Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Key professional lessons learned from the last over of Wankhede test (INDvsWI)

Last weekend, i got to witness a thrilling Cricket Test match between India and West Indies. After first four days of rather dull Cricket, the match seemed like headed towards a Darw. The result seemed a distant possibility only to see things reverse on the fifth day. The wicket started assisting the bowlers and West Indies who scored runs in excess of 590 in the first innings, got bowled out for a mere 134 in their second innings. That meant that Team India had to score 243 to win the Test match in little more than 2 session of batting. At the start of the dramatic run chase, India seemed to be going steady being something like 100/1 or so and then they lost their way somewhere in the middle and finally managed to make the score of 242 for 9, which made it a last ball draw. There were many exciting moments on the final day of the match but most dramatic were the last few overs and the last over to be very specific. Here is the account of what happened in that last over-

- India needing 3 runs to win and 2 to level scores. Ravichandran Ashwin and Varun Aaron (both playing their first series, Varun his first match) were batting at 13 and 1 respectively).
- West Indies needed 2 Wickets to win.
Ball 1: Varun Aaron tried to hit the ball to off side. Misses the fast ball by Fidel Edwards.
Ball 2: Edwards, just before delivering the ball saw Ashwin short of crease. He could have run Ashwin out within the rules but chose not to in the right Spirit of Cricket. Edwards finally bowls and Varun manages to connect the ball but it does directly to fielder.
Ball 3: Varun plays a wild swing off the third ball and misses.
Ball 4: Varun connects the ball and with some mis-fielding and good fortune, makes much required 1 run. This makes it 2 runs needed off 2 balls to win for India, 2 Wickets off 2 balls to win for West Indies.
Ball 5: Ashwin does not go for his shot and defends the ball and this rules out the possibility of West Indies winning.
Ball 6: Ashwin hits the ball hard to mid-on. The ball goes fast, Ashwin runs the first run hard and seeing the throw on top of his head, does not show much interest in running the second one hard and is run-out. The result: a level scoring draw, something that has happened only once in 120+ years history of the game.

The video for that eventful last over is below-

I could gather some meaningful lessons from this last over and match in general that could be applied in our normal (and work) lives. They are as follows-

Lesson#1: Sometimes the bias towards Action is necessary:
In his book- "The Habit of winning", Prakash Iyer mentions about the aspect of "Action bias", he says-

I came across a research by a team of scholars in Israel. To understand the goalkeeper's mind-set, the team studied 286 penalty kicks from major league football games from around the world. As you probably know, a penalty kick is taken from a distance of just 11 meters from the goal. The goalkeeper gets about 0.1 seconds to react- a window so tiny that goalkeeper must guess which way the ball will go, and commit themselves to a dive- left or right.
The research team tracked the direction of the kick (left, right and center) and tabulated the statistics. And he is what it found: a goalkeeper's best chance of stopping a penalty kick is if he doesn’t dive and stays put in the center!
That’s not all. Though the probability of stopping a kick is the highest when the goalkeeper did not move, the team found that in 92% of the cases, the goalkeeper committed himself to a dive to the either side. Why then do they dive, when standing still would give them their best chance of success!

One way to explain as Prakash Iyer does in his book is because most of the Sportsperson or even High achievers have something called as an "Action bias" i.e. desperate tendency to act in most situations. If say goalkeeper does not commit himself to a dive in a penalty of a World cup final, most of the people would tend to ridicule him stating "He didn’t even try". If he dives and fails to collect the ball, people would probably think- "Atleast he tried (his best!)".

If you now compare Ashwin's situation in Ball 6. He completed one run quite quickly and then seeing the throw going over his head, he didn’t commit himself to the second run fast enough. Later he said, there was no way second run could be done as throw had already almost reached wicket-keeper. Though that lack of immediate action could be debated saying that wicket-keeper "could" have missed the ball and he "could" have got some extra time to make the run. He had to face quite a deal of criticism for not taking that run quickly but more important thing to note is how fast do the people notice the lack of action. That is quite true when the stakes are high.

This is an interesting situation to what Prakash Iyer calls High achievers having bias for action. In this case, Ashwin deliberately didnt act quickly because in his mind he knew his fate was sealed. This is a classic case of people expecting him to act though the result in 99% of times would have been same as what is now (how often do we see Wicket-keepers fumbling straight-forward chances?)

In some circumstances, the "Action" may be unnecessary like in the earlier example of goalkeeper but there are many situations in the our work lives and otherwise in life, when the very notion of "Action" gives indication that things are alive and kicking. For example, if your boss or team is in a different country than you are you, you ought to make sure to keep him/her updating on the various aspects of work. If not, some communication may go amiss. Sometimes, the action is necessary just to instil the belief in the people that you gave your 100%. Here is a simple thing that i learned- If you can act in a situation while still maintaining your genuineness of intent and not sounding artificial, the action (whatever it may be) is worth an attempt. After all who can forgive a goalkeeper just standing still if the football whizzes past from his side.

Lesson#2: Dont forget the Fair play even when the going is tough

If you remember what Edwards did in the Ball-2 of the last over, he actually held the spirit of the game high by not dismissing Ashwin on his run-up. The laws of the game state that the batsman should be in his crease when the bowler is taking a stride to bowl but the spirit of the game suggests that you ought to warn the batsman atleast once before attempting to running out in this situation. The latter is what Edwards did. Had he plainly followed the rules, Ashwin would have been run-out and West Indies could have been within a sniffing distance of victory.
There is a great stuff to be learned from this. In work and even in our lives, never forget to act ethically irrespective of the situation you are in. Following your profession ethically is not an easiest thing to do especially when the stakes are high like it was the case in this match but doing so is always the right in the larger context. You may lose a million by following stuff ethically but can save your organization a billion by avoiding the dangerous law-suites.

Lesson#3: When in trouble, first thing to do is break the monster task into small pieces

Varun struggled to score a single run the first three balls of the last over. Its not as if he didn’t try, he tried hard but somehow fell short. One more thing to note is that he was trying quite hard during this phase. To me it occurred that he made situation quite complex in his mind (naturally for a person playing his first match) and what would have helped in this case is to somehow simplify the situation.
The lesson to learn here is that whenever a problem of huge proportions trouble us, the first thing should be to break that problem in manageable parts and not get overly bogged down by it. Often the problem does not appear as big once we put effort to simplify the same and separately deal with its various parts. Once we have dealt with parts, suddenly we start seeing the light at the end of tunnel.
Try this for your "complex" problem for today, you will certainly achieve more in a day!

Lesson#4: Demonstrating Innovation in crisis is much harder than when things are rosy

Varun did the best he could during the first three balls of this over, considering it was his first match. For sure, he was facing a high pressure situation. Its quite funny how we, as humans, sometimes act in such crisis situations. We usually get tied to a single action and keep trying the same thing. Something Varun kept doing, playing the similar looking shot or within his limitations as a batsman. The lesser related example from our daily lives could be when the TV remote stops functioning, we start bashing it, hitting it against our palms continuously till we realize the problem is with battery. Such a thing is usually called as Blind Persistence meaning we are persistent towards something but keep trying the same thing again and again whereas the need of the hour could well be to innovate a bit while in crisis. Again, this is easier said than done but i do feel the ability of an individual or an organization to innovate when faced with survival crisis always rates high while innovating when you are provided with all the resources. Innovating in crisis requires that extra bit of mental strength and maintaining positivity while in a grave crisis. Not many possess this ability naturally but this quite something that could be developed for sure.

Lesson#5: Leaving too much for too late

In this post, i focused mainly on the last over the match where the situation was already tense and tight. Spare one thought about how we actually reached that situation. It was primarily because most of the batsmen in the top order did not take the responsibility of batting right-through the end and India kept losing wickets.
One of the important lesson here is that one should not keep too much towards the end of the project. This holds good even for the way one plans for a day. Do the most difficult tasks at the start of the day as the more complex ones usually take more time and it would often hold you up from reaching home on time. Afterall, you got to Eat that frog (Ugly task), the first thing in the day.

What did you learn today ?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Key professional lessons from a Long distance run- Part-2

I wrote about the Part-1 of this blogpost may be 2-3 years back. I got reminded to update this while i participated in
Ultra run at Bangalore on 13th-Nov. For starters, Ultra Marathon is any sporting event involving running longer than a traditional marathon length of 42.195 km (as defined by Wikipedia). I participated in 25 Km run event, which incidentally was less than actual marathon but was quite challenging for me. I had run long distances and even cycled longer distances before but not at a high scale event like Ultra, which had close to 900 participants running in different categories up to 100 Km run. Yes, you heard it right- 100 Km run!

