Agile and Beyond 2015 recap

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!

KalamazooX 2015 recap

I put together my tweets and thoughts of KalamazooX 2015 on Storify here: https://storify.com/g33klady/kalamazoox-2015-recap

Introversion, social anxiety, and conferences

Just a warning that this is gonna get pretty honest and open about my introversion and depression. I’ve touched a bit on my social anxiety before, but not like this.

I’m an introvert. To some of you who’s only experience with me is on Twitter, this may come as a surprise. According to Meyers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ. Even if you think Meyers-Briggs is bullshit, some of it still applies.
Yes, I’ve been trying to work on myself more lately by speaking at conferences and running a user group. But that doesn’t change how much social situations give me anxiety and sometimes depression.

As an introvert, I find it terribly draining to be at a conference. Just attending the sessions, walking the halls in between, makes me feel brain dead and useless at the end of the day. And if I’m attending alone, any of the social stuff I’ll usually skip – I just can’t deal with it. Lately I’ve been attending with my fiance, so with him as my social crutch I’ll attend these social events. Yeah, I know plenty of people at the conference but I always feel so awkward and alone, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people that seem to be doing just fine.
If alone, and someone reaches out to a group I belong to asking if anyone wants to hang out, I’ll usually ignore it – surely they can’t mean me, too. If I am asked directly to hang out etc., I’ll reluctantly accept unless I’m too overwhelmed with social interactions already. I have once or twice initiated these kinds of social sessions at conferences or when I’m hanging out in someone else’s city. Not usually, though – that introduces a lot of stress.
Usually if I have a drink or two in me, I’ll loosen up a bit. But it’s the getting to the bar and getting that drink that’s often the problem.

Recently, I attended CodeMash. I was the Testing track chair for the conference, and was excited to see what I had helped happen in that track. There were some great, and not-so-great, talks, lots of social situations, and generally hanging out with folks I know. All seemed great to the outside world, I’m sure. I did some hiding…

On the way home, I started to feel the dragging pull of depression. Not sadness that the conference was over and I’d miss my friends. Actual depression. My social anxiety was so overactive during the 4 days of the conference that it turned directly to depression.
I’m just now, a week later, feeling back to normal. I have depressive cycles once in a while, and this one had a definitive cause. I haven’t had such a lasting issue from a conference before… After each of the user group meetings I host, I have a day or so of feeling terribly drained and unable to function after; the time leading up to the meeting, especially the day of, is full of anxiety.

This won’t keep me from attending conferences in the future, of course, or hosting my user group. I just hope folks understand if I sit out the social meetups or just want to be alone in between sessions.

Are you an introvert or have social anxiety? How do you deal with conferences? User groups?

So much failure. So many lessons to learn.

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.

Same place, new adventures

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!

Why user groups and networking are important

Starting a user group is probably the biggest challenge I’ve taken upon myself in a long time. Getting sponsorship and paying for it, finding a place to have it and an amazing speaker – that’s been the easy part. The hard part is creating that community. Getting people to understand that a few hours after work each month are worth it. I understand people have families and other important things to take care of after work. What I don’t understand is when the priorities of all of those other things come before bettering yourself, furthering your career, and networking with like-minded people every.single.time. Do you think you’re the smartest person at work? LEAVE THAT COMPANY. If you don’t think there’s anything to learn… hell I don’t know what to tell you. I feel sorry for you, actually. There’s ALWAYS something to learn and ways to grow personally and professionally.

Michael Dell: Never Be The Smartest Person In The Room

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships. ~University of Texas, 2003

 

I’m not a model citizen when it comes to user groups and networking meetups – I don’t make the meetings every month without fail. Other things happen – I totally understand. But I keep up with folks on Twitter in between, and go every few months to .NET user groups (like MIGANG) and networking meeups (like IT in the D). And I’m starting a tester user group to get that part of my passion and career rounded out (Motor City Software Testers). There’s also online networking groups, like Software Testing Club, to keep me up to date and networky.

Why are user groups important?

