I wanted to let everyone know about a new website called: Women in Testing started by Jay Philips CEO & President of Project Realms, Inc. & TeamQualityPro.
If you are a woman in testing or if you know of any women in testing please let them know about this new website. It contains bios of women in testing; information on different events such as conferences and webinars; and a newsletter. Plus there is a Facebook page and a Twitter account – plus more is coming!
If you would like to be listed in the directory click here. I hope to see you listed on Women in Testing!
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!!
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:
- What do I enjoy most about leading a project? Leading a team? Developing a team?
- If you could change something about your leadership style, what would it be?
- What project did you feel professional satisfaction, from a leadership perspective, and why?
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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
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
2013 is almost gone and it is a great time to think about your accomplishments and how you have grown in your career plus to start thinking about 2014. I believe that every tester can develop his/her leadership skills regardless of job title. Refer to my earlier postings on developing your leadership skills, click here, here, here, and here. As part of your 2014 development plan, consider how you can further your leadership skills. If you are not sure how to begin, I would recommend starting a journal club.
In Tea Time With Testers, February 2012 issue, I wrote an article on facilitating a journal club. Click here to read that article with tips on starting and managing a journal club.
To get started you need a few people who have an interest to read and discuss an article. As you progress you might select a book where each meeting you cover a chapter. But sometimes starting small with an article or video is a good way to begin.
At the basic level, you need to identify a location, time, and dates. The journal club might be held during a lunch break or after work. It might be a monthly or bi-weekly meeting. If possible, have a regular schedule to avoid confusion on when the group is meeting. I like to make the meetings casual and not business-like. If possible meet in a coffee shop or if you must meet at work find a location that is comfortable.
As the leader you will tap into a lot of different skills – for some of them you may need to prepare before the meeting. For example, knowing how you are going to open the meeting and encourage people to participate if the conversation stalls. For other areas you may need to improve your skills through reading books and blogs. For example, handling conflict within the group might not be an area you are comfortable. In that situation you will need to find a way to develop that skill. A book that might help you is Crucial Conversations. Read my review on this book by clicking here.
Below are just a few leadership areas of facilitating a journal club:
- Leading the meeting
- Open the meeting in a manner that others will participate in the discussion.
- Encourage the discussion to progress down different avenues or viewpoints.
- End the meeting by summarizing what was discussed and briefly discuss the next journal club.
- Encouraging quite people to participate
- Make sure everyone feels the journal club is a safe environment to express and discuss opinions.
- If necessary, ask people specific questions that might help them express their opinion and experiences.
- Manage those who tend to take over the meeting
- Monitor the meeting to ensure everyone has an opportunity to express opinions without allowing one person to dominate the meeting.
- Learn how to allow people with more dominant personalities to participate without it become his/her meeting.
- Balance conflicting opinions to allow for a meaningful conversation
- A difference of opinions is healthy and necessary – find a way to tap into the differences to further the discussion.
- Do not allow anyone’s opinion to be marginalized – people may not want to return if it is not a positive experience.
- Selecting articles that the group will find meaningful
- Keep the journal club fresh and interesting to encourage people to return.
- Encourage the journal club members to recommend articles and topics.
If you have any experiences with leading a journal club, please tell me you story. What worked? What did not work?
I will continue to share experiences and learning material to develop your leadership skills. Hopefully you will find a few of these articles helpful to your career. If there is any particular topic you would like covered, just let me know.
In my first posting I started a discussion on leadership and what it can mean to testers. I want to share Teri Charles article called “Be the Leader You Want in Your Life”. Teri shares some great insight that I completely agree with so I hope you will take some time to read her article. I am impressed how Teri is always learning to improve her testing skills and knowledge.
There is a whole industry of leadership books, videos, and seminars describing or led by inspirational leaders to help you develop your leadership abilities. It can be rather overwhelming to sift through all the potential opportunities. Over the next few postings, I will discuss a few books that influenced my career.
