Category Archives: Volunteer work

Serendipity

It was early December 2017 when we found out that an ex-colleague at Quest in Melbourne had passed away. Bruce was a very popular guy during his few years with us as a tester – his flat-top haircut, dapper clothing and brightly coloured socks made him stand out amongst on office full of the usual IT crowd attire! He stood out to me, though, for just being a good bloke – he (along with his wife, Denise, who also worked at Quest) were incredibly generous to me when I first moved to Australia and started working at Quest, fielding those naive questions from a new arrival with patience and being good friends who just happened to live in the same area in which I’d chosen to settle.

It was testament to Bruce’s reputation as a good bloke that his funeral was a large affair, drawing representations from the various communities he was involved with around cars, dancing, and surf life saving. A few of us current Quest folks attended and we were pleased to find that a bunch of ex-Questers had also made the effort to remember him there too.

It was good to see some of the old Quest faces again and catch up with our various work and life changes since we’d all last seen each other (in many cases meaning ten-plus years). It was during one of these conversations that I happened to talk about the volunteer work I’d been doing to teach software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum (along with my good mate Paul Seaman). Dennis mentioned that his son, Dom, had a spectrum diagnosis and might be interested in the training, so I sent Dennis some details on the application process shortly after the funeral.

We had completed the first run of the EPIC TestAbility Academy in June 2017 and were actively looking for participants for the second run, so it was a timely opportunity for Dom. I was delighted when EPIC Assist informed us that Dom had applied – and we were very happy to accept him onto the second course starting in March 2018.

We had ten students on this second course, with nine making it to the end. It was a great group and I was disappointed to only be present for four of the twelve sessions due to work travel commitments. But I saw Dom as an engaged student, always contributing to discussions, and always tackling the homework between sessions. (I’ve already blogged about this second run in more detail here.)

Dom receiving his ETA completion certificate

I returned to Australia after the course ended in June and I knew that Paul had been working hard (along with Kym Vassiliou from EPIC Assist) to get some kind of placement going at this workplace, Travelport Locomote. The usual ping-pong between departments and HR burned a lot of time, but eventually it has come to pass that Dom is taking up a placement at Travelport Locomote as part of their just launched “LocoStart” programme, working alongside Paul two days per week.

Out of something so sad, something so wonderful has come about. Dom should be very proud of himself for taking the plunge to be part of the training course and for being such a diligent and engaged student throughout. His dedication and potential have been recognized by Travelport Locomote and I hope this opportunity to engage in a real-world software testing job in a modern IT company is a very positive one, both for him and Travelport Locomote. I know Paul is going to enjoy having Dom as part of his team and is committed to his success.

Finally, another shout out to Bruce, without whom this opportunity would have never happened for Dom, that good bloke karma just keeps on giving!

Another first, being interviewed for a podcast

Last week I was interviewed for the Super Testing Bros podcast, my first time taking part in an online podcast recording.

James Espie invited Paul Seaman and I to talk about neurodiversity, based on our experiences of teaching software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum through the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

Along with Akshay Sud, James guided the interview very well and Paul & I really enjoyed chatting on this important topic. We don’t claim to be experts in this field but can talk about our first person experience in working with folks on the autism spectrum for the last year or so. (We will also be talking about these experiences at the TestBash Australia conference in Sydney in October.)

It’s great that after 19 years in the software testing industry, I’m still doing new things and contributing my small part to the testing community.

Look out for the podcast online later in July on the Super Testing Bros website.

 

Another EPIC TestAbility Academy course comes to an end

The second run of the EPIC TestAbility Academy recently came to an end. For this second run, we had ten students and nine made it to the end of the 12-week course.

I unfortunately only managed to be present for four sessions this time, due to various work and personal overseas travel commitments so Paul Seaman shared the teaching load with Michele Playfair during the other eight sessions.

