Monthly Archives: January, 2014

Get your copy of the State of Testing 2013 — it is hot off the press!!

In a prior posting I invited testers to participate in the State of Testing Survey. This is a unique survey asking testers about the current state of testing such as what approaches, techniques, and tools that they use plus their opinion on the challenges in the testing field. The survey is sponsored by Lalit Bhamare, one of the editors of Tea-time with Testers and Joel Montvelisky co-founders of PractiTest. I do love the collaboration within the world-wide Testing Community – I believe it is a community to be envied because many professionals cannot tap into a similar network.

Today the results was published and you can download the free survey report. I do not want to say too much about the results and take away from their report. However, I am impressed with the number of testers who participated, the information gathered, the layout of results, and brief narrations throughout the report. There is a ton of valuable information and as a Software Testing Manager I will spend some serious time reviewing the results to determine how my team compares to the community and identify opportunities for future endeavors.

So grab a cup of tea and take some time to read this valuable survey. If you did not participate or perhaps did not know about it, there is good news. They plan on conducting the survey on a yearly basis. So near the end of this year I will let you know when you can participate. I would like to thank Lalit and Joel for their dedication of time to create, analyze, and publish this important survey for the Testing Community.

Career planning as a path to promotion – using Mind Maps

career planning steps

In developing a career plan you have many options from creating a formal plan to using tools such as mind maps to organize the skills and knowledge you would like to develop. It is important to have your own plan to ensure you are progressing in your career. In the September 2013 edition of Tea-time With Testers I wrote an article called: Prepare for Promotion Now! It was part of a special edition: Women in Testing. In preparing for a future promotion you need to understand where the company is headed and continue to develop your skills to be ready for future opportunities.

Recently, I was promoted to Director, Quality Management Programs. In this position I will be continue to oversee the strategic direction and leadership of the Software Testing department. In addition I will oversee and implement a quality management system and participate in company-wide quality initiatives and programs. I was in the right place at the right time and over the years I continued my formal education while progressing my skills and knowledge. When I review how my career has progressed over the years it all came together for this promotion fulfilling a new need in the organization. Often sacrifices need to be made to prepare for your future career. When returning to college for my Masters in Strategic Leadership, I went to college full-time and worked full-time. My weeks were about 70-80 hours during this time period. Over the years I continued my professional development through social networking, books, blogs, webinars, and training seminars. Social networking opens up a lot of opportunities for interacting with experts throughout the world regarding different subject matters. Plus I look for new opportunities at work to take on additional responsibility or incorporate what I am learning to how we work. I have never been concerned about working a 40-hour week as I believe we each make life choices on how we use our time.

I tend to have a vision for my life that I discussed in my New Years posting. The below mind map is an example on how you can define your vision, goals, actions, and how you will be accountable. Developing a plan can be easy; however making progress can be difficult. Be sure to identify the gaps in skills and knowledge you are trying to bridge to help with knowing if you are making progress. Then identify a discipline method to review your progress to determine your next steps. You could have a second mind map or just add more nodes to your planning map to document your progress. For example you could add the date when you attended the Rapid Testing Intensive course by James Bach.

Best wishes with your career planning! In future postings I will share other tools for career development. If you want more information on mind mapping see my posting An Introduction to Mind Maps and Testing. See my previous posting on Ideas and Approaches on Developing a Career Plan and if you review my blog you will find more postings on leadership and career development. Plus stay tuned for future postings!!

Career_Plan

Ideas and Approaches on Developing a Career Plan

career plan

The last couple of months I have been discussing different ways to develop your leadership skills and potential. My vision for 2014 is: Make 2014 a year to dream big and make it happen! I would like to share a few ways to develop a career plan using different formats. Similar to a test document, a career plan is a living document – it will change as your skills mature and new opportunities arise. In Tea-time With Testers, January 2012 issue, I wrote an article called: Developing a Career Plan. Refer to this issue to read my original article, as this posting will focus on career development from leadership skills and opportunities. Whereas the article in Tea-time With Testers is focused from both a managerial and employee perspective.

I strongly believe in taking responsibility for developing your career – many managers may not meet with you to develop a plan – do not let this stop you from furthering your career. Some people prefer a formal plan where they define goals, steps, timelines, and milestones. Periodically they revise the plan for progress and any revisions. Others prefer an informal approach where they identify skills and knowledge to improve but not specific steps to meet them. The plan may be documented in a word document, mindmap, or a spreadsheet. Regardless of your approach, the end-result of career planning should be skills and knowledge improvement and not a formal document that requires a lot of maintenance that might not help improve your skills and opportunities. The following sections provide suggestions to get started with developing your leadership plan.

