Tag Archives: trust

San Diego Quality Meetup 5/4/2016

I have long hoped that San Diego testing community would develop a user group/meetup. My recruiter, Jon Barton of TEKSystems, started a meetup group. I attended a meeting in April. Then I volunteered to speak at a future meeting. That future meeting was last night.

Presentation on Best Practices of Test Automation

Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 5:30 PM

89 Software Engineers in Test Went

Check out this Meetup →

The periscope video:

The slide deck:

The book I recommend:

I am hopeful for the future of software testing in San Diego if they group becomes a place for people to step out of their circle of comfort, to mentor each other, to learn and grow.

Developing Trust

Developing Trust

“What did they say?” “That it’s supposed to work that way.” “And?” “I wasn’t sure what else to say. What do you think?” “I think that you need to develop some trust. First, develop some trust in yourself. Then develop some trust from the dev to you.” It’s a common conversation I have with junior testers. As testers, our goal should be to build trust. Trust enables us to our jobs.

Trustphoto credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

What is trust?

The asset most required in our jobs as software testers is trust. That is because trust is knowledge of a person or group. The currency of that knowledge is the combination of competence, character, and commitment.

The first, competence, is how well we can do our jobs. People may think we have character, but we I say a feature has a problem, do people believe that I know what I am talking about. Competence varies for all of us depending on the domain. I can know much about restful web services (Rest) and not know much about User Experiences (UX). Or somebody may trust my knowledge in Rest but not UX. I could understand the technologies used but lack understanding of the business use.

The second measure of trust is character. I consider character to cross domains. I guess that somebody could have a character weakness, for instance if they are a covered alcoholic, but not relevant for this kind of trust. Do people know you give an honest answer? That would be integrity. Do they know you see things through to the end, or do you drop things when you get resistance? That would be courage. Other character traits of a tester include ability to communicate, and dealing with ambiguity.

And the third measure of trust is commitment to causes. A person could be honest and earnest, but wouldn’t lift a finger to save a spider if they don’t like spiders. Others will trust me or not if I am dedicated to those values that the team shares. This can vary from place to place. I have worked where the tester was ‘supposed to be the police’, as well as places where the tester was supposed to describe the quality level to management so they could make a proper decision. Popular commitments in agile include delivering value to the customer, continuous improvement, engineering for current (not potential needs), and always-working software.

Why do We Need Trust?

We do not hear many arguments against trust. But we do not always hear for a call to gain trust. Without trust, everything is more expensive in both money and time. For example, terrorist attacks in Mumbai and New York in the past decade created new, more expensive agencies to combat the potential for attacks. I have personally witnessed the cost in time every time I travel from an American airport. The example is extreme, but it scales down to our work. For instance, if I am not trusted to create tests then I will have additional review processes, sign-offs, etc.

Without building that trust, even when the competence, character, and commitment are present, you will pay the no-trust taxes. In a new relationship, the trust must be built. An assumed trust, one that is assumed upon meeting, can be duplicitous – other assumptions come with it.

How do We Build Trust?

How to build trust isn’t a simple question. That comes having competence, character, and commitment. When the currency is low then we will find building trust difficult. Those things can grow in time. If we study our craft, if we study our domain, we will gain the competence that convince our stakeholders that we ‘know what we are doing.’ As we mature, we build character from making the right decisions. As we question our beliefs and motives, we develop the commitment that other respect.

On the other hand, we build trust from others as we improve ourselves. We work in various domains – we have different levels of knowledge in those areas. We start at different trust levels in our relationships. We work with people who have different general tendencies for trust based on their experiences. Domain risk also plays into trust. I will be careful no matter who I am working with to build a pacemaker.

Lowest Trust – When we work with somebody that does not trust us, deserved or not, we can build a foundation of that trust by being polite, and simply helping them. Do not ask questions except for those that will help you do the task correctly.

Low Trust – Learn about them. Questions should be inquiring but not challenging. Your interest in them, and sharing some common experiences. Though you should focus more on them. What are their motives for what they are working on? What are their commitments?

