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-