Category: Ideas

Mastering my mindset

Dutch version is here

People perceive me as extremely confident. One of my personal mentors once said: “you are fearless”. That is only the outside. Inside I am soft and insecure like most people are. I have fears, quite a few to be honest. My behavior and my inside weren’t congruent.

In my life, I like challenges and when I want something, I go for it. In those cases my determination and will to learn or to achieve something are just bigger than the fear of failing. Personal leadership is important in my life. I am trying to become a better version of myself every day. I want to be an even better person. My passion and energy in combination with being a fighter brought me where I am today. But it had a lot of “collateral damage”. Since my youth I have been struggling with depression, low self esteem and restlessness. Over time I got much better in dealing with them. But I still suffer from burn-out and depression complaints and mental health issues once in a while. My pitfalls are: fighting all the time, pushing people too much, going in debates to win, not able to turn myself off. In September 2019 I started a new episode in my life: I started working with Bureau Idee in Haarlem after an anxiety attack. Working with Peter Spelbos was like coming home. He helped me reflect and made me aware of aspects of myself that I have known for long, but never realized the impact of my thoughts and inner beliefs on my behavior and mental health.

On one hand, I am someone who is always ready to help others. A good and dear friend who is very good at his job. On the other hand I am afraid of many things because of my fear of failure in combination with perfectionism. Having a low self-esteem drains energy because you have to deal with the fact that you care about what others think of you. I see patterns where I put on a mask and hide my real self. Another personal mentor told me that “I am good at breaking down the walls of others and with those stones making my own wall higher and stronger”. I find it difficult to make myself vulnerable. I also see a pattern of running away from problems when it gets too difficult. My head is full of negative thoughts, all the time.

But I am dealing with them. Together with my therapist I gained deeper knowledge about myself, my inner beliefs and he helped me reflect on what to work on. He helped me to take matters into my own hands. By writing this, I feel strong and confident that I will overcome my issues and become a better version of myself. I am already reaping the fruits of my efforts.

As a coach, I teach people that vulnerability and self-reflection is important. By sharing this, I want to be a role model and show that having mental issues is okay as long as you work on them. Being vulnerable is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a super power. I believe that personal leadership and collaboration ultimately makes the difference in work and in your personal life. Mindset is the most important thing to become the best version of yourself. Vitality is key in that! To do the best work and to live the best life, physical and mental health are important and they are directly related! I learned that I need to become mentally strong by being less aggressive and more assertive (have a look at this awesome video). I started guarding my limits and borders, reasoning from my position and being less judgemental, becoming a better listener, being more humble and thankful, started meditating and practicing tolerance. I found a lot of inspiration in the Dutch book “Master your mindset” by Michael Pilarczyk.

I am mastering my mindset. I am dealing with it! It feels good and it makes me feel strong.

Watch your thoughts, they become your words
Watch your words, they become your actions
Watch your actions, they become your habits
Watch your habits, they become your character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny
― Lao Tzu


Meester over je gedachten (Master your Mindset)

Mensen ervaren mij als extreem zelfverzekerd. Een van mijn persoonlijke mentoren zei ooit: “je bent onbevreesd”. Dat is alleen de buitenkant. Binnen ben ik zacht en onzeker zoals de meeste mensen. Ik heb angsten, nogal wat om eerlijk te zijn. Mijn gedrag en mijn binnenkant waren niet congruent.

In mijn leven houd ik van uitdagingen en als ik iets wil, ga ik ervoor. In die gevallen zijn mijn vastberadenheid en wil om iets te leren of te bereiken gewoon groter dan de angst om te falen. Persoonlijk leiderschap is belangrijk in mijn leven. Ik probeer elke dag een betere versie van mezelf te worden. Ik wil een nog beter persoon zijn. Mijn passie en energie in combinatie met de straatvechter in mij, brachten me waar ik nu ben. Maar het had veel “bijkomende schade”. Sinds mijn jeugd heb ik te kampen met depressies, een laag zelfbeeld en rusteloosheid. Na verloop van tijd wist daar ik steeds beter mee te dealen. Maar ik heb nog steeds af en toe last van burn-out en depressie klachten en daardoor psychische problemen. Mijn valkuilen zijn: de hele tijd vechten, mensen te veel pushen, debatten aangaan om te winnen, mezelf (mentaal en lichamelijk) niet kunnen uitschakelen. In september 2019 begon ik een nieuw tijdperk in mijn leven: ik begon te werken met Bureau Idee in Haarlem na een angstaanval. Werken met Peter Spelbos was als thuiskomen. Hij hielp me nadenken en maakte me bewust van aspecten van mezelf die ik al lang ken, maar nooit de impact van mijn gedachten en innerlijke overtuigingen op mijn gedrag en mentale gezondheid besefte.