What is my 5-Year Goal?
In order to understand our career aspirations, many start with the question “where do I want to be in 5-years”. This can be a difficult question to answer with evolving technology providing new opportunities. Plus sometimes we are not aware of the potential opportunities leading us down more generic paths such as “I would like to be a better leader”. That is not a bad starting point but challenge yourself to think more deeply about what that statement really means.

A better question might be: how satisfied are you, with where you are at: with your leadership skills? with your leadership opportunities? Additional questions could include:

  1. What do I enjoy most about leading a project? Leading a team? Developing a team?
  2. If you could change something about your leadership style, what would it be?
  3. What project did you feel professional satisfaction, from a leadership perspective, and why?
  4. Based upon what you would change:
  • What skills do you need to improve?
  • What knowledge do you require?
  • What opportunities would be helpful?

How Much Do You Understand About Different Leadership Styles?
To further define learning opportunities, consider the following questions.

  • Whose leadership do I admire that I should spend time studying?
  • Is there a leadership conference that I can attend?
  • If I were to read one book on leadership this year, what book would I read?
  • Who in the company I am employed do I admire for his/her leadership skills? Can I meet with that person to learn more about what makes them a strong leader?

What are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Sometimes this is an easy question to answer, as we might be aware of our capabilities and limitations. It can be helpful to create a list of strengths and weaknesses. Review the list of strengths to determine if you are capitalizing upon them. If the answer is no, what needs to change? Identify ways to bring those strengths into your testing. Sometimes a strength can be overused becoming a weakness. Do you have any of those?

Is there a weakness that might hinder career progression? A tester may be capitalizing upon his strengths but the weakness can be reducing promotional potential. For example, if he cannot make a presentation to a management group might make him less influential in the company. Review the list of weaknesses and only work on the ones that can sidetrack a career. Everyone has weaknesses and it is not necessary to improve all of them. Be selective on what strengths and weaknesses you capitalize upon based upon career aspirations.

What Tools Can You Use?
Reflection Journal:
I have found that a journal can be helpful to document what you have learned and areas for improvement. Every night write in the journal a lesson learned and something to do differently. For example, if a difficult conversation with a developer went well, identify why it went well to help you in the future. Perhaps you did more preparation for the meeting or were able to remain calm while discussing the testing results. Periodically review the journal to reflect upon the lessons learned to ensure they are being integrated into the appropriate projects.

Strength-Based Approach:
A strength-based approach, discussed in two popular books, can be adopted that provides both an assessment and program to follow. The book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. has an Internet-based StrengthsFinder® Profile to identify your top 5 strengths. This book provides a brief overview of the strengths categories and how to use them for personal and professional development. Marcus Buckingham follow-up book “GO Put Your Strengths to Work” provides a short survey to determine how engaged your strengths are being utilized at the beginning and end of the program. A six-step, six-week plan helps a tester identify approaches to incorporate strengths into the workweek and manage weaknesses that may be damaging.

Career Plan:
A career plan can include information such as goals, milestones, skill-gaps, knowledge-gaps, and training needs. In a later posting I will be sharing a format of a career plan that you can adopt and modify for your own needs.

How Can You Measure Progress?
It is important to periodically review a career plan to understand progression toward the goals and to determine if any corrective action is necessary. A career plan should be a living document that evolves with developing skills.

In future postings I will share different formats on how you might document and manage your career plan. Let me know how you develop your skills; whether you have a formal plan or capitalize upon opportunities as they arise.

What Will You Do To Develop Your Leadership Potential?

Action Plan
I have posted several articles on suggestions on how you can develop your leadership skills. Hopefully you found this information helpful with a suggestion or two that you can use in developing your skills. Now it is up to you to decide what to do next.

Personal Integrity
Integrity as defined by dictionary.com is the adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; and honesty. I would guess that most people believe they have integrity, as they are honest and ethical people. Lets dig a little deeper into personal integrity and ask a few questions that are important for leaders.

• If I tell someone I will take care of something, do I complete it as promised or does the person need to follow-up with me?
• Do my actions speak louder than my words? Do I live the lifestyle I claim to live?
• Do I gossip and spread rumors?
• Do people feel they can approach me when there is a problem or question?
• Do I have a temper where people do not find me approachable?

There are more questions that could be asked but we have to determine if people trust us and seek us out.

I believe strongly that actions speak louder than words. As an example, we all know it is important to have a good working relationship with the developers and the business people. Do not be a tester who talks about the importance of relationship building – instead lead in that aspect. When there are problems or more information is needed on the business requirement, reach out to the appropriate people and lead those efforts from a testing aspect. Build a reputation in the various functional areas allowing you to tap into those relationships. Just as important encourage these people to seek you out with problems and questions.