I was fortunate to be able to Skype into the final session, though, from the Czech Republic to wish the students well and congratulate them on their achievement in making it through the course. The final session included the presentation of completion certificates and also the chance for some great photos thanks to professional photographer, Monika Berry.

Lee Skypes in from the Czech Republic during the last session of ETA #2

Hard-earned certificates of completion

ETA #2 students and trainers

(To see the full set of Monika’s photos, visit https://mbcaptured.pixieset.com/epicassist/)

This second group was very different from our first and certainly proved the oft-quoted statement about autism: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Our approach to teaching the course needed to change quite significantly in response to the different personalities and group vibe, these are good learnings as we plan for the next run of the course. As context-driven testers, we of course know that context is everything and this was another example of using our CDT mindset to great effect.

My personal thanks to Paul for taking on so much extra load in teaching the course in my absences and also to Michele for her unbelievable commitment at short notice to play such a big role in bringing this run of the course to a successful conclusion. Thanks also to Kym Vassiliou and Craig Thompson from EPIC – your belief in the programme and continued commitment to it are great motivators and ETA wouldn’t be what it is today without you.

The people who make ETA happen (left to right: Michele, Craig, Paul, Kym)

Planning for the third run has already begun! If you know anyone who might be suited and interested in learning the basics of software testing through this programme, please let them know to register on the EPIC Assist website.

Speaking at the inaugural TestBash Australia conference

I’m delighted to have recently found out that I’ll be co-presenting (with Paul Seaman) at the first TestBash conference in Sydney, Australia, in October 2018.

It was Paul’s idea to submit a proposal to TestBash to talk about our continuing experience of teaching software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum through the EPIC TestAbility Academy. We presented on this topic at the LAST conference in Melbourne in 2017 and this time we’ll be able to share more experience, as we’re already halfway through the second run of the programme as I write.

The first course had six students (five of whom completed the full 12-weeks) while the current one has ten students. As we expected, the course will be quite different each time we run it based on the unique attributes of the students involved – suffice to say, it’s another very revealing and rewarding experience as we work with these ten inspiring young people.

Thanks again to Paul for suggesting we submit to this conference and also to the Ministry of Testing for giving us the opportunity to share this great story. I must also extend thanks to EPIC Assist for their ongoing support of this programme and especially to Kym Vassiliou without whose tireless efforts this second run might not have got off the ground.

See you at TestBash Australia 2018 !

Teaching testing again at the EPIC TestAbility Academy

After an enjoyable experience with EPIC Assist in 2017 offering testing training to young adults on the autism spectrum, we (that is, Paul Seaman and I) have just started another run of the EPIC TestAbility Academy.

This second course is being held in the excellent facilities of ANZ’s Docklands office and it’s great to have their support in providing high quality surroundings in which to teach the course. Jon O’Neill, head of ANZ Testing Services, gave a brief  (and entertaining) introduction as we kicked off the first session of this second course:

Jon O'Neill (ANZ) introducing himself at the first session of the second EPIC TestAbility Academy

Thanks to some great marketing efforts and a lot of legwork on EPIC’s behalf (a big shout out to Kym Vassiliou especially), this course has filled to our maximum of ten students and it was great to hear them all introducing themselves during the first session – so a big welcome to Braeden, Monique, Dom, Mario, Shen, Damian, Zoe, Caleb, Scott and Marco.

Lee and Paul introducing themselves at the first session of the second EPIC TestAbility Academy

After all the intros, the first session was devoted to discussion about the “what” and “why” of testing, before we wrapped up with a critical thinking exercise, “test the ball”. The engagement and insightful contributions from the group made the opening session very enjoyable for us as teachers (and hopefully also for the students!).

In the second session, we spent quite some time going over the students’ findings from the homework (viz. testing this Palindrome Checker website) and they had come up with some awesome test ideas (including some both Paul and I hadn’t thought of). Next up, we covered the importance of stakeholders before we dived into a group exercise in the shape of the Wason Selection Task. This proved to be a big hit, with excellent engagement, lots of differing opinions, good discussions and (almost!) reaching consensus. To wrap up the session, we ran another group testing exercise in which we all explored puzzle number 2 of James Lyndsay’s Black Box Puzzles (the students already tried to explain the behaviour of puzzle number 1 as part of the application process for the course). This was a fun session and the group is already forming good social bonds and everyone appears to be comfortable contributing ideas.