Aan de ene kant ben ik iemand die altijd klaar staat om anderen te helpen. Een goede en dierbare vriend die heel goed is in zijn werk. Aan de andere kant ben ik bang voor veel dingen vanwege mijn faalangst in combinatie met perfectionisme. Het hebben van een laag zelfbeeld verspilt energie omdat je je druk maakt om wat anderen van je denken. Ik zie patronen waar ik een masker op zet en mijn echte zelf verberg. Een andere persoonlijke mentor vertelde me dat “ik goed ben in het afbreken van de muren van anderen en met die stenen mijn eigen muur hoger en sterker maak”. Ik vind het moeilijk om mezelf kwetsbaar op te stellen. Ik zie ook een patroon van weglopen van problemen wanneer het te moeilijk wordt. Mijn hoofd is altijd vol met negatieve gedachten.

Maar ik ben ermee aan de slag gegaan. Samen met mijn therapeut heb ik diepgaande kennis over mezelf en mijn innerlijke overtuigingen ontdekt. Hij heeft me geholpen na te denken over waar ik aan moest werken. Hij hielp me het heft in eigen handen te nemen. Door dit te schrijven, voel ik me sterk en zelfverzekerd dat ik mijn problemen zal overwinnen en een betere versie van mezelf zal worden. Ik pluk nu de vruchten van mijn inspanningen.

Als coach leer ik mensen dat kwetsbaarheid en zelfreflectie belangrijk zijn. Door dit te delen, wil ik een rolmodel zijn en laten zien dat het hebben van mentale problemen prima is zolang je eraan werkt. Kwetsbaar zijn is niet iets om je voor te schamen; het is een superkracht. Ik geloof dat persoonlijk leiderschap en samenwerking uiteindelijk het verschil maakt in werk en in je persoonlijke leven. Mindset is het belangrijkste om de beste versie van jezelf te worden. Vitaliteit staat daarbij centraal! Om het beste werk te doen en het beste leven te leiden, is fysieke en mentale gezondheid belangrijk en die zijn direct aan elkaar gerelateerd! Ik heb geleerd dat ik mentaal sterk kan worden door minder agressief en meer assertief te zijn (bekijk deze geweldige video). Ik begon mijn grenzen te bewaken en aan te geven aan anderen, vanuit mijn eigen positie te redeneren en minder oordelend te zijn, een betere luisteraar te worden, nederiger en dankbaar te zijn, begon te mediteren en tolerantie te oefenen. Ik vond veel inspiratie in het Nederlandse boek ‘Master your mindset‘ van Michael Pilarczyk.

Ik ben bezig om mijn mindset te trainen. Ik werk aan mijn manier van denken! Het voelt goed en ik voel me sterk.

Let op je gedachten, ze worden je woorden
Let op je woorden, ze worden je acties
Let op je acties, ze worden je gewoontes
Let op je gewoonten, ze worden je karakter
Let op je karakter, het wordt je bestemming
- Lao Tzu

Popular blogs for testers

blogsTo help the Dutch community evolve to learn, think and do more skilled testing I want to advocate interesting stuff to read to the community. But what should a tester read? Earlier I published a list of popular books for testers. In my search for good books to read, some people replied that they only read blogs and other on-line content. On this blog I recommend great articles and on-line stuff in my great resources list. For testers blogs you can check my colleagues list.

But what do other testers recommend? My curiosity kicked in again and I sent out another email to my tester friends around the world to ask for their favourite blogs.