I did manage to finish the run and was quite happy in doing so. While i ran at the event, several thoughts ran through my mind and i realized some of these i had not written about in my previous blog on this topic. These are essentially the lessons that i could take back to my life- both work and personal. These are as jotted below-

Life starts where the Comfort zone ends:
This run was a substantial challenge for me personally as i had not attempted such a long run in a public event before this (discounting the numerous practice runs). Moreover, the race day and track had something peculiar about it. The race day was scorching hot- may be in excess of 35 degree Celsius and the race track was uneven and full of dirt. It was so uneven that i almost felt misbalanced on momentarily lapse of concentration while not watching what lies on the ground. Long distance runs especially the Ultra runs does push you beyond your limits, both physically and mentally.

While running one thing that i realized that when your limits get stretched, the challenge takes an altogether different dimension. The challenge no longer remains- "How can i excel in my endeavour ?" it more becomes- "How can i survive somehow ?".
And when it comes to survival, one starts to look at things in a much different perspective than usual situations. Let me share a real life story at this instance-
Once i interviewed one of the General Manager (popularly Known as "TV" because of his name initials) from my past organization (while i was an Editor of In-house magazine). TV shared a very interesting experience about his stay in Antartica for about 16 months. Some excerpts from his website-

I was a member of the XIII Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA) and XI Winter-Over Team (WOT) and stayed at Indian Scientific Station at Antarctica, Maitri, between Dec 1993 and Mar 1995 (almost 16 months). I was the youngest Indian scientist at that time to do what is known as ‘wintering’ (i.e., spend 16 months in the icy continent away from comforts of home and hot food). I was also the Post Master of Maitri Post Office, the philatelic post office of Indian Post Department (they still owe me an honararium of Rs. 16 for my services, one rupee per month). Among other things, I worked on HF radio based Data Communication between Antarctica and India.

One of thoughts that TV shared regarding his experience in Antarctica that has stayed with me all through these years was that living away from the comforts of normal city and staying far away at remotely cut off place for long time gave him a unique perspective towards life and dealing with problems. Most of the problems that we face in our day-to-day life are almost trivial when you compare the same with experience one has had in staying in such tough conditions in a place like Antarctica (in a time when probably only way to get connected to your family was through snail mail and you get to probably eat same stuff every day, not to forget dealing with sub zero temperature without Sun for 16 long months). Thats a very valuable insight, something similar (probably in less proportions) that i got to experience while running that long distance run.

Similar to this, I remember to have read one quote regarding dealing with Stress in one of the HBR forums something like- "You dont know what the real stress is unless you are required to walk 10 km everyday to fetch water and food for your thirsty, hungry and mal-nutritioned kids". Like most problems we face, managing stress is often about looking at your situation with a right lens i.e. with a right perspective.

What i eventually learned was that once you overcome something substantial physically and mentally, it gives you a confidence that you can face other difficulties with greater poise. In our usual lives we are so far away from the notion of Survival that we often give much more importance to seemingly trivial issues at work and in normal lives.

Dont let your Survival instincts die, routinely push yourself beyond that cushy comfort zone.

Mixing Risk with caution:
While i was running, may be somewhere around 15 Km mark i started feeling a bout of cramps. I had to think and strategize my run because i still had a good number of kilometres to do. I Stopped, took a stock of things and started gradually running dropping my speed. The fact that i entered this run without an ideal practice was a risk in itself but keeping the overall scheme of things in mind, i had to add some bit of caution to the overall risk i had taken.

It often helps at work and in life to sometimes Stop and Introspect. This is especially true in the fast paced urban life which undervalues the importance and fun of doing things slowly at a pace comfortable to self without worrying about what the world is thinking.

So what i learned was-
Take Risks, Move fast- All that is fine but it helps sometimes to add that "Slowness" to our lives that makes us feel more human.

What did you learn today ?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Key professional lessons learned from the bicycle shop

There is this real incident that took place sometime back and which i recently recollected.
This one instance is about the time i went to service my bicycle. I landed in the shop and started to look for someone who could talk to me. I noticed one person sitting on the chair behind a table talking to a customer. I moved ahead and stood next to the other guy who he was speaking to. I patiently waited for a while for him to atleast acknowledge my presence when he was talking to other guy. Sensing him not do it, i barged in politely and mentioned to him that i had come for the servicing my bicycle. Without looking at me, this person calls his assistant and rather impatiently asks him to attend to me. The assistant addressed my questions and by this time the guy on chair also got free but kept looking at both of us. I negotiated a price and conditions for Servicing and was about to leave when it occurred to me to ask the assistant for his number so that i could call back before coming. Listening to this, the guy still sitting in chair, remarked with a rather superior and rude voice- "Take my number, he is just a mechanic. You will be talking to me."

Thinking over what happened at the bicycle shop makes me feel like going back to the basics of dealing with humans. Was the guy sitting on chair right in all that he did ? Well, if you ask me as his customer, i wont answer in affirmative. Lets delve a bit deeper-

When i stood by his side for a while, as a customer i subconsciously expected him to atleast acknowledge my presence atleast (if not smile and greet me). Thats where he failed to make a connection and that elusive first impression on the customer.
I do feel in our day-to-day chores of work, at a very basic level we as employees seek this seemingly simple thing called "Respect from others". It is the instances like the one narrated above that gives you a perception whether you are being respected or not. i.e. a mere act of not acknowledging the presence of a colleague or failing to say a simple "hello" routinely has more damaging impact than what we perceive generally. This is something that eventually causes the disconnect between people.

Again going back to the story, the way the guy in chair addressed his colleague rather rudely as a mechanic in front of a customer was rather uncalled for. As a customer, it gave me an impression of an autocrat managing the shop. Just like i as a customer demanded this Shopkeeper's attention and respect, the mechanic too had the similar needs. Apparently in this case, was badly shot down.

Some of the thoughts that got reinforced again for me after this incident-
- No matter what the situation, irrespective of your stress levels, "Treat people with Respect".
- If you work with people, Make efforts to acknowledge their presence, Always.
- Be conscious of the way people around you perceive you. Bad perceptions once created are hard to overcome.
- Autocratic Leadership is needed in certain situations but most of the workplace situations can be handled in a democratic way.
- Delegation is a fine art. Empowering people while making them accountable for the deliverables works wonders in most situations.

What did you learn today ?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Attending Conferences and making most of it

The last couple of months have been exciting for me as i got to attend and participate in quite a few Conferences involved in both Attending and Presenting at various forums. I think Conferences are an important means to connect with like-minded professionals, network and learn from them.

I wanted to share some of my learnings around attending and participating in the conferences. Before that, please take some time to go through one of the lessons (Lesson# 251) in the book- Lessons Learned in Software Testing. The lesson is titled- Conferences are for conferring

When you attend a conference on software testing or software development, don’t just sit in the sessions and listen to the speakers. Do a lot (or at least some) of that. But spend a lot of time meeting with other people at the conference to discuss what was presented or what is happening in the field.
If you don’t know many people at the conference, meet some. When you go to lunch, sit with people you don’t know, listen and identify people who are interesting and knowledgeable. Take opportunities to identify interesting people. When you meet them, ask them about what they do and about sessions that they’ve been to. What have they found interesting ? Over time (it takes more than one conference), you’ll make a group of friends whom you meet mainly at conferences, whom you keep up-to-date with via Net, whom you attend sessions with, and maybe whom you’ll write papers and present panels with. This is how three of us met (authors of this book).
Not everyone gets sent to conferences by their company. Tell your manager well before the conference that you want to attend a specific conference. Better notice will increase your chance of attending. After you have attended a conference or two, apply to be a speaker. If you’re accepted, your company will me more likely to send you, and (assuming you do a good job) you’ll gain respect and goodwill within and outside your company.

I have taken the liberty to remove a couple of lines which were not suitable for the purpose of this post but nevertheless the above sums up what you could look forward to when attending any Conference.
Some more of my thoughts below-

• More often we go to conferences thinking of it as similar to a series of training sessions that would give us a sort of silver bullet that would help us solve the current problems that we face at work.
So, first of the things is that not to go into conference believing it would provide the best solution (though it may). In all, there are always multiple different ways to solve a given problem. Interacting with people in conferences may just provide a perspective you may be lacking in your current knowledge. So, always keep your eyes and ears to gain that elusive perspective. It is not that you would become expert in the conference theme immediately after the conference ends but that would certainly make you richer in the topic.

• Secondly, as stated in the excerpt above, I have found in my experience as well that real value of conference comes in not necessarily from the sessions but how well do we take care of time in between sessions. The breaks are usually called “Networking breaks” literally for a reason. From the time I participated in my first conference till now, the external relationships developed during the conferences has helped quite a bit shape my current knowledge and perspective. So, its advisable to hang around with participants, speakers asking questions, sharing your knowledge. Its not easy first time and may require you to go beyond the comfort zone to network with professionals around, but believe me its worth it.