So many reasons! You’re keeping up your knowledge about your industry. You’re meeting new people/catching up with old friends – all that you can share ideas with, or just bitch. You get free food and swag (usually). Maybe you’re getting some public speaking experience, and sharing your passion. You can’t go wrong! Maybe the speaker’s topic doesn’t apply to you – big deal! You still learn, you still broaden your horizons, you still meet new people or just socialize – you still get amazing opportunities to grow in your chosen field.

Also, going to the bar after with the group is the best. Socializing, sharing ideas over a drink, NETWORKING!

Why are networking groups important?

As the IT in the D guys say, if you start networking when you’re desperate for a job, it’s too late. You need to start building those relationships early, and keep them up. I got my first job in the software industry by going to a Women in Tech networking lunch. At that first lunch, just chatting with one of the ladies, she says “you’d be a great QA, just by your personality. We have an opening at my company…”. It doesn’t happen this way for everyone – I was very lucky to have found the career I love by going to one networking lunch. BUT! The important thing is that I didn’t stop going to those groups. I keep up with networking, I keep up with folks on twitter. That’s why I routinely get messages from respected people in the industry offering me a job – not just recruiters that found me on LinkedIn.

I don’t worry about losing my job (even though it’s very secure, there’s always the possibility) – I feel like I would be able to get into a new job very easily. Because of networking. Because of user groups. Because I’ve kept up those relationships.

Just go already!

THAT is why user groups and networking are important. It’s a small price to pay to spend time away from family and other things. But if your career is a priority – if being financially secure is a priority – it’s totally worth it.

 

On being a (not so newbie) speaker

A few months ago, I received an email from someone that attended my very first conference talk, at QA or the Highway in February. They were from $Company, and lead a QA team there. They thought that my talk would be great for their team to hear, and asked that I come to speak to the team. Instant freakout! That was my first time speaking at a conference! Holy shit!

I replied that I was interested for sure, and we set a day and time. I got my talk ready, by making a few changes from the conference, updating a few points and adding some things.

I also started setting up a drinkup for the time I would be there, to catch up with testers in the Columbus area. That turned out to be an excellent decision. And Mr. Keith Klain introduced me to the Per Scholas folks in Columbus, and asked that I stop by and speak to them as well – a casual conversation about being a tester and just being a IT professional. And that he’d pay for the drinks! Bonus!

So now I was on a mini speaking tour. Time for the Imposter Syndrome to kick in…

I drove down on Father’s Day, checked in to the hotel, and went to the bar. The original one we chose was closed, so we moved on to another – we’re testers, we adapt well to adverse situations!

Now for the conversation at the bar. I met up with Damian Synadinos and Diana Wendruff – two awesome folks in the test arena in the Columbus area. We talked about why I was in town, and who I was speaking to. Damian offered some advice that proved incredibly valuable to me – this could be a “quick fix” by management, try to make everyone get along by bringing in this speaker. Some of the folks there in QA are *not* testers by profession, they probably don’t want to be there. That, in itself, was extremely helpful. I had not thought about it yet, but here’s what I realized:

speaking at a conference, people have chosen to be there or at least chose to be at your session, and can walk out at any time if they feel it doesn’t apply to them. Speaking at a company, people are most likely made to attend your talk. They have other stuff to do, and if they don’t want to be there or it doesn’t apply to them, they can’t leave – they can only sit there. You’re giving it your all, showing your passion to them, and some of them just don’t care. Maybe even resent you.

AND THAT’S OK!

Speaking in front of an audience like that was intensely different than at the conference. At the conference, the attendees were engaged and interested, and they laughed at my jokes! At this company, I was just like “management” to most of them – throwing a message at them that they didn’t care about or believe in.

Now I’m not saying every person that I spoke to there felt this way – there were a few attentive faces. But for the most part, it was the “ugh, I’d rather be doing my job right now” face. Without that realization – without that conversation at the bar! – I wouldn’t have been prepared. I would right now probably still be crying from the experience 😛 Lesson here – always get drinks with your buddies! Or something…

 

Then I went, directly after, to Per Scholas. Per Scholas is an amazing program that provides IT training and job placement to low income folks. This audience was the complete opposite of who I spoke to earlier in the day – they were excited to have someone come in to speak to them that was doing in the real world something that they could do in the very near future. I gave a quick rundown of my resume essentially, and opened it up for questions. Some great, intelligent questions and excellent conversation. They asked for my contact information and business cards (nobody at $Company did!) which I happily provided – I’m happy to answer any of their questions privately, or connect with them on LinkedIn. They are an awesome group of women and men that have a very bright future ahead of them, thanks to the Per Scholas program.

