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Developing Testing Skills outside of Working Hours

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Gamifying your way of testing, joining online testing communities of practice, and virtual traveling; these are examples of activities you can do outside of working hours that can make you a better tester. You can practice continuous learning with other testers in the world, and then implement things you learned at your workplace and share them with your team to improve ways of testing.

Emna Ayadi, a test coach, spoke about how testers can extend their skills outside of working hours at ConTEST 2021.

According to Emna Ayadi, today’s testers need to adapt to this fast-changing world. They should focus on two aspects, technical skills and human skills:

  • Technical skills are more than just knowing some programming languages or some testing frameworks; it’s about being a continuous learner and adapting to new technology changes
  • Human skills are the skills that are crucial for us as testers on our everyday journey

In the book The 21st Century Skills for Testers, Ard Kramer and Emna Ayadi explore these human skills. They called them 4C:

  • Critical Thinking: testing is being able to see things differently, imagine other perspectives and contribute to the success of the product, project, and the team
  • Communication is the set of interactions with others that transmit any information
  • Collaboration is the act of working or thinking together to achieve a goal
  • Creativity is the ability of an individual or group to imagine or construct and implement a new concept or discover an original solution to a problem

One hears lots of misconceptions about software testing, such as it being a boring job or having to repeat the same thing again and again; however, when you’re a tester, you get to define your learning process and your vision, Ayadi said.

To develop skills, Ayadi suggested that testers should learn about testing processes and get an overview of the whole testing activity within your project. "Even if your tasks don’t cover the whole testing process, you will get a better understanding and you get ready to go in-depth when a new opportunity pops up," she said.

She suggested that testers get involved in design, project architecture, or learn about development or product ownership, outside of work hours:

To become a T-shaped tester or specialized generalist tester, you need to have a mixture of testing and non-testing background. It could be useful for you as a tester to join non-testing communities for continuous learning to improve your skills such as communication with developers or product owners. It helps you ask the right question to the customer and make your test summary reports more valuable.

Gamification can help testers to put things that they learn outside of their work into practice, Ayadi said. Playing games can bring you new ideas and perspectives that you can apply in your activity. You can suggest ideas to your team, present them with what you’ve learned, and show the benefits, Ayadi mentioned.

InfoQ interviewed Emna Ayadi about developing testing skills outside of working hours.

InfoQ: Why should testers develop skills outside of working hours, in their personal time? What benefits will it bring them?

Emna Ayadi: The trend today is about being a modern tester; it’s good to be "Specializing Generalists" who know a lot of things, with a creative mindset. Lead the culture of quality. Look for improvements. Adapt to change easily and be a continuous learner. To attract these motivated modern testers, it’s a good idea to not limit the tester’s task to a certain aspect and make it a 9 to 5 job.

To quote Erick Raúl Ibarra Pérez:

« I dedicate part of my time to learn dev (api, web, mobile), it helped me to identify errors or improvements, also it allows me to improve the communication with the dev team to explain possible causes and suggest the fix »

InfoQ: What can we gain from traveling?

Ayadi: From my experience, when I travel I don’t like to just see touristy places but I love discovering hidden beautiful places.

I wrote the blog Testing is like traveling which compares them:

 

Traveling without a detailed plan and making real-time discoveries to find hidden places instead of seeing just touristy places known by everyone.

"The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands." – Sir Richard Burton

Explore software even without having all the details; using heuristics will help you.

"You don’t always need to wait for complete specifications to start your testing effort." – Michael Bolton

 

Talking about the lockdown, it’s frustrating to everyone to not have the freedom to travel the world and discover its beautiful places. For me, I managed to find another way to practice my traveling hobby even when staying at home.

Inspired by old food pictures from my past travel experience, I got the idea to travel the world via food; I look for different snacks and authentic dishes that sound delicious and I bring them from abroad via the help of friends or I cook local things.

It was funny as I discovered lots of things that are incredibly delicious while staying at home.

I created an Instagram @emnafoodies to track my "virtual trips via food". The challenge is to not miss out on important recipes that are your favorites from the country you travel to virtually.

My message: don’t limit yourself to what you are testing. Try to explore new ways of testing, learn new techniques, new frameworks, be a continuous learner and challenge yourself to learn new things and try to apply them in your testing journey.

Expand your wings; take advantage of the remote mode. As onsite events and meetups couldn’t take place due to the pandemic situation all over the world, it’s amazing to see most meetups, conferences and courses moving online. This is great as it offers the opportunity for us to learn in a multinational environment and join many communities. Virtual coffees between testers are also great for exchanging ideas and talking about our journeys.

InfoQ: How can testers put things that they learn outside of their work into practice?

Ayadi: I mentioned many practices that we can do outside of our work that can improve our skills as a tester in practice in my slides Extend Your Testing Capabilities When You Are Not Testing.

Within my community, I always try to find games that combine Testing and Agile, like the Risk Storming Workshop. In a 2019 Ministry of Testing Sfax Meetup, I got the chance to animate a workshop about agile testing with real examples from our experience, and we used two game cards: one for technical knowledge, and another one to connect people and break the ice. In another remarkable workshop using Pipeline The Game that Delivers!, we learned new ideas on how to design our CD pipeline more effectively and learned much more about DevOps.

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