• Thirdly, if the topic you are undergoing is completely new to you, learn as much as possible. If you are already aware of the topic then its best to go with the blank mind (without your knowledge bias) and gather as much as possible and then evaluate. The practices and processes shared are usually context dependent (may work for them but not us depending on the situation) but its important to develop that reasoning that can help sort these contextual differences.

Would really love to hear your experiences on "How to attend the conferences?" and also on "How not to attend the conferences?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Presented a Workshop on Software Globalization Testing

On 14th-Sept, I got to present in the STeP-IN Forum's event in Hyderabad. The event was Software Testing Conference. It was primarily a 2 day conference, in which the first day on 14th-Sept was the Pre-Conference Tutorials.

Tutorials were different than the sessions on the normal conference day as these went in-depth into the topic and were more or less like a Workshop of about half-a-day. I had a good experience overall as i presented on the topic of Demystifying Globalization Testing .

I could cover the different aspects of Globalization testing both via presentation and live demonstration, which apparently was decently received (though i am still expecting a formal feedback update from the Organizers).

The content about Globalization Testing that i have written in this blog purely from my experience was always as helpful in conducting the session of this magnitude.
The best part that i liked was that the session eventually turned out to be quite interactive and there were lots of discussions and meaningful interactions with the audience during the entire session.

Will upload the presentation soon.

************************Update on 23rd-Sept-2011************************
I have uploaded the Presentation i delivered at this session here

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"An Attempt to define Personal Excellence..."- Presentation at BWST-3

I had an interesting experience being a part of Bangalore Workshop on Software Testing-3 . While i will write about my experience on being a part of this Workshop separately, i intended to first share a summary on my presentation in this Workshop.

The theme of this workshop as unique in many sense. It was Personal excellence & skill development . Being a part of quite a few conferences in the past, this was arguably the first workshop (or a conference) dedicated to this so relevant topic. That was exactly one of my first thoughts when i got to know about Speaking opportunity here i.e. Personal Excellence is so very important but most of the external conferences are so focused on rather external skills (Some call them Technical Skills, Some Hard skills, Some Job skills...).

In short, i knew i had to contribute to this opportunity and i chose a topic quite related and close to my experience. My topic was-
An Attempt to define Personal Excellence- Some Snippets from my experience
I have uploaded the presentation here .

This session was quite close to my heart as i chose to spoke on some experiences that i have been through in the past, which has largely helped me to shape my mind and thinking. While i need to get better at video recording my sessions but till the time i do so, i wanted to Summarize the key points of my talk here. Before you proceed, just to mention, what follows are just my thoughts on Personal Excellence, which may differs from yours. So do share your perspective.

Some Key points i presented:

- This presentation is just “An attempt to define Personal Excellence…” rather than a definite guide to Personal Excellence as i am no definite authority on Personal Excellence.

Essence of Personal Excellence: This dialog from the movie
3 Idiots define the essence of Personal Excellence for me
Kisi Mahapurush ne kaha hai, success ke pichhe mat bhago. Excellence! Excellence ka pichha karo. Kamyabi jhakkh mar ke tumhare pichhe aayegi. (Some wise soul has told that, don’t run after success. Excellence! Follow and conquer Excellence! Post which success will just come running at your door steps.)

I believe most of the answers regarding Personal Excellence reside inside us rather than outside.

Reading shapes your mind One of the quotes that i found Inspirational is-
If you read for just half an hour everyday, you could finish a 250 page book in just two weeks' time. That's twenty six books a year. A hundred books in next four years.
To learn and grow, make reading (books that make you better) your religion. Just think, what difference would that make to the quality of your mind, your career, your life ?

Habit of reading in itself cannot change you unless you have the necessary will: One of my learnings have been that Reading books or Reading quotes in itself cannot Change you. These acts or habits are powerless in a way as in the mere act of reading alone cannot change you. At the most what it can do is to Inspire you. Unless one matches that Inspiration with will and Inspiration to bring you that positive change you wanted, the whole act of Reading may not be that fruitful in the end.

- With the advent of Globalization and the adoption of
Employees first culture, More than ever in the history of human kind, there is now an unrelenting focus on people and Individual Excellence and Organizations are beginning to understand the same.

Personal Excellence=Excellence in various Life situations: I find Personal Excellence very closely associated with how one deals with different situations you find yourself in. Most of us generally gets to deal with myriad of situations when executing our professions. Some can be easy, Some will be tough for sure. Its actually how one gets to handle the different situations defines the level of success one enjoys. You can either be faced with a tough boss or tough colleague, or with a situation of people around you being fired, or even the situation of having to convey a bad news (as a testers we are often) or even the situation of having promoted, there can be numerous such situations.
Shane Warne once said-
Never worry about the situation you are in because that is already upon you. Instead ask yourself how can you win from here.

An uncluttered mind and an ability to think on feet are important when dealing with situations specific to Conveying the bad news (last minute bugs, not so pleasant news about Product Quality etc.) as there can be a lot of unexpected conversations during these situations. Preparing for worse is a wise move but keeping your mind clouded with worse happening doesnt help. As Michael Fox once said- "Never think too much about the worse for it may never happens. If you keep thinking about the worse and Even if it happens by chance, you would have lived it twice.".

Handling Disappointments: The Unexpected conversations in the above situations can also lead to disappointments. Handling disappointments successfully is as important as handling the successes in one's career.
I found Don Shula's twenty-four hour rule quite relevant in managing disappointments at workplace. As Don Shula says-
I had a twenty-four hour rule. I allowed myself, my coaches, and our players a maximum of twenty-four hours after football game to celebrate a victory or bemoan a defeat. During that time, everyone was encouraged to experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat as deeply as possible, while learning as much as we could from that same experience. Once the twenty-four hour deadline had passed, we put it behind us and focused our energies on preparing for next opponent.

Difference between "Commitment" and "Interest"
For managing multiple tasks and passions at work and in life in general, it is important to be able to distinguish between the tasks you are merely interested in as against the tasks you are truly committed for. As Ken Blanchard says in his book "The Heart of a Leader"
I learned from author and consultant Art Turock that we need to make a distinction between being interested and being committed. When you are "interested" in doing something, you only do it when its convenient, but when you are "committed", you follow through no matter what, no excuse."

Managing time and priorities Another aspect that i find quite relevant in managing multiple tasks and passions is Effective time management and effort prioritization. I have learned that managing time well is more about managing yourself well so that you can make most of the time.
Subroto Bagchi in his book- “The Professional” mentions-
It is probably more effective to watch and learn from people who actually seem to manage their time well, and who feel productive and satisfied. My experience of meeting many such people and working with them tells me the primary quality they all have is self-discipline. If someone does not have basic self-discipline, you will soon find that poor time management is just one of their many problems.
On Prioritization-
The issue some people face is not the absence of a goal, whether big or small. The issue is their multiplicity. For people with resources, it is the lack of prioritization that becomes a big problem . It is important to prioritize one’s life. Ask what is really important to you. Also ask why this thing is so important and are you willing to commit yourself completely to it.
The prioritization of work is more often as simple as having discipline to put down all your tasks on a paper or document and number them in order of execution. Simple. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Setting your own benchmarks: Most people benchmark their progress with the number of promotions one gets and after how long. This may be a right benchmark depending upon your goals and aspirations but more often this is typically done to keep up with rather false societal norms. It is important to set own benchmarks for self and work towards having a body of work that you can be proud of and remembered for. Getting promoted alone may not be the best benchmark for one's career. It is not always a true measure of excellence in job.

The need to Initiate, Getting Started: In our work places, how many ideas (initiated by others or self) do we reject everyday either by saying or within our minds thinking they are worthless? How many times we get scared to ask a question in a large gathering thinking that people will ridicule even a single slip of tongue? How many times our own self stops us from trying something new just because that very something new will break the routine way of doing things ? I salute you if you answer "None" to any or all of these questions. But the fact of matter is that in most of the situations, without realizing, we fail to initiate. Many ideas die a silent death just because they are not allowed to come out, Just because we don’t get started. As Seth Godin says in his book- "Poke the Box"
The essence of human is to get started
So for a change raise your hand to take up an initiative you have no knowledge about. That very act will make you better than those who have knowledge but no will to get started. Any Knowledge and Skill can be attained much faster than you can imagine, it is often the willingness to get started that separates Achievers from Average employees, from Dispensable to indispensable employees.

How well do we ask for feedback often separates how much better do we get ? Paul Arden in his book- Whatever you think, think the opposite says-
Ask for a Slap in the face.
Let me explain- if you ask someone your piece of work and you ask them “What do you think ?”, they will probably say its ok because they don’t want to offend you. Next time, instead of asking what is right, ask for What is wrong in this piece of work ? This question usually changes the equation a bit. They may not say what you want to hear but the chances are that they will give you a truthful criticism. Truth hurts but in a long run it is better than a pat on the back.

