Category Archives: Books I Read

Excellent Resources on Test Automation and My Learning Points

Experiences of Test Automation Case Studies of Software Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster
Image courtesy of Amazon

I like to think about Test Automation as providing tools that can execute important checks that might be tedious, time consuming, or there might not be enough time to manually perform those tests. Instead of performing these repetitive, time-consuming tests, the Testers can spend that time exploring risk areas where using their intelligence to make decisions on tests to perform is a better use of their time. (And a lot more fun than performing repetitive tests!)

Test Automation is not a trivial undertaking – research should be conducted to develop a strategy, identify tools, and determine the best approach to automate tests that are being performed manually. Test automation is not a silver bullet and it takes time to develop your approach over time by what you learned.

Do you want to learn more about Test Automation and what has worked and not worked so great at other companies? An excellent book to read that I highly recommend: Experiences of Test Automation Case Studies of Software Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster. This book contains 29 case studies written by those involved with a test automation project. Each case study begins with a background including if the project was successful and if test automation is still being used at that organization. Consider starting a book club where everyone reads a different chapter(s), shares what they learned, and develop a strategic plan for your company on how you might approach test automation or improve your existing approach. (And consider adding food as part of your book club, food always make any event more fun!)

Test Huddle has a series of Test Automation webinars: Click here. As part of Test Huddle, Dorothy Graham has a wonderful webinar “Blunders in Test Automation” you can view by clicking here.

Key Take Aways:

  1. Test automation is not necessarily performed by Testers. It is performed by the person best qualified to use the tool selected that can include the ability to write code!
  2. Test automation does NOT replace Testers but should supplement your testing strategy.
  3. Test automation is basically maintaining a code base to test your Product’s code base.

Below are learning points; however the above resources provide a wealth of information that is not summarized within this posting.

Strategy:

  1. Make it a real project with dedicated people, time, and funding. Start with a small pilot with key objectives and gain buy in for your pilot by key stakeholders.
  2. Start with simple UI tests or smoke tests as a great way to get some initial protection around the code.
  3. Consider test automation strategy by: technology facing tests (unit, components, integration) and business facing tests (acceptance, business, GUI).
  4. Concentrate on testing 1 system first as a model – the system producing the most business (start small, focus on a single but important part of the system).
  5. It is expensive to automate all types of tests including edge cases. Identify what tests need to be in the automation suite. Think about the value of the test and the question it answers or information provided. What is the ROI?
  6. Tool training or employees who have experience with the tool is important to reduce expensive mistakes.
  7. Can Testers write the GUI tests and the Developers write the unit tests? Who will write the business layer tests? That depends on the tool selected and skills of the team.
  8. The developer may write the tests with the Testers running them.
  9. Be sure to include business people when selecting the business layer tests.

Tools & Approach:

  1. New code is often easier to automate than legacy code.
  2. Different tools / programming languages can be used for the test automation pyramid: Unit, acceptance tests, business layer, GUI.
  3. Test automation is good for mature code that is not constantly changing.
  4. Lean regression suites help keep maintenance costs low while still providing value.
  5. Be careful how you write your tests – reduce failures that really are not a problem.
  6. All tests running green do not mean there aren’t any problems.
  7. Once tests are automated, train Developers, Testers to understand how to maintain them.
  8. Determine if the tool needs to clean up after the test was executed.
  9. Ability to run the code across platforms, browsers, releases.

Managing Test Suites:

  1. Different type of test suites: nightly test suite, weekly test suite, candidate test suite.
  2. Keep the tests small and maintain the flexibility to run tests in logical test suites to reduce the time it takes to execute them. For example:
    1. you may need to execute some key tests during the day when time is running low.
    2. you may execute core tests with every new build for critical functionality.

Support:

  1. Strong management support is necessary to understand the cost of the pilot program and long-term support that includes ongoing maintenance of modifying and adding automated tests.
  2. Strong collaboration with Development is important – code needs to be written in a manner that it can have automated tests written.
  3. Make the benefits of test automation visible to stakeholders for continued support.
  4. Ideally Developers / Testers are dedicated to test automation to ensure that new and changed code is being reviewed to determine tests to add or tests to change.
  5. Identify different champions: tool champion, change agent, stakeholders, etc.

