I’m uTest’s 2012 Mentor of the Year!

For the past 3 years, uTest recognizes uTesters who have consistently gone above and beyond their call of duty. uTest recently announced their selections for the 2012 testers of the year and I was selected as the 2012 Mentor of the Year!

Wow! What a thrill!

As I’ve mentioned many times, uTest provides us testers with many opportunities to grow and develop our testing skills. We are constantly exposed to new products, devices, and customers. The uTest forum always keeps us up to date on the latest testing trends and hot debate topics. But uTest offers us more than opportunities to learn; uTest also provides a platform for us to teach and mentor.

My greatest thrill comes when uTesters comment on how one of my posts helped or inspired them. It’s the motivation behind everything I write. It’s a privilege to be able to influence new uTesers as they evolve into highly-skilled and respected testers.

uTest has assembled a community of testers ready to learn, but that need must be met by those willing to teach. Every tester has knowledge they’ve gained through study and experience. No matter how simple it may seem, that information is valuable. If you’re brave enough to share what you have learned, you’ll experience the amazing feeling of knowing you are positively impacting your community and industry.

I am truly honored to receive this award and I want to extend my sincere thanks to the uTest team and the uTester community.

If you care to read any of my “uMentor” posts, they are all located here.

uTest – My First 100 Cycles

So I’m a little late, I’m actually at 138 cycles, but I wanted to give an update on my uTest experience now that I’ve got 100 cycles under my belt.

Accomplishments

When I first signed up with uTest I set a few goals. I really had no idea how realistic they were, but you have to at least have something to shoot for right?

By the end of 2012 (9 months from when I started) I wanted to:

  1. Earn my gold badge in Functional testing
  2. Become a TTL (Test Team Lead)
  3. Develop a strong reputation within the uTest community

Gold badge

I got my functional badge within 30 days of my first test cycle. At first this was actually a disappointment. I was really looking forward to the challenge of having to work hard for that badge.

After the initial shock wore off I decided that it actually was an accomplishment to be proud of. I realized that uTest has created an efficient system that allows strong testers to bubble up to the top quickly which makes sense when you think about it. Why would they want to hold good testers back? You want your best testers out front setting an example and representing the company.

TTL

Three months in, I got the email I had been anxiously waiting for; I had been invited to be a TTL! A rite of passage to become a TTL is you have to manage a sandbox class. Working that cycle was the most difficult thing I’ve done at uTest so far. Working with and evaluating 100 rookie testers, triaging their 400+ bugs and test cases in just a week is grueling to say the least. But the sense of accomplishment at the end made it all worth it. Since then, it’s been a fantastic experience working closely with the PMs while helping guide the testers so they can develop and become successful.

Reputation

My approach to this goal was to focus on the uTest form. The forum is an amazing community full of talented testers from all over the world. Every day there is are several interesting conversations going on. We constantly learn new things while challenging and encouraging each other.

After a few months of active participation, I was asked to become a uMentor and a forum moderator. Basically my role is to spark discussions and debates as well as write educational “mentoring” posts.

Before I started working at uTest maybe 10 other people knew I was a tester (That includes my mother). Now literally hundreds of people read my posts and engage in awesome discussions with me every week. So far, the conversations I’ve started have generated over 13,000 views.

I’m not sure I’ve fully achieved this goal yet, but I’m on my way.

Testing Statistics

To quantify my time at uTest so far and to brag a little :) here are my digits:

  • Products Tested: 70
  • Test Cycles: 138
  • Bugs Filed: 342
  • Bug Acceptance: 93.2%
  • High Value Bugs: 47%
  • Functional Rating: 99.3% – 99.7%

You can see my uTest profile here: https://my.utest.com/platform/profile/LucasDargis

uTest Perception

Without a doubt, joining uTest has been the biggest factor in the development of my career. I have grown more in the last 7 months then I ever expected. I was able to achieve all my goals and then some.

