18 July, 2010

An idea - that can ruin your credibility and sometimes your career!

Recently, I opposed giving written tests for interviewing testers for hiring few testers for my team. I screened resumes, I shortlisted people from non-computer science backgrounds, I opted for people with tech support experience, I did many things the unconventional way. I experimented a bit with the hiring process as I have “some” power to suggest changes to the existing process or so I thought.

When it came to selecting candidates for 4 vacant positions out of 35+ candidates, the easiest means of evaluation was a written test. When I suggested that we give a sample program to test with a mission, evaluation took centre stage. “It is hard to evaluate subjective tests”, “it’s easy to give multiple choice questions”, “we don’t have so many people to evaluate the test papers”, “In testing, since there is no one standard answer, we might not be evaluating the test papers uniformly hence resulting in unfair evaluation” and many more. Atleast, I was given a chance to suggest a program. A rather small win, but a big one for me.

Once I finalized on a program (with due credits to the program author) and came up with a list of bugs, I sent it to hiring team for review. They had enough time to build their own impressions about the program. When we met, it was a completely different scenario. I was so delighted to know that many of them had found some bugs in the program already. Awesome. Isn’t it? May be, not so awesome. Some of them had memorized the bug list I sent rather than executing the program. Ah! The same way that our educational systems have trained us to learn – by rote.

Mistake 1: Give them a problem and give them a solution. Why will anyone think about solving the problem? There was this big fight over how dirty the program was and how it did not help find any logical bugs. All it had was UI and usability bugs which we anyway live with, sometimes for the entire lifetime of the products. This was the collective opinion from the group.

Mistake 2: I was offended when people made fun of the program without testing it on their own. The general consensus on the program was that it is too easy to test and hence should not be considered for testing testers’ skills. How easy it that? Easy compared to what? No answers, just reactionless faces!

Mistake 3: When a young orphaned QA team (without a QA Manager) handles the hiring process and a couple of Dev. Architects and managers take over the process of leading such a process, it’s harmful because it becomes an exercise of rating testers versus programmers. Though our Dev. Friends were kind enough to help us with the effort, it was hard to convince them that the chosen program need not look complex and can appear to be easy, yet help us rate testers based on their skills.

What next? Here is a testing questionnaire that could be given for testers (as if testers didn’t know how to scout for such documents on the internet). I had the shock of my life when I saw some questions which was similar to asking someone “If given a chance, which eye would you poke? Left or right?” I am dead against (am I rude? Of course Yes!) such questionnaires and after a little struggle within the team, we came up with an idea to provide a problem statement/test scenario which candidates could solve on a sheet of paper. The next two days went in discussing whose problem statement to solve. Finally, one was chosen. The plan was to provide a problem statement and a mission for the candidates to test. All set for the big day.

Mistake 4: I did not mind the fact that something that I suggested did not work. I was angry and offended that it was made fun of across teams to an extent that the program was called a dirty little program. How mean? I failed to negotiate. I failed to show value of the program.

Biggest Mistake: Many testers who want to bring changes within the organization are nipped in the bud. It’s not necessary that everything be accepted, but one shouldn’t make fun of the effort some people take to come up with an idea. Such people who get frustrated over a period of time either become reputed system dummies or leave the system to become their own bosses (Independent Consultants). Trust me - you wouldn’t mind if a consultant you hired by paying a fat paycheck told you to use the same dirty little program to hire testers. You would have said ‘Wow’!

Whenever an employee comes with an idea, ask “How can the idea help us perform better? Why did the idea come from this person alone? Why not someone else? What is the value that a new idea can bring in? Can we make changes to make it better? Can we brainstorm instead of identify dents in the effort? Should an idea be encouraged only if it came from reputed employees in the organization? Can’t a freshman suggest something reasonable? Don’t new employees come with a fresh pair of eyes?” (A big sigh). Just question marks.

Have you observed how sugarcane juice is extracted? Once done, have you seen the leftover sugarcane? This whole thing about sticking to traditional hiring processes is like taking juiceless sugarcane and extracting juice from it by adding water to it for the next few decades. Are you game for following such a process?

Next time you suggest an idea, Beware! Be well prepared.
Regards,
Parimala Shankaraiah

16 comments:

Ry Jones said...

You need to find another company!

Parimala Shankaraiah said...

Hi Ry Jones,

This is the first feeling that comes to our minds as employees. I contemplated this feeling on multiple occasions in multiple companies.

Nevertheless, how many companies are we prepared to leave this way. Every company will have some loophole or the other. Ultimately, its made up of people and you and me are the "people".

As long as there are people who listen to what you say and let you give it a little try and fail, its ok with me (I agree there will be ridicule and banter, people will make fun of you and your failure, its OK to fail!). Imagine getting an opportunity to try an idea. That gives me goosebumps.

For me, the whole experience was about learning how I need to convey my ideas in a better way so as to make people believe that they have something good in that idea too. If they don't see any benefit, there are less chances of people accepting changes.

Thanks for your comment - brought a little smile to me,

Regards,
Parimala Shankaraiah

vipulgupta1 said...

Actual it is a real situation that you have captured. Many of the companies don't accept such inputs and leaving company would also not help. As of now I can really boast of my company and my boss who currently supported us to make this change to hire freshers. We organised a codejam session and identified candidates based on thier overall personalities. With this we also got rid of that boring Q&A interviews :)

Parimala Shankaraiah said...

Hi Vipul,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I would be interested to know about the challenges you faced initially in bringing your idea to life.