This is the “top 19” of most mentioned blogs. In the list are all blogs that got more that 2 votes. I am thrilled to be in this list at all. But it must have been the “availability heuristic” that got me on the 3rd place! Thanks guys 😀

Rank # votes Name URL
1 26 Michael Bolton http://www.developsense.com/blog
2 23 James Bach http://www.satisfice.com/blog
3 12 Huib Schoots http://www.huibschoots.nl/wordpress/
4 11 Cem Kaner http://kaner.com/
5 10 Michael Larsen http://www.mkltesthead.com/
6 9 Markus Gartner http://www.shino.de/blog/
  9 Elisabeth Hendrickson http://testobsessed.com/
8 8 Alan Page http://angryweasel.com/blog/
9 7 Andy Glover http://cartoontester.blogspot.com/
  7 The Test Eye http://thetesteye.com/blog/
  7 Zeger van Hese http://testsidestory.com/
12 6 Pradeep Soundararajan http://testertested.blogspot.com/
  6 Matt Heusser http://xndev.com/creative-chaos/
14 5 Iain McCowatt http://exploringuncertainty.com/blog/
15 4 Jurgen Appelo http://www.noop.nl/
  4 Keith Klain http://qualityremarks.com/
  4 Pete Walen http://rhythmoftesting.blogspot.com
  4 Rob Lambert http://thesocialtester.co.uk/
19 3 Adam Goucher http://adam.goucher.ca
  3 Adam Knight http://www.a-sisyphean-task.com
  3 Anne-Marie Charrett http://mavericktester.com
  3 Bob Marshall http://flowchainsensei.wordpress.com
  3 Eric Jacobson http://www.testthisblog.com
  3 Gojko Adzic http://gojko.net
  3 James Christie http://clarotesting.wordpress.com/
  3 James Lyndsay http://workroomprds.blogspot.com/
  3 Ministry of Testing http://www.ministryoftesting.com/testing-feeds/
  3 Parimala Hariprasad http://curioustester.blogspot.in/
  3 Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

180 different blogs where mentioned by 41 participants. The full list of blogs can be found here. An overview of all participants and their personal lists can be found here.

If this isn’t enough, you can check these listings of tester blogs:

Popular books for testers

I love to read and I own many books on testing, software, management and other stuff that relates to my work.

But what should a tester read? On this blog I recommend several books in my great resources list. And what do other testers recommend? My curiosity kicked in and I sent out an email to my tester friends around the world.

Every year the Dutch association for software testers TestNet organizes two one-day conferences. This year TestNet has chosen context-driven testing as the theme for their autumn event in October (call for papers is here). To help the Dutch community evolve to learn, think and do more skilled testing I want to advocate some interesting books to the community. Here I need your help! Please send me your personal top 10 of best books testers should read. It can be any book, it doesn’t have to be a book on testing… I will collect the submissions and create a list of most popular books amongst testing professionals. Please send me your list of favourite books! Hope to hear from you soon.

testerbooksOne of the testers replied that he could not send a list. “What you should be reading depends on what you are ready to learn about next, and that varies from person to person”. And I agree with this statement. This list of books can be useful when used as a list to inspire. Another tester replied: “the reading that has been most helpful in my career has been centered around blogs and twitter far more than it has been around books”. For testers blogs you can check my colleagues list. Maybe creating a list of most popular testers blog will be my next project 😀

Anyway, this is the top 10 of most mentioned books:

  1. Lessons Learned in Software Testing – Cem Kaner, James Bach, Brett Petticord (31 votes)
  2. Perfect Software and other Illusions about Software Testing – Gerald M. Weinberg (19 votes)
  3. Agile Testing – Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory (14 votes)
  4. Thinking fast and slow – Daniel Kahneman (12 votes)
  5. How to Break Software – James A. Whittaker (11 votes)
  6. Tacit and Explicit Knowledge – Harry Collins (10 votes)
  7. Explore It! – Elisabeth Hendrickson (9 votes)
    Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar – James Bach (9 votes)
    A Practitioner’s Guide to Software Test Design – Lee Copeland (9 votes)
  8. An introduction to general systems thinking – Gerald M Weinberg (6 votes)
    Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams – Timothy Lister & Tom DeMarco (6 votes)
    Quality Software Management Vol. 1 Systems Thinking – Gerald M. Weinberg (6 votes)
    Secrets of Consulting – Gerald M. Weinberg (6 votes)
    Testing Computer Software – Cem Kaner, Jack Falk, Hung Q. Nguyen (6 votes)
    The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (6 votes)

180 different books where mentioned by 43 participants. 15 (!) different books by Jerry Weinberg where mentioned. The full list of books can be found here. An overview of all participants and their personal lists can be found here.

