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CAST 2016 was held in Vancouver, BC. This was my first time to Vancouver, but I love the Pacific Northwest, so I was pretty sure I was going to love it there. Spoiler alert: I loved it in Vancouver!
I’m so happy I got to attend CAST this year, after missing last year due to project work. Since I first attended in 2014, I knew that CAST was a can’t-miss conference for me for as long as it runs. Putting the “confer” back in “conference” is the style that really appeals to me – as an audience, we’re not just talked at; we engage in active discussion. Everyone is part of the conversation.
This year, I feel like I learned things about myself as a person and as a professional, as well as some solid takeaways to implement at work. Some of the best takeaways came from side conversations, which is true to the spirit of CAST!
On the first day of CAST, I attended two tutorials:
Here’s the link to the Storify for day 1: https://storify.com/g33klady/cast-2016
On the second day of CAST, I attended the following sessions:
- Opening Keynote: Automation, Software Design, and the Human Factor with Nicholas Carr
- Babble & Dabble: Creating Bonds Across Disciplines with Katrina Clokie and Carol Brands
- Afternoon Keynote: Test Management Revisited with Anne-Marie Charrett
- Cooperating to Exercise Judgment and Skill: Requirements with Julie Lebo
- How King Uses AI in Testing with Alexander Andelkovic
Here’s the link to the Storify for day 2: https://storify.com/g33klady/cast-2016-day-2
On the third and last day of CAST, I attended the following sessions:
- Opening Keynote: Neuro-Diversity & Software Development with Sallyann Freudenberg
- Alpha Testing as a Catalyst For Organizational Change with Steven Woody
- How Do I Reach The Congregation When I’m Preaching To The Choir with Erik Davis and Rob Bowyer
- It’s Certainly Uncertain – Fostering Healthy Uncertainty on Software Projects with Fiona Charles
Here’s the link to the Storify of day 3: https://storify.com/g33klady/cast-2016-day-3
Of course I did some sightseeing in Vancouver! Here’s a collection of some of those posts:
Basically, Kalamazoo X 2016 was fucking intense. I’m still processing, I may have more to write later, but I had to at least Storify and get out some thoughts before the initial bits went away: https://storify.com/g33klady/kalamazoo-x-2016-tweet-recap
I’m proud to help make sure KalX happens, and I hope to help make it happen every year. I need this conference – it speaks to me differently each year, it gives me what I need to hear and feel. I think I heard someone say it’s like the Room of Requirement of conferences.
One note – I feel like we need to rebrand it. It’s not “soft skills” as people know it. I don’t know what to call it, though.
I witnessed some people on their phones playing games, and initially I was like “ugh, wtf”. But after talking with one of those people, I realized – this shit is too intense. They’re trying to detach! I now have some empathy for those folks, but I feel like if they come in thinking “I’m going to learn to be better in meetings!” and we throw KalX at them, we might make some people lose their shit…
KalamazooX is the “non-technical conference for technical people”. It really is the best conference I’ve ever attended, and I go every year since the first one I went to – no exceptions. The best part about this conference, is that it’s SO FREAKIN’ CHEAP for the value! At $75 for standard registration, $35 for students, even with travel and hotel, you’ll end up paying way less than any other conference’s cheapest tickets.
This is my “official” blurb about KalamazooX – how I feel about this amazing conference, from last year:
I’ve only attended 5 or 6 different conferences in my career, but the feeling and motivation I get after KalamazooX is incomparable. The single track, back-to-back talks are intense and life-changing. I’ve meditated and made gratitude lists, been inspired to speak at conferences, laughed, thought deeply about my life, cried – all during KalamazooX. The X conference is definitely one I will never miss – it’s always first on my calendar with time blocked off to go. I can learn the latest technologies and best practices at any other tech conference or online. What makes KalamazooX different is the work we’re putting into ourselves – it doesn’t only change our professional lives but our personal lives as well, all in one amazing conference. I always leave the X conference a different person than who I was when I walked in.
This year, 2016 KalamazooX will be held at the Fetzer Center on the WMU Campus in Kalamazoo, MI, on Saturday, April 30. There’s an amazing list of speakers, like every year – Christina Aldan, Kate Catlin, Ed Finkler, Leon Gersing, Jay Harris, Cory House, Lauren Scott, and Alan Stevens.