Here is a short list of the amazing opportunities uTest provides testers:

  • The opportunity to work for every type of company. You are able to see how testing is done from start-ups to big Fortune 100 companies. Every cycle adds to your experience and helps open your mind to the many different ways testing is approached.
  • The opportunity to work with and learn from people from all over the world. I’ve made friends in the UK, India, Romania, Brazil, etc. The global exposure is priceless.
  • The uTest forum is relatively new and the number of active contributors is still small, but since the uTest community is so large (60,000+ testers) the potential is huge.  There is an excellent opportunity for testers to get in on the ground floor and quickly establish themselves in a community that is evolving into an industry leader.
  • There are several leadership opportunities. You can become a TTL, a forum moderator, a uMentor, and a Gold-rated tester. Being active in discussions on the form or in your test cycle (providing help, answering questions) are informal ways to develop your leadership skills.

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about money at all. That is because for me, getting paid at uTest is an extra bonus. I can always make money, but it’s these other aspects that provide the most value to me as a tester.

100 cycles down. Next stop, 1000 bugs!

5 Qualities of Horrible Bosses

I was reading through this article on the 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses and thought it would be fun to list 5 qualities of horrible bosses. If you took each of these qualities and do the opposite, you would be well on your way to becoming a remarkable boss.

Keep communication to a minimum

Keep your eployees in the dark. They don’t need to know the direction of the group or company. This also enforces that you are more important then they are. Plus anything they need to know they’ll hear through the grapevine anyway so why bother?

You don’t want your employees to get a big head and think they are important so don’t ever show interest in their work. You should, however micromanage their work because they’re doing it all wrong.

Be reactive

Planning ahead is the worst thing you can do. You should only react to problems and needs as they arise. There are several of old sayings that prove this:

  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease
  • Let tomorrow worry about itself

This keeps everyone on their toes because they’ll never know whats coming up next. It also makes you look like the hero because you solved all these problems. Why on earth would you want to solve a problem if no one will ever know that you solved it?

Keep employee turnover rate high

It’s best to constantly have new blood in your group. You don’t want your employees to ever feel secure in their job because people do better work when they know their time is limited. Make sure there is a toxic work environment and  ignore team morale (or actively lower it) to encourage voluntarily turnover. Don’t worry about the costs associates with training new employees, they won’t be around long enough to be fully trained anyway.

Keep all power to yourself

You are the boss because you know the most.  You need to be involved in everything. Every meeting, every email, every decision. Don’t ever let one of your team members to make a decision or lead a project. This makes you look weak and incapable plus you can’t trust any of them. Occasionally make an obviously wrong decision and stick with it no matter what, just to remind everyone who’s boss.

Sanction Incompetence

What better way to keep your power intact then to ensure you have incompetent employees. Don’t ever send your employees to training or give them projects that would increase their skill set. Hiring low-end employees is cheap and they are great scapegoats to blame when things don’t go well so always keep a few on hand.

What are some of the qualities of horrible bosses you’ve seen?

Strategies for a Testing Career – Part 1

I am reading through a book of articles titled “On Strategy”. It is published by the Harvard Business Review and the context deals with business strategy. What I have found is that even though the intended audience is business managers, the lessons can easily be applied to individual testers. As I read and study each article, I will write a post summarizing the content of the article and how testers can apply the lessons to develop their own strategy.

What is Strategy?

by Michael E. Porter

Operational Effectiveness Is Not Strategy

Operational Effectiveness (OE) means performing activities better, faster and with fewer inputs and defects then your rivals. The quest for productivity, quality, and speed has spawned a remarkable number of management tools and techniques. Enormous advantages can be gained from OE, but from a competitive standpoint, the problem with OE is that the best practices that drive it are easily emulated. When competitors both strive to achieve the best possible OE, the competition between them produces absolute improvement in OE (everyone is more effective), but relative improvement for no one and the more indistinguishable the competitors become. The pursuit of OE is not a bad thing, in fact it is a necessary part of strategy, but OE itself is not a strategy

As testers, we too pursue common tools, techniques, and procedures to do our job more effectively. Quality Center, Test Manager, test plans, test cases, bug tracking, and defect metric are just a few examples of the many ways the testing industry has enable testers to chase OE. As all testers attempt to become that sought-after tester they too fall into the trap of trying to become that one ideal tester. We all are want to become QC experts, and automation specialists, but as we all pursue that goal, we all become more and more similar which is contrary to our goal of standing out from the crowd.

