I started my previous post by saying “2021 was an improvement over the previous year”. This was due, in large part, to the growth and new challenges at work. Here are some more reflections and a few fun stats from 2021 on those new challenges:
Growth at Promenade came as we hired people all over the engineering team from Testers to DevOps, VPs, Directors, and many other roles. Scanning my calendar I see some fascinating stats:
Took part in 61 interviews. 45 of which were in the first half of the year (we slowed hiring in the 2nd half).
Helped hire a number of executives including: VP of Engineering, VP of Product and Director of TechOps.
Our engineering team grew from 9 people in January to 26 people by the end of December. (There’s even more now)
Hiring is challenging in and of itself. Even more so when you source and screen all your own hires with little to no recruitment help (like I tend to do).
For the first time I got an official engineering manager title. I already had people reporting to me but getting the title to recognize the position was a nice step. The challenges then became how to manage people across different business units and how much coaching, and 1:1 time to give vs spend on my own work.
2 remote community of practice events
1 remote team building event
For the first time(s) this year I ran a few events virtually. With teams spread out over different businesses it’s important to me to look at my team as more of a community of practice, rather than a separate group.
Metrics became a thing. How do we think about assessing and reporting on quality and test systems? Do we do this for people as well? This seems to be a very interesting topic in and of itself.
Professional development. I informally started building a career ladder for software testers and a professional development plan. This has always been a goal I’ve had in the back of my mind. I give each person on my team goals with classes to take and pass. Now I’m going to share it with others. Scary!
Community work included:
1 talk given at the Odyssey Conference
1 BBST course taught on our new Platform
2 (or was it 3) hosted AST events
1 in-person conference organized (I helped in a very small way)
2 (or was it 3) Twitter spaces held
Simplifying things like this is fun but it also makes it seem easy and last year was anything but easy. It certainly was fun.
2021 was an improvement over the previous year in a number of ways: more mental energy, more growth at work and a safe return to in-person conferences at the AST.
Growth and the challenges at work have become inspiration for sharing in short form on LinkedIn and Twitter. They’ve also given me more desire to write long form (the second half of 2021 was better than the first). Ultimately in 2021 I published 14 articles, recorded 2 small podcasts (rackets) and recorded a single interview all of which became articles on this site.
Today, as per tradition, I summarize the most popular and important articles I’ve written over the past year. You can find previous years in review here: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
On to 2021 in Review:
The Five Most-Viewed Article
The five most viewed articles according to page views:
How to Export Environments from Postman – A simple problem I had with not being able to remember how to do something. It is far and away the most popular article I wrote last year but also the least important.
Hiring a software tester, an analysis – By far my most time consuming post given I had to collect and analyze data and then write a report on it. I am pretty happy it got a lot of traction.
Better Tester Training Material – Reflecting on the effort Simon Peter and I put together to create better testing materials. In the end we didn’t use them but those materials are free for anyone to use.
Not Good Enough – I get the desire to criticize others when the work they produce doesn’t measure up. I do it too often. But I also recognize those who are trying shouldn’t be shamed or discouraged from getting better. It’s a delicate balance.
A month ago someone on LinkedIn thanked a website and the person running it for helping them learn. They recommended others use the site. When people in my network commented on how the site wasn’t any good, I took notice. It reminded me of what Seth Godin said in ‘Not good enough’ is an easy place to hide:
The people who are paying attention are the ones who are trying. And shaming people who are trying because they’re not perfect is a terrific way to discourage them from trying. On the other hand, the core of every system is filled with the status quo, a status quo that isn’t even paying attention.
This is a really hard but important distinction to remember: It’s easy to criticize work in the name of peer review but end up on the bandwagon of not good enough. (There’s a fine line between effective peer review and unwanted comment).
One major lesson I’ve learned from interviewing testers is most aren’t paying attention. They aren’t looking around at how to improve. They don’t read blogs, books or take classes. So while it’s tempting to criticize the work people are putting out, it’s more impactful to reach out to those who are doing nothing and encourage them to try.
2020 was a year of starts and stops. Of more time but less mental energy. It was a year of developing patience and adapting to hard changes.
In early March my wife, an ICU nurse here in Los Angeles, saw the first signs of COVID coming in from travelers from Italy. Being ahead of the curve with little ability to do anything other than brace and watch it unfold forced us develop some humility.
In the AST we watched and guessed the trajectory of the virus as it spread country to country derailing our in person meeting. Then it shutdown major conference after major conference. All we could do was wait and see what are options were for our own conference, CAST. By the time it got canceled no one was surprised.
I spent more time at home with my family and less time on my commute. Despite these benefits I didn’t find more mental energy—quite the contrary. I had plans to attend many virtual conferences and I made it to none of them. Neither free nor paid. I had plans to write for other publications but couldn’t.