Do yourself a favor, and sign up for KalamazooX! It will absolutely change your life!
I recently tweeted for suggestions on books about self leadership, and leadership in general – especially books that personally helped people. I wasn’t looking for “I heard this book is great” but rather “this book helped me to become a better leader” etc.
I’m compiling the list here because I got a variety of suggestions in various tweets, and I want to have a definitive list when I go looking for books and not have to troll through my twitter mentions 😛 But also compiling here as it may help others!
One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (blog post w/ suggestion here: http://qahiccupps.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-sixty-second-team.html)
Tribal Leadership by David Logan (as well as the TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_logan_on_tribal_leadership?language=en)
And of course, Jim Holmes’ book The Leadership Journey – I read what he has so far, and am excited for him to finish it (nudge nudge)!
Storified here: https://storify.com/g33klady/agile-and-beyond-2015-recap
Please forgive the giant image at the top – I can’t find a way to change it 😦
It’s a loooooong post, a couple hundred tweets, so be prepared!
As my CEO has said, it’s ok to fail as long as you learn from it. So I’m analyzing this gigantic failure to try to get as much knowledge from it as possible. I don’t want to fail this hard again…
Let me start from the beginning of this wonderful lesson. I was asked to lead a project team for Ann Arbor GiveCamp. In case you haven’t read all of my posts on GiveCamp, it’s a weekend-long event where technical volunteers come together to help non-profit organizations. Generally the volunteers give just their weekend and walk away from the event with no obligations.
I hadn’t lead a project team before, but someone had to step up so we could help more non-profits. So I stepped up.
Failure 1: I didn’t ask anyone for advice on handling a project at GiveCamp. I know plenty of folks that have run successful projects at past GiveCamps, but I figured “I’ve got this, I’ve done enough GiveCamps.”
Lesson 1: Nope, you don’t “got this”. Ask for advice, ask for lessons learned. Ask folks that have lead teams before what do they wish they had done differently.
I got my project prior to GiveCamp like most leaders, read through what the non-profit wanted, and had a phone meeting with the non-profit rep. I had a good general idea of what needed to be done.
Failure 2: I didn’t get specific enough.
Lesson 2: Get specific details. Get the Trello board set up prior to GiveCamp. Lay out all of the work that needs to be done – Every. Single. Bit of work. Lay out the must-haves and the nice-to-haves and make sure that the non-profit agrees with everything.
I met my team on the first day of GiveCamp. After the opening ceremonies (I was trying to help as an organizer at this point, getting people to the ceremony location, etc.), my team gathered. I had us all say our names, and what we do.
Failure 3: I didn’t know my team well enough. There just isn’t enough time to get to know everyone – their strengths, weaknesses, what they can and can’t do, what they will and won’t do.
Lesson 3: Try to glean as much from each person as you can. Not just what they do for a living, but all of the above – what they can/can’t/will/won’t do. Express the importance of honesty and openness on the team – if you can’t do something (or don’t want to), let us all know so that someone can. Also, understand everyone’s schedule – some folks are only there for the first night, and rather than finding that out just when they’re about to leave and they could have been doing something much more important or helpful, get everyone’s schedule out in the open at the beginning.
Underline the importance of all of the work getting done – no room for laziness. This is for the non-profit, not for your resume.
We had a trello board with a general list of things that needed doing – each card had a checklist on it of the various things that each item needed to be done to make that thing “done”.
Failure 4: Oh man the disorganization. Not everything was on the board. Not everything was in each card. Not everyone was using it properly.
Lesson 4: Definitely need a better way to track work. Getting the board up and populated before GiveCamp would have been helpful here. Rather than having checklists, have a card for *everything* that needed to be done, including testing. And make sure everyone is using it! Check in every hour to see what’s in the Done column, what’s assigned to who, make sure we’re not spinning our wheels. Hell, maybe have a team standup every hour or so.
We find out, late Saturday, that there’s a bug in the checkout page of the store on the site we’re working on.
It’s a critical bug, we can’t go live with it.
Failure 5: It took far too long to find the bug. Why?
Lesson 5: Work, and more importantly testing, wasn’t defined properly. The site was being tested but from a user that was already logged in to WordPress – but most of the end-users of this site won’t be. And that’s where the bug was.