What’s your definition of "Done" and how Religiously do you follow it ?
When someone says I have Done something, how would you know that something is really Done.
As Subroto Bagchi says beautifully in his book “The Professional”-
"The quality to do what you have said you will do, in the time you have committed to must be applied to the smallest of tasks in your life. Without it, you not only disrespect others, you disrespect yourself."

- The Final point i made in the presentation was that The very idea of Personal Excellence goes beyond self. This may sound contradictory to what i mentioned in the beginning but i believe that the whole notion of Personal Excellence can sometimes (and often) make ourselves very Selfish. After all, by its very nature, Personal Excellence is close to you. I was reading this interesting story of Mirake Couriers . They are a Courier company with a difference in the sense that they employ only deaf people in their organization. The whole act of delivering a courier does not ideally require the delivery man speaking. Its just Packed, Delivered and Sealed. What a beautiful company!
How much of Software Testing can we do by not being able to speak ? Can deaf people make good testers ? The more i think about it, the more i tend to believe that if we as a professionals, in order entire careers can guide and mentor the differently-abled people and help them shine, it will transition our profession from a Wonderful one to a Beautiful one.
That’s why i say the whole idea of Personal Excellence should eventually move beyond self. After one has achieved excellence, help spread it!

Signing off this blog post on this note. Do send your feedback! (Sorry for such a long post. I couldnt help but write)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Presented a Corporate Techtalk on Globalization Testing

Earlier in the month of July, i was involved in presenting a TechTalk at Aditi Technologies in Bangalore. The TechTalk was on the topic- "Uncovering myths around Globalization Testing".
This talk was as a result of Invitation by one of the Testing community members Ravisuriya . Thank you Ravisuriya.

The presentation for this talk can be found here .

The overall Presentation setup was good and there were quite a few questions in the end about the topic discussed. One of the questions that caught my attention was-
"Is it possible to eliminate Globalization testing altogether?”
Although as a passionate professional, i may be biased in my views and opinions around this but this one is good to think further and investigate. I did respond with a "No" with some reasons around external dependencies and Product architecture and lot of other variable factors but this one certainly deserves a little bit more thought.
There was one more good question on what is the right ratio of Globalization testing vs English Testing.
I would write about my perspective to these questions sometime soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Effective way to learn about Software Globalization Engineering

If you want to Learn about Software Globalization Engineering, one of the practical tools that i have come across is "World Ready Software Example", which can be found here .

Originally designed to support only Windows 2000 and Windows XP, this tool actually works on Windows 7 to a good extent. You can actually try out several features of a fully Globalized application.

What can you do with this tool ?
- You can check the Local formats like Date, Time, Currency, Calendar, Numbers from the loads of different locales.
- You can input any Unicode characters and see how a truly Globalized application processes the characters,\.
- You can check the Multilingual User Interface feature and change the current language to any listed language at the run-time.
- You can simulate Pseudo Translation.
- You can simulate Pseudo Mirroring. Mirroring is the process of simulating the RTL (Right-to-Left languages like Arabic etc.).
- And much more.

How does this tool look like ?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Presented at the SofTec 2011 Software Testing Conference

I am back and on the time that i promised. Breaks are always good and this one was no different.

I got the invitation to present at Silicon India's SofTec 2011 Software Testing Conference and completed my presentation yesterday. The stage was not new for me having presented in 2010 edition as well(on the same stage). When i got the call to present at the conference, i had in mind to speak about Cloud phenomenon for some reasons-
- In 2010, i presented on "Globalization Testing- Getting your Software World Ready". This year it had to be different.
- Cloud is more of an in-phenomenon and more relevant to talk about in the Conference.
- I had developed a fascination for the similar topic earlier this year and thought i could build upon that.

Summary of my talk:
So my Topic for SofTec 2011 was- "The Emergence of Cloud Computing and Software Testing- A Perspective". I primarily talked broadly on the following areas-
- Importance of Learning by Association.
- Associating the origin of Cloud computing with the Advent of Electricity.
- Basics of Cloud computing including Grid and Utility computing.
- Covering the business models around Cloud Computing- including IaaS, PaaS, SaaS.
- The inter-relation between Cloud Computing and Software Testing.
- What are the different ways Testing could be moved on to the cloud- Public cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid clouds.
- Explaining the Fundamental shift from the testers owning Physical machines to test Software applications traditionally to now testers owning raw computing power. All this made possible with Virtualization.
- How could Cloud's elasticity be used effectively in Software testing ?
- How does cloud amount to Green Software Testing ?
- How can Snapshot features help the Software Testing ?
- How is the Virtual lab automation make Software Testing effective ?
- Then i discussed some Live examples primarily featuring-
- Test Management on the Cloud.
- Test data generation on the Cloud.
- On demand usability testing using Cloud.
- Mobile handset testing
- Blogging
- Followed by presentation around the Security and Availability concerns around Cloud and some perspectives around that.

Question and Answers:
Overall it went good and flawless to an extent. Post presentation there were quite a few offline questions. One of the Intriguing questions from a participant was- "When i use Virtual test environment, i am not seeing some of issues that my customers are seeing on the Physical hardware". Upon Investigation, it appeared that the code base of application under test was more than a decade old and that might have some dependency on the results that were seen/not seen. However, i will be exploring this question in a bit more detail and would like to blog about the same in the near future.

Other Interesting Sessions:
I liked the Panel talk involving Quality heads of Companies such as Tata Global Beverages, BIOCON, Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles, and moderated by T.Ashok from STAG Software. This was one of the unique session in which people from Non-Software fields discussed their experiences around Testing as it relates to their Industries. I am surprised (having attended many conferences) nobody thought of engaging such a panel in the past. The discussions were enriching and most of the non-software people agreed to the fact that there is much more focus on prevention than defect detection as is the case with most of Software Testing. Also, there was stringent focus on Design and testing the Design itself. Reliability testing takes altogether a new dimension as the representative from Reva Electric car rightly said- "Software can afford to crash and hang but cars cant"
I quite liked the session "Software Fault Patterns – A Narrative from the Operation Theatre " by Dr. Sukanta Bhatt. His presentation style is unique and hilarious. Again, he stressed the importance of Accuracy, UI design, and understanding the perspective of On field Doctors. He really made audience laugh and drove home the point that Software Testing career cannot be considered complete unless one has a real life experience of testing a Medical Software. Period.

Overall a great experience. Time permitting, i really wish to record the video of the presentation and put in on Youtube sometime.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I will be back

I started blogging more than 3 and half years back. Since the time i wrote up that first post of mine, it’s been a constant endeavour from my side to come up with a quality post for my readers sharing my experiences and insights in Software Testing primarily, Management, Life skills and much more. I can assure you that each of the post that i wrote went through a lot of creative cycles and eventually got submitted. Some turned out good, some average and some bad. Some had a lot of comments, some few and some none. It’s actually a part of being a blogger and a writer. Bottom line is that i have been passionate about Software Testing and Writing and that’s what has been naturally driving this blog.

More than three years is a long time and with mind always looking to churn out some remarkable content to write, it can get challenging. I have decided to take a little break from blogging. I always believe that taking downtime is Important in life, be it your work life or even including anything that you love so much doing. This blog and my other interests comes almost as a second nature to me, So it’s quite hard not contributing here, even though briefly. In my experience, sometimes taking a step back often works wonders in your journey forward in a long run.

So Please don’t be disheartened if you don’t see a new content in this blog for a while. In all fairness to my readers, i should be back by or before end of July 2011.

I would be encouraged to see what you feel/think about this blog and also what do you want me to write on. Please do share your thoughts around these.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Of being a Self starter, Receiving Feedback, Mentorship and Michelangelo

I was recently reading thbe book- The Habit of Winning by Prakash Iyer and came across this story

The great painter and sculptor Michelangelo has several masterpieces to his credit. Perhaps at the top of that list is "David", his eighteen-foot-tall statue sculpted in marble in Florence, Italy. Now over 500 years old, this icon of Renaissance sculpture continues to attract- and fascinate- millions of visitors every year, from all over the world. Everyone who sees it goes back impressed by the genius of Michelangelo. But I am not sure if they all also take back the story behind the sculpting of this masterpiece.
The story goes that this mammoth eighteen-foot block of marble had been lying around for several years. In fact, it had been around long before Michelangelo was even born. Some great artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, were invited to create something from the slab of marble. They all looked at it and dismissed it as flawed and worthless. Nothing could come of it, they felt. Several years later, Michelangelo got to work on that 'flawed and worthless' piece of marble, and went on to create a magnificent work of art. Apparently, while he was working on David, a little boy went up to Michelangelo and asked him why he was banging away at the rock of marble, and hitting it so hard. 'Young man,' said Michelangelo. "There's an angel inside that rock. I am just setting him free.".