A few of the points I tried to make there:

  • You absolutely do NOT have to know how to code to be a great tester
  • However, knowing how code comes together will help you (the process of dev)
  • When I was hiring for testers, I was looking for:
    • Passion for software quality – beta testing games? providing bug reports for software you use every day?
    • Excited by puzzles – if you have to figure something out, you don’t get frustrated easily
    • Intelligent and willing to learn – I don’t care if you have a degree, but if you’re not willing to learn buh-bye
    • Admit when you’re wrong or don’t know – srsly, don’t lie or inflate your abilities. It won’t end well
    • Some technical aptitude – you have to be able to figure out how to troubleshoot. Or Google well 😛
  • Network network network! Look for meetup groups. Networking is how I got into this industry!

 

All in all, my mini speaking tour was great. I gained a lot of experience speaking in front of a not-so-accepting crowd, and got to meet the amazing Per Scholas organizers and students, and of course drinks with some great testers (paid for by Keith Klain!).

I’ll be speaking at the Quicken Loans internal Technology Conference in July, and then again at CAST in August. Then I think I’m done for the year! And I’m getting married next year, so probably not doing much next year… Though I started 2014 with the hopes of speaking at a single conference, and am ending up speaking at 3 plus privately for a company and Per Scholas. So who knows!

Testers meet up in Detroit – let’s do this!

Hey all – let’s get this going. If you’re interested in speaking – either full session, leading a workshop, or doing a lightning talk, let me know.
I’ll get started on the location, day and time. I’d like to do this monthly!
W00t w00t let’s do this!

 

ETA: Here’s the meetup group!

http://www.meetup.com/Motor-City-Software-Testers/

Tester Drinkup in Columbus 6/15

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!

2013 Year in Review

Last year I wrote up a post with my 2013 goals and resolutions. I wanted to review what I had actually done, so here we are!
Achieve a better work/life balance. This will be the most difficult of all of my goals…

  • With my new job, I think I’ve gotten this a bit more under control. It’s easy for me to work 50+ hour weeks, but I try to keep myself to 45 hours when it’s not busy time

Attend CAST, KalamazooX, IT in the D, and maybe some other conferences too

  • I attended KalamazooX on the initial list. I also went to StarWest, which wasn’t even on my radar before because it was something I couldn’t personally afford. Thanks to my new job this year, I got to go!

Submit a talk to a conference and/or user group

  • Done! 3 or 4 times, even!

Actually do above talk

  • I did the lightning talk version at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group. I was also accepted to do the full version of the talk at QA or the Highway in February 2014 😀 I also did a series of 99 second talks on the same topic (dev vs. qa) for Software Testing Club (note – they’re horrible!)

Submit articles to QA publication

  • I was published! In the 10th issue of The Testing Planet I wrote about Leadership (actually The 10 Habits of a Highly Ineffective Leader, which pulls from my experience over the years)

Attend at least one GiveCamp; I didn’t attend any this year and I’m jonesing for it!

  • Was on the planning committee and attended the Ann Arbor GiveCamp. Huzzah!

Assist in coordination of and/or attend Detroit GiveCamp

  • I was part of this, but the whole thing got sidetracked :/

Seek out new opportunities…

  • I got a new job! At Quicken Loans! Which I LOVE!

Finally write that Android app I’ve been thinking about for a while

  • Nope, didn’t happen

Write more code in general. Ruby, Java, C, and of course my favorite, Perl.

  • A bit, in C# with Coded UI tests. And VBScript for QTP (blech)

Continue to be involved in the QA community

  • Yeah, for the most part, this is happening 😛

Hire some people that actually know WTF they’re doing

  • I left there. I hope they have good QA 😛

Actually go to the gym I have a membership for >.<

  • Yeah, I went like a few times. Still paying for it, still don’t go *shrug*

Be a better leader

  • Constant work in progress on this one

 

So 2013 has treated me pretty well in my professional career. I look forward to speaking at QA or the Highway and whatever else this year throws my way!