Experiential learning: learning from experience

This blog post was originally written as an column for www.testnewsonline.com (English) and www.testnieuws.nl (Dutch).

Unfortunately last year AYE (Amplifying Your Effectiveness) was organized for the last time. AYE was a conference in Albuquerque in the U.S. hosted by Jerry Weinberg, Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman and Don Gray. I have never been there and very much wanted to go. But alas: too late!

What appeals to me most in this conference is the focus on experiential learning. They want no powerpoints presentations with barely any room for questions. They want participants who will participate, ask questions, share their experiences, be part of experiential exercises and contribute to the session designs and content.

Fiona Charles does a lot of workshops in this way. Last year I attended Let’s Test conference near Stockholm where I experienced a workshop “Inspiring Test Leadership”. Not been in or done, but experienced! Let me give you a brief report of the workshop. We were with a group of 25-30 people, we sat in a circle and we introduced ourselves briefly. Everyone gave their motivation for being in this workshop. Upon hearing the wide variety of reasons for choosing this particular session, I asked myself just how Fiona could give us all what we were looking for…

During the day, we did a number of interesting exercises in groups. All exercises were discussed and debriefed extensively. During those debriefs Fiona keeps asking the questions. These questions helped us to tell our story about what happened, how we experienced it and why we did what we did. Others are encouraged to respond with their own stories. Meanwhile Fiona facilitates the discussion with questions like “do you know why that happened?” or “how would you use it?”.

In one of the exercises we were divided into two groups. Each group was given 45 minutes time to create a leadership challenge for the other group. After that both groups got 45 minutes to solve the problem. A very interesting exercise it was! You experience the group process while generating ideas under time pressure. After 45 minutes you have to deliver something to work with enabling the other group to get started. It is basically an exercise in an exercise! You learn to think about leadership and it’s challenges. But the process itself is also very interesting and instructive. Leaders step forward, group dynamics occur and all sort of things happen. You do not learn about aspects of leadership, you are the object of the exercise! Did everyone get what they were looking for? No idea, I think so. That’s the beauty of this teaching method: all participants take away what is in there for them. Each participant is responsible for their own learning.

After EuroSTAR, on the way to the hotel, I discussed experiential learning with Fiona. EuroSTAR was great and there is more and more room for workshops and hands-on stuff. While walking Fiona told me that she has an idea to organize a conference with only experiential workshops inspired by the AYE conferences. I was excited immediately. Currently Fiona and I are brainstorming about the possibilities for such a conference, specifically aimed at testers.

What do you think? Would you participate? Who has experience with experiential learning? And what are your experiences? What would you want to learn in such workshops? I’m curious about your reactions.

On the scale of Context-driven…

In the last edition of Testkrant (in Dutch) I published an article on context-driven testing called “I am a context-driven tester! Huh? Really? So?“. In this article I (try to) explain what context-driven testing means and why I think I am context-driven. Jan Jaap Cannegieter reacted via email asking an interesting question which has crossed my mind several times already. The following quote is from his email but translated and slightly changed:

“Isn’t everyone context-driven to some extend? And I mean that on a sliding scale. People who always use the same method and implements this method slightly different every time are maybe 2% driven context (I have combined context-driven and context-aware, sorry for simplification). The Jedi tester using dozens of test methods that he blends to a unique test approach to apply in a specific situation is perhaps 98% context-driven.”

ETscaleJon Bach presented a “freedom” scale in his presentation Telling Your Exploratory Story at Agile 2010 Conference. Jon contrasts scripted testing and exploratory testing by plotting them in the freedom scale above.

