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3 Testers, 3 Stories

One of the benefits of getting older is that you can tell stories. No, not the stories you heard but the stories that you observed. So here are my three stories based upon lives of three real testers but am hiding their identity and making the story more generic.

If you are wondering why you should read these stories, let me entice you by informing that they’ll help you plan your career better.

And by the way, this name is borrowed from the famous Urdu magazine category called “teen auratein, teen kahaniaan” (3 women, 3 stories).

Meet Tester Alif. She started her career in software testing by accident but in first few years of her career, she really liked testing as profession. She took pride in breaking software and stopping releases by reporting obnoxious bugs. As the time passed, her excitement went away. She started to believe the repetitive nature of testing is kind of boring. She tried to reinvent herself by joining a new team or new organization, but she never enjoyed testing as she used to do in the early times.

Alif took a decision. She left testing and became a Programmer. First she felt uncomfortable with this new role and her old friends mocked her a lot. But after spending some time, she became comfortable. She had doubts that she will get bored with Programming as she got bored with Testing, but she didn’t. Many years have gone and Alif is now an accomplished Programmer. Many people actually don’t know that Alif was once a Tester.

Now let’s review life of Tester Bay. He chose software testing as career as he had a knack for finding issues in even apparently unblemished work. He became an expert Black Box tester very quickly and got a repute of someone who can find big bugs at will. He progressed nicely and became a test lead like role and taught the skills of testing to his junior members. As the time passed, Bay started feeling relaxed as if he knows every trick of the trade. He became more and more a person who managed technical stuff but not do much technical stuff himself. He became dull and kind of useless though he never realized.

Bay has had some miserable years lately. He was laid off from one job though quickly got another. But within six month or so, the lack of depth in his skills was evident and he was put on a project that is not much important. Bay thinks he is doing good and his job is safe but anyone who has little understanding can predict a bleak future for Bay.

Let me introduce you the third and last tester in this series. Tester Jeem became a tester by chance as he applied for a Design job but was offered a testing job. He started it reluctantly thinking that he will soon quit it. But he started to like testing. The fun of exploring new stuff, the spotlight he got for helping his team achieve excellence, the confidence he got by understanding the internals of the software he tested made his job a fun. He grew in the ladder and became a technical tester who had a team working with him on key projects for his team. He occasionally thought to switch his career to his ambition to become a Designer but he felt that there is so much new stuff coming in Testing profession that can keep him moving for many years he can foresee.

Jeem also became an advocate for testing profession. He started to tweet about it, started joining Meetups and training, started reading lot of books/blogs and was a source of information for many testers around him. Jeem has decided to remain a Tester for the rest of his life.

That ends the three stories folks. I know you were expecting more dramatic than they are above but I told you they are real stories.

Usually I like the notion of “Story is more important than the moral of the story”, but if you want one from above, here you go:

Never Be like “Bay”. Always be like “Alif” or “Jeem”

Or to make it generic:

Do what you love. And if you don’t love it, quit it

Do these stories look familiar to you? Have you spent your life as Alif, Bay or Jeem?

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Ghalib on Communication

Chacha Ghalib continues to inspire many souls in this land but I’m sure that he has said things that use the ordinary language of a “love affair” but actually depict deeper thoughts about life. Earlier I covered his thoughts on Quality and today I thought to share my understanding of some of his thoughts on Communication.

Aagahee

Aagahee Daam e shuneedan jis qadar chaahay bichhayay

Mudaa anqa hay apnay aalam e taqreer ka

The very first entry in short selection of Ghalib’s Ghazals talks about how communication is interpreted and Ghalib says: “It is up to you how you want to extend the original words that you have listened because who and how it was said is not there”. So many times, the message gets lost in the layers of management and the vision set by a CEO is just thought as totally irrelevant thing by the actual employee who is supposed to strive for achieving that vision. So it is very important that the message is sent again and again and preferably by your own presence. No one else can explain what you want to say. Agile manifesto is another example of how it is adapted by different teams in different ways. It is okay to have variations but if it is against the spirit of what was said then it really hurts.

Taqreer Lazzat

Daikhna Taqreer ke lazzat kay jo uss nay kaha

Main nay yeh jaana kay goya yeh bhe meray dil main hay

Ghalib knew that art of communication is not to impress upon the rational minds but it is more about the feelings that are associated with hearts. He says “See how delicious are his words such that whatever he said, I felt all of this is already there in my heart”. So many researches are now there to knowing your audience and say things that connect with them. If the listeners don’t feel what you are saying, then you’ll not be able to move them and follow your message.