I did quite relate to this story as this tale is full of powerful lessons that we could apply in our Professional and Personal lives. Some of them below-

Power of Getting Started:
Before Michelangelo many renowned artists were called upon to give shape and life to this rough slab of marble but most of them dismissed the same as worthless even without thinking to try. Beyond all the artistic talent that Michelangelo had, he had a special quality i.e. the Power to initiate, that innate desire to start something.
In our work places, how many ideas (initiated by others or self) do we reject everyday either by saying or within our minds thinking they are worthless? How many times we get scared to ask a question in a large gathering thinking that people will ridicule even a single slip of tongue? How many times our own self stops us from trying something new just because that very something new will break the routine way of doing things ? I salute you if you answer "None" to any or all of these questions. But the fact of matter is that in most of the situations, without realizing, we fail to initiate. Many ideas die a silent death just because they are not allowed to come out, Just because we don’t get started.

I was reading this interesting article on How to measure Initiative ? . Found some great wisdom against which one can measure self on Initiative scale. It talks of following Stages-
1. Wait- People don’t initiate anything from self but keep waiting for Instructions.
2. Ask- Instead of Indefinitely waiting, you Ask your superior to involve you in something of meaning to you.
3. Recommend- This stage is more of not only "just" asking but also Recommending what interests you and the direction in which you would like to proceed.
4. Act Independently but Report Immediately- Think of an Action, Get convinced that it is right for business and take it immediately and report it back to Superior. This is mostly for areas you are delving into for the first time and building trust with your superior.
5. Act Independently and Report routinely- This is a stage when you are completely Independent and has been initiating lot of stuff from your side.
The story doesn’t tell whether Michelangelo had any boss but we certainly do have one. That’s why the above framework helps you know where you stand on an Initiative scale.

As Seth Godin says in his book Poke the Box , The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.
Start early, Start without someone prompting you- And become Michelangelo of your craft!

When Michelangelo says those magical words- "There's an angel inside that rock ? I am just setting him free.", what is he actually doing to that rock. In some sense, he is acting as a Mentor to that Rock, chiselling it, correcting it and giving it a World class shape. Without googling for it, if i have to define a Mentor, he or she is someone who shapes your mind towards success in any undertaking. Mentor helps correct your flaws not even when going is rough but even stands to influence you even during normal conversations.
I always feel having a good mentor more important than being in the Influence of good books. It only helps to open up and look for mentor and create a stage for yourself to be a mentor to someone.

Receiving Feedback:
Another learning i gather from this story is that if the Rock was rigid, it would never have transformed into David. Likewise, if we as humans are rigid in receiving feedback, we would turn into a Rock that could never be moulded. Receiving feedback is as much as a skill as is relaying feedback. Hearing a negative feedback about self is sometimes as painful as Rock (if it was living) that Michelangelo chiselled. The ones who absorb this pain becomes better and eventually World class.

Do you have any more learnings from this Story ?

Monday, April 4, 2011

What does Twitter bios say about Software Testers ?

This is meant to be just a fun post. If you are able to figure out any inferences (good or bad), i leave that entirely upto your own Interpretation.
I have included the Twitter bios of some of the people who are making some meaningful contributions to Software testing (except may be the last one in this list :-)). I am no authority to come up with the list of accomplished Software testers, so if you are reading and your name does not appear in the below list, Please feel free to think that i am at fault here.

Here we go, some Twitter Bios:

James Bach: @jamesmarcusbach
Author of Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar, high school dropout, unschooling parent, philosopher, neo-pyrrhonian skeptic, software tester

Arunkumar Khannur: @arun_khannur
Arunkumar Khannur, with 23+ years of IT career, is a Leading Advisor, Author, Speaker and Senior Faculty on Software Testing.

Praveen Singh: @vpsingh
Author'Real Startups' http://amzn.to/gqlImq Entrepreneur, Web Enthusiast, Blogger. Founder/CEO of 99tests.com

Michael Bolton: @michaelbolton
I solve testing problems that other people can't solve, and I teach people how they can do it too.

Ajay Balamurugadas: @ajay184f
Software tester passionate to learn to test any software

Jerry Weinberg: @JerryWeinberg
Author of more than 60 books, fiction & non-fiction, Consultant, Teacher

Shrini Kulkarni: @ShriniK
Software Testing Generalist, Systems thinker, Skeptic

Rahul Verma: @rahul_verma
Software Tester, Blogger, Python Enthusiast with special interest in performance testing, security testing and design of test automation frameworks

Vipul Kocher: @vipulkocher
Bhartiya, entrepreneur, Software Tester. Books, History, Movie, Food, ~Lover - TOO MANY INTERESTS, TOO FEW SKILLS

Narayan Raman: @narayanraman
Programmer, Wildlifer, Entrepreneur, CEO - Tyto Software, Author of Sahi (http://sahi.co.in)

Parimala Shankaraiah: @curioustester
Testing Junkie, Wife of a 30 yo kid, Mother of 3 yo kid, loves to read, enjoys long walks, foodie and a horrible cook!

Santosh Tuppad: @santhoshst
Passionate tester, blogger, testing enthusiast, friendly & fun loving. Director at Moolya Software Testing Private Limited.

Pradeep Soundararajan: @testertested
Known for creativity & moving software testing forward in India. Author Speaker Coach Consultant Director @ Moolya Software Testing Pvt Ltd http://moolya.com

Anuj Magazine: @anujmagazine
Passionate about Software Testing,ReadnWrite,Graphology,Running….Lives by- Life is beautiful because you can always do something that you have never done before

Some Inferences:
To me Twitter bio or any other bio for that matter is the manner in which the people want the public to view them. Sometimes, there is an intersection between how you view yourselves as against how you want the world to view you but such an intersection is rare. There is always some good deal of difference between the way the world views you as against who you really are. But lets forget this for sometime and go on and read the inferences i draw from all the above bios.

- For most of these people, they take pride in associating themselves to testing.
- Not for all though, the Testing is not the central theme of their bio as the word "Testing" does not appear in everyone's bio.
- For only a handful, the Years of experience in their respective field is important enough to deserve a mention in the bio.
- Most of these folks have multiple interests i.e. some prominent interests beyond Software Testing.
- For some, they associate themselves with an important event in their lives.
- Very few of these bios make a mention of their personal life in the bio. Most are inclined towards their professional achievements.
- Most of people like to highlight atleast one Achievement that differentiates them or makes them unique.
- Only a very few bios have some sort of numbers in their Bio. precisely, Years of experience, No. of books published and Age.
- While most indicated that they Love testing, very few were clear in their Bio on what type of testing they are keen on.

If you can think of any more inferences from these bios, Please add it to comments. Would love to hear your views.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Should the testers be responsible for pinponting the cause of Defects ?

A tester works fabulously to find an important bug in an application and raises a bug report with lot of excitement and possibly all the details that he could include. The bug is 100% reproducible. After some days, the bug report gets assigned back to him stating that the Developer needs more information. Upon further analysis of the request, the tester figures out that Developer is actually requesting for assistance to help him "pinpoint" the problem in the code. Of course, the Developer is not asking the tester to go through the code but asking more intricate details that are beyond the scope of a bug report (as the bug is 100% reproducible). The tester is in confused state! He thinks that he provided all the information that was there to be provided and the bug is 100% reproducible, then why on earth would a developer need more Information. Let’s look at a perspective about this problem-

Is pinpointing problem a part of test group's job?
In my view, in an ideal world, in couple of words- It should be. Let me explain my perspective here.
Project teams develop Software to serve the customers. The test teams primarily exist to provide Specialized Services to the overall projects. The extent of Service include “what” and “how” of it and primarily depend upon the overall Testing mission we choose. Generally, one of the common views is to consider testing only as “Detection” and “Reporting” of issues. That certainly leaves out pinpointing activity. To simply put, pinpointing a problem is a activity that helps a developer figure out the buggy part of code.
It’s no wrong in treating testing more alongside the “Detection” and “Reporting” areas but when we talk about the notion of Service, one of the things that get associated with it is Value generation. In my view- In any Service related profession, more than anything else, the overall Value should always be upwardly mobile. Value from the testing group as such is perceived differently by different people who we work with and provide our Services.
Testing all that’s possible, Providing an Accurate flawless defect report, Providing accurate bug related information (metrics) that can help Management make crucial product decision, Helping support team giving crucial information on a customer problem etc. are some Value generating activities that goes beyond the idea of Detecting and Reporting. Of course, Pinpointing problems is another activity that helps add Value as a developer perceives it from the Test group. I know in some cases test teams even helped in fixing the bugs, so essentially it boils down to what “mission” do we commit to.
As Gerald Weinberg also states in his book Perfect Software: And Other Illusions about Testing
Testing (can be) for Discovery, pinpointing, Locating, determining significance, repairing, troubleshooting and testing to learn.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the above description represents and close to Ideal world situation.

