It’s hard to attend and run a conference

Turns out it’s hard to attend and run a conference at the same time. Go. Figure.

I had a great idea to let other people decide what talks I should attend at CAST 2019 and then I’d do a writeup of each one. While I love the idea and will definitely try it again, it was too much given that I was one of the organizers helping to run things AND trying to attend the sessions. I ended up attending both keynotes and then facilitating another session.

The good news is we recorded many talks and I’ve been able to watch much of what I missed!

Getting Paid to Learn

Picking up experience on the job can be great (for example learning about SEO, application monitoring or observability) but all things being equal, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the many other ways we learn. Without the support to continuously learn new things we get stuck in jobs and become less valuable to the market and our employers over time. That’s why I’m a big fan of the concept of Getting Paid to Learn.

Getting Paid to Learn

Just like it sounds, I’m talking about companies that help and support their employees learn and develop new skills over time by giving them time and budget to learn new things.

Getting the Time

I joined BloomNation over a year ago and began learning how to write code in a brand new language: JavaScript. My boss knew this meant giving me time to learn and time to produce something at a far slower rate than I might normally be able to. (Note: this is time during the regular work day) The upside of this meant alignment with my front-end developers and now I have some skill that I can use again and again in other areas like in helping to do front-end Code Reviews.

Getting the Budget

Years ago when I first started learning how to write UI automation I requested my then company buy me an online book. As I used my new skill to tackle newer and larger problems I outgrew the advice a book could give me and asked for the budget to hire a known consultant to help guide me in more advanced practices. We set a budget and hired that consultant part time.

While you don’t necessarily have to hire a consultant, having a defined (or loosely defined) annual budget per person for gaining education through online courses, books (FYI anyone can gift you a Kindle eBook fairly easily), conferences, is a huge signal that the company values you, is invested in your growth and its also a pretty nice recruitment tool.

Peace of Mind

My own experience tells me companies are starting to get the hint about having an active policy toward continuous learning. Some have enterprise training accounts with Udemy, Udacity, Safari Online or other programs. Others have a defined budget per year. This has become one of my goto questions when I evaluate a company to join: do they offer both budget and time to learn new things?

While I may not always have the time to take advantage, when I do want to learn something new, upskill or generally increase my depth of knowledge I want the safety and confidence of knowing the company is willing to pay me to learn.

Late-August updates

August has been crazy busy with a mixture of travel, AST elections, my day job and the annual CAST conference. Some recent updates:

Learning

  • Joined my first TestAutomationU course on WebDriverIO. I already use WebDriverIO v4 but figured since it was using v5 it might be fun to see what is new and how someone else approaches designing their framework. So far I’ve picked up a few different libraries and approaches to config files. At some point I’ll go back through the class. code up the examples and put them in my repo on GitHub. Always a good idea to show your work / build a portfolio!
  • Finished reading Bad Blood. Oh such a fascinating, fun and yet frustrating book on the blood testing startup Theranos, it’s founder Elizabeth Holmes and how she was able to deceive so many people. Essentially the company used the threat of lawsuits, internal security and departmentalizations of employees to keep most people from knowing the truth or learning too much. From an a casual observer I’m fascinated how, despite terrible working conditions and low levels of trust within the organization they attracted top talent with the promise of helping revolutionize the healthcare industry. I mean that’s how powerful a message and a founder can be. There’s also a lot to be said for how smart and powerful companies are able hide information and the true power of journalism to fight against it.

The Association for Software Testing

  • The AST had our board of director elections (run by myself and Simon Peter Schrijver).
    • We welcomed two return members: Eric Proegler and Ilari Henrik Aegerter and three new board members: Lena Pejgan, Louise Perold, and James Thomas!
  • Turns out running a conference is time consuming, who would have guessed?Lol
    • I didn’t spend much time in conference sessions at CAST due to work, networking with a few people, and generally trying to keep the conference going smoothly. The funny thing is I still learned a lot!
    • I’ve written a few summaries of sessions that I hope to post recaps for but just need to find the time.
    • Now that the conference is over, a lot of work falls to my role as the Treasurer to wrap things up with speakers, etc. Its fine work but it takes time.

ETC

  • In addition to traveling with the family to Florida for CAST we also hit up Disney World a few times during our week long stay. Never been and despite it being overcast a number of days it was still incredibly hot. Thank goodness for the great weather in SoCal.
  • The first round of updates for my slides and presentation at STARWEST are done. Yay! Now to continue iterating!

