Came for the training, stayed for the community

When I look back on my nearly decade journey in the testing community, it all started with the Association for Software Testing. I came to the AST seeking their BBST courses, but I stayed for the supportive community of people I met both online and afk.

Once Upon a Time

In 2011 at StarWEST I took an Introduction to Rapid Software Testing. Somewhere during the class it was suggested I look into the Association for Software Testing and their BBST classes. Subsequent conversations and online research also confirmed the value of the classes.

I joined the AST and took the first course, BBST Foundations. It was intense and yet very rewarding. Over the next two years I went from Foundations to Bug Advocacy to Test Design with a cohort of testers.

By 2015 I was attending my first Conference of the AST (CAST) and even I was surprised by how many people I “knew” through the community; it was truly special. That same year I attended my first peer workshop (which happened to be hosted by Cem Kaner and facilitated by Andy Tinkham). More than a few people at that workshop were AST members who again I had “met” through the community (and whom I still talk to this day).

Patience and Dedication

Much of my journey toward better understanding my craft has depended on the patience and dedication of people who care to help. Who spend their free time trying to do something for others in the pursuit of making the world just a little bit better. This is the world I came up in and I feel the need to do the same.

I became a BBST Instructor for this reason. I’ve made other connections in the testing community seeking to learn and help. From mailing lists to skype groups to conferences there were (and still are) many overlapping communities and sub-communities in the world that offer a very similar “helping hand” for those who are looking to learn more.

I owe a great deal to the community the AST has fostered over the years. This isn’t to say I don’t also owe a big thanks to all those other communities because I do, but it’s been the AST’s community which has driven my understanding of the field and in many ways my success today.

My Testimonial

In my search for help I read Lessons Learned in Software Testing, which led me to the Association for Software Testing. Through the AST I found the BBST courses which changed the way I understood software testing. Each course brought a greater level of understanding and a deeper respect for the complexities of the problems we seek to solve with software. I decided the best way to continue learning was to teach it. It’s been a huge part of my life and my contribution back to the community. I’ve been an AST member ever since!

My testimonial from the AST site

Even today as I help run the AST I’m looking to carry on and evolve that community so that others will say they also stayed for the supportive community of people.

Better Tester Training Materials

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Last month the Association for Software Testing (AST) announced a new partnership with Altom, the owner of BBST®, that enables the AST to refresh our curriculum lineup with the new BBST® Community Track and help fund the future growth of the materials. This partnership and refresh are a huge milestone for the AST. 

For some perspective: Cem Kaner developed the BBST courses over a long period of time, starting with Hung Nguyen in the 90s. In the 2000s after Cem Kaner was recruited to Florida Institute of Technology he and Becky Fielder received grants from the National Science Foundation to adapt them into online courses. Some time later Cem began collaborating with the AST to teach and develop the courses further. Those courses became known as AST-BBST to differentiate the way they developed and were taught (by passionate volunteers). Eventually Cem formed his own company, developed BBST® further and sold it to Altom after he retired. 

BBST® classes are well known for their depth of core testing knowledge and focus on improving through peer review work. That’s great for students but frankly it’s a maintenance challenge. Long before I started with the AST the problem has been, how do we properly maintain and evolve the materials and classes?

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I’m running for the 2020-2022 AST Board of Directors

Elections just opened for the Association for Software Testing’s Board of Directors for which I’m a candidate. If you are a voting-eligible member of the AST I’d appreciate the consideration as I run for my 2nd term.

For those who are voting (or possibly just interested) I completed a list of candidate questions. For fun you can compare them to my answers from 2018.

I did want to highlight a few questions that I think are important:

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My First Term on the AST Board of Directors

The Association for Software Testing (AST), a non-profit professional organization dedicated to advancing the understanding and science of software testing, has announced a call for nominations for the Board of Directors for 2020-2022. This means my two-year term as a director is coming to an end. I feel fortunate and grateful to announce I’m running for a second term. The AST has helped a lot of people including me. For this and a few other reasons described below, it feels like the right moment to reflect on what it has been like to help run this global non-profit.