Is it really possible to have the clear distinction between pinpointing and testing?
I think No, its not possible to create that distinction especially when we consider the product from a black-box perspective. If we do White-box testing, it is possible to have some sort of clear distinction. I think more or less every good bug report has some level of Troubleshooting done. But “some level of troubleshooting” is often not as accurate as “pinpointing”. Pinpointing just helps the developer to reach the faulty lines of code, identify the problem and fix it. Apparently, in a product with millions of lines of code reaching that faulty line of code is a very tedious job (sometimes a mystery!). If a tester helps a developer do that, then we have a delighted customer (i.e. if at all we treat him/her as a customer. In normal circumstances, we should). From test perspective, it is again the amount of cost we are willing to spend to reach this level of delight. Again, it leads to the eternal question- “what is our mission”.
In short, it is not possible to have that clear distinction between pinpointing and testing in our kind of test setup.

Does the time-limit heuristic usually work always ?
Gerald Weinberg also talks about Time-limit heuristic.
A heuristic that helps untangle who does what for how long states the concept simply:
Nobody on a project should carelessly waste the time of anyone on the project

According to this, the test team member sets a time limit and communicate to the Development team on how much time can they spend on the Development specific investigation. Beyond this time, the onus is on the Development team to figure out.
Since this is a heuristic and not a rule, its quite hard to define the time-limit. Only way it can work is if we make it as a rule i.e. Test team would not spend more than 1 man-day or whatever is the limit and track it accordingly. Doing so (without prior agreement) , will cause some grim repercussions including the relations with Development team.
Having said this, testers don’t have endless time at their disposal. So, till the time there are a formal guidelines around this, it's good to make the Development team (requesting the pinpointing Service) aware of the extent we can help without causing the Testing schedule in Jeopardy.

If the bug is reproducible, to what extent should the test team help the dev pinpoint the bug?
The greater degree of conflict (regarding pinpointing) between Dev and Test arises when the bug is reproducible 100% of time. Ideally, the Dev should Investigate, debug and figure out where the bug is in the code with some help from Test team.
If the bug is non-reproducible then there is even finer distinction between Bug detecting and bug pinpointing. I think Test team should lead the Investigation here whereas for Reproducible bugs the Dev team should lead the investigation.

Closing thoughts:
Considering the above points, I can think of the following points-
• Get in agreement with the Dev team on what level of pinpointing can the test team help with. It should be made clear at the start of project involvement.
• Have a Clear distinction on what Activities include Detection, Troubleshooting and Pinpointing. Possibly, include the same in the Test plan.
• Include Pinpointing activities as a part of Standard Test estimations. It won’t be too high a cost considering the entire span of release but it is worthwhile to consider it as a separate line-item.
• Be aware of impacts of frequent Task-switching for testers (which usually happens when testers switches to Bug investigation away from testing work). Not everyone can do it with an ease. This can be one area specific training can be designed/conducted for testers if there is a need.

Any thoughts ?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How well do your team members know each other ?

Sometime back i wrote on the topic- How well do you know your team..." which had a prime focus on team work and why knowing the team is a prime tasks for any leader. In today's world, no matter how virtual we may become in conducting our work , the team bonding remains one of the foremost task for a leader. It’s not only important for a leader to know his or her team but it is also of great significance for the team members to know each other. This is especially true of a team in which people have been working together for a while, may be 2-3 years and beyond.

One can always argue that more the team members work with each other-the more time they spend together, the more they "know" each other. While this may be true to an extent, it is equally true that more time people spend working with each other, the more they start taking each other's strengths for granted. And they start considering their egos bigger than relationship and think more of shortcomings rather than positives. I don’t write this to say that this is necessarily right or wrong but this aspect is very human for sure.

It does become challenging to appreciate each other's strengths after a while so there is a constant need to remind each other of the value that each one brings in to the organization and to the team. How can one remind other team member of their Strengths ? He or She can openly appreciate the other person but in true sense this may sound as more artificial than anything else. There can be many ways to address this but i have found one exercise when done with the team quite useful to address this aspect.
Here are the details-

• blank sheets of paper (same as no. of team members)
• pens (same as no. of teamm members)
• Around 20-30 min in a team meeting
• Paricipants with Open unbiased mind

1. Participants sitting in a sort of round table setting.
2. Each participant gets one piece of paper and write their name on it.
3. As a next step, each participant passes on the paper (with their name) to the person sitting on right of him/her.
4. Each person now has a paper with someone else’s name on it.
5. As a next step, Each participant thinks for a while (1 minute or less) and writes something positive about the person who name appears on the sheet. The participant need not write his/her name with the comment. “Something positive” can be even some good instance, good experience that he/she would have shared with that person, or some personality trait he/she likes about him/her or even some professional achievement, skill about that person. Preferably write it in sentence form rather than a single word. The bottom line is that it should be something positive. If you need more to write, take it but try and be as honest as possible in the praise.
6. After the participant has completed writing, go to Step# 3 till 5 repeatedly till you get the paper with your name back.
7. After you receive the sheet with your name, each person tells any one interesting Positive thing someone has written about him/her.

• Helps people thinking something positive (beyond their egos) about the team members and reinforcing that belief.
• Help people reinforce the fact that irrespective of the personality differences, there is something positive to cherish about.
• The final sheet is something people can keep with them and refer to it anytime later. This can be referred especially when chips are down and looking at the positives helps one regain the confidence.
• Share some light moments within the team especially when everyone is communicating the Interesting Positive fact in a team setting.

Do you know of any other interesting ways ?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Myths about Globalization Testing

I think i havent contributed to the Myths about Globalization Testing Series in a while. I do intend to write more about this and soon. In the meantime, i thought to just go back in time a little and list all myths that i have worked to uncover in the previous blogs. Here's the list-

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing -1
Myth 1: G11n testing is not technical enough
Myth 2: G11n testing is majorly about testing the UI
Myth 3: G11n Testing can start only after the base product is translated

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing -2
Myth 4: A person who doesn't know French cannot test the French version of the Software
Myth 5: A tester only needs to follow the test cases executed for Base language in order to thoroughly test the internationalized applications
Myth 6: There is no scope of exploratory testing while testing internationalized applications
Myth 7: The language verification of User Interface can be done by comparing the text on screen with translation outputs of any freely available Online translator.

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing -3
Myth 8: If a test case works fine in French language, it will work fine in German language as well
Myth 9: If the Foreign text input in application text fields work fine by using the Soft keys, then it means the data input through respective Foreign language key board would also work fine.
Myth 10: Globalization testing doesn't require the same test setup as is required to do the Base language testing. Globalization testing can be done with a minimum test setup.

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing -4
Myth 11: Localization - means Localized product on a localized Operating System, Internationalization- means Localized product on English Operating System

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing- Demystifying MUI Packs
Myth 12: Testing International applications using "Microsoft's MUI Pack" or "Localized OS installation" means one and the same thing

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing- Input validation testing 2
Myth 13- A tester can perform tests specific to text inputs for Localized applications using the similar approaches as the English language testing

Uncovering Myths...."Security Testing is from Mars and Globalization Testing is from Venus"
Myth 14- Security Testing is from Mars and Globalization testing is from Venus

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing- English version on Localized setup
Myth 15: There is no use testing the English version of a product on Localized Operating systems

Uncovering Myths about Globalization testing- MUI Packs in Win XP and Win Vista
Myth 16: There is no difference between MUI technology being used in Win XP and Win Vista

Uncovering myths about Globalization Testing- Reusing Test Automation
Myth 17: The test scripts meant for English language automated tests cannot be reused for Internationalization testing

Uncovering myths about Globalization testing- Context driven planning
Myth 18: There is one standard way of Test Planning the Globalization testing, which is applicable to all the contexts.

Uncovering Myths about Globalization Testing- Websites with localized addresses
Myth 19: There is no need to include localized web addresses as a part of your test data as Web addresses are always in English

Uncovering Myths about Globalization Testing- Knowledge of Native Language
Myth 20: If i dont know German at all, i can still effectively test a German application

Uncovering myths about Globalization Testing- Finding Localization bugs before actual translation takes place
Myth 21: It is not possible to find the Localization bugs before actual translation takes place

Uncovering myths about Globalization Testing- Testing MUI feature
Myth 22 : A tester testing Globalization features need not pay any special attention towards testing MUI feature.

Uncovering myths about Globalization testing- Approach to generate Localized test data
Myth 23: It is possibly the right strategy to randomly pick the test data specific to the localized language you are testing

Hope you enjoyed going over these again. Would appreciate your comments, suggestions!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Have you defined your Body of Work ?

I tried searching for Software Testing Records, could not find anything. Why dont Software Testers have any records ?

This was one of the questions raised by one of the participant in an Open session of recently concluded Bug-De-Bug conference . Honestly, a part of me thought of dismissing it as one of those naive questions usually asked in the public forums/conferences. Luckily, another (and better) part persisted in giving this question a more thought in-depth.