Regards,
Parimala Shankaraiah

cowboytesting said...

It sounds like you are running contrary to two basic behaviors in humans. 1) We do not value that which was not paid for dearly. 2) It is easier to belittle a new idea than it is to change existing ideas.

The already held (but patently false) idea you are facing is that there is some sort of objective criteria by which a candidate can be rated. I find the stubborn entrenchment of this idea to be humorous since it has been proven false time and time again both in studies of interviewing techniques and in performance review techniques. Since this idea of subjective auditioning runs counter to the entrenched belief in objective evaluation and it wasn't proposed by some one with a lot of acronyms after their name who was brought in from a respected company ... it's easy to dismiss.

Eusebiu Blindu said...

Nice post.

I don't know what was the application but I think every application is an opportunity to explore. Sure some are more adequate.
Yeah I also I am not very happy with inappropriate interventions of dev and managers.
I liked your comment with inside employees vs external contractors. Its the same with people who buy expensive tools for testing and use them not to look foolish.

Sebi

Anonymous said...

I disagree, Parimala.There is always a flip side of the coin.Its not always about the ideas getting suppressed or alienated.Its also about how acceptable the idea is to all the others.If a large group of people tend to disagree with you on something, you should also go back and evaluate all the aspects of the idea you proposed.Accepting rejection gracefully is not so easy;I guess you have taken your colleagues' remarks too personally.Otherwise, in a professional environment, no one tries to mock others;they have all the rights to put forth their opinions.But it is completely up to you whether to get offended by their comments or not.And of course, criticisms and negative remarks will always be there;rather than letting them hurt your ego, you should storm back with more valid ideas and stun your critics next time!!Best of luck and I hope you will definitely be succesful with your ideas in the future.

Parimala Shankaraiah said...

Hi Anonymous,

Accepting rejection gracefully is not so easy

I swear - its not easy. I am literally going through it right now :)

Thanks for your comment - It's soothing, I must say. Atleast you vented it out.

Regards,
Parimala Shankaraiah

Markus Gärtner said...

Wholeheartedly I recommend reading Fearless Change. It does a great job to explain why some people have more ideas, and why some people are afraid of new ideas. It also gives some guidance how you could approach this situation.

In addition I also enjoyed reading "Our Iceberg is melting" from Kotter on the topic. It provides a change process in a funny tale with penguins. Therefore I had to read it.

Overall, I know the situation you're in, and I appreciate the passion you have for the situation. Keep up the good work.

Priya said...

Glad to know you are on your journey towards change .. change for the better! Surely, this introspection will help you prepare better in future :)Good luck!

Ry Jones said...

Parimala Shankaraiah,
If you feel you are not getting traction for reasonable ideas, you need to either sell higher up the chain (go over the heads of the people giving you frustration) or move out.

Of course, the issue is filtering the ill-informed or poorly-thought-out idea you have from resistance based on fear of the unknown on their part.

I wish you luck!

pardhasrinivas said...

its a special post which overwelmed me and made me excited ,it happened never before,i took it as something happening before me .Started rating myself and in deep thinking

July 22, 2010 12:40 PM

Chandru said...

Hi Parimala,

An !dea can change your life :)

Thanks

Santhosh Tuppad said...

Wooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh! That's cool experience sharing - I love to get bad experiences which are good learning :)

Now, Interviewing is a skill and research on how to interview has to be done - I am waiting for the book "Approaches for Interviewing in Software Testing" by Pradeep Soundararajan.

Cheers,
Santhosh Shivanand Tuppad
My blog - http://tuppad.com/blog/

Hi Parimala, I appreciate you sharing your experience. I agree and disagree with you.Having said that, situation like this is always double edged.Sometimes a good idea is suppressed(instead..neglected)and sometimes a poor idea gains good ranks.This is because every idea itself carries the probability of success and failure. As said by someone famous "Success never has a single formula", to achieve it is to just trial and error run.Likewise,no single idea is perfect or imperfect, unless their outcome is positive/negative.How sad!!! But there is always a better way of dealing with situations, case by case, afterall everything is unique by itself in this world. Thanks!again for sharing your experience.Next time when I wanted to share an idea...I'll try to present it in the right way.. Thanks, Mithra http://tipsoftesting.blogspot.com/ said...

Hi Parimala,

I appreciate you sharing your experience. I agree and disagree with you.Having said that, situation like this is always double edged.Sometimes a good idea is suppressed(instead..neglected)and sometimes a poor idea gains good ranks.This is because every idea itself carries the probability of success and failure. As said by someone famous "Success never has a single formula", to achieve it is to just trial and error run.Likewise,no single idea is perfect or imperfect, unless their outcome is positive/negative.How sad!!!

But there is always a better way of dealing with situations, case by case, afterall everything is unique by itself in this world.

Thanks!again for sharing your experience.Next time when I wanted to share an idea...I'll try to present it in the right way..

Thanks,
Mithra
http://tipsoftesting.blogspot.com/

Siri said...

Hi Pari,

When I joined in my current firm as a fresher,there was no process of training for fresher in the organization.My team members were offshore and very busy to teach me what exactly the technology,what is my work.And such stuff.

The very idea got is to post my experience in forum.I posted this and suggested the solution as Training session should be there.(All of the employee's were shocked and asked me why you have posted like that,even my friends who joined along with me as freshers said the same.)

But after 7 months from the time i posted,for the first time there was a training sessions conducted.I was glad that my idea was successfully and useful for the upcoming freshers in firm.


Thanks & Regards,
Sireesha