Personally, I enjoy reading about leaders from different disciplines to challenge my own leadership style and approaches. A couple of books I read earlier in my career includes: “The CEO and the Monk” and “Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization”. Plus when there is time I enjoy reading Harvard Business Review, which can provide guidance on handling conflict, problems, team building, and other valuable advice. I like how they present different sides of a problem that you can analyze and decide what would you do if you were in that situation. Then different business leaders provide their insight.
Currently I am reading John C. Maxwell’s 10th anniversary edition of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You”. Remember that leadership is not a static action – like testing you are always learning and developing your leadership skills. As such John published a 10th anniversary of his book to share with his readers what he has learned since its original publication.
From a broader development perspective, I am a fan of actionable models. There are several books that I have found beneficial. They include:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
- Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham
I usually take my time reading these books since I like to read a chapter, let it sink in a bit, and see how I can apply what I am learning to my leadership style. I tend to take notes or outline the concepts to help me work through the material. I might write a brief plan on how I will handle situations differently. My books tend to have sections highlighted and I use small sticky notes to tag important pages. I tend to purchase them in a physical book format instead of for my Kindle. I like that you can highlight text on the Kindle but a physical book allows me to quickly flip between pages.
Do you have any favorite leadership books? Do you prefer a physical book or reading on your Kindle?
There are a lot of great leaders within the testing community. Most everyone could produce a list of whom they consider a leader and the qualities that they admire about them. However, I do have a concern that the “leadership” label can actually prevent testers from recognizing their own potential. Too many testers believe if they do not have the “right” title they cannot be leaders. Some testers will have “leader” in their job title such as a “team leader”. They may lead a team of testers to meet a testing deadline by providing direction and oversight. Others will have “leadership” implied in the job function. A senior software tester may provide leadership through decision-making and solving complicated testing problems to provide guidance to more junior testers. The Testing Manager may provide leadership through sharing vision and strategic direction. I would like to dedicate a few postings to talk more about developing your leadership potential and opportunities – regardless of your job title.
How do you define “leadership”? Depending upon whom you ask, they may provide a slightly different definition. Below are definitions from popular leadership experts and from the online business dictionary.
Dr. Stephen R Covey teacher, organizational consultant, and author:
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”
Dr. John Kotter, Harvard Business School and the Chief Innovation Officer at Kotter International. From HBR Blog network January 9, 2013:
“It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy.”
From the online Business Dictionary:
The activity of leading a group of people or an organization or the ability to do this. Leadership involves:
- establishing a clear vision,
- sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly,
- providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision,
- coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.
A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring.
Whose Leadership Do you Admire?
Create a list of testers who inspire you and whose leadership you admire. What makes them a good leader? Did they receive a promotion and suddenly people started to follow them? Or did they build a reputation over time where earned respect resulted in people seeking them out and following their direction? How many of them had “leadership” in their title or job function?
There are many testers I admire for their leadership skills – often I do not know their job title or job responsibilities. I respect the ability to identify and progress a vision that is adopted by other testers. The creation and evolution of weekend testing is a perfect example. There were the initial testers who led the initiative and then testers around the world stepped into leadership roles to create and evolve their chapters. I admire those who become a champion for different approaches such as documenting test ideas and strategies. A great example is the teaching and sharing of practical examples on how to use a tool like mind maps. The leadership I have witnessed by several testers has influenced many testers throughout the world to adopt mind maps as a testing tool.
Throughout the years, I have witnessed leadership within companies I am employed by testers stepping into this role when their title and job function does not indicate “leadership”. Some have taken the lead when a project is in trouble. Other testers have taken the initiative to learn complex functionality to lead those testing efforts. While other testers excelled in their communication ability to present new ideas for acceptance by other testers.