Medium Trust – When you are at good level of trust, you can make suggestions to help them. THEN BACK OFF. Expect them to ignore your suggestion. In the occasion that they take your suggestion, be available to answer questions about details. Success isn’t necessary, but a big investment into a failure can lower the trust level.

High Trust – Once you have a high level of trust, you can act on their behalf if you tell them appropriately about what is done. Give them a report on what you will do, what you have done. For those working on Agile teams, this can sound like a ‘standup meeting’.

Highest Trust – When you are at the highest level of trust, you can just act on behalf of somebody. You know their interests and how they would decide themselves.

You can be at different levels of trust at different times of a relationship. It can go up or down for various reasons. If you haven’t interacted with somebody for a while, you might treat the trust level as if it atrophied. If you are a hired expert, you can probably skip the lowest trust level and start somewhere else.

Planning to Be Trusted

By evaluating the trust levels that your stakeholders have in you, you can begin planning on how to build a higher level of trust. The work you do when implementing a trust-building plan will actually make you better and more trustworthy. That trust is a cornerstone to becoming more effective as a software tester.

Trust me.


The Secret of Jeremy Lin’s Fame

You have to avoid all news outlets to miss the story about Jeremy Lin. I doubt that because a) you are reading the internet right now, and b) you opened this article. The interesting thing about this story is why he is a phenomena. I have heard many reasons for it.

He’s the first American born NBA player of asian descent. Aside from ESPN’s headline and SNL’s parody, does that matter? We’ve had (and have) NBA players from China. I didn’t see that level of excitement for the first Israeli player, the first Iranian player, or the first French point guard for that matter. That’s a small factor.

He’s a Harvard graduate and the NBA typically chooses talent over smart. There have been players from the Ivy League before, in the NFL, NHL, MLB, and even the NBA. Stanford, known for it’s excellent academics, has several graduates in the NBA. That’s not significant.

He’s lifted the NBA Knicks, a storied franchise, from a downward spiral. Anytime the Knicks improve, it’s a story. That’s mostly because the Knicks have been such as bad team over the past 10 or 12 years. However, Carmelo being traded to the Knicks was not that big of a story.

The truth is that he is such an interesting story to most of the people in my world because he is just like you. Here are the ways that he is the same as you.

1. You are Exceptional

Jeremy Lin has shown the world he is exceptional by setting new records points and assists in his first few games in the NBA – more than Magic Johnson. He has helped (at least up until now) turned around the Knicks season. Who knew – apparently not the 30 general managers that didn’t draft him.

You have things that you are better at than most people around you. What are you good at? You know those things you do that make you proud of yourself. There are probably things that you haven’t given yourself credit for being good at doing.

2. Nobody Believed (or Believes) in You

Lin’s high school coach was quoted as saying he thought Jeremy would be a good NCAA Division 3 player. Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks coach, didn’t even know his player’s name for a couple of weeks. He played because D’Antoni did not have a choice. His aging start point guard, Chauncey Billups, was traded to clear cap space. His newly signed point guard, Baron Davis, has been injured the entire season. And the first backup point guard was doing a poor job at running the starting team. Lin getting to start was a desperation move.

You have heard those things too. Maybe your parents said “We just don’t want you to get your hopes up too high.” Maybe a guidance counselor said “I think you should be realistic.” Maybe your co-worker said “but you are just a _[fill in the blank here]_.” Maybe you had times when you didn’t even believe in yourself.

3. You are not Perfect

Jeremy Lin isn’t either. And you don’t mind that he turns the ball over a lot. He can’t rebound like Carmelo Anthony, his Knicks teammate. He is part of a team. He fulfills roles of that team, some better than others. He facilitates the offense of the team. He initiates things. He doesn’t have to be good at all things.

 You are not perfect either. I may not know you specifically – I can guarantee that you aren’t perfect. You do, however, have skills. Practice those skills. Shore up your weaknesses. Develop yourself.