Your Personal Integrity Action Plan
What areas do you need to address? How visible are you in key functional areas? Do people seek you out? Why do people seek you out? Why do they not? Starting today what changes can be made to start building more meaningful relationships?

Expertise
Do you have an area of expertise whether it is product knowledge, data processing, or a particular testing approach (i.e., load testing)? How can you take a leadership role in leading lunch and learn sessions, round table discussions or other forms of training and discussions? This could lead to inviting other testers to present their expertise with you overseeing and leading the process.

Your Expertise Action Plan
What are your areas of expertise? How can a leadership role be developed in that area? What expertise would you like to develop? What are the company needs that might be a good fit? Based upon this assessment, what is your plan to achieve these goals?

Journal Clubs
Facilitating journal clubs is a great way to show leadership skills because they can demonstrate organization, communication, time management, and conflict resolution skills. If your company does not have a journal club determine if you can start one whether it is during work hours or afterwards. Refer to my posting for more information on journal clubs.

Your Journal Club Action Plan
Do you think you would enjoy leading a journal club? If yes, be sure to research strategies on facilitating a journal club to ensure it is a beneficial experience to those attending. What are your first steps to move this initiative forward?

What Will You Do?
Throughout this series, I have provided different learning materials and suggestions for developing your leadership skills. Many of these suggestions may not seem like large initiatives and all of them may not be applicable. Plus there are other avenues not discussed in this series. Regardless of your approach, it takes time, practice, and receiving feedback from the right people. Building your leadership skills is similar to building your testing skills. Start small and work your way to larger initiatives.

What are your leadership opportunities and what is your plan to progress your skills and abilities?

Below are links to previous leadership postings that you might find helpful.
Developing Your Leadership Potential
Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops
Books I Read: The CEO and the Monk
Books I Read: Gung Ho!
Developing Your Leadership Skills through a Journal Club
A few more books to develop your leadership skills

A few more books to develop your leadership skills

crossword 14
My recent postings are about how testers can develop their leadership skills. I have shared a few books that have helped me in my career and today I would like to share a few more books. I hope that you are working on finding opportunities to develop your leadership skills. Remember it is okay to start with something small and then continue to build upon your successes.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell (10th anniversary edition)

John discusses 21 laws of leadership with stories of leaders who were successful and those that were not and why they failed. At the end of this book, John provides a leadership evaluation based upon the 21 laws. This assessment allows you to determine where you would like to make changes or the skills you need to add to your leadership team since no one will excel in all 21 areas. This is a good book for both self-assessment of leadership skills while understanding why other leaders succeeded or failed in certain areas. I always enjoy reading stories about other leaders to help me refine my leadership approaches.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Covey talks about making a “paradigm shift” in your life, which is a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works. It is important that you take time to study this book in order to understand and apply the seven habits. Below are the seven habits. Plus you can read more about them through Amazon and Wikipedia.

The first three habits deal with self-mastery: Be Proactive; Begin with the end in mind; and Put first things first.

The next three habits deal with working with others: Think win-win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize (combining the strengths of other people).

The final habit is: Sharpen the saw, which is basically creating an environment of physical and mental renewal.

This is a good book if you are looking to dive deeper into self-awareness and change. But you will need some serious time to work through and apply the material.

Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

This book provides insight on your strengths and talents through an Internet assessment called StrengthsFinder ® Profile. The assessment is a product of a 25-year, multimillion-dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. This book is good if you want to learn more about the gifts you are born with and how to tap into those skills.

Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

This book expands upon your strengths and talents as identified in “Now Discover Your Strengths” through a six-week evolving plan to further develop them. There is an online assessment called “The Strengths Engagement Track” to help you understand how effectively and consistently you are tapping into your strengths. You take the assessment at the beginning and at the end of the program. This assessment is used with the six-week program. This book is good if you are looking for a structured program to tap into your talents. If a team is using this approach, there is a way to link the ID codes to provide an overall team score.

Your Leadership Training Action Plan

Through this leadership series, identify material that is appropriate for how you learn to develop your leadership skills. Identify a leader(s) that you can study his/her leadership style and consider developing an actionable plan. This personal plan can include books to read, blogs to follow, how to protect time for your training, and working with a mentor or coach to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your progress. In a future posting I will write more about creating a career development plan.

Below are links to previous leadership postings that you might find helpful.
Developing Your Leadership Potential
Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops
Books I Read: The CEO and the Monk
Books I Read: Gung Ho!
Developing Your Leadership Skills through a Journal Club