The person who was responsible for it said they were too lazy to set up a PayPal developer account in order to test checkout and donation (or to find out if someone else had one and ask them to test it). I didn’t flip out on this person, smacking them and telling them that if they want to be lazy get the fuck out of GiveCamp, this isn’t for lazy people this is to help a fucking charity, stop being an asshole and help for fuck’s sake. I didn’t flip out on them, but I should have. It’s inexcusable, and as a leader I shouldn’t just roll my eyes and try to pick up the slack, which is what I did. Part of that is my social anxiety/not wanting conflict thing.
We keep getting the rest of the stuff done, still trying to find the cause of the bug and trying to fix it off and on.
Failure 6: We needed a plan B sooner. But we kept spinning our wheels. And subequently, myself and one of the members of the team (who volunteered to do this) kept trying, off and on, to fix it for several weeks after. It was determined that the theme was the cause of the bug, so this other person rebuilt the theme from the ground up. For several more weeks, off and on, we tried to get this new site back to the non profit’s specifications.
Lesson 6: Be more agile – if it’s not working, fucking fix it. Ask for help during the standups. I let it get drawn out for weeks and weeks and weeks. I had suggested we go live with the site without the store, while we try to fix that bug. The non-profit didn’t want to do that. The store was integral.
Finally, months later, the non-profit asks for all of the files we have. They have to pay for someone to finish it, they can’t wait for us anymore. They need the store up and running to generate revenue.
When I get this email, I’m devastated. I knew this was coming – how could it not? We couldn’t keep spinning our wheels forever. I should be relieved, that this isn’t on me anymore. But I’m not. I’m angry with myself for leading the project so poorly. For failing so hard.
I thought that writing this out, walking through all of the lessons I’ve learned in this, would help me to work through the pain of failure. To put a positive spin on it – “hey, look, I’ve gotten better through this!”
I’m not sure that it’s helped me work through the pain of failure, but at least I know what I can do better next time, and how to not fail at GiveCamp again.
Note: I’m not going to address the “QA” terminology thing here – we call our software testers “QA” where I work, but this isn’t about that. Sorry – we can talk about it later 😀
On Tuesday, I started my first day in my new position as an “SQA Architect” at Quicken Loans – moving from an Engineer position. What that means where I work is that my focus is on:
- assisting project teams in determining processes, procedures, and standards around quality
- mentoring and training any team member on testing-related stuff (tools or even the basic “agile testing 101”)
- building the “quality” community
Essentially, that whole “rising tides raise all boats”, and I’m helping to raise the tide of quality.
I’m very lucky to work where I do, because my team leader encouraged me to go after what I wanted. I was willing to compromise a bit, and wait until we had some testing support on the team. I am very thankful to Joe Guadagno for his continued support in being an awesome leader, and good friend. It’s not a rare thing there, and why I think I’ll be there for the long haul – lots of support, and you can really write your own ticket to success.
As our CIO said today at our holiday party, don’t be the thing that’s getting in the way of your own success.
So I’m not! Here’s to an awesome new year ahead with many opportunities to exceed our own expectations!
Hi folks! I’ll be in Columbus speaking at Nationwide and Per Scholas on 6/16, but I’ll be getting into town 6/15 so let’s have a Testers Drinkup! Suggestions on a place? I’m staying in Dublin, so near there would be preferable…
What: Testers Drinkup
When: 6/15 8pm
Where: some bar near Columbus, OH
Why: to hang out and ease the nerves!
I love to tweet. I’m a prolific tweeter. I’m addicted to tweeting.
And I finally can call myself an Award Winning Tweeter.
So it’s been suggested, and I’m toying with this idea, that I start a Kickstarter to fund my attending conferences and essentially be a professional live-Tweeter of these events. Why not? I did mention I won a major award, right?
I may have to keep the swearing down if this becomes a “thing”… or perhaps that’s part of my charm? 😛
More on Star West later – my brain is so full, and I’m meeting so many awesome people from all over the world.
For a blog entry unrelated to what I do for a living, but entirely related to how I live.
I have Celiac disease, and must eat gluten free. At parties/bars/gatherings etc. I’m always asked the same questions about being gluten free, and Celiac disease, so I figured I would compile that info for those that either don’t want to ask (I’m always willing to talk about it, honest! I’ll talk your ear off if you let me), or just want to know more. 15 answers to FAQs below.
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