Metrics:

  1. Count number of tests for each test tool – trend over time to see how the tests increase in number.
  2. Send business users a calendar of green vs red if any of the tests are red.
  3. Build time is a critical metric since it includes the time to run the automated tests.
  4. On what O/S were more bugs found and frequency?
  5. Detection rate of bugs for tests. What tests found the most bugs? No bugs? Is the percentage of green tests trending upwards over time?

My Rewarding Experience as a Reviewer and Contributor to “More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team” by Janet Gregory and Lisa Crispin

More Agile Testing
Picture courtesy of Amazon and where you can order this excellent book!

For many years I have written articles for the Testing Community and shared them through Testing Circus and Tea-Time with Testers. One warm summer day in July 2013, I received a pleasant email from Lisa Crispin asking if I would like to be one of the reviewers and contributors to their upcoming book that would compliment their existing book “Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams”. It was an honor to be asked and of course my response confirmed my interest. An international review team was brought together comprising of people with different experiences and expertise in their fields.

This was a rewarding experience both professionally and personally as there were many learning opportunities reviewing the chapters and discussions with the team. Checking my email was fun since there was a potential for an email from Lisa and Janet announcing what was ready for review or from a fellow reviewer with a question to foster a lively discussion. New chapters were quickly printed for when there would be time to review, digest, and comment on them. Lisa and Janet worked with the reviewers to help us identify where we could contribute sidebars to their new book. It was fun reading what the other reviewers were writing based upon their experience. For me, this is what really makes this book come alive – Lisa and Janet are sharing a lot of valuable information that is supplemented by real-life experiences. As an example I enjoyed reading how other Testers are using Session-Based Testing and Thread-Based Testing to meet the challenges of testing in a fast-paced environment!

It was a great opportunity to witness how a book comes together, the chapters under review might not be named nor are they in the order of the final publication. As the book evolved, chapters may be combined or information moved to a different chapter. After reviewing each chapter it was interesting to read the book cover to cover. It reminds me of a movie production where scenes are filmed out of order and then brought together to tell the story.

Once the draft book was completed, there was a great sense of accomplishment and a feeling of disappointment. Being part of a community working towards a common goal is fulfilling and exciting. It reminds me of working with a great project team. When the project is done there is pride of the work completed but yet a sadness that the project is completed.

The information and experiences within this book series is part of the overall testing picture. As an artist blends together different colors and uses different tools to create a beautiful piece of artwork, we do the same in Software Testing. We blend together different approaches and techniques to design and execute testing strategies to tackle complex testing problems.

As with the first Agile book, there are great learning opportunities for you to determine how to apply the information to further your testing career and tackle testing problems. As an example I love the “Pillars of Testing” model by David Evans designed with different factors that integrate to improve our confidence in the information we provide about the Quality of the Product we test. This model helped me think through the different factors to understand our strengths and weaknesses in each area of this model. Adam Knight’s discussion on “T-Shaped Skills” inspired me to think differently about training by identifying the “deeper” skills required for different flavors of technical testing and Product testing. At this time, my background includes limited automated testing experience; however, this book provides a foundation for me to better understand both the benefits and challenges to have a reasonable conversation. The chapter on “Thinking Skills for Testing” is excellent and in particular I like how Sharon Robson discussed that you need to use different type of thinking based upon the problem such as when to use critical thinking, analytical thinking, and creative thinking. Plus sample tools are suggested that can be researched further.

Lastly and most importantly, I would like to thank Janet and Lisa for this wonderful opportunity and to their continual dedication to the Testing Community. My recommendation for my readers is that you will add this book to your testing toolbox and discover how it will influence your testing world!

Over a Cup of Tea – My Interview with Tea-Time with Testers

Earl Grey Tea and Scones

As I have mentioned in a previous posting, I have a lot of admiration for Lalitkumar Bhamare and I was honored when he asked me for an interview for his excellent e-magazine. His interview provides some insight into my professional and personal life. So grab a cup of tea and perhaps a hot scone to not only read my interview but to also enjoy the wonderful articles written by Testers from around the world! My preference is loose Earl Grey Supreme by Harney and Sons. Speaking of scones… here is a great recipe for scones!