During my early days in the profession, i often used to wonder- Why cannot Software Testing be as glamorous a profession as Cinema or Politics or may be like Soccer or Cricket ? What aren't Software Testers as popular and as famous as people involved in these fields ? As the time has passed and if i look back to find the answers to these questions, i see it in different ways listed below-

- Everything that is Glamorous and popular isn’t necessarily always great. We have had several example of High profile Politicians, Actors and even Sports personalities who are involved in larger than life scams thereby signifying a sort of ethical deficit. All that Glitters is certainly not Gold!

- With time and energy of people, Software Testing profession has evolved into a larger ecosystem, which is large enough to have its own Celebrities. It was not very long ago that Jerry Weinberg got chosen as a Testing Luminary by a democratic voting process. Is Jerry any short of a Testing Celebrity ? There are a lot of media coverage associated with Software Testing and its practitioners. And all this attention is well-deserved for a profession that is expected to have a market of $56 Billion by 2013. Yes, you heard that number right, its $ 56 Billion. The future of testing is going to see a lot of new Celebrities evolve and who knows it may become a sort of Glamorous profession (in literal sense) when someone comes up with a concept of Reality Show on Software Testing possibly having real time testers working in time-bound interval to test a challenging Software. Wow, the future looks exciting!

Thinking over both these questions again- there may be many reasons why dont we have records for Software Testing like there is no historian taking care of maintaining the record (like we have in various Sports, Politics), Nobody has attempted to apply in Guinness Book of World records or may be testers are not really fascinated by records or by being Glamorous and like to silently add value to the product.
Now, that raises a very Interesting question- What are Software Testers really fascinated by ? What defines the body of work for a Software Tester ? One of the Art blogs defined Body of Work as something that is comprised of multiple pieces that are cohesive in nature.

Robin Sharma in one of his books mentions this anecdote about the Body of Work-
Art Buchwald, the writer, who was around 80 and battling Kidney failure was once asked, "What is your idea of perfect happiness ?" "Being Healthy" was his reply. He was asked, "Which talent would you most like to have ?" "Living" was his reply. Then he was asked, "What is your most treasured possession ?" "All of my writing- my 32 books and all of my columns".
The point of wisdom that you and I can take away ? Greatness comes when you create something with your life that is not only bigger that you but outlasts you. Legitimacy and recognition and prestige and material things are all fine and are very human pursuits. But there is something far more important: Legacy. Making a difference. Having an impact. Creating something special. And meaningful.
What Body of Work will you create over your life so that the generations who follow will know that you've been here ? What will your "most treasured possession" look like ?

If you as a Software Tester are at the fag end of your career, what kind of things do you want to look back with pride ?
If you were to do a paragraph about your accomplishments in Software Testing, how would it look ?

Have you defined your Body of Work ?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Key Career Planning Lessons from Nokia's Slide

One of the most talked about Tech News in past week or so has been Nokia CEO Stephen Elop's letter to the employees making people aware of current state of the Organization.

I am not sure how this letter got public but reading through this had me split into varying thoughts. One of the thought, i was feeling sympathy for the Nokia employees who received this. It must have been Earth shattering for a lot of them, after all who would feel comfortable in the organization when the CEO itself is describing the business to be a "burning platform". But at the same time, Other thought line is about the Learnings one can extract from the situation Nokia is in currently.
One of the aspects about Elop's email that catches immediate attention is his use of a burning platform metaphor to make people understand the extent of downfall of Company's business.

There is a pertinent story about a man who was working on an oil platform in the North Sea. He woke up one night from a loud explosion, which suddenly set his entire oil platform on fire. In mere moments, he was surrounded by flames. Through the smoke and heat, he barely made his way out of the chaos to the platform's edge. When he looked down over the edge, all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters.
As the fire approached him, the man had mere seconds to react. He could stand on the platform, and inevitably be consumed by the burning flames. Or, he could plunge 30 meters in to the freezing waters. The man was standing upon a "burning platform," and he needed to make a choice.
He decided to jump. It was unexpected. In ordinary circumstances, the man would never consider plunging into icy waters. But these were not ordinary times - his platform was on fire. The man survived the fall and the waters. After he was rescued, he noted that a "burning platform" caused a radical change in his behavior.

This immediately reminded me of Vineet Nayar's HCL transformation story in his book Employees First Customers Second . Vineet says One of the first Ingredient in making people onboard for any change initiative is by making them show the reality as is. People, quite naturally, have the habit to rest on Organization's past laurels and most often do not see the need to change. Mirror Mirror exercise is nothing but a metaphor to make sure that people view the reality as it exists as against seeing the reality in the rear view mirror (where they can see only positive results and laurels).

It is quite evident that getting large employee population aware of the need of change and getting them out of their comfort zones cannot be done in any soft manner. It requires a Strong communication by all possible means. That is where Elop's metaphor about burning platform helps him take charge of situation and people understand the heat of the situation.

Are there any learnings we can take from this saga in the way we plan our careers ? Some that came across my mind-

Do we often play the Mirror-Mirror exercise during our careers ?
i.e. Do we tend to get complacent (often without our own knowledge) and tend to rest on our past professional laurels ? Do we really take a real hard look at the way our careers are going and prepare ourselves for the Action how-so-ever risky (but with immense value potential) it may be.

Do we always wait for the platform to really burn before we accept that a change is needed in our careers ?
Here Change does not necessarily mean Changing the Jobs, most of the people in the IT industry (atleast in India, i know) are really good at that. The Change here mean Change in the way we perceive work, Change in the way we do the work, Change in the direction we wish to take our skill levels to. Are you really expert at initiating such change ? We often aim for expertise in our Subject area not in skills around Change Management and other Soft skills.

Are we really aware of how the ecosystem is taking shape around us ?
If you read Elop's email full length, you will realize how Nokia actually misread the way Mobile phones ecosystem was shaping up around. The massive popularity of Apple's design + Low cost manufacturers like Macromax, Karbon + growing dominance of Android platform almost consumed Nokia's business. And all this happened in no less than 2 years. The World Leader and a household name like Nokia came down almost tumbling within as less as 2 years. Astonishing!
The understanding of the way the industry is growing is not only important but also essential while planning for careers in today's time. Gone are the days when just knowing and mastering what you are supposed to do in your jobs was enough. Its isn’t clearly just enough. No doubt that one need to become expert at the very thing that defines our job but don’t just limit or narrow your thinking around that. Have a broad view of the job, the view that gives you a broad sense of way ecosystem is shaping up in the career of your choice.

Recession is a Reality. Do we make a mistake of blindfolding to the possibility of a Recession while planning for Career ?
Coming to my first point in this write-up when i mentioned that this email from Elop would have caught many employees by surprise. Why would such a situation be a surprise for employees ? Recession and Slow growth is a reality of today's times. I think the world will rarely see Hundred years old organizations anymore considering the rapidity of the change around us. Companies will come and go and Economies will go up and down following more or less irregular patterns. Do plan for 4-5 recessions in a career spanning 30-35 years. It is no rocket science but requires a bit of foresight and willingness to go beyond the comfort zones

Do not Quit when the chips are down.
Great careers are made when one learns how to deal with the crisis. There will many who would be planning for career shift from Nokia after reading Elop’s email. Most of those who choose the career move when they see crisis around are often looking for that elusive comfort shield . No doubt everyone has some personal/financial commitments w.r.t. the jobs they are in and in some cases Career move in crisis when chips are really down may be a good Option. But not always! Staying on and persisting often opens up the treasure of learning that one will never get in more relaxed, complacent Work environment.

Is your career on a burning platform ? Are you game for that elusive leap into unknown or stay on the platform that’s burning ?

Change Mindset,Not Jobs!

Please share your thoughts!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Google-Microsoft Saga: When Testers become Detectives ?

2011 has certainly started with a bang (or a Bing!) Of the most talked about topic on the web in the recent history is Google accusing Microsoft of Copying its Search results. Refer this Google post for more details.

To give a brief background of this, am quoting the above blog-
It all started with tarsorrhaphy. Really. As it happens, tarsorrhaphy is a rare surgical procedure on eyelids. And in the summer of 2010, we were looking at the search results for an unusual misspelled query [torsorophy]. Google returned the correct spelling—tarsorrhaphy—along with results for the corrected query. At that time, Bing had no results for the misspelling. Later in the summer, Bing started returning our first result to their users without offering the spell correction (see screenshots below).

Once Google got a Sniff (Suspicion) of this, they started detailed investigation into this and even inserted some sort of Pseudo-results while Searching using some unusual parameters and to their surprise they found Bing results to be exactly the same. Now, that’s something! There are several thoughts and terms that comes to mind when talking about Investigation of this magnitude and its relation with Software Testing.

