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My tester portfolio

I read an excellent blog post by Stephen Janaway today about “A Tester’s Portfolio”:

A Testers Portfolio

This is an interesting topic and it raises the question as to why testers don’t traditionally have a body of work to show off to prospective employers. This is a big problem in itself when so many employers seemingly don’t know how to interview well for testers, especially for context-driven testers (and an ISTQB certification does not a portfolio make!).

Some of the reasons for this presented in the blog post ring true but really it’s up to individuals to own their careers and build their own personal brand. The suggestions that Stephen gives for doing this in the blog post are all great ideas:

  • Writing for blogs and magazines
  • Starting your own blog
  • Talking at conferences and meetups
  • Sharing presentations on SlideShare

Thinking back on my own testing journey, I now realize I spent about seven years in the factory wilderness before enlightenment was thrust upon me in 2007 when I attended Rapid Software Testing with Michael Bolton. My testing mindset changed immediately and I’ve been thirsty for constant learning and interaction around good testing ever since.

As part of my role since then, I’ve been fortunate in having the flexibility to also grow my personal brand. So, I’ve already taken on most of Stephen’s suggestions – from writing for Testing Trapeze magazine to starting this blog to international conference presentations. I have found this experience very fulfilling and would recommend that other testers “give it a go”. Don’t think your experience or stories are not interesting to others, start sharing them and you’ll be surprised at how much your experiences resonate with others.

Becoming part of the wider testing community gives you an opportunity to build your personal brand, help others and also receive help. (As another way of giving back to the community, I am helping out with the Speak Easy programme now too.)

Thanks to Stephen for the inspiration to break my recent blogging drought!

I survived Ho Chi Minh City

I recently found myself in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam for the first time, as I was lucky enough to be presenting at a testing conference there. I am happy to report that I passed the foreigner survival test of crossing the crazily busy streets, playing Frogger with scooters in streets that look something like this:

Ho Chi Minh City traffic

Having learned this basic survival skill, I enjoyed exploring the city centre – known as District 1- on foot, taking in the most well-known tourist icons the city has to offer, including Notre Dame cathedral, the Post Office, and the Reunification Palace. The latter was a surprising piece of modernist architecture set among substantial lush grounds, offering a glimpse of the luxuries that come with power. A visit to the top of the Saigon Tower was an opportunity to take a more macro view of the city, sprawling out into the smoggy distance. Staying at the historic Caravelle Hotel – home to many members of the international press corps during the Vietnam War – was delightful, with exceptional service and classic style.

My reason for being in this amazing place was to present at the Ho Chi Minh City Software Testing Club conference, being held at the University of Science on 31st January. This relatively new event managed to attract an audience of around 200 and I was very impressed with the standard of organization as well as the fact that they’d managed to get testing veteran Lee Copeland to present there. The conference organizers were incredibly hospitable and the event went very well, both for me personally (in having the chance to present and also to meet Lee Copeland) and also for the wider HCMC testing community.

From a testing perspective, it seemed like many of the participants were working for one of the many IT outsourcing companies in this burgeoning outsourcing market. It was interesting to see the results of Lee Copeland’s straw poll about methodologies with almost no-one in the room having worked on anything but agile projects. This probably explains in part why I saw so much familiarity with the context-driven school of testing here, far more familiarity than I’ve seen at mainstream testing conferences in the US and Europe for example. I would have been very interested to attend the afternoon workshop on context-driven testing in agile teams, but unfortunately this workshop was delivered in Vietnamese and I was presenting at the same time (in the English stream!).

My talk was on “Developing an Offshore Context-Driven Testing Team” and it was my opportunity to share my experience of working with teams in our Zhuhai office in China. This was really the opposite scenario to that of many people in the audience, so my intent was to communicate the kind of cultural and language challenges I’ve experienced in the hope that there was something useful in that for them working with their Western colleagues in outsourcing situations. There were many good questions after the talk and I’m very grateful to the HCMC Software Testing Club for giving me the chance to talk in their city (and also grateful to the teams I work with in China for giving me such a great story to tell).

I had a fantastic time in Ho Chi Minh City, it was an assault on the senses wrapped up in friendliness and hospitality. I hope I get the chance to revisit one day and also explore more of Vietnam with more time to enjoy the lovely food and some more of those moreish Vietnamese coffees!