Click here for my interview.

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

Books I Read: Gung Ho!

Gung Ho
Photo Credit

As part of my series on developing your leadership skills, I am sharing my thoughts on the book – Gung Ho!: Turn on the People in Any Organization by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. It is a book I read earlier in my career and found it helpful then and still relevant after all these years.

Gung Ho! is a book that you can easily read in an evening or two. It is written as a parable intended to help you tap into what motivates employees or team members. This book is easy to read and filled with common sense appropriate for anyone leading a small team, department, division, or a company. The approaches in this book are good for leading a team that has low morale. You should be able to learn new ideas to tap into the strengths of your team. Or you might refresh your memory on these approaches providing inspiration to tap into them again.

We are introduced to a plant that is in major trouble. Productivity and morale is low and most likely will close in about a year’s time. A new General Manager is appointed and she teams up with an Operations Manager who turned his department around with an approach called “Gung Ho”. The goal was to spread this concept throughout the plant over the next year in order to save it from closing. Gung Ho is based upon three principles to boost enthusiasm and performance in a work group or organization. The three principles include: the Spirit of the Squirrel; the Way of the Beaver; and the Gift of the Goose.

The Spirit of the Squirrel represents teamwork. If you ever watched a group of squirrels before winter they work hard as a team. They have a goal to gather and store food; otherwise they will not survive the winter. Translate to: worthwhile work leading to shared goals.

The Way of the Beaver represents controlling your own destiny and deciding how work is to be completed. If you watch a group of beavers you will notice there is not a leader. They work hard to get the job done; however how are they accomplishing their goal without a leader? Translate to: in control of achieving the goals.

The Gift of the Goose represents encouragement. Geese travel in a V format with a goose leading them. Periodically a different goose will lead. While they are flying the geese will honk to encourage one another. Translate to: cheering others on.

Overall this translates to: power of meaningful work; empowering team members; and the exponential factor of motivation. Taking these three simple concepts can help you take a team to higher productivity while providing meaningful work and empowering them to make decisions. Even though these concepts are simple in nature, they can be difficult to implement. Start with providing meaningful work to your team and be sure they have a shared goal. Perhaps they do not understand the meaning or purpose behind their work. How can you bridge that gap? Once they have a shared goal, how can they take more control on deciding the best way to approach their assignments? They are closer to the work being performed and most likely have great ideas on how to complete the tasks. Do not confuse mentoring and coaching your team with dictating how to complete the job. Lastly, encourage your team. Provide positive feedback on their accomplishments. It can be easy to fall into the trap of only providing feedback when something goes wrong. Celebrate the team’s success when they meet milestones or major deliverables.

You can purchase this book on Amazon.

How can you take these three simple concepts to start changing your leadership style? For me, it is a good refresher to review these concepts. I will challenge myself to see where I can make changes in each of these areas.

Books I Read: The CEO and the Monk

The CEO and the Monk
Photo Credit

As part of my series on developing your leadership skills, I will be sharing a few books that I have read and found beneficial over the years. See Developing Your Leadership Potential and Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops for the first two parts of this series.

The CEO and the Monk is an enjoyable book that is written from three perspectives: the author, the CEO, and the Monk. This book is easy to read especially since the events are presented from three different viewpoints. It is about a corporation called KeySpan, a publicly traded $6 billion New York based energy company. For me this was an amazing story of ethics and faith in an industry that is known to be cut-throat and all about profits. Of course KeySpan has shareholders to satisfy and Wall Street is watching their every move – but it was refreshing to see the human element involved in the decisions made. I have worked for large corporations and have witness how decisions are made based upon profit and loss often without regard to the human cost.