Writing became more consistent as I took to putting my frustrations down on paper instead. Yet I hardly published to my blog. I couldn’t get my mind to make space beyond the everyday challenges. There were / are so many things to say but no space available.
In the United States it seems like most of us will be working from home at least until Q1of 2021. I was thinking about this the other day: when will we see infection levels low enough that masks will no longer be required AND such a decision won’t lead to a rebound of the virus? And… When will a vaccine be available and widely used? In other words… it’s going to be at least another 6 months.This isn’t meant to be depressing, rather quite the opposite. Knowing the work situation will be the same for the next 6 months gives me the opportunity to change things up so the next 6 months are better than the previous.
Nearly 4 years ago I had my own home office. It was a full room and I could keep the door closed to avoid distractions. Now my desk is in the middle of the living room and I have to deal with such a busy place.
If I truly want to make my work situation better for the next 6 months what changes should I make to build an awesome home office space? Additionally, what can I do that is convenient and cost effective? The answer I found is to use as much equipment as I have access to from work and home.
I like working from home… but it feels different now.
Clarification: I like working from home, when it’s my choice.
My ideal work/life choice would involve: splitting the week into 2 or 3 days of in-office and from-home work. The extrovert in me would get to talk to my coworkers, pair up and communicate freely. The introvert in me would get to focus with limited distractions, kill my commute time and get to see my family a little more.
Back in the day I worked fully remote for over 3 years straight but this time I no longer have the same choices to keep me balanced. My old office became the kid’s bedroom and although I love my standing desk it’s also in the dining room. Staying inside for most of the workweek used to be fine when I could go out to eat for lunch or dinner or spend time with friends. Those options are much reduced today.
However even as we retreat from physical interaction I’m reminded there’s still the possibility to learn and connect with others. This morning I was Skyping with a friend in the Netherlands who had just gotten off of a random Zoom call with 30+ Strangers for an happy hour drink. Someone posted a link, others joined and enjoyed an after work drink together!
And that’s the point. There are still choices to be made despite our shelter-in-place orders. I take long walks with the family after work and on occasion I fly my drone to explore my surroundings. This weeks goal is to start taking walking breaks at regular interviews where I’ll listen to my podcasts and perhaps say hi to people doing the same. Who knows, maybe I’ll host or join social hangouts for fun?
My yearly tradition has been to summarize the most popular and important (to me) articles I’ve written over the past year along with some reflections and other forward-looking (and likely wrong) statements mixed in.
I joined BloomNation as a Test Automation Engineer in 2018 and in 2019 was promoted to senior role. The promotion was in part my testing contributions and hitting my goals but also the general impact I’ve had on the company outside of that role. During CAST I was telling people I had temporarily switched positions by taking on a Product Manager role until we could fill the vacancy. While temporary, I helped the company continue to deliver on a new core piece of the business and in turn it gave me some new experience and perspective. I plan to write about this experience soon.
Speaking of CAST 2019, this was my first year helping to organize and run a conference of any kind. I plan to write about this experience as well but suffice it to say this was both fascinating and incredibly hard.
I did some speaking in 2019, made my first and second podcast appearance and found what I hope is a sustainable model for supporting TestingConferences.org. I’ve started to become more serious about potential ways to support the things I do. In fact one theme of 2020 might be me figuring out how to balance all the things I want to do with all the things I’ve already committed to doing. Just like every year!
The Five Most-Viewed Articles:
How to debug problems on Mobile Safari – After showing a co-worker how they could debug mobile safari problems on their MacBook, I realized it wasn’t common knowledge. So I helped change that a bit but making it clear how to do it.
Participating in Code Reviews as a Tester – I’ve always liked the concept of helping testers push their technical understanding to reduce both risk and increase confidence. This post was based on a webinar of the same name and includes the slides and a link to watch the webinar.
How I Became an Automation Engineer – A talk based on my personal experiences of becoming an Automation Engineer and what my role looks like. This also became a blog post with references, slides and an embedded video.
It’s Easier to Write about Tooling – Whenever I go to conferences there is a heavy emphasis on what our tooling is. Even in my own writing there can be a heavy emphasis on tools and I think that’s just because it’s easier than writing about the decisions we took and models we made prior to choosing it.
Over 185k page-views in 2019
The first article made it into my top 10 articles over all, which is great. Traffic to this site continues moving up and to the right over time. In 2019 alone I had more than 185k page-views. That’s double the views in one year! Wow!
A Few Other Articles
It was the Creative Web that collapsed – The title of this post is a line from Edward Snowden’s new book, Permanent Record. It’s a great book, you should read it. I reflected on how Surveillance Capitalism is part of the world of the web and how I hope to limit that surveillance on all my sites.