In addition to Craig Thompson, our ever-present helper from EPIC, Michele Playfair has been taking part in the sessions too as she will stand in for me during absences due to work travel in the coming months. (Paul, Michele and I are all offering our services on a voluntary basis.)

It’s great to have a “full house” for the second run of this course and initial signs are very encouraging, so it’s going to be an interesting twelve weeks as we seek to impart some of our knowledge and passion for good testing and watch these young adults learn and grow.

We are also grateful to the Association for Software Testing for their donation which supports refreshment breaks for the duration of this course.

(Thanks to Kym for the photos used in this post.)

The CASTx18 conference programme is live!

Back in May, I was asked by the Association for Software Testing to be the Program Chair for CASTx18 in Melbourne and it’s been a busy six months or so since then in getting to the point where the full line-up for this conference is now live.

After coming up with a theme with an Australian bent – “Testing in the Spirit of Burke & Wills” – it was exciting to open up the call for proposals and then watch the proposals trickling in, that trickle turning into a fast-flowing river as the CFP closing date approached!

The response to the CFP was very pleasing, with a broad range of proposals from all over the world, from first-time presenters to some very seasoned campaigners. My thanks go to everyone who took the time and effort to put forward a proposal.

Helped by my Assistant Program Chair, Paul Seaman, it was a time-consuming process to select content to fill just eight track session slots available on the conference day. It was always our intention to provide a balanced & diverse programme and hopefully we’ve achieved that:

  • The tracks cover a broad range of topics – from automation to working as a lone tester, from continuous delivery to running bug bashes.
  • We have a brand new voice, Monica Diaz, giving her first conference talk as a result of opening up a track session slot to the Speak Easy programme (for which I am also a volunteer).
  • Across the conference day line-up, we have 4 female speakers and 5 male.
  • It’s a truly international menu, with speakers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK.

It gives me great pride to announce our complete line-up, as follows:

Keynotes (March 1st)

Tracks (March 1st)

  • Adam Howard with “Automated agility!? Let’s talk truly agile testing”
  • James Espie with “Community whack-a-mole! Bug bashes, why they’re great and how to run them effectively”
  • Monica Diaz with “Evolution of Testing”
  • Kim Engel with “Journey to continuous delivery”
  • Paul Holland with “Creativity, Imagination, and Creating Better Test Ideas” (workshop)
  • Nicola West with “How I Got Rid of Test Cases”
  • Peter Bartlett with “Flying the Flag for Quality as a 1-Man-Band”

 

 

Tutorials (February 28th)

For more details about CASTx18, including the full schedule and the chance to benefit from significant discounts during the “early bird” period of registration, visit castx18.org

Thanks again to the AST for the trust they’ve placed in me to build the programme and hopefully what’s on offer is not only appealing to a wide audience of testers & others but also adds to the legacy of great CAST conferences.

I hope to see you in Melbourne next year!

ER of presenting at the ANZTB SIGiST (Melbourne, 27th July 2017)

Continuing our recent run of presentations together, Paul Seaman and I were happy to accept an invitation to deliver our talk “A Spectrum of Difference – Creating EPIC Software Testers” at the Melbourne ANZTB SIGiST on 27th July.

The Australia New Zealand Testing Board holds these Special Interest Groups in Software Testing a few times a year all around Australia and this particular chilly July evening drew a crowd of about sixty, lured by the promise of a couple of good presentations (and some free food & drinks!) It was a pretty slow start but a swag of arrivals around the 5.30pm start time meant that, as the first presenters of the evening, we had a good crowd in front of us. Michael Pollino did the ANZTB spiel to kick things off before we were up.

