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Experiences from a Testing Tour of Pairing and Learning

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Being a solo tester on a team, Parveen Khan decided to do a testing tour where she paired remotely with testers and developers to explore topics. It became a testing journey of learning where she explored testing topics like performance testing, AI and ML, observability, and Sketchnoting. In doing these sessions she also experienced how pairing and sharing can help to develop oneself.

Parveen Khan, a senior test engineer at Square Marble Technology, shared her experiences from her testing tour at Agile Testing Days 2020.

Khan spoke about the challenges she experienced being a solo tester:

The first and foremost thing that I missed was learning, sharing, and brainstorming about anything related to testing. Sometimes it feels lonely on a team even though I mostly used to pair with developers and the product owner.

Another challenge was that I never got to experience or learn about different perspectives and different methods that other testers used while testing. Being on a team sometimes I would feel I’m firefighting alone whether it could be on process implementation or anything related to quality advocating.

Where Initially Khan thought she should plan the entire list of topics before she would start, she then decided to start off by picking three topics that she selected based on the topics she was interested in at the moment:

I wanted to start and then decide about the next topics while I’m on my tour.

Each of her testing tour sessions was either a 1 or 2 hour call where she would pair up with someone on a decided topic. Khan shared her learnings and experiences from the sessions on her blog Testing Tour.

On her testing tour, she challenged herself to reduce any fear of pairing:

Every session gave me a different experience; it was not just learning about the topics but also about getting out of the comfort zone to reach out and pair with the people I know and with the people whom I have never met.

InfoQ interviewed Parveen Khan about her testing tour.

InfoQ: What made you decide to go on a testing tour?

Parveen Khan: Mostly because of my lone tester challenges which I mentioned above. I wanted to learn from other testers, I wanted to pair with them to learn different approaches and perspectives. I wanted to connect and network with different testers so I could share and learn about different topics, different challenges and not just learn about known topics, but also explore new topics which is sometimes difficult to do on your own. And I wanted to get better at sharing my learnings with the community. It is always fun and helpful to pair up. So I decided to go on a testing tour and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.

InfoQ: How did you start your tour?

Khan: I prepared my blog site Testing Tour where I wanted to share a blog about each of my sessions. Having my own blog site was one of my goals, which I was able to complete before the start of the tour which really motivated me to start my journey.

I picked up Zoom as a tool for our calls as it’s easier to control each other’s screens while we pair up.

I also used a Trello board to keep up with upcoming sessions and topics. I used this board as my own ideas board, as well as to add any topics which I might come across that could be added to this board so that I don’t forget and can see if I can pair up on this topic with anyone.

I was prepared that something might definitely go wrong or unorganised for initial sessions, but I decided to learn from those experiences and apply the learnings in later sessions.

The first session was pairing up with Maaret Pyhäjärvi in which we explored an application; I learned about strong style pairing where each person takes turns being a navigator and a driver. This helped me in learning about how both people can add value and learn while pairing up by exchanging these roles. It’s not always constantly one person working on the screen, but both people can.

And that’s how my testing tour journey started and continued with more sessions.

InfoQ: What happened on your journey?

Khan: I paired with different testers/developers from 10 different places on 11 different topics. These were the topics that I paired up on:

Each session was different based on the topic; for instance, when I was pairing up on exploratory testing we were more into exploring the application and pair testing it, so I had to plan which website/application we would explore.

And when I was pairing up on performance testing, we were working on the Jmeter scripts where I had already set up Jmeter and had some tests ready.

A few topics like AI, testability, and test strategy were more about discussions on things. So each of these sessions was really was very distinct with different experiences and learnings.

InfoQ: What have you learned?

Khan: As I said previously, I got to pair up on so many different topics. I have not just learned about all these different topics, but also applied them at my work:

  • I applied what I learned while pairing up on using Jmeter for performance testing.
  • Getting familiarised using infrastructure tools; building Virtual machines and using them at my work on a day-to-day basis. I learned all of this while pairing up with Abby Bangser on my testing tour session.

It was not about learning entire topics in one pairing up session, but more about getting started if a topic was new, and if it was a known topic, it was about learning new ways.

Most importantly, I learned that asking for help always works; we don’t have to be stuck alone and stop learning when we have certain limitations, like I had with being a solo tester in the organisation/company.

I became very comfortable with writing blogs about each of my sessions and sharing them publicly.

InfoQ: If people would like to go on a journey of pairing and learning, what are your suggestions?

Khan: If anyone would like to go on a journey, I would suggest just going for it and not worrying much about preparing/planning topics. Let go of the fear of whether people might pair with you or not. Learning is a continuous process and everybody has their own way of learning. Going on a tour and pairing worked for me in many ways, so find what works for you and plan your journey.

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