Getting Paid to Learn was a reminder of how important it is to have the company you work for support your professional development. Making promises is one thing but taking action to do it has a positive effect on the people and the company culture.
These are articles were written because I was feeling the flow and when inspiration hits you take it. They turned out well, I’m proud to write consistently about topics that intrigue me and I hope there’s intrigue on the other side too.
The Future is already here
Predicting the future is fun and yet meaningless. But here are the things already on my radar for 2020. So much to consider and so little time:
CAST 2020 is already rolling with early bird ticket sales open.
I’m almost done teaching an AST-BBST Foundations course, my first in a few years and I’m constantly looking at the course with an eye for improvements.
Speaking of improvements, I’m still helping to redesign some aspects of the course AND of course trying to be a treasurer and handle all the financial things.
When it comes to writing I hope to continue the pace of 2x blog posts per month. It’s challenging but doable. More would be great but I want a constant pace to keep myself going.
Despite record setting viewership in 2019, I’m hoping to get better at self branding and sharing which should see page-views increase YOY again. I’ve already updated the newsletter to be less often so I can focus on driving readership for certain articles. I also intend to cross-promote on other blogging and reading platforms to gain viewership. So much to do.
I essentially did 3 presentations / talks in 2019 and I intend to do the same or a few more this year (especially for the online conferences). Hopefully I’ll also get around to making a few more podcast appearances because they are fun to do and fun to share.
Cheers to the rest of 2020! What will you be doing?
April has come and is nearly gone without any prose being published. I couldn’t have that. You see I’ve been writing but I haven’t condensed that prose into a nice enough package to share. In the meantime lots of things are happening that are worthy of sharing:
On Friday, May 3rd at 10:00am PST, I’ll be hosting Doug Hoffman for the AST’s May webinar on “The Often Overlooked Test Oracle: The Key to More Powerful Testing”. I love talking with Doug because he’s so knowledgeable and frankly I think Test Oracles aren’t very well understood. Learn More or Sign Up.
Despite being the “just” the Treasurer for the AST, I’m actively involved in most aspects of the business including finance, marketing, SEO, IT, conferences, education and elections to name a few. Ultimately what this means is I spend a good deal of my time trying to help improve the organization. It’s a fun challenge.
As it has become a yearly tradition I will attempt to summarize the most popular and important articles I’ve written over the year along with some other forward-looking (and likely wrong) statements mixed in with past reflections.
I’ve always spent a lot of time volunteering for the non-profit Association for Software Testing but seemed to take it to new highs as I recruited, promoted and led what I like to call “Season 1” of our webinar program. I also taught a class or two for AST-BBST and was elected to the Board of Directors!
Our home came very close to burning down in the most recent Southern California Wildfires (fires were stopped a few hundred yards away). Oh and I did a little writing:
The Five Most-Viewed Articles:
How To Run Your Selenium Tests Headlessly in Docker – A guide to setting up your test automation framework with a Chrome docker container for running your Selenium tests headlessly, complete with code examples. This has been my default configuration for the last year or so due to its simplicity.
Good and Bad UI Test Automation explained – Richard Bradshaw went off on a Twitter deep dive on UI test automation and the subtitles involved with doing it well. I enjoyed the tweetstorm and the topic so I decided to annotate those tweets and provide more context. I think I have enough information now to do a part 2 of this!
How to set up Apple Pay on Mac (non TouchID) – I was testing Stripe’s ApplePay integration but for some reason I wasn’t seeing ApplePay enabled through Safari. Googling didn’t help so after I figured it out I wrote a how to guide.
A typical day of Testing – How I worked in 2018, aka what a typical day of testing looked like for me. It’s amazing what a year difference can make!
The first two articles made it into my top 10 articles over all, which is great. Traffic to this site continues moving up and to the right over time. In 2018 alone I had more than 100k page views. So crazy!
A few other Important Articles:
After attending TestBash in San Francisco in November my family and I came home to find the surrounding areas of our home on fire. I find writing helps keep me calm and allows me to vent a bit so I wrote about the experience.
I enjoyed TestBash so much I wrote a recap of both Day 1 and Day 2.
I’m half way through Michael Lewis’ The Undoing Project and already loving it. I knew nothing about the subject before starting it and have been pleasantly surprised to find out it’s about Daniel Kahneman who wrote the very influential (great book) Thinking, Fast and Slow. Also there’s talk of data analysis and statistics!
Of the 2 mailing lists I run, one for this site and another for TestingConferences.org I’ve sent GDPR related confirmations to non-US subscribers. Of all the GDPR related emails I’ve recieved, only one came from a list I didn’t recognize / didn’t subscribe to.
The last few weeks have been crazy busy, but I hope to write more about it soon. Changes coming!