The presentation again went really well and co-presenting is becoming more and more comfortable for Paul and I. We were delighted that so many people came up to us after the talk to express their interest in what we’re doing, offer their help, or just say thanks. It’s always a nice feeling as a presenter when people make the effort to catch up for a chat afterwards, so thanks to everyone who did that. We’ve also had follow ups in the days after the talk, which is fantastic too.

Lee at the ANZTB SIGIST

The mid-session food was quickly demolished and the well-stocked bar also did good trade. Jules Barnes (from AccessHQ) rounded out the evening with his talk “How to be a testing Gladiator”.

Thanks to the ANZTB for the opportunity to share our story. If you know anyone who might be suited to the software testing training we offer through EPIC Recruit Assist, please encourage them to apply.

(You can also read about this event via the ANZTB blog.)

Same story, different companies

I’ve recently had the chance to deliver presentations in the offices of a couple of different companies. Both of these opportunities arose out of the work I’ve been doing with Paul Seaman in running software testing training for young adults on the autism spectrum through EPIC Recruit Assist and our programme, the EPIC TestAbility Academy (ETA).

Having delivered a presentation about ETA at the Melbourne LAST conference, one of the audience members from our talk – Darko Zoroja – reached out to us to see if we’d be willing to deliver the same talk again, this time at his workplace, Seek. Both Paul and I are keen to spread the ETA message as much as we’re able so we immediately said yes and were soon heading along St Kilda Road to Seek’s headquarters to meet Darko. Running the ETA presentation as a “brown bag” over lunch worked well, with a good crowd in the big open kitchen/lunch/presentation space gathering to hear our talk. We got a lot of thoughtful questions from this audience too and some interest was shown in EPIC and ETA (and maybe we even found a candidate for the next run of ETA as well). Thanks to Darko and everyone we met at Seek for their warm hospitality and excellent presentation facilities – and for giving up lunch breaks to listen to Paul and I !

Lee presenting at Seek

The next opportunity came thanks to Paul’s employer, Travelport Locomote, so it was another trip down St Kilda Road to give the ETA presentation again, this time as a “lunch and learn” session in their open space (which comes handily equipped with an incredibly distracting wide view over Albert Park lake and Port Phillip Bay). It was a small but engaged bunch of Paul’s colleagues and there were some great questions at the end as well as another offer of assistance in running future ETA sessions. Thanks to this group also for giving up their lunch hour to spend listening to us telling our story.

A big “Thanks” to everyone who’s already shown interest in what we’re doing with EPIC and, of course, to my mate Paul without whose grit and determination in finding an organization to get this thing off the ground we’d have no story to tell.

If your organization has a genuine interest in diversity and would be keen to find out more about the EPIC TestAbility Academy, we’d be more than happy to give our talk on your premises too so just reach out if that’s of interest.

ER of presenting at the LAST conference (and observations on the rise of “QA”)

As I’ve blogged previously, I was set to experience three “firsts” at the recent LAST conference held in Melbourne. Now on the other side of the experience, it’s worth reviewing each of those firsts.

It was my first time attending a LAST conference and it was certainly quite a different experience to any other conference I’ve attended. Most of my experience is in attending testing-related conferences (of both commercial and community varieties) and LAST was a much broader church, but still with a few testing talks to be found on the programme.

With about a dozen concurrent tracks, it was a tough job choosing talks and having so many tracks just seems a bit OTT to me. It was the first person experience reports that made for highlights during this conference, as is usually the case. The Seek guys, Brian Rankin and Norman Noble, presented Seek’s agile transformation story in “Building quality products as a team” and this was a compelling and honest story about their journey. In “Agile @ Uni: patience young grasshopper”, Toby Durden and Tim Hetherington (both of Deakin University) talked about a similar journey at their university and the challenges of adopting more agile approaches at program rather than project levels – this was again good open, honest and genuine storytelling.

(I also made an effort to attend the talks specifically on testing, see later in this blog post for my general thoughts around those.)

