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!!
Mind maps are a wonderful way to provide a graphical, visual representation of information to organize your thoughts and testing approaches. They can be helpful in so many ways including brainstorming sessions, laying out solutions for a problem, note taking, documenting test ideas, and defining goals. I first learn about mind mapping and testing from Darren McMillan – click here for his website. I use them to help organize my testing ideas, test strategies, and research projects. As I am testing I need to know what has been tested, what larger problems remain, and what risks have not been addressed. They can be a great alternative to a written test strategy or test plan document when a lean approach is appropriate. If using a collaborate tool such as mindmeister, multiple testers can update the same mind map. When using a desk top application, a mind map can be copied and sent to several testers so they can update it for their assigned testing.
When creating a mind map, it starts from the center of the document and branches out with cascading lines forming relationships through descriptive words, symbols, and colors. It can be created using paper and pencil. However, developing a mind map using software allows it to become a living document where information can be added, removed, and updated. I often start a mind map and if it gets too large I make a copy to break it out into several maps.
Mind Mapping Software
To get started with creating a mind map, download a free version such as X-Mind, FreeMind, or FreePlane. Mindmeister is another option, which is an online service with a basic free subscription allowing up to 3 free mind maps storing the data in the cloud. For a small monthly fee you can create more than 3 maps and collaborate with other testers. It is wonderful for distributed teams where you can be in different timezones but yet updating the same map. Mindmeister provide applications for the iPad, iPhone, and Android. I use mindmeister and love being able to access my maps regardless of my location. It can be helpful to test a few of the free mind mapping tools to compare ease of use and supported features. For example, X-Mind provides different templates such as: project planning and flowcharting. Once you better understand how you will use a mind mapping tool, you can identify your requirements to review paid products. Or you might find the free tools meet your testing needs.
A Brief History of MindMapping Techniques
Some sources indicate mind mapping techniques, using pictorial methods to document information, have been used for hundreds of years. In recent history, the concept of MindMapping became popular through Dr. Alan Collins, Ross Quilian, and Tony Buzan. During the 1960’s Dr. Alan Collins, considered the Father of Modern Mapping, published extensive research on graphical thinking and learning. Many consider Dr. Collins and Ross Quilian as the ones who shaped the future of mind mapping.
During the late 1960’s Tony Buzan, British psychologist, made the modern mind mapping popular through: defining a set of ten-rules, creating a name for the approach, and registering it as a trademark. To learn more about Tony refer to his website which includes a MindMap to navigate through his website. His MindMap is created through iMindMap and there is a download to a free basic version on the website.
MindMap Example for My Research
Below is an example of a mind map I created to organize my research about learning more about the history of mind mapping and how I might use it in testing. FreeMind was used for this example providing an overview of several ways to organize information. Major topics were identified that includes: Overview of Mind Mapping; Brief History; and Applying to Testing. Additional nodes were created to further define each section. This visual representation of the research became a living document to help track progress, capture research links, and add new information.
To organize the order of these topics a numbering system is used. Other methods would be to rearrange the order of the nodes by physically moving them. The red arrows represent a link to a website. The links are usable through the actual mind map and exporting it as HTML, which presents the nodes and links in an outline format. This is a great way to link your research within your mind map providing a central location for your information. You can add notes to your nodes to provide more details.
Symbols are a quick way to measure your project’s progress. A check mark can be used to identify research that was found to be beneficial or a task that is completed. A red “X” can define articles that were not helpful and will not be used a reference tool or testing ideas that were not performed. A pencil can identify areas that require more research or work.
For purpose of this example, I provided a few more symbols to show how you might use them to visually document information. The light bulb represents “ideas”; paper with pencil represents “refine”; spaceship is “launch”; and magnifying glass is “to be discussed”. There are a lot more symbols and approaches that can be used to create and maintain the mind map. Take some time to explore the functionality provided by the various mind mapping software packages and how you can use it. When creating a map you could add a node as a symbol legend so readers will easily know how you are using each symbol.
Stay tuned as I will be adding more postings discussing mind maps providing different examples on how you might use them in your testing. If you are using mind maps I would be interested in hearing how you find them beneficial.
I am a researcher by heart and I wanted to share a few links on tools and research that may interest you.
History of Mind Mapping: click here
Who Invented Mind Mapping? click here
Mind Map: click here
Theory behind Mind Maps: click here
Tony Buzan: click here
High Five: Five Best Mind Mapping Applications: click here
11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services: click here