4. You Need an Opportunity

Jeremy Lin wasn’t drafted into the NBA. He looked for opportunities. He went to the eventual NBA Champs Dallas Maverick’s mini-camp. He was cut. He played a 10 day contract for the Golden State Warriors as a backup. He played overseas. He played in the NBA’s Developmental League. He did not step back and accept defeat.

You were not hired into the executive fast track of a Fortune 500 company when you graduated college (or maybe you didn’t graduate college). You started at a company that paid you poorly. Maybe that was the only offer you received. You have had to ask for more responsibilities. You have asked for promotions. You have been disappointed too.

My Story

I figured out that Jeremy Lin is like you when I discovered that he is like me. I learned to believe in myself.

I am exceptional. I have a critical mind – that’s part of how I ended up in software testing. I like teaching other people. I like to move to the next level. For most of my career, I have read the latest strategies and techniques in the software testing & quality magazines to see they are recommending what I am already doing.

I had to suffer through doubters to the point that my boss told me that my confidence should by much higher than I projected. I was promoted to be the QA manager for Service Manager (hundreds of millions of US dollars in sales and maintenance per year) because the project manager had a QA manager quit when hiring requisitions were frozen. They believed in me enough to call me “interim manager” until I proved myself in the position.

I am not perfect. I am more excited about what’s next than finishing what is now. I was a lousy public speaker – think Albert Brooks’ character in Broadcast news (sweating and falling apart). I learned to carry myself through Toastmasters. I learned my craft through courses, books, magazines, and reading articles on the internet (like you are doing now).

I found opportunities. I started at HP as a contract hardware tester making $9/hour – pushing paper through the fax machine’s sheet feeder. Years later when I was promoted to be the QA manager,  because I asked for that job – and requested a lot of responsibilities in between.

Your Story

The corollary to Jeremy Lin to being like you is that you are like him. His story will be your story if you want it to be. You like Jeremy Lin because you want his story. So make it happen. Start by telling me your story here in the comments below.

Leadership (part 3) – Why do I need to be a leader?

I misread my outline in Part 2. I promised to cover how to become a leader without realizing my next topic was about why we need to be leaders. Obviously you believe in leadership or you wouldn’t be here. But let me tell you some reasons that you need to be a leader. They won’t all apply to you, but nobody gets out of all of them.

Ross Perot’s sucking sound of jobs going overseas has become part of the norm, hitting blue-collar and white-collar jobs alike. In our jobs, we are paid to think, solve problems, and usually work as a team. We have to bring value. We need to differentiate ourselves by being leaders and followers are the right times (only a leader would know which is appropriate at what time).

Leadership is part of our brand. A brand is something we trust, like the usability of Apple, the convenience of Amazon.com, or the on-time deliver of Fed-Ex. Rain Man wanted to fly Qantas Airlines because they were known for not have accidents. He trusted their brand, not because of an advertisement. Our rewards depend on the way people see our brand. We are drawn to good leaders, provided we trust them. There’s trusting people to keep a secret. There’s trusting people to do their job. There’s trusting people to make sure the team is successful.

Nobody wants to be a victim of changes. We want control over our lives and what happens. We have things we want to see happen in our lives, at our jobs, in our worlds. Take it from the most reluctant leader, I just wanted to go for the ride. The problem is that eventually I was unsatisfied with where the bus was taking me. How do we get the outcome if we do not contribute to the outcome? How do we contribute to the outcome without building trust from others? How does another trust us if we haven’t listened, assessed, or shared a vision?

The future will come. What the future will become is not determined yet. Will the world get hotter? Will governments bend too far to the left or the right? What happens when we run out of fossil fuels? Can our children become competent with declining relative investment in schooling them? Nobody is going to solve all these problems, or even one. Teams will work on them just to limit their effect, in fact teams of teams. You have an interest in these things. Will you join one cause to help solve one problem? And as your children watch you will they be inspired to lead in a cause, or will they be inspired by the TV schedule?

In my next post, I will discuss how to become a leader (I really promise, this time I mean it!).