27 October, 2013

A Decade in Software Testing – Writing, A Mental Therapy

I gave life to this blog on 6th Feb 2009 and it has been giving life to me ever since. Although the blog was created on 6th Feb 2009, I didn’t know what to write for a long time. I then read a blog post by Pradeep Soundararajan on five tips for bloggers. I had just finished reading the blog post when an email arrived from him. It read something like, ‘I saw your blog with nothing posted on it. I suggest you to write something and get going’. I was happy to know at least one person would be interested to read my blog! I wrote my first blog post on 6th March 2009. First comment on my blog was from Pradeep :) I credit most of my accomplishments to this blog – Curious Tester. 

Writing first few blog posts was a roller coaster ride. While I was decent in verbal and written communication, it was hard to put all my thoughts into writing. I improved over time. I hardly read books those days, which meant my vocabulary wasn’t great. I would wait excitedly for weekends so I could blog about something I learned during that week.

Writing on Curious Tester blog has always been fun. It’s like that 2 yo who shows his/her accomplishments to the grandparents. Grandparents, because they are more appreciative most of the time compared to parents. My writing capacity went down in 2011 and 2012. Every 3 months, I would show up with a blog post and disappear after that. I had become a guest writer for my own blog. I felt bad, but I was busy with my children and my work.

Terrible Mistakes
I have made some terrible mistakes. I was invited to write for a popular crowdsourcing blog, but they backed out after reading my blog post. I didn't hear from them after that. I also released my own e-book on 'Web Accessibility'. I consider this a failure because I made a checklist and called it an e-book. At that time, I enjoyed doing it and was happy about it. Now, I know it was low quality work. Even now, I fail often. The good thing is I recover quickly most of the times. Rephrasing Don Shula's 24 hour rule 

"Celebrate Success or Sulk in Failure for 24 hours after which you must get back to work." 
Not everyone likes what I write
Many professional/prolific writers find my Indian – English irritating. The good news is many friends who know me have told me that my writing is bad or not engaging directly to me instead of cursing my work in my back.

I was hurt to hear that my writing is bad especially when it came from people who I deeply respect and love. Two years fast forward, I have made great progress. You cannot please everyone with every piece of writing you create. Seth Godin talks about three classes of readers and how your writing will strike a chord with very few readers of each of these classes. In worst cases, it will hardly inspire someone. As a writer, do you care?

I care! I do care that people like my writing when I have done something new or cool and I think it will benefit a larger audience. I wouldn’t care if it's something I wrote for myself, like these ‘A Decade in Software Testing’ series of blog posts. Irrespective of whether people like or not, there is definitely one person who is deeply inspired at the end of every writing effort – and that’s ME. 

In recent past, I took to writing very seriously and started to reach out to many global friends like Jari Laakso, Johanna Rothman, Steven Smith for reviewing articles. Each time, I go to a  different person for reviews. I got one reviewed by my 6 yo recently. She found a few areas confusing and I knew what to fix in that article at the end of that discussion. Despite these efforts, there will be attempts which end up in duds. Well, Welcome to the Journey called Life!
"Nothing works all the time"
At the end of the day, I remember what Gerald M. Weinberg said, “I knew that nothing I would ever write would please all of the people all of the time, or even some of the time. All that’s important is that some of the people respond some of the time sufficiently often.”

Writing is Hard Work
In 2011, I decided that I will work hard towards my writing. Two years later, I can say, I am good enough (although there is lots to learn). I decided to write more often and write better. I started writing for many testing, leadership, entrepreneurship magazines, wrote a couple guest blogs for friends, started helping people to blog, helped them with reviews and reviewed a lot of stuff for other writers too. Around the same time, I started to read scores of books. My current record is 3 books per month, reading all 3 in parallel most of the time. I get a lot of writing ideas while reading books, while playing with my children and in the restroom too ;). Reading books has become an integral part of my writing life.

Leadership is (expletive-deleted) hard. A leader needs to be ahead of his people, yet walk alongside them and light the path. A leader needs to take a lot of pain, which may never be recognized at all. I like that pain, it makes me a better human being. This is why I find writing about leadership highly challenging and stimulating. It's easy to write if you have lived it well. I believe I am doing a decent job. 

