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Better Software Testers — Part I

Better Software Testers — Part I

I watched a recent webinar with Mike Lyles making the point that “Testing is Not a 9 to 5 Job”. He described a number of ways for software testers to learn, and to improve their career as software testers. He started with some simple questions:

  • Do you love your job?
  • Do you want to get better?
  • How do I make myself more marketable?

Immediately, I began recalling some of the leadership lessons I learned years ago from General George S. Patton, who commanded the Third Army during World War II, and was one of the most feared military minds of his day.

The Obligation of Being a Software Tester

Mike spoke about many different testing activities outside of work, such as reading articles, blogs, and books about testing; discussing software testing on social media; attending software conferences, training classes, and local meetups; crowdtesting, and a number of other possibilities.

It reminded me of what Patton wrote as a Colonel in the Tank Corps about education for officers in the U.S. Army.

“Do you imagine that the successful broker spends his evenings studying the progress of the National League? Hardly. He studies the market. The man who only works during working hours is apt to keep right on at the same job or get a worse one.”

Mike makes a distinction between the 9 to 5 tester and the professional tester, but he also warns against confusing his advice with becoming a workaholic. He makes the point that most people involved with software testing didn’t start their careers in software testing.

Patton went on to say that “Few are born Napoleons.” Mike makes a similar point when asking, “Are you born with it?” Are you a born tester? Few of us are, and given the pace of change in software development, we have to learn continuously, we have to develop ourselves constantly, or we’ll soon become obsolete like so much of the code we test.

Continuous Learning

Following one of the sessions I attended at last fall’s Iowa Code Camp, I was able to slip into the end of another session titled “Making the Most of MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses”. While I didn’t write down any of the items mentioned, it was a list of familiar options:

I’ve also seen lists published with a number of “Free Online Programming and Computer Science Courses”, where the number of available courses varies as the semester changes, but the list seems to get longer each time.

I have a Pluralsight subscription, and have used it some, but not as much as I should, given the cost. I’ve also completed a few Code School courses, as they periodically have a free weekend a couple times a year. I’ve also completed a Udemy course on Pingendoas a trial run for the person who created it.

Books

I like to read, but if I retired tomorrow, only then might I have all the books in my library read by the time I’ll actually be ready to retire. I have a lot of books, both the old school physical copies, and an increasing number of ebooks in all the flavors for iPad, Kindle, and PDF.

  • I use Goodreads to catalog my library, identify what I’ve read, what I want to read, track what I’m currently reading, measure my progress, challenge myself to meet reading goals, and follow what other people are reading.
  • I have a Safari subscription that gives me access to a ton of books online, plus videos as well. There’s also an app available for my mobile devices.
  • Packt is another great resource. They offer a free ebook every day, and with a subscription to Mapt, you get access to the full Packt library of books and videos.
  • The Kindle Cloud Reader gives me access online to the Kindle books I’ve purchased, and to others I’ve saved in the Kindle format.
  • I like websites like InformIT that allow me to purchase both a physical and an electronic copy of the books I buy as a single bundle, with all the various formats provided. The Pragmatic Bookshelf is also a good resource for the same reason. (I wish Amazon would provide me with a digital copy of every book I purchase.)
  • I’ve also purchased a number of ebooks from Leanpub. I can read books online from their website, but perhaps the most important feature is that Leanpub allows the customer to pay what they want. Authors publish their books, set a minimum price and a suggested price, and users can select the price they wish to pay.
  • Gumroad is also an option for anyone looking to publish. I purchased a copy of “Debugging with Fiddler” from Gumroad, and when the book was updated, I was able to download the updated version for free.
  • I have not ventured into audiobooks, but Audible may be a good option for anyone that wants to take their books with them on the go just to listen.

Podcasts

Just as I’m not really into audiobooks, I’m not into podcasts much either. I’ve subscribed to so many that my iPad storage is full, and it’s trying to download new episodes while I’m trying to delete old ones to make room. It’s a losing battle. I do follow a podcast RSS feed, so there are a few you might check out:

  • The Testing Show — Sponsored by QualiTest, this is a 15-minute podcast (generally), available on iTunes. Each episode has a transcript, so you can read through each episode as you listen. I’ve listened to a few episodes, and they can be a bit of a nerd-gasm at times, so I’ve found that I can still get value from the podcast by reading the transcript.
  • The Ministry of Testing Podcast — The Ministry of Testing has quickly become one of my favorite resources for all things testing related, from their weekly email newsletter listing valuable blog posts from the past week to webinars, test chats, masterclasses, etc.
  • Testers’ Island Discs Podcast — Another podcast affiliated with the Ministry of Testing, focused around storytelling, hosted by Neil Studd.
  • Test Talks — This is a podcast about software testing and automation, hosted by Joe Colantonio.
  • PerfBytes — This podcast is centered around helping IT professionals improve performance practices.
  • AB Testing — Hosted by Alan Page and Brent Jensen, this podcast talks about Modern Testing — including Agile, Data, Leadership, and more.

I’m sure there are many other options out there, just search for “software testing podcasts” and you’ll find them.

There’s so many options out there for continuous learning, I’ll revisit this topic again in my next post, with more insights and some local options in the Des Moines metro.

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