2019 in Review

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.

You can find previous years in review here: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

Santa Monica Pier, near my office

What happened in 2019?

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.
  • Move Fast and Make Things Better – I much prefer the saying move fast and make things better over move fast and break things and this article points out why.
  • 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.
  • You Don’t Have to be an Expert to Teach is a friendly reminder that all we need to do to teach someone something is know slightly more than they do.

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.
  • I also hope to start publishing / writing more articles that touch on JavaScript, CypressIO and WebDriverIO. I’ve been primarily using JavaScript in the last year in a half and I’ve written almost no examples using it.
  • 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?

Five for Friday – January 17, 2020

Welcome to Friday, here are five points worth exploring:

  • Our first AST webinar for 2020 about TestOpsies is now live on the AST YouTube channel, check it out:

January 2020 Updates

  • Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 8th at 11am, I’m hosting James Bach and Michael Bolton for a webinar on TestOpsies – Dissecting Your Testing. Learn More or Sign up today to attend / receive the recording!
  • Starting on January 12th I’ll be teaching the first AST-BBST Foundations course of 2020. The class is sold out which is good and a little stressful but should be fun. It’s also the first time in more than a year that I’ll be teaching. Learn more about AST-BBST classes
  • CAST 2020 is going strong. We extended the CFP until January 10, 2020 to squeeze in more amazing speakers and concepts as possible. Early Bird tickets are on sale!
  • Half of TestingConferences.org’s Sponsorships are booked which is crazy! I’m happy people are interested in supporting the project and frankly this support is going to help us spend more time / build better features. 
  • I’m now the proud owner and maintainer of the LAWST website. LAWST is the Los Altos Workshop on Software Testing, and it’s format is widely known / popular peer workshops model. 
  • I’m attending the Automation Guild 2020 online conference coming up the first week of February. Honestly I like online conferences. While it’s not a guarantee I’ll watch the videos (I don’t have dedicated time), I like the convenience, content and low time commitment.

I’ve been reading Troy Hunt’s weekly update series and while I love the concept and execution of such frequent updates, I don’t think I have useful enough information to capture so frequently. I might however start posting videos as an option for those who don’t want to take the time to read.

It was the Creative Web that collapsed

In his book Permanent Record, Edward Snowden suggests the evolution of the internet has gone from a community without border or limit where “anonymity-through-polyonym produced more truth than falsehood” to one that is unrecognizable today. Unrecognizable, in part, due to the loss of individual websites shuttered by the promise of convenience and replaced with eCommerce platforms that lend themselves to surveillance capitalism.

He goes on to say:

“Now, it was the creative web that collapsed, as countless beautiful, difficult, individualistic websites were shuttered. The promise of convenience led people to exchange their personal sites—which demanded constant and laborious upkeep—for a Facebook page and a Gmail account. The appearance of ownership was easy to mistake for the reality of it. Few of us understood it at the time, but none of the things that we’d go on to share would belong to us anymore. ”

Edward Snowden, Permanent Record

It may have been a conscious choice to shutter individual websites in favor of something simpler (like publishing on a writing platform or even Facebook) but it’s also been a conscious choice that I haven’t.

Here and elsewhere I’d rather be in charge of my own personal sites than use someone else’s platform despite the potential ease and built-in audience. I recongize in exchange for putting up with this pain I get my own little piece of the web where surveillance is minimal (the only tracking here is through Google Analytics) and I get the freedom to do what I want and the opportunity to learn from the ownership of it all. Permanent Record is just one resource on learning what it means to minimize surveillance here and elsewhere.

More than anything else over the years it’s been this opportunity to learn that keeps me running my part of the creative web. For many this might sound like a headache but domain management, DNS, caching, SSL, website performance, SEO, uptime, etc. etc. are all opportunities to better understand the various parts of the internet and to become a more knowledgable consumer.

It’s also not uncommon for these duties to fall to the engineering team of a small company or startup and the more familiar you are, the better you can contribute.

Running my own beautiful, difficult, individualistic website is something I grew into over time and what I recommend others do as well. I don’t mind the difficultly given the upsides of what you can learn and doing my small part in limiting surveillance capitalism.

What it means to be a leader in testing

Background:

During CAST I sat for an interview with Pradeep Soundararajan of Moolya Testing. We talked about a few things mostly on what it meant to be a leader in the testing space. They made a short video on the interview so check it out or read the transcript.

Transcript:

When I think of test leadership, I think of two angles: one is the thought leadership within the industry itself, and in the other is the experience I’m able to impart on my coworkers. So sort of two diverging ideas. One of them is because I’m often the sole tester. It usually means I’m sort of the de facto person that knows testing a bit more than everyone else. It’s like how do you coach and extend and just sort of bring up the level of testing and quality within an organization? Then the other part is like, what are other people doing? What are the things I’m missing? What are, you know, just constantly looking at what the industry and sort of beyond are doing?

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!

Five for Friday – September 20, 2019

Your head’s for having ideas, not for holding them. — David Allen

I’m fairly certain I like writing because it clears my mind and gives me calm (aka I have ideas and then get too distracted when I hold them).

Welcome to Friday, here are five points worth exploring:

    • CAST 2019 wrapped up in early August. We recorded some sessions including keynotes which I’ve edited and put them up on the web (also on our YouTube channel). Checkout out the recordings of Sessions and Keynotes!
    • Planning for CAST 2020 is already in the works. We’ll be in Austin, TX in the first week of August. A Big Discounted package called Blind Bat is on sale (super early bird pricing) if want to get the jump on the planning.
    • Improvements are coming to TestingConferences.org and I wrote about a few of them including the use of Sponsorships.
    • I don’t often listen to Tim Ferris but I got some value out of his interview of David Allen, author of the book “The Art of Getting Things Done“. Part of his process for personal productivity already fits into the way I currently do things but I’ve got room for improvement. Listen here.
    • STARWEST is coming up in a few weeks. I’m presenting a tutorial on Monday but Wednesday and Thursday will be live streamed through their “Virtual Conference”. You can Register here.

 

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!

Help me choose my CAST 2019 schedule

I’ll be attending CAST in Cocoa Beach, FL next week and I can’t quite decide what sessions and workshops I want to attend on during the conference days (Wednesday and Thursday). I will definitely live tweet but I’d also like to do some live blogging / recaps / summaries of the sessions.

My ask is if you help me choose my CAST schedule, in return I’ll share what I learn in the form of a live blog / recap of the session. That way we both get something out of it. Deal?

To help me choose:

  1. Check out the CAST schedule
  2. Leave a comment telling me which sessions and/workshops for the 2 days or tweet at me doing the same thing.
  3. I’ll tally up the results and post which sessions and workshops I’ll be attending
  4. Then I’ll blog!