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A new year and a new challenge, the EPIC TestAbility Academy

I’ve already reviewed 2016 in a previous blog post and it’s now time to look forward to a new year.

I expect I’ll make it to a few testing conferences (as usual) during the year, kicking off quite soon with the first CAST to be held outside of North America, the CASTx conference in Sydney. I’m looking forward to seeing some AST folks there as well as catching up with familiar faces from the Australia/New Zealand testing community – and hopefully making some new connections too. I have no conference speaking commitments lined up for 2017 yet, but that’ll probably change.

There will also inevitably be various work trips to cover the major offices to which my responsibilities extend, so at least West Coast US, China and Czech Republic are likely stamps in the diminishing free pages of my passport.

I’m most excited about a new community project I’m working on in 2017 with Paul Seaman. We had both been looking for an opportunity to give back to the community in some way and a lucky meeting with the good folks from the not-for-profit EPIC Assist organization has provided us with just that. EPIC Assist has a division called Recruit Assist, which does great work in matching candidates with employers, specifically candidates with disabilities who cannot or chose not to utilize Disability Employment Services.

We approached EPIC with the idea of running a software testing course so that they could potentially find new client companies in the IT sector who would have access to good candidates with a solid software testing training already behind them. It was pleasing to see how open EPIC were to the idea and, long story short, we expect to start the first run of our software testing training programme – to be known as the EPIC TestAbility Academy – very soon. (Note that EPIC Recruit Assist will be funding the costs of the programme, such as venue hire, etc., while Paul and I are offering our professional services on a voluntary basis.)

EPIC will source candidates on the autism spectrum to participate in the programme. Putting together the course and delivering it will be a huge challenge for both Paul and me, requiring us to build an understanding of the best ways to interact with the candidates and being sympathetic to their distinct learning style. While we both have considerable experience in presenting training to groups (Paul as a teacher in a past life), we expect there to be humps in the road with these groups and we both expect to learn a lot along the way.

I’m not setting success criteria around the work with EPIC Recruit Assist at this stage. It’ll be great if most of the students who start the first course make it through to the end, if there’s some engagement and maybe we inspire a few students to want to consider a career in testing or IT in general. If we manage to find genuine software testing employment for one or more of the students, that would be a fantastic achievement both for the student and for us as teachers of the material. We couldn’t do any of this without the support of EPIC Recruit Assist, of course, and their positive attitude from day one and their belief that Paul & I could do this have been very humbling.

I’ll blog more on ETA as the programme kicks off and we have experiences to share. It’s time to give back and this challenge will no doubt be a highlight of 2017.

(My friend and testing partner in this initiative, Paul Seaman, has also blogged about this new venture.)

RIP Rick Parfitt (12/10/1948-24/12/2016)

This blog typically relates to my professional life as a specialist in software testing, so I hope you will indulge me with a much more personal blog post than usual here today.

It’s not exactly a secret that I’m a massive fan of the UK rock band, Status Quo. I’ve been seeing them live for just over thirty years and collecting their records and memorabilia for even longer. The band in its various forms over the years has given me some of the most memorable times of my life and I’ve made the most incredible friendships as a result of following them.

My passion – sometimes referred to as an “obsession” – has brought me great joy, but on Christmas Eve 2016 it has now also brought me great sadness. With incredible timing, just the day after the “Last Night of the Electrics” tour concluded in Liverpool (UK), I received the news that Rick Parfitt had passed away. Being in the UK at the time, it was big news – and quite surreal watching the news stories talking about the rock hero we all thought was indestructible. I was unsure whether to blog immediately to capture my raw emotions but Christmas didn’t feel like the right time. Two weeks after the event, it feels like an appropriate time to take a moment for me to put virtual pen to virtual paper in some kind of tribute to Rick.

I appreciate that many of you reading this may not have heard of Rick, so a few words by way of historical record are in order.

It was a chance meeting at Butlin’s holiday camp in Minehead in 1965 that brought a young Rick Parfitt (then performing in a trio called The Highlights) together with a young Francis Rossi (then performing in a rock combo called The Spectres) with Rick officially joining the band that would become Status Quo in 1967. It was a partnership that lasted almost fifty years, quite incredible. Quo’s longevity is well documented and they remain the band with the most Top 40 hits in the UK (with an untoppable 57).

This early colour TV appearance shows a very young Rick in full flow, his face barely visible thanks to the long blonde hair:

 

The rock and roll excesses of the 70s and 80s certainly didn’t pass Rick by and Quo’s conformance to the sex, drugs and rock & roll mantra is also well documented.

Rick played hard on stage and lived life to the full off it. After decades of mistreatment, his body showed the first signs of cracking, with his first major health scare coming in 1997 when he underwent a quadruple heart bypass – but he was still back on stage a few weeks later. In 2005, he had a throat cancer scare and then it was more heart trouble in 2011 with surgery required after another heart attack and then another heart attack in 2014. His most recent heart attack came shortly after a very hot gig in Turkey in June 2016 and this ultimately led to him retiring from touring duties with the band.

He will perhaps be best remembered for his legendary rock star blonde locks (which stayed with him even in his sixties) and his incessant rhythm guitar skills on his faithful white Fender Telecaster. There are few rock rhythm players around who could go head to head with Rick and the following relatively recent clip (well, in Quo terms anyway, it’s from the 2009 Glastonbury festival) shows his power, opening just one of many thousands of Quo gigs with the iconic “Caroline”. Rick with his back to the “wall of death” of amps thrashing out the opening chords of this song is surely one of rock’s most recognizable images.