The Golden Ticket

I was elected in August of 2018 while attending the Conference for the AST (CAST) in Melbourne, Florida. An AST member since 2012, I started volunteering in 2013 after I became an AST-BBST Instructor. Coming up through BBST, I thought educational advocacy was one of the AST’s most important community services. You can’t advance the understanding of the craft until testers have a solid understanding of what already exists. I really wanted to improve our offering and felt the best way was to help set priorities at the board level. 

AST Board of Directors

Elections happen every year with roughly half of the 7 person board up for election each year. The election process starts with a call for nominations and then candidates introduce themselves via questions posted to the web. Finally voting takes place during the time of CAST (typically the first week of August) and on the final day of the conference a new board is announced.

As a member-elect you are elected to a position by the sitting board members based, in part, on your preferences. In 2018 during a discussion with existing board members it came up there was a need for someone to take on the Treasurer position. It wasn’t the role I initially wanted (VP of Education was my first choice) but I felt reasonably competent so I accepted.

As with any official board position it’s a starting point for your contributions. I really wanted to focus on education but my fellow AST-BBST instructor Simon Peter (with whom I taught countless classes) wanted the position as well. We quickly both decided it made sense for him to take VP of Education and I take Treasurer. Just like we had done in our teaching we decided it would be fun to collaborate on the many changes we wanted to see in AST-BBST. I had my official role, Simon had his and yet we worked together whenever we could to improve our educational program.

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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’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!

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!

You don’t have to be an expert to teach

You don’t have to be an expert to teach someone else, you just need to know a little more than they do.

Years ago when I became an assistant scuba instructor, I was able to provide huge value to new students despite my having far less diving experience than all of the other instructors. Simply being able to help them out when I could and knowing the process meant a great deal. On the plus side I learned a lot from the questions they would ask, such that it made me a much better assistant (and eventually full) instructor.

For the same reason I started teaching AST-BBST, I wanted to learn more about the material. I probably wasn’t the best student (frankly I don’t know how well I did in the classes other than passing it) but I loved the information so much I wanted to get more exposure to it. Over time as I interacted with hundreds of students and dozens of instructors I feel like I’ve become exposed to more ideas and absorbed more information than I would have without it. I’m no expert but I’m probably better than most.

All of this is to say the Association for Software Testing is always looking for instructors to help teach classes. The class itself is free (once you’ve successfully completed one AST-BBST class you qualify) but the lessons you learn are incredibly valuable.

Highlights from CAST 2018

Last week I attended CAST in Cocoa Beach, Florida, which was my second time attending and the first since CAST in Grand Rapids back in 2015. It was a fun experience for a number of reasons including giving my first workshop at CAST and being elected to the AST Board of Directors!!! Here are some highlights:

  • Dwayne Green and I hosted a workshop called A Quick Introduction to Domain Testing about applying the test technique to a few sample applications. The workshop went well given the limited amount of time we had and for trying to teach a complex topic with a hands on approach. We’re working on a newer version that is a half day tutorial for next year which we believe will be much better. The upside is we got roughly 35 people to do some hands on testing and present their findings after each session!
  • Despite the tiring nature of the travel (I was only at the conference for two days), I walked away feeling energized about having met new people, came face to face with people I know purely online (and now AFK) and took a few things away from the talks.
  • Like many others in attendance I heard of Jerry Weinberg’s passing. While I never had the pleasure to meet him in person, I have read a few of his many books and am aware of his huge influence on our industry and community.
  • Gave an even more brief lightning talk on the Modern Testing Principles. Was pleasantly surprised when I asked the packed crowd how many had heard of the principles around roughly 20% or so of the audience had! (Afterwards I had a few follow up conversations about the principles as well.)
  • I was lucky enough to be elected to the Association for Software Testing’s Board of Directors along with a few fantastic people I already collaborate with. Thank you for everyone who voted! Our new terms starts in October and I will be taking on the role of Treasurer! I also got to sit in on my first board meeting as a director elect (I didn’t participate since it’s not my term yet).