The monk, Kenny Moore, left cloistered life in the monastery after 15-years and ends up being an influential confidant of Bob Catell, Chairman of KeySpan. Kenny does not have a MBA or a business education but he becomes the conscious of KeySpan, which is not an easy job! The company is going through a lot of changes and anyone who has been in a change agent role knows how difficult it can be to influence change. You need to balance the profitability of the company, gain buy-in from senior management, and understand what changes would be best for the employees. Then somehow you need to bring that all together. Of course you find your champions who will work with you to influence and implement change. I liked Kenny’s non-business tactic of using a “funeral” as a way to help the employees’ transition from the old way of working to a new future. Kenny is a different type of leader with his stoic, dry humor – but ultimately he was a confidant to the CEO while being a champion for the employees.

Robert Catell became the CEO of KeySpan in 1991. He oversaw the transformation of a small Brooklyn gas company into one of the nation’s largest and most successful energy company. A common problem for many CEOs is that senior management provides the information they think the CEO wants to hear instead of providing the message they need to hear. That often takes a lot of courage to provide that message. Kenny had that courage making his partnership with Robert very strong and perhaps a bit unusual. Robert understood to lead his 100-year old company through the next decade he needed to build it from more than a business perspective. He needed to tap into the company’s soul.

Glenn Rifkin is the author of this book and he has written for the New York Times and has coauthored other business books. I like how Glenn sets the stage for the chapter with the CEO and the Monk then providing their thoughts on the topic. I really love this style of presenting information because you gain a well-balanced picture from different perspectives.

As a side note, I attended a lecture where Kenny was the guest speaker. He is a great storyteller with a very dry sense of humor! On YouTube you can find a series of videos where he talks about his background, family, and his time at KeySpan. This is a good book if you are looking for a true story of leadership and ethics. You can purchase this book through Amazon.

Books I Read: Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Crucial Conversations
Picture Credit: Amazon

It is important to develop your communication skills to better handle conflict and different types of conversations. There are a lot of people I admire because they can handle a conversation that has the potential of becoming hostile or provide bad news in a non-confrontational manner. Or someone who can gain buy-in on a new approach from his or her peers and management. As testers it is important we develop our communication skills, as we need to provide information to developers, business analysts, and other stakeholders. Sometimes we need to provide information that no one really wants to hear when a release is close to going to production and we uncovered a serious problem. How can we communicate the risks in a manner that our voice is heard?

I found a wonderful book that provides a solid communication model “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. I find their dialog model helpful when preparing for conversations or when you suddenly find yourself in a difficult situation. Imagine you are having a conversation with a developer that is not going well. You need to find a win-win solution – here is a model that can help you.

Below is a brief overview of the model; but you will need to either read the book or attend one of their training programs to fully understand the model and application. Their website provides many wonderful free tools and they have a free newsletter providing feedback to reader’s questions on how to address different types of conversations. You can purchase their book through Amazon.

Start with Heart:
What do you really want to happen?
Example: I want to come to agreement with the developer on the importance of this bug.

Learn to Look:
Look for safety problems in the conversation.
Example: the developer thinks I am attacking his code, I need to find a way to make this conversation safe for him.

Make it Safe:
Look for mutual purpose or mutual respect.
Example: both the developer and tester wants minimize any important bugs from going to production.

Master My Stories:
Stay with the facts and understand the purpose of this conversation.
Example: attacking a developers coding abilities is not going to help the situation. Stay with the facts on what we are witnessing in testing in regards to the bug.

STATE My Path:
Share your facts
Tell your story
Ask for others’ paths
Talk tentatively
Encourage testing

Example: The tester should not be doing all of the talking. Listen to what the developer has to say for a meaningful dialog.

Explore Others’ Path:
Understand their path.
Example: if the developer does not think this is a critical bug, listen to why he feels that way. What are his facts? Repeat them back to him to see if you understand.

Move to Action:
Determine who does what and by when.
Example: if the conclusion is the tester and developer disagrees on the bug’s severity, agree to whom to escalate the problem.

Your Communication Skills Action Plan
What communication skills do you need to address? How well do you handle conflict or interacting with people who have different opinions? If you are not sure, go to Crucial Conversations website. Under Resource Center, Tools + Assessment, complete the free assessment. I found this assessment useful to improving my communication approach. Plus there are different checklists to help you get started. Once this is completed, what is your plan to improve those skills?