The quality of information provided by the LAST organizers in the lead up to the conference was second to none, so hats off to them for preparing so well and giving genuinely useful information to presenters. Having said that, the experience “on the day” wasn’t great in my opinion. It still amazes me that conferences think it’s OK to not have a room helper for each and every session, especially for those conferences that encourage lots of new or inexperienced presenters like this one. A room helper can cover introductions, facilitate Q&A, keep things on track timewise, and assist with any AV issues – while their presence can simply be a comfort to a nervous presenter.

Secondly, this was the first time I’d co-presented a talk at a conference and it turned out to be a very good experience. Paul Seaman and I practiced our talk a few times, both via Skype calls and also in front of an audience, so we were confident in our content and timing as we went into the “live” situation. It was great to have some company up there and sharing the load felt very natural & comfortable. Paul and I are already discussing future joint presentations now that we know we can make a decent job of it. (The only negatives surrounding the actual delivery of the talk related to the awful room we had been given, with the AV connection being at the back of the room meaning we couldn’t see our soft-copy speaker notes while presenting – but neither of us thought this held us back from delivering a good presentation.)

Lee and Paul kicking off their presentation at LAST

Thirdly, this was the first time I’d given a conference talk about my involvement with the EPIC TestAbility Academy. The first run of this 12-week software testing training programme for young adults on the autism spectrum has just finished and Paul & I are both delighted with the way it’s gone. We’ve had amazing support from EPIC Recruit Assist and learned a lot along the way, so the next run of the programme should be even better. My huge thanks to the students who stuck with us and hopefully they can use some of the skills we’ve passed on to secure themselves meaningful employment in the IT sector. The feedback from our talk on this topic at LAST was incredible, with people offering their (free) help during future runs of the training, describing what we’re doing as “heartwarming” and organizations reaching out to have us give the same talk in their offices to spread the word. This was a very rewarding talk and experience – and a big “thank you” to Paul for being such a great bloke to work with on this journey.

Turning to the testing talks at LAST (and also the way testing was being discussed at Agile Australia the week before), I am concerned about the way “QA” has become a thing again in the agile community. I got the impression that agile teams are looking for a way to describe the sort of contributions I’d expect a good tester to make to a team, but are unwilling to refer to that person as a “tester”. Choosing the term “QA” appeared to be seen as a way to talk about the broader responsibilities a tester might have apart from “just testing stuff”. The danger here is in the loading of the term “QA” – as in “Quality Assurance” – and using it seems to go against the whole team approach to quality that agile teams strive for. What’s suddenly wrong with calling someone a “tester”? Does that very title limit them to such an extent that they can’t “shift left”, be involved in risk analysis, help out with automation, coach others on how to do better testing, etc.? I’d much rather we refer to specialist testers as testers and let them show their potentially huge value in agile teams as they apply those testing skills to more than “just testing stuff”.

Some firsts at the LAST conference (Melbourne)

My next conference speaking gig has just come in – the LAST conference in Melbourne at the end of June 2017. This event will mark a series of “firsts” for me.

Firstly (pun intended), this will be my first time attending a LAST conference so I’m looking forward to the huge variety of speakers they have and being part of a community-driven event.

Secondly, this will be the first time I’ve co-presented a talk at a conference. I expect this to be quite a different experience to “going solo” but, given that I’m doing it with my good mate Paul Seaman, I’m comfortable it will go very well.

Finally, this will be the first time I’ve given a conference talk about my involvement with the EPIC TestAbility Academy. Both Paul and I are excited about this project to teach software testing to young adults on the autism spectrum (and we’ve both blogged about it previously – Paul’s blog, Lee’s blog) and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to share our story at this conference. Working together to create a slide deck is another first for both of us and it’s an interesting & enjoyable challenge, for which we’ve found effective new ways of collaborating.

Thanks to LAST for selecting our talk, I’ll blog about the experience of delivering it after the event.