There’s so much more to write about regarding CAST, my time on the board of directors, etc. so look out for those up comings posts!

Rebooting the AST’s Webinar Series!

Last year, after failing in my bid to become a Board Member, I agreed to run the AST’s webinar program. Funny thing was I already had a small list of people and topics I wanted to learn more from / about based on conference and podcast talks. (When something intrigues me I take notes to research later.) Now I have an opportunity to track down those people and ask them to (generously) share their time with the wider world of testing!

Since the AST is a non-profit with a goal of building and developing a community of skilled testing craftspeople, anything that falls into the large arena of software testing could become a topic for discussion. It doesn’t always have to apply to an aspect of test automation which is good and should give us a larger pool to draw from. This is going to be a challenge for me. Logistically challenging but also about being inclusive of interesting topics and presenters that I might not be aware of.

For 2018 the goal is one webinar per month. I have no idea if this will be a sustainable pace or if all of my presenters will be able to deliver but that’s part of the challenge.

Anna Royzman is our presenter for January so be sure to sign up. Alan Page will present in February and after that? Who knows!

Having said this, I’m always looking for presenters and topics. Got an idea? Contact me!

A few of the past webinars the AST has hosted are available online:

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s insights on China, the U.S. and the World

Lee Kuan Yew has been the prime minister of Singapore (an island nation or city-state) for about 50 years and is credited with taking them from a developing country into one of the world’s largest economies as measured by Purchasing Power Parity. Singapore has an interesting story, transforming itself in just a few decades from almost irrelevant to a top nation economically.

I don’t recall how I first heard of Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) or how he became a topic of conversation but his accomplishments as a political leader seemed interesting enough that I wanted to learn more so I bought The Grand Master book. As I was reading the book I also saw his interview with Charlie Rose. At an age (90) he is slow and quiet to answer things but it’s good watch if you want to learn more about him (and have an hour). Some of the things they talk about are also covered in the book:

The book is broken into chapters that discuss the future of China, the U.S., U.S.-China relations, India, Islamic Extremism, globalization, democracy and the way LKY thinks. Each chapter presents a dozen or so questions and the answers are provided through a selection of interviews picked by the authors. This makes the book a compilation of very interesting and diverse interviews about the above topics but it also means some of the selected replies are duplicates, which can, at times, be a little confusing.

Some of the highlighted points include:

  1. It’s China’s intention to be the greatest power in the world and its neighboring countries have already taken this into account. They’ve repositioned themselves because they know there will be consequences if they try to stop China. China can simply deny access to its 1.3 billion people whose incomes and purchasing power are increasing.
  2. China is getting more aggressive as its position in the world increases and it understands it can deny access to its markets.
  3. China has a lot of handicaps going forward like the abuse of the rule of law (the Chinese still behave like they are run by an emperor); a huge country with little emperors running around controlling local areas; cultural habits that limit creativity, imagination and expression; a language that shapes thinking around epigrams and 4,000 years of text that suggests everything worthwhile has been said; a language that is difficult for foreigners to learn; and the inability to attract and assimilate talent from other societies around the world.
  4. China is not going to become a liberal democracy; it would collapse if it did. There won’t be a revolution for democracy either, just look at Tiananmen Square and the impact that’s had – very little.
  5. The U.S. is going through a rough patch with its debt and deficits but America will not fall to second-rate status. Historically the U.S. has demonstrated a great capacity for renewal and revival thanks to a wide range of imagination and pragmatics; a diverse population that competes in investing, embracing new ideas, taking risks; a society that attracts talent from around the world and assimilates them comfortably; and a language that is an open system that is the language of the leaders in science, technology, business, etc.
  6. In the US Presidents don’t get reelected if they give a hard dose of medicine to their people so there is a tendency to procrastinate, to postpone unpopular policies in order to win elections. This is how we get budget deficits, debt, and high unemployment carried over from one administration to the next.
  7. The US’s approach towards China with human rights groups, threatening the loss of most-favored-nation status, etc. ignore the differences of culture, values and history and hurt China-U.S relations. Less sensitivity and more understanding of the cultural realities of China can make the relationship better.
  8. India has wasted decades in state planning and controls that have bogged it down in bureaucracy and corruption. A decentralized system would allow more centers like Bangalore and Bombay to grow. The caste system has been the enemy of meritocracy. India is a nation of unfulfilled greatness.
  9. There are limitations in the Indian constitutional system and political system that prevent it from going at a high speed. Whatever the political leadership wants to do it has to go through a very complex system.
  10. Islam has not been a problem; however contemporary radical Islam or Islamism is a problem.
  11. The Russian population is declining. It is not clear why but alcoholism plays a role; so do pessimism, a declining fertility rate, and a declining life expectancy.
  12. There is no historical precedent on how to maintain peace and stability and to ensure cooperation in a world of 160 nation-states. And the age of instant communications and swift transportation, with technology growing exponentially makes this problem very complex. In one interdependent, interrelated world, the decline in the relative dominance of the leaders of the two blocs increases the likelihood of a multipolar world and with it the difficulties of multilateral cooperation.
  13. Westerners (The US) have abandoned an ethical basis for society, believing that all problems are solvable by a good government… In the West, especially after WW2, the government came to be seen as so successful that it could fulfill all the obligations that in less modern societies are fulfilled by the family… In the East, we start with self-reliance. In the West today, it is the opposite. The government says give me a popular mandate and I will solve all society’s problems.