If you decide to read this book, let me know how it helped you. Plus if you sign-up for their free newsletter you will have the opportunity to see how others use it to work through problems. I am often asked by testers for books they should read. Crucial Conversations is part of my top 3 books. It is important we can communicate what we witness during testing whether it is to clarify expectations or raise a red flag. I will always encourage testers to work on their skills such as testing techniques and problem-solving. But do not forget to further your communication skills.

Books I Read: Love ‘EM or Lose ‘EM by Beverly Kane & Sharon Jordan-Evans

Love em
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

As the subtitle of this book indicates “26 Engagement Strategies for Busy Managers”. It is a great reference for any manager, supervisor, or team leader. I do not have time to read every book cover to cover. I tend to purchase books that I can use as a reference tool. This book provides engagement and retention strategies from A through Z. As an example, chapter 13 is: Mentor Be One. It is not a structured mentoring program that you might find through your HR department, but guidelines that anyone can use right now. The authors define Mentor as:

Model what you want your employees to do.
Encourage and support your people during the good times and bad.
Nurture their ideas, relationships, and them!
Teach or tell it like it is. Help them avoid those
Organizational minefields that are never written about in any policy manual
Reality

The authors spend several pages on discussing their mentoring model that you can use immediately. Many of the chapters have exercises, worksheets, examples, and to do lists to summarize each chapter. It is an easy book to read and most likely you will not read it cover to cover. I would recommend that you select one chapter and take some time to work through the material. This is a hands-on book that works best if you work through the exercises and then adapt them to your environment. The recommendations can apply to any department as employee retention is important for all businesses. The material will get you started but is not in-depth. If you were looking to introduce a structured mentoring program in your organization this book would not guide you through all the steps. But if you are looking for a few ideas and a starting point, then this is a good book. If you know someone who has recently been promoted to a managerial position, consider providing her with a copy. For those who have been in management for many years, can still find value with the tips and suggestions.

You can purchase this book through Amazon.

Books I Read: Hiring Geeks That Fit by Johanna Rothman

Hiring Geeks That Fit
Picture courtesy of Amazon.

I started my career working in Human Resources as a Compensation Analyst. As part of that job I did my own programming in order to analyze wage data to make recommendations on competitive pay practices. In that role I also wrote job descriptions and worked closely with the recruiters since I needed to understand the job responsibilities in order to price a job. I did not realize how much that knowledge would be helpful as a manager when I needed to write job descriptions and recruit. From my Masters in Strategic Leadership I conducted a research project on onboarding and training new employees.

Many people will not have my background so I was happy when I read Johanna Rothman’s book “Hiring Geeks That Fit”. She does a wonderful job in laying out a recruitment strategy from the initial planning of the skills and responsibilities required of the new employee through ensuring you have an onboarding and training plan when they start. Remember the first day is critical because you want your new employee to go home happy that she joined your department!

Johanna provides a lot of templates and valuable examples to get you started. You can easily adapt them to the position you are recruiting. Even though I have a lot of experience in the areas covered in her book, whenever I am recruiting I pull out my Kindle and skim through this book. I always pick up a few ideas and it helps challenge my thinking. In particular I like the idea of providing a recruitment focus to each person on the interview team. Too many times when we recruit we send in several people to interview and they all ask similar questions. With a bit of planning we can do a better job in the questions we ask to evaluate the candidate’s fit and to provide her with more information on the job. Recruitment is a two-way road. Not only are we interviewing the candidate but she is also interviewing us to determine if our company and job is a good fit.

Regardless if you have a lot of experience in hiring employees or you are a new manager and this is your first hire – you need to get a copy of this book! For those who are new to recruitment, I recommend you read it from cover to cover and go through the exercises. They are important in helping you understand what skills you really need and to bridge that information to your interview team. If you are not the hiring manager but are part of an interview team, I do believe you will find value from this book in framing questions and evaluating the candidates. For those of us who have done a lot of hiring this a great reference book.

You can find Johanna’s book on Amazon.