So what is strategy? How do I as a tester establish my strategic position?

Strategy Rests on Unique Activities

Strategy is all about being different from your competition. Our competition as testers would be anyone who has the same goal as we do. For example all other testers that are applying for that job we want or the opinionated blogger who has the ear of the testing community that we envy.

Strategic positioning means performing different activities from rivals, or performing similar activities in different ways.

A perfect example of doing different activities is Jame Bach. Almost everything he does and teaches is exactly the opposite of what most “factory” testers do. While your average tester is pursuing certifications and following test cases, James supports open learning and exploratory testing. As a result, he is one of the most well know testers in the world. No doubt he is an amazing tester, but the reason he stands out is because he is so different from everyone else. He’s loud, sarcastic, opinionated (none of this is meant as a slight by the way) and people listen.

Almost every tester out there is experienced in Quality Center. Knowing how to write test cases or track bugs is expected and it doesn’t set you apart, but there are ways to do those similar activities in different ways. Consider learning about lesser know bug tracking software such as Kiln, or possibly create something totally new yourself. Try to find a new way to perform exploratory testing within an Agile testing environment.

A Sustainable Strategic Position Requires Trade-offs

A strategic position is not sustainable unless there are trade-offs. Trade-offs occur when activities are incompatible. For example, if my strategy is to be a white-box manual tester, then I should ignore learning about Selenium automation and focus on manual testing and coding skills. Pursuing both would split my available time and effort effectively making me a lesser white-box tester. Trade-offs mean more of one thing necessitates less of another.

Sustainable means that over time, your strategic position will erode if you try to do everything. You may be able to get by in the short term, but as you spend more and more time on non-strategic activities, your core skills will suffer and it will become apparent as others (who made the trade-offs) surpass you.

Fit Drives Both Competitive Advantage and Sustainability

Strategy is all about combining activities to give you that unique strategic position. Fit describes how those activities tie into each other. One activity’s cost can be lowered by the way other activities are performed. Similarly, an activity’s value to your strategy can be increases by effectively “fitting” it with other activities.

I want to become known as an expert tester. My strategy to accomplish that, in part, includes becoming knowledgeable in my field and sharing that knowledge with others. Learning and blogging “fit” because they both contribute directly to my goal, and each complements and improves the other. Learning give me something to blog about, and blogging helps me to better remember and reflect upon what I’ve learned.

Conversely, we need to be aware activities that don’t “fit” our strategy. If I decide that I want to be a context-based exploratory tester, will getting a certification from ISTQB contribute to that goal? does it “fit” with the other activities of my strategy?

Rediscovering Strategy

There are two distinct views on strategy. One is the idea of competing head-to-head with your rivals on the same things, the other is establishing a unique strategic position that provides a competitive advantage. Here are some characteristics of both views.

Head-to-Head

  • One ideal competitive position in the industry
  • Benchmarking activities to achieve best practices
  • Outsourcing and partnering to improve efficiencies
  • Focus on a few success factors, critical resources, and core competencies
  • Flexibility and rapid responses to competitive and market changes

Unique Strategic Position

  • Activities tailored to the strategy
  • Trade-offs focus activities
  • Fit across activities
  • Focus on the entire system, not individual parts
  • Operational effectiveness is a given

There are two points I took away from this article that I think are extremely valuable. First, we as testers need a strategy. Strategy isn’t something that should be left to managers of  big companies, it can and should be applied to individuals. And second, imitating what others are doing is not a strategy, it’s an anti-strategy. The only way to give ourselves an advantage over our competition is to have a unique strategic position based on trade-offs and carefully aligned activities.