Aankh Tasveer

Aankh kee tasveer sarnaamay pay kheenchy hay kay taa

Tujh pay khul jaaway kay iss ko hasrat e Deedar hay

This is one of the beauties and what might have appeared then as a bizarre concept, it is now widely accepted that “A picture is worth thousand words”. Ghalib says “I have drawn the picture of eye on the envelope of my letter, so that you can know that writer has a deep desire to meet you”. Drawing an eye to say “Hey, I wanna meet you” is a brilliant idea and facebook also realized lately that they need more emoticons for expressing feelings. The lesson is clear that since our mind is trained towards seeing the world first and then reading words, a picture says much more than words. That is why I mostly have some descriptive picture on each of my blog post.

PaighamZubaani

Day kay khat munh daikhtay hay Naama bar

Kuch to paighaam zubaani aur hay

Ghalib knows that verbal communication surpasses over written communication and says “The one who brought me your letter is looking at me after handing over the letter. There must be a verbal message that is not in the writing”. If you work in any environment where emails are primary way of communication, you should know that emails bring no emotion and are so confusing. I have seen teams sitting in same hall or same location and exchanges dozens of emails in a day. It would have been much better if you stand up from your desk and just walk to the person and talk at length. The verbal communications are two way and reveal how other person is feeling. Ah those feelings, understanding them and responding them accordingly is what good communication is all about.

Nafas e Bay Asar

Bhalaa ussay na sahee kuch mujhee ko raham aata

Asar meray nafas e bay asar main khaak naheen

“If he didn’t care, at least I should have shown some mercy. Because whatever I was saying was having no impact on him”. I think Ghalib wants to say that if you are boring, then at least you should be short. So many times you sit in presentations that kill you of lengthy boredom and so many times you start a blog post and leave midway as it is too long and not being interesting. I usually use a yardstick to have a blog post of about 500-800 words because I know that I can be boring at times. Another rule suggested by some experts is to limit emails to a screen length so that they become easy on the readers.

With that in mind, I had listed down many other verses but I cut short here.

Have poetry impressed you to improve upon your communication? If so, let us know please.

The illusion of best practices

When we are kids, we like to believe that world is a simple place.

Our teacher in playgroup or prep or nursery classes would tell us that “Sun rises from the East and sets in the West”. We like this simple concept because it is in accordance with our daily observation and more importantly it is an easy concept to digest for a kid of just a few years age.

As we grow, we are told that Sun is not rotating but it is our Earth that rotates which gives us an effect of Sunrise and Sunset. As we get into higher classes, we are told that Earth also rotates around it’s own orbit and Sun has many other planets. We are then told that Solar system is just one of the so many Galaxies in the space. We are told that we are living in an ever expanding Universe and we are told of something known as Black Holes and theories of Big Bang. We are told that we are not certain if we are expanding or moving to a certain point or we are just hanging around. This very complex nature of the Universe is simplified for us as kids to believe that world is easy: “Sun rises from the East and sets in the West”.

Similarly when we start our professional study or professional career, we like to believe that world is a simple place. There are some rules that if we follow, we can be successful in our business. If we add these magical lines in our CVs, we’ll get our dream jobs. If we network in these best ways, we can excel in anything we want to achieve. We tend to believe that there are some “best practices” that if we get to know and master them, we’ll be the champions in what we do.

This is as simplified version of the world as simplifying the Universe to Sun rises and Sun sets.

The only best practice is that there is no best practice

dt131231_BestPractices

This Dilbert strip was taken from here: http://theleanthinker.com/2013/12/31/the-problem-with-best-practices/

What we forget when we are in search of best practices is that world is a complex place. Each individual has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, each of us operate in a different region of the world in contrasting cultures, each of us have different values and different meanings of the outcome. What works for me may not work for you. What we need to do is to understand the situation, apply some practices, evaluate the results and keep tweaking them.

You may be tricked to say that see here is the best practice:

Understand the situation, apply some practices, evaluate the results and keep tweaking them

If you are thinking in this way, this is due to the reason that we don’t want to leave our childhood and we love stories and we love simplified versions of the world. The above is not a best practice.

Read more about why there are no best practices in testing or in general.

What are your thoughts on best practices?