Could such a scale also be applied to being a context-driven tester? Contrasting “Context-oblivious” with “Context-driven”? Maybe putting “context-aware” somewhere in the middle of the scale? Context-driven, context-oblivious and context-aware are explained on the website www.context-driven-testing.com.

cdt_scaleI am not totally happy with this model yet, but can’t put my finger on it how to improve it. There is more to being context-driven as only applying methods and techniques. I also ask myself what is the added value of such a scale? I think it helps testers understand the differences between context-oblivious, context-aware and context-driven better. It might also make it easier to bridge the gap between the extremes or even advocate that everybody is or can be context-driven in some extend?

What do you think?

Visualization

This blog post was originally written as an column for www.testnewsonline.com (English) and www.testnieuws.nl (Dutch).

Did you have a chance to see the webinar “Thinking Visually in Software Testing” by Alan Richardson at the EuroStar Virtual Conference May 16th last? If not I suggest you do that now before you read this column. Also very interesting is the great blog post Fiona Charles has written about this topic with the beautiful title “Breaking the Tyranny of Form”.

Alan explains that simple techniques and tools you can make your thinking visual. It makes your thoughts visible what benefits the feedback to yourself, but also the communication of your thoughts to others. In the webinar Alan shows some simple drawings that made his thought process transparent. The webinar also shows some simple tools that can help you.

Fiona is annoyed by documents where the form is more important than the content. These documents are driving and constraining our work. She explains that templates limit thinking and creativity. In her article she shows some examples of visual representations that helped her in her work.

Text is boring and not very creative. It lets your brain run at half power, only the left part of the brain is put to work. Using images will also put the right part of your brain to work. People remember images easier. In addition, images often impress us more. A text normally needs many pages to describe what a single picture can say. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is really true! A single image can transfer a complex idea fast and easy. Visualization allows us to quickly absorb large amounts of information.

Collaboration through effective communication

Visualization makes your work easier! Through visualization, communication is richer and that makes our work easier. Understanding each other is often the first step to successful collaboration. To clarify the added value of different forms of communication, I often show this picture:

This picture makes clear that communication is enriched with visualization. For who ever bought a new house, you know: graphics were the deciding factor. The plans and artist impressions gave, before only one stone was built, an impression of how the future house was going to look like. The visualization of the house to be built, informed your decision. Could text do the same?

But why do testers still produce so much text in their work? The creation of “traditional” test plans, test reports and test cases is very time consuming. And I think they do not add a lot of value. Have you ever wondered how many people actually read your test plans arising from the use of a 21-page template? And if somebody would have read it, how much useful information is in there for the reader? And what will he ultimately remember?

Mind Maps

Nowadays mind maps are very popular. I use them almost daily for various purposes: insight into situations, problem solving, summarizing, making records, creating plans, develop ideas or report status. I even created a mind map of my resume. The possibilities of mind maps are endless. The theory behind mind maps is fairly simple and making them stimulates the creative side of our brains through visualization.

On the back of a napkin

The drawing of (simple) images can be of great value. In my search for literature on creativity and visualization a few weeks ago, I walked into a book by Dan Roam called “The back of a napkin, Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures“. In this book Dan Roam describes how a simple drawing can help. I’m not a great artist and the simple drawings in this book appealed to me immediately. Ultimately it just requires drawing of simple shapes: lines, rectangles, smiles and stick figures.

His philosophy is that every problem can be solved with a simple drawing. In his book he introduces four steps of visual thinking, five questions that help focus and six ways of seeing. Try it and see if it helps you.

Inspiration

I hope these examples inspired you to try to use more visualization. Try writing a test plan with a mind map or visualize your test strategy and scope with images. Why not put your thoughts on paper using a few sketches? Don’t let the thought that you can’t draw stop you. The creative process is much more important than the final result. Furthermore, you will see that it isn’t really that bad!

Awesome examples
Finally, I want to share some great examples of visualizations, two beautiful animations. The first is Steven Johnson – Where Good Ideas Come From:

And the second is Dan Pink – Drive. The surprising truth about what motivates us:

This Dutch example by Avans Hogeschool also shows how powerful visualization can be:

Gojko Adzic uses simple but very powerful pictures in his presentations that help me understand and remember his message easy.

