show she was wrong. This is what gave her the confidence that she was right.
  • Openness isn't the end, it's the beginning. When we dare to speak up, to point out things people know, we begin a discussion that allows us to do our very best thinking. 85% of people know things are wrong and don't speak up. We fear we will be seen as whistleblowers, and become outcasts. What we become, though, are leaders.
  • Dan Cohen: In this talk, Cohen unpacks why the argument-as-war metaphor is so limiting — because it creates an adversarial relationship. It puts the focus on tactics (knock down your opponent’s argument) rather than real thought (do they have a point?), and shuts off the possibility of negotiation, compromise or collaboration. Because after all, who is the real winner in an argument? According to Cohen, it’s whoever has their worldview expanded. There’s no reason that needs to be limited to one person. In the ideal situation, everyone in a debate could come out with a greater understanding.
  • Bad criticism uses the opportunity provided by someone else’s work to make the critic feel smart, superior or better about themselves: things that have nothing to do with helping the recipient of the critique (Or in the case of movie reviews, the reader of the critique). Given the difficultly of creative work, it would seem that giving and receiving useful feedback should be an important part of what designers, writers, programmers and others are taught to do.
  • (R)espect and ridicule don’t mix well. To offer good criticism must be an act of respect: an act of communication with the intention of helping the other people do better work, or understand their work better. If you are shaping sentences and remarks to be snide, snarky, or sarcastic, the intention of being helpful is unlikely to be served (Unless you know the recipient of the criticisms well enough to be comfortable razzing or joking with them about their work). It’s entirely possible to offer criticism, commentary and advice without any negative energy attached: it’s just so rare that we see it done properly that most of us don’t realize it’s possible, much less more effective.
  • I question everything. I have lived long enough to learn the depths of my ability to jump to erroneous conclusions, and to crave the confidence in my observations enough to resist the urge to give in to that siren call of the critical flaw.Frees us from perfection & promotes empathyWe find fraud when we expect to see it, including in ourselvesShulz:Distinguish between the sinking feeling of finding out you are wrong and the actual consequences of being wrong- see the value in finding out what isn't true – her picnic table storyGoldman: Do you remember…. Doctors who make mistakes- 'I do remember... And I learned one thing that I can teach someone else, in a loving, supportive way, so that they won't make the same mistake that I did’
  • To truly see what is there, you have to let go of your preconceived notions of what you expect to see.You also have to develop confidence in your singular VOICE, no matter what “everyone else” says.
  • How rocks get their ‘color’Asking for help when you are in need
  • Untangling CommunicationOriginally published in STQE Vol. 3 No. 4, July/August 2001When communications get tangled, a helpful principle for untangling them is Jerry Weinberg’s Rule of Three Interpretations: If I can’t think of at least three different interpretations of what I received, I haven’t thought enough about what it might mean. Before responding to any one meaning, think of at least two other possible meanings.Also helpful is Miller’s Law, which says, "To understand what another person is saying, you have to assume that it is true and try to imagine what it might be true of." To apply Miller’s Law, ask yourself, "If what the person said were true, what else would have to be true? Under what circumstances would it be true? In order for me to believe that, what else would I have to believe?" The answers you get are presuppositions — the unstated, but implied, meanings in the message. Identifying the presuppositions helps you to fill in the information that the sender left out of the message.Melissa Marshall, TEDGlobal2012 http://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_marshall_talk_nerdy_to_me.htmlMelissa Marshall brings a message to all scientists (from non-scientists): We're fascinated by what you're doing. So tell us about it -- in a way we can understand. Talk NERDY to me, but:Ditch the jargon, explain the context, let your passion show through. Your science is Sexy and fascinating. Make your ideas accessible by using stories, examples, and analogies to engage us.
  • I question everything. I have lived long enough to learn the depths of my ability to jump to erroneous conclusions, and to crave the confidence in my observations enough to resist the urge to give in to that siren call of the critical flaw.Adichie: When we rely on a single story for our perception, we are blinded, handicapped, and subject to critical misunderstandings.