Is it similar to Competitor Analysis ?
In a typical Software Product Testing setup, when one organization is competing with other- Testing serves many additional purposes and one of which is Competitor Analysis. In this Analysis, a tester tests the product vis-à-vis the features in the Competitor’s products with a primary intent to figure out what we lack and what we are good at. For example- Comparing the how long it takes to access and use a certain feature (Performance Test) with Competitor product is a common practice. The data that we get after such analysis is very useful for the Product Management and even the Sales teams to help prove a point to the Customers.

Is it similar to Patent Infringement Test ?
Its well-known that Organizations reaps great rewards on the Employees who help Organization develop a Technology or an Innovation that could be Patented. One of the lesser known facts is that the same Organizations reaps even greater rewards if their Employees can help and find that their Patents or Patented Technology is being used by a Competitor. This is something that can help Organizations prove Patent Infringements, which not only gets hefty sums in winning Lawsuits but also help to pull down a reputation of customers. The Tests done to prove Patent Infringements require In-depth skills and Technical Orientation and it is usual that these are found accidently than in an Structured manner.

Is it similar to Hacking ?
Hacking may be an extreme term to describe Google-Microsoft Saga but the underlying principles of hacking remains the same i.e. You start Investigating with an Intention to prove something- it may be your Technical prowess, gain competitive advantage, damage reputation etc.

Whatever it may be, under each of these similarities and even more like these- there is one common theme- Investigation or in other words Detective Testing . Have you ever seen a Detective TV serial or a movie ? The way Detective goes about doing his or her job is by gathering the facts, gaining access to the Clues, finding the ways to establish the complex correlation between different events, form some hit and trial stories to solve the mystery and finally nailing the culprit.
The nature of testing that Google exhibited is nothing less than Detective Testing. Once they had a sniff of something fishy in Bing (Gaining access to the Clues), They formed a team of Detectives (20 Testers), Gave them laptop with IE8 installed with Bing toolbar, Created dummy test data, checked the results in the Bing (finding the ways to establish the complex correlation between different events), Tried more data (form some hit and trial stories) and then finally arrived at a conclusion.

This is an interesting correlation. Probably is true for situations when we test fully aware of what the end result we want to achieve. Suspicion may be thought of as a negative emotion in many a situations but when it comes to Testing such situations, it may prove to be a boon.

What’s your take on Testing based on Suspicion?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bug debug- A Conference with a difference!

I haven’t blogged in a while and there were quite a few topics doing rounds in my mind. During this creative tussle, I got to attend a conference in Chennai. The conference was Bug-De-Bug , certainly a catchy name. I got to talk on the topic- Emergence of Cloud Computing and Software Testing- A Perspective . I liked quite a few things about this conference-

- This was the first time the organizers the RIA-RUI Society and Chennai Software Testing Group organized a Conference of this magnitude. But what was most impressive was great exhibition of Organization skills by the team. The team work was pretty evident and everything just happened dot on time.

- I think Audience was participative and it was good initiative by the Organizers to reach out to the College Students. As a general trend that i have seen, the Conferences usually have only Industry representation. Having Students from the colleges attend is a good practice that can help to eventually bridge the Practical Education gap that we see when people fresh from college join the organizations. Another good aspect was the students stepping out of their comfort zones and asking questions. Certainly the way forward.

- Conference with a Cause. The Help Chandru campaign gained momentum. Was great to see it being a part of this conference. Wishing Chandru a speedy recovery.

- The topics chosen were relevant and each presented with unique style.

- It was good to see Software Testing Entrepreneurs on the same stage. Vipul Kocher (President, Indian Testing Board), Narayan Raman (CEO, Tyto Software), Praveen Singh (Founder, 99tests), Pradeep Soundararajan (Director, Moolya Testing). I have a feeling that this group is going to grow in positive direction in the time to come and it is a great news for Software Testing profession. We need Risk Takers.

Looking forward to more such conferences!

More on Bug-deBug conference in the BlogoSphere-

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Do you want to be "Transformer" or a "Lost Soul" or a "Fence Sitter" this new year ?

I had written about the topic of change earlier. No matter how much i feel i have mastered dealing with Change, something new always takes me by surprise. Irrespective of anyone's personal preference about Change, today's workplace reality is that in the end, there is not much choice but to embrace change. The choice is only if you want to do it Half-heartedly or completely with full devotion.

I had recently read Vineet Nayar's Employees First Customers Second for the second time in the month gone by. I would rate this book as epic in bringing about a positive change in the organization. It questions the traditional way of running an enterprise and shows how a management which is devoted and caring for its employees can bring about a change that’s not only makes employees happy but also increases the company's bottom lines. Some of facts that this book questions and provide a successful alternatives (proven on field) include-

- The greatest value for a Knowledge based organization is brought about by the employees who deal directly with Customer in the group and not by a CEO sitting in his fancy office. It is important for the organizations to have clarity on where the core Value Zone lies. It reminds me of one of the blog posts i wrote a while back on What is your Touch-Time as a Software Tester ?

- The traditional hierarchy followed in Organizations in which an Employee is accountable to his Manager is a farce as far as Knowledge economy is concerned. Every responsible soul in the Organization should be accountable to the value Zone in the Organization. In the current Knowledge economy, we have somehow taken the current Organization structures for granted. After all, How can Organizations achieve the profits of today by following the age-old hierarchical system

- One cannot reach Point B in Organization (or Life) without knowing where Point A is. Point A is of course the Status Quo and Point B is the vision. More often than not we fail to capture the Point A correctly. Having an unbiased picture of point A is important to succeed. People tend to get so much lost in past glory that they sometimes fail to find the opportunities to improve in the current situations. While we should respect the past glory, It is important to break that past image if we were to maintain our competitive advantage.

- Trust is an important element in driving any change. Employees will not completely trust you unless and until you, as a driver of the change, is transparent in your dealings. Transparency helps create that culture for change.

- A mention from the book- The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations . Most companies function like eight-legged spiders "Cut off one leg of the Spider, you have a Seven legged unstable Spider. Cut off the head, you have a dead Spider. But Cut off the arm of a Starfish and it will grow a new one. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat, because unlike spiders, they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each arm."

- Any small idea can create an ocean of change and enable a company to enter an entirely new performance zone, no matter what the current situation may be. These ideas, practices or people who originate them are called as blue ocean droplets after the book Blue Ocean Strategy .

- A change initiative can’t be termed as successful if affected people are not onboard. It is generally not possible to have everyone Onboard right from the day the change was introduced. When he first began to drive the changes in his organization, Vineer Nayar understood that not all people would come on board immediately and in fact there are three different groups of people depending largely on the way they embrace change-
Transformers: Transformers are the people who were just waiting for someone to initiate the change and they join the bandwagon almost immediately. They are the ones who are usually aware of shortcomings in the current environment but probably were not the influential enough to drive the change themselves earlier on. They are the people who not only embrace change but also are ready with suggestions, ideas and raise their hand to implement some to completion.

Lost Souls: They are the people who would never support any kind of change. They always have this negativity surrounding them and they somehow are never able to lift themselves from their hopeless state. They somehow believe that every new initiative is an eye wash from the management or the organization. Whenever the new idea is suggested they would simply go ahead and dismiss that not only in their minds but also knowingly and unknowingly try to spread their negativity by airing their views.

Fence sitters: These are the third bunch of people, who generally are reluctant to share their views, rarely would ask the questions and would rather play a wait and watch game. They may not openly criticize the change but won’t either embrace it with wholeheartedness. When asked their opinions, they are likely to say nice things rather than be upfront honest. They would closely watch "Transformers" and the "Lost Souls" and may even change their opinions in short time. In any change initiatives, such people are usually in the majority. They get easily influenced in either direction.

In my dealing with change, i find this classification just apt and it is very useful in understanding the dynamics and even the acceptance of change. One example from the past that comes to mind was around the time when the IT automation of Indian Railways was being introduced, that was indeed the massive way in which the Indian Railways operated. Being the largest employers in the world, driving any changes to work processes was never easy. I remember there were technocrats and visionaries who were favoring the idea, then there were employee unions who were fearing the attrition due to automation of Railway operations who were vocal about criticizing the initiative, they were the "Lost Souls". Then there were many people who were lured by potential benefits of new changes to the customers as well as the employees (Learning new job skills etc.) but at the same time distracted by Lost Souls. These were "Fence Sitters". It was good for the customers and eventually the country that such a change was made. And this change was possible because a lot of "Fence Sitters" and eventually "Lost Souls" joined the "Transformers".

So eventually with every defining change, over a period of time, "Transformers" becomes a majority with most of the "Fence-Sitters" going up the level and the "Lost Souls" either change their minds and embrace change or fade out completely from the scene.

What do you want to become this new year- "a Transform", "a Lost Soul" or "a Fence Sitter" ?
Wishing you a Transformational New Year 2011.