The last example I like to share is a blog post about visualizing strategy, concept and design which shows some good examples of visualizations and has a few interesting links at the end. Good luck!

Happy New Year! Busy New Year!

I know, I am way too late to wish you a happy new year. But I wish you a very happy new year anyway! This year will be a very busy one for me. To create some overview for myself, I created a mindmap of my testing ambitions for 2012…

This truely will become a magnifiant year! Busy but awesome for sure. Some highlights:

And another DEWT peer conference to look forward to! A lot of testing, conferencing, meeting and learning to do!

You can learn testing!

This blog post was originally written as an column for www.testnewsonline.com (English) and www.testnieuws.nl (Dutch).

This is the first in a series of three columns. The central theme of the columns is “how do I become a software testing expert?”.

To become great in your profession, you need to learn a lot. This seems obvious. Jos van Rooyen wrote an article in Dutch entitled “Hoe goed zijn we als tester?” (How good are we as testers?). In this article he writes: “Many people call themselves professional tester without having a solid foundation. Yes, we follow the ISTQB Foundation, etc. and think that we are professional.” I fully agree with this. Lesson 272 in the book Lessons Learned in Software Testing: “If you can get a black belt in only two weeks, avoid fights”. You have to learn and practice a lot to become good at your profession. But that goes for everything: just think of sports or music.

Jos draws the conclusion that testers on average are good. I do not agree with his conclusion (besides from the fact that mathematically any population is average). I think testers can do much better! On my weblog I once wrote: “A lot of them claim that they are great testers. But are they? I think a lot of testers maybe aren’t that great…”

Knowledge and skills
What makes a great tester? The skills that make a great tester, I will discuss in Part 2. Testing is a profession, that is something I don’t need to explain. And it’s obvious that you need a lot of different skills to be a true professional. And skills, the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, need to be trained. To become an expert in a particular skill you must practice a lot, and improve yourself continuously. To be an expert in a particular field, such as software testing, you need to become proficient in many skills.

To become an expert, knowledge is important. Knowledge you can gain in many ways and you must never stop learning! “Stagnation means decline,” they say and especially in IT this is true for me. But applying this knowledge is often difficult. Experience is of great importance. James Bach said in his presentation Becoming a Software Testing Expert “Do not confuse experience with expertise.” You can have years of experience, but how do you know that you have gained the right experience? How do you know if you do it “right”? Because let’s face it: there is a lot to be improved in our projects. We have to do much better, but how do we achieve that? And how do we know what we can improve?

Learning
Looking at the different stages of competence in a learning process: you start unconsciously incompetent. So you need to find out where you can improve. Through feedback from others, but also by looking for new knowledge and experience, you find out what else you can learn. In Part 3, I will discuss where and how you can gain knowledge and experience. But we also learn by making mistakes. Preferably in a safe environment. We learn from feedback and evaluations. In the agile world, retrospectives are common and often used. In a retrospective the team identifies what went well and what can be improved.

Coaching
For juniors coaching is essential. But not only for newcomers, for anyone who wants to learn, who wants to develop, a coach has added value. Antony Marcano wrote a nice article in which he says: “One thing that I notice is that while the teams are being coached, they do amazing things. They are more happy, more productive, fast to improve as if there are no limits to what they can achieve”. In many organizations, I notice that coaching is not often used. Here Marcano says: “So, if you have a professional software team without a coach, consider, are you really helping your business save money by going it alone? Or, like the professional sports team, is having a professional development team without a coach another example of a false economy.”

I want to conclude with a tweet from Michael Bolton: “Great sports teams treat practice with the same seriousness as a game — and every game as practice and learning. Testers take note. “

Huib Schoots sees himself as a context-driven tester. Currently he works as team manager testing at Rabobank International and is board member of TestNet. He is a member of DEWT (Dutch Workshop on Exploratory Testing), student in the Miagi-Do School of Software Testing and maintains a blog on www.magnifiant.com

Second part: What makes a good tester?