  • Asking others for help to build relationshipIt's easier to give help than ask for it, but that is true of the other side too! Be willing to go in debt first.Admitting what you don't know and posing it as a question asks them to explore their understanding to explain it to youNo one likes a know it all!Builds respect and can provide confidence (freedom from having to know everything!)Initially thought I was slow to grasp things before discovering that I am a pattern matcher who sees things holistically
  • After talking to many testers over the last year in interviews, I have come to see these traits as more our untapped strengths than as something that applies to a select few famous innovators. Theextraordinary testers I have met in my travels understand these ideas and have incorporated some number of them. I have seen them building bridges and trust, intentionally forgetting things that "everybody knows", being willing to be wrong and admit their limits, seeing the positive in our destructiveness, and challenging the comfortable confidence of their team in order to deliver even stronger, more solid confidence. I started with the easiest of these: building bridges. This is the most comfortable, and positive, of these ideas in some ways. But the others have their positive sides if we step away from common prejudices and see the value in what many of us already do quite normally.I asked your indulgence on this talk since it was literally composed when my head was in the clouds, on my trips to and from San Diego for my client. I believe it was okay to ask you to do this because this is a place where there are a lot of people who understand some of these traits and are good at what they do; I also believe that they can become more than than and become extraordinary.I hope that some little idea in here tempts you to look a little further at not what you test, but how and why you do what you do. I hope that some of the things that have had such surprising impacts in my work over the years may pay off for you as well. Let me know – I would love to hear.

CAST 2013: 5 unconventional traits of extraordinary testers CAST 2013: 5 unconventional traits of extraordinary testers Presentation Transcript

  • Unconventional Traits of Extraordinary Testers Heather Tinkham Principal Consultant Object Partners, Inc. CAST 2013: August 28, 2013
  • ex·traor·di·nar·y adjective: very unusual or remarkable
  • My Story
  • The 5 Traits Building Bridges Daring to Disagree Building on Limitations Being Wrong Seeing as Forgetting the Names of Things
  • Building Bridges Brian Goldman, ER physician, TEDxToronto 2011 http://www.ted.com/talks/brian_goldman_doctors_make_mistakes_can_we_talk_about_that.html
  • Building Acceptance
  • Daring to Disagree Margaret Heffernan, TEDGlobal 2012 http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_dare_to_disagree.html
  • Willful Blindness @ 85% Margaret Heffernan, TEDxDanubia (2013) http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_the_dangers_of_willful_blindness.html
  • For Argument’s Sake Dan Cohen, philosopher, TEDxColbyCollege http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_h_cohen_for_argument_s_sake.html
  • Scott Berkun: How to give and receive criticism There are four fundamental assumptions bad critics make: • There is one universal and objective measure of how good and bad anything is. • That the critic is in sole possession of the skill for making these measurements. • Anyone that doesn’t possess this skill (including the creator of the work) is an idiot and should be ridiculed. • That valid criticisms can and should always be resolved. http://scottberkun.com/essays/35-how-to-give-and-receive-criticism/
  • Scott Berkun: How to give and receive criticism crit•i•cal (adj.) 1. Inclined to judge severely and find fault. 2. Characterized by careful, exact evaluation and judgment: a critical reading. - Before you speak, know the goals Good and bad != Like and dislike Talk as much about the positive as the negative Try the “PNP” sandwich (for sensitive or new participants) http://scottberkun.com/essays/35-how-to-give-and-receive-criticism/
  • Being Wrong Kathryn Shulz, “Wrongologist”, TED2011 http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html
  • The Chinese Symbol
  • Journeys of Many Surprises
  • Seeing in Art Lawrence Weschler: “Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin (artist)
  • Seeing “Like a Child”
  • “Black” rocks vs. Red or White rock
  • Diverse Explanations • Jerry Weinberg / Virgina Satir (via Dale Emery): Rule of Three Interpretations • Miller’s Law (also from Dale Emery): "To understand what another person is saying, you have to assume that it is true and try to imagine what it might be true of." http://dhemery.com/articles/untangling_communication/ Melissa Marshall, TEDGlobal2012 http://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_marshall_talk_nerdy_to_me.html
  • The Single Story Chimamanda Adichie, Storyteller, TEDGlobal 2009 http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html
  • Limits = Opportunity • Asking others for help, being willing to “go into debt” • Admitting what you don’t know by asking about it • Building respect, showing confidence • Respecting your unique voice
  • May the sky be your limit.