There’s a lot more detail is this book of nearly 200 pages, for example LKY goes more into the U.S.’s problems, like the war on drugs and the US’s tolerance for illegal immigrants but is optimistic in our ability to solve problems when we finally come together.

lky

I would definitely recommend this book to someone wanting to learn more about Lee Kuan Yew’s views of the world and/or anyone interested in International Politics / Relations. Given the international views we (I) have as (an) American’s it’s refreshing to read someone else’s views on the world and how the US fits in. That’s not to say LKY is a know-it-all, or doesn’t make mistakes but his leadership is unrelenting.

What I’ve been up to lately

Things have been busy in the last month or so and I felt like sharing what I’ve been up to lately. Most of it revolves around software testing:

April saw the start of Dan Ariely’s A Beginners Guide to Irrational Behavior class on Coursera. I knew I had the BBST course coming up so I didn’t commit much time to the class other than watching the video lectures and doing the video quizzes. There are many aspects of irrational behavior that affect what we do in software development and testing – I’d like to write a more in-depth article about that in the future.

On the 14th of April I started the BBST Test Design course and completed it on May 8th. For those who have never taken a BBST class before they are incredibly intense month long courses. The course breaks a single calendar week into 2 class weeks – one week with 4 days, and a shorter week with 3 days and each week requires about 10-15 hours of work in order to do the readings, labs and work on the exam. The class is done but I still don’t know if I’ve passed; regardless I learned a lot.

On April 19th I joined the NRG Global Online test competition. My last post was a reflection on how well I thought I did and despite my low perception, my team ended up winning part of the competition!

I went to STPcon 2013 at the end of April in San Diego where I met up with a few Miagi-Do’ers, met some other testers I’d heard from in the twitter-verse or blog-o-sphere and learned a few things. I’m planning to write an experience report and post it either here or on the newly formed Miagi-Do blog. I think it might apply a little more here but I don’t know how it will turn out because I haven’t written it.

During the Test Design course I picked up on Test Design being the last of the 3 BBST courses and there being 3 more courses – Domain testing, spec-based testing and scenario-based testing listed in Cem Kaner’s diagram. I asked Cem about the domain testing course over twitter and he kindly sent me an email with a draft domain testing workbook which I plan to review – right after I email him back and telling him when.

May 8th through 10th I participated in the Rapid Testing Intensive Online #2 as a peer reviewer. It was fun to sit on the other side and provide some feedback to the students on their work although I would have been more effective if I was able to do the assignment as the students were – I just couldn’t take the time off work. Nevertheless I found participating as a peer reviewer to have its own unique challenges as I interacted with other testers and tried to answer their questions. In the RTIO there’s a ton of material and references coming at the students so it helps to interact and help others.

May 16th I signed up for the BBST Bug Advocacy class that takes place in June. One of my year end goals is to complete all 3 BBST courses and then pursue BBST Instructor so I can help others. In fact as I was writing this I signed up for the BBST Instructors course in October!

Lastly I’m looking for a cheap / free place to host a public Rapid Software Testing course with Paul Holland in the Los Angeles area. Anyone know of a place that can fit 20 people comfortably?

Wow I’ve got a lot to do…