When testers believe that they need to be in the right job before they can become leaders, they can actually limit their career progression. Typically people are promoted once they demonstrate the ability to perform higher-level position responsibilities. This should not be interpreted that you should only work on your leadership skills when there is a promotion opportunity. Developing these opportunities can make your current position more rewarding. Becoming a leader is not like turning a light bulb on and off. I receive a promotion and now I can be a leader. This is flawed thinking that I have witnessed in the testing community. Leadership presence is not a title instead it requires influence and respect that is earned through your actions. For example, it is making eye contact, personal connections, building trust and respect, and acknowledging other people’s skills and abilities. Leaders initiate communication and relationships with other people – they do not wait for people to seek them out.
So you might be wondering how to develop your leadership potential. Leaders identify opportunities and take calculated risks. We have seen that with the examples I discussed in this article. However, do not be concerned that you need to start off with something big. Find small opportunities to develop your leadership skills, reputation, and consider developing your own learning plan.
What have you done to develop your leadership potential? What could you be doing now to be a better leader?
One aspect of management that I have always enjoyed is sponsoring an internship program. I have sponsored these programs for software testers, business analysts, and other technical professionals. I love working with college students to help them discover a new field or expand their knowledge in a discipline they have chosen.
One comment I hear is how difficult it is to find good testers. Those of us who live in the “rust belt” region understand the challenges. Recently I watched Erik Davis “CAST Live” discussion on this problem. Click here to hear what Erik has to say about the problem. One option to this problem is to start an internship program that may allow you to fill open positions and help educate people what testing is really about. In this posting I am sharing some guidelines that helped me start a program.
Things to Consider
Before starting an internship program consider the following points in relation to the length of the internship program:
If you do not have time to properly train or work with the intern then perhaps sponsoring a program is not a good idea.
Job Posting and Local Colleges
Write a brief job posting of what you are hoping to achieve from the internship and any basic requirements. Contact your local colleges to understand what departments may have students that meet your objectives. Many times they want a job posting to send out to their students. I have found that some colleges are great sources for filling a short-term internship whereas others are better at fulfilling internships with students who are interested in future employment.
Paid Versus Not-Paid
Sometimes the student will receive college credit for the internship. Companies may offer an hourly rate to encourage students to apply. I recommend that you pay your interns. Often the college student needs the money for tuition, books, and living expenses. Plus if you define your internship correctly as to expectations and find the right interns, you should receive testing beyond checking exercises.
When interviewing the students, remember they may not have a lot of experience to discuss so your approach needs to be different. Scale back the intensity of the questions you ask. Spend time talking about the testing field and the role they will fulfill in your company. Most likely they will not know anything about testing. And many people think of testers as checkers. Try to tap into something they enjoy (ie., playing video games, Facebook) and relate it to the testing field. I often start interns with regression testing and easy bug fixes. I let them know their role can be expanded based upon how quickly they learn and their desire to take on more responsibility.
I usually look for students with good work ethics and show an interest in learning more about our product. If you have any younger testers who may relate to the students, consider pairing them with a more experience tester during the interview. This provides the younger tester with interviewing experience. Plus he may relate to the student talking about his initial experience entering the work place as a tester.
Review your current testing onboarding program. Identify important areas that the intern will need to successfully complete his assignments. Try to narrow it down to what he really needs to not overwhelm him. You can always provide him with additional training material throughout the program. If you had a younger tester part of the interview process, talk to him about his initial job experiences. What helped him? What would have helped him? The great part of going through this exercsie for an intern is you can expand this approach when you hire testers straight out of college!
It is helpful to identify a mentor for the intern to ask questions. If you are the manager or team leader you may not always be available to assist him. Having a dedicated contact is beneficial to the learning process.
Look for testing assignments that are contained in scope and are easier to learn. If your department test reports, identify an easier report to train him. Provide a demo on the report’s functionality and then identify small testing assignments ensuring you provide sufficient guidance. Do not provide too much structure to your training program so you can adjust it based upon how quickly the intern learns. I have found that some interns have a natural appitude for testing and transition into a software testing job. While others may enjoy the internship but will pursue a different career path.
Have you worked with any interns? How did it go?