23 January, 2010

What type of team are you? - Part I

In one my previous organizations’, I worked for 2 different teams during my ~3 years tenure. Let’s call them Team A and Team B. Team A was a vibrant team with highly energetic and motivated people with diversified experience and skill-sets. The team members included fresh college grads, people with couple of years of experience and a handful with good knowledge of customers’ usage of the product we tested.

Team A was led by a manager we’ll call Larry. What struck most about Larry was that he had faith in his team members (note that I don’t use the word ‘team’ here). He would talk to every team member at a regular basis about each one’s work, if there were any obstacles, if there was anything he could help with and so on. He organized team lunches/picnics/movies once in 2 months. He did all this while we worked a 70 hr work week. He came up with ideas to work differently to test the product better, but did not mandate to use his ideas alone. He was fine with people coming up with their own ideas as well. He encouraged people to have Disposable Time during office hours. He led by example.

Good Things don’t last forever. Isn’t it? I was moved to Team B for which I was originally hired. Team B was opposite of Team A. Team B consisted of testers who had been with the organization for 4+ years. People kept to themselves, some of them were short tempered and inaccessible. Some would even yell in public if you went with a question which they found to be silly. Some would never answer though they knew how to deal with it, but always pointed to a person who hardly knew anything about it.

Team B was headed by a manager named Rob who always carried a fake smile. I often wondered if his jaws didn’t hurt at all. I had a tough time getting information about the product in this team. Other than my reporting team lead, no one was willing to help. About 90% of the team members were unhappy with their raises just 1 month before I joined. They were obviously unhappy. What a bad timing it was for me?

To add to these woes, Rob walked around people’s cubicles without saying a ‘Hi’. His eyes were always on peoples’ monitors. Who is browsing what, who is not at their desk, how much time do they take during the allotted 1 hr lunch break, do they answer calls at their desk phone by their colleagues or not and many more.

It was appraisal time again. Cafetaria and the Table Tennis area are the best places to hangout post the performance evaluation phase. One gets to hear so many important things about the organization and its processes. I overheard an employee grumbling ‘My manager says on 11th Jan 2005, he came to my desk three times between 2pm and 3pm, but he didn’t find me at desk. He also says that I have been going for long lunches beyond the stipulated 30 minutes (btw lunch time lasts 1 hour in the employee handbook). He concluded that I am not being productive enough’.

The other employee replied reassuringly, ‘You know what? Your manager is still better. My manager says ‘I called you 21 times between 11am and 11.30am to your desk phone and you did not pick up the phone. Where on earth were you? He has my mobile number. I am surprised why he didn’t call to find out? I was at the hospital tending to my wife who suffered a miscarriage that day’. This is just 2 of the many conversations I have overheard or heard directly from the employees. 1 year later, the rate at which people joined team B was way too less compared to the rate at which people quit that team(and the organization) thanks to Rob.

If you are a team member, which team would you love to be in? A or B? If you are a manager, how do you manage your team? As Larry or as Rob?

Happy Working,
Parimala Shankaraiah

13 January, 2010

Book Review: Lessons Learned in Software Testing

About 5 years ago, I bought William Perry’s ‘Effective Methods for Software Testing’ book. I struggled for 2 months to get myself to read that book as it appeared to be too much of theory for me at the time (my first testing book). At the end of 2 months, I gave up. I gave up reading not just this book, but my reading habit itself.

In July 2009, I came across The Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar by James Bach. I had just started blogging a few months before that and was following James’ blog for a while. There was a free offer to read his book within a timeline which I did. In five days, I had finished reading the book. I enjoyed reading very much after a long time. It was fun. I realized what I had lost in last 5 years.

Lessons Learned in Software Testing is a book that every tester should read to get their basics right. A couple of my friends suggested that this is a book mostly for freshers and not targeted towards experienced testers. I digressed and read the book. I was right. This is a great book meant for every tester.

This book depicts finer nuances of many testing challenges we face on a daily basis. Another good part of this book is that every chapter addresses a topic independent of other chapters. So you could choose to read few chapters earlier than others. If you are a tester, you must read this book.

I bought this book 2 months ago and often stared at it (placed on the dining table) cribbing that I did not have enough time to read it. Around the same time, I came across Anuj Magazine’s post about Reading Skills. I started reading for 30 minutes everyday and it has worked. Who knows, it may work for you too. All you need is to TRY.

Happy Reading,
Parimala Shankaraiah

08 January, 2010

WOW Moment!

Curious Tester gets published on print for the first time! I was interviewed by the Software Test and Performance Collaborative magazine recently. The January Issue of the magazine is a special edition featuring many women testers across the world whom Karen Johnson calls as ‘Women of Influence’ in her editorial. Fiona Charles asks why there are so few women writers in her guest editorial 'And Now, The Women'.

It's a great honour for me to be featured alongside Fiona Charles, Karen Johnson, Elizabeth Hendrickson, Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory, Catherine Powell, Sharon Robson, Lanette Creamer, Nancy Kelln, Rosie Sherry, Renu Rajani, Isabel Evans, Mieke Gevers, Dorothy Graham, Dawn Haynes including Andrew Muns, Chris McMahon and Matt Heusser.

Wanna Read?
You have to register (FREE) at the website to read/download the January issue.

1. My Interview
2. Women of Influence
3. Fiona's Guest Editorial

Pradeep Soundararajan is a great support in my writing efforts all along and still is. He never gets tired of guiding me through my daily struggles in writing. Fiona Charles was very kind enough to review my work a couple of times before it went public. Karen Johnson, Amy Lipton, Andrew Muns and Teresa Cantwell were helpful in getting my work published. I am indebted to each one of them.

Happy Reading,
Parimala Shankaraiah