Rick was also a significant part of the songwriting ammunition for Quo, penning (and co-writing) a number of their best known songs, including “Whatever You Want”, “Rain”, “Again and Again”, “4500 Times”, “Backwater”, “Little Lady” and “Mystery Song”.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Quo live over 250 times and also very fortunate to have met the band, including Rick, on many occasions. He was always friendly and ready to crack a joke, always the rock star but also always just one of the lads.

Some of my most memorable meetings with Rick occurred on Australian shores over the last 20 years or so, where it’s easier for the band to mingle with the public than in Europe where they are much better known. Rick once said that his favourite place on Earth was in Australia – a place called Magnetic Island off the coast of Queensland – and he always seemed relaxed and happy being downunder. It is such a shame we will not get to welcome him to our shores again. The following photo comes from a meet & greet at the gig in Wollongong in 2006, happy memories indeed. I will miss seeing him up their doing what he did best – but the vast recorded legacy will always mean he is but a CD spin away.

lee_rick-small

Before leaving the UK to head back to Australia, I visited the tribute to Rick outside the Hammersmith Apollo (formerly Odeon). Each day I visited, more flowers and trinkets had been added to the tribute and different fans were there to pay their respects. Some took the chance to embrace fellow fans and let their emotions out, while others chose more solitary personal reflection at the site. This was an important thing for many of us, just somewhere to go to share our sadness with others who “get it”.

ricktribute

RIP Rick, keep on rocking, you will never be forgotten.

“Playing loud, playing clear
The song will never change
The memory will always be so near” (A Year, 1972)

(For an excellent collection of tributes to Rick, see the brilliant www.rickparfitt.de site.)

2016 in review

As another year begins, it’s a good time to look back on the last one and 2016 was another busy year for me professionally.

I managed 22 posts on this blog in 2016, well in excess of my (internal) target cadence of one post per month. My blogging was irregular, though, with not much activity in the last few months while I was travelling (more on that later). I’ve tried to focus on quality of posts over quantity and it’s pleasing to note that my blog received three times as many views in 2015 as it did in 2016, so hopefully I’m doing something right. (If there are topics you’d like to see me talking about here, please let me know.)

Community events

The testing community worldwide seemed to blossom during 2016, which was great to see. More and more meetups and other opportunities for testers to meet and discuss their craft can only be a good thing both for the industry and for the professional standing of testers too.

The first half of the year again saw me heavily involved in the TEAM meetup group here in Melbourne. Although I am no longer contributing to the group, it’s great to see how far it’s come from humble beginnings in 2015 to now being a very active and well-attended meetup. I hope it continues to provide an avenue for testers in Melbourne to come together and talk testing. (I blogged about these TEAM meetups here, herehere, and here.)

I also had the chance to attend an overseas meetup when I found myself in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in October. It was a warm welcome at the Belfast Testers Meetup and this young meetup group showed a lot of enthusiasm and passion for testing. (I blogged about my time in Belfast here.)

My last community event of the year saw me taking part in the invite-only Cambridge Exploratory Workshop on Testing (CEWT) in November. I was lucky enough to be in the UK at just the right time and readily accepted James Thomas’s invitation to be part of their peer conference. I always enjoy these small peer conferences as they allow for deep discussion and have always resulted in me making new connections with interesting testers from around the world – and this event was certainly no different in that regard. (I blogged about my attendance at CEWT here.)

Conferences

2016 was a relatively quiet year for conferences for me, at least on paper, with just two testing conferences and one agile-centric one.

First up was the inaugural Australian Testing Days conference in Melbourne, for which I was a co-organizer. It was a huge amount of work pulling the conference together but also a lot of fun along the way and I’m proud of the great event that transpired in May. (I blogged about the experience of organizing this conference here.)

Next up was my first non-testing conference for many years, the Agile On The Beach conference held in Cornwall (UK) in September. It was interesting to hear talks of a more general nature and also on very different topics – and any conference with its group party event held on a beach has to be worth attending, right?! (I blogged about attending this conference here.)

Finally, it was over to California in October to attend and present at the massive  STARWest event. As my only conference speaking commitment of the year, I was really pleased with how the talk went and it was an enjoyable week at the Disneyland Resort taking in everything this enormous event has to offer. (I blogged about attending and presenting at STARWest here.)

Other stuff

I was pleased to be asked to act as guest editor for Testing Trapeze magazine for one edition in 2016 and it was an enjoyable experience bringing the articles together, getting them reviewed, and then finalizing the content in the magazine. Katrina Clokie has put a great team in place to ensure high quality in every edition and hopefully “my” edition added to its legacy in a positive way. (I blogged about my guest editor role here.)

Apart from my usual business and conference travel, I based myself in Europe for the last four months of 2016 and this gave me the chance to do some of the UK events I’ve noted above as well as catch up with friends and family in the UK. There were also some Status Quo gigs and the tragic loss of our rock and roll hero Rick Parfitt during this time (but that’s a story for another blog post).

 

Here’s to a successful and healthy 2017 – Happy New Year to you all!