I write a lot about Influential Leadership and Entrepreneurial Leadership these days. I am learning a lot about Influence and Leadership and hence writing on similar lines. 
"Ability to Influence People Positively is one of the toughest tasks in human history and I intend to be good at that"

Curator at TechWell
Oh, I am one of the official curators at TechWell! Curated writing is a new challenge I have accepted for myself. I no longer want to do what I am comfortable with. I want to do whatever appears impossible and see what is in store for me. I want to throw myself off the comfort zone again and again and again. 

Writing is Mental Therapy
Pradeep told me about one lady who walked up to him at CAST 2013 and told him how she had decided to quit her 15 years testing career, but decided to stay after reading my blog [If you are this lady and you think I have misquoted you, please get in touch with me :P]. 
"It’s fun to quietly inspire someone from some corner of the world"
Writing is a Mental Therapy. It soothes me down. It connects me with my soul. It trains me to listen to my Inner Voice better. Writing reminds me that I don’t belong here. Writing tells me that I am here to do my bit for the world and move on, just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull!

My Latest Collection of Articles
Testing Planet


Carma Connect

Curious Tester Blog

By the way, Scott Berkun is my new writing hero!

Happy Reading!

Parimala Hariprasad

13 October, 2013

A Decade in Software Testing - In Search of The Master

Hello Readers,

On 14th August 2013, I completed *ten* cool years in testing. While I am not a great fan of numbers, ten years is significant because of my journey in this time. It's been special, hard, painful and yet highly satisfying. This journey made me tougher in terms of handling situations and gentler while dealing with people. I wish to jot down my learning journey in these ten years as a series of blog posts. These blog posts are a gift to myself because I started this wonderful journey here - on Curious Tester blog! I am writing it down so I can look back when I want to, when I need to. If I lose hope someday, I will come back to regain it here. 

Failure favors the Unprepared
After failing in 30+ interviews, I was finally offered a job at Oracle.  I was quite a dumb kid who didn't know much of how the outside world works. I was least prepared for anything other than programming languages and technical concepts. I got beaten down in interviews for obvious reasons. It was the toughest phase of my life when I look back. I am glad I handled it (not to mention the cry baby I was).

The folks who interviewed me were impressed with how I executed my final year project (not the what part). At Oracle, I learned several enterprise products in Oracle CRM suite. I raised Severity 1 bugs on almost every product that integrated with the module that I tested, hence sending pager messages to them on weekends. Managers of those teams hated me. I didn't know that until a senior colleague told me this couple years later (how stupid of me?). 

Those days, if I ran out of ideas to test, I learned other CRM products like SAP, PeopleSoft and SalesForce offerings. These were obviously not available for free. I would download trial versions, make sense of screenshots on Google Images and come up with my own findings. I reported these as bugs in the module/product I tested (Competitiveness Analysis in 2003, Holy Cow!). What I lacked during my Oracle days was Confidence and my ability to present my work in a way that it would get noticed. I never recognized this until years later.

Post my wedding, I joined McAfee. During third round of interview, one of the Senior Test Managers (who became my reporting manager thereafter) asked me, “How good are you at setting up hardware?” I replied in a loud tone, “Very Poor, but I can learn quickly if that is important to do my job better.” I knew I was fired even before I was hired. I was wrong. I got hired. Life was very hard at McAfee. I had to learn a lot about hardware, set up stress/soak test beds and install an enterprise product on cluster machines which took 2-3 days. I was particularly scared of going into the Stress Test lab where not a single soul would be present in nearest vicinity between 3 PM and 9 PM. Add the drama of noises coming in from large cluster systems and it would sound like a Ghost Lab. I did many things that I never thought I would.

When Man proposes, God disposes
Due to my husband’s relocation plan, I quit McAfee. Unexpectedly, he changed his plan. I thought I could try a new company so I could learn new things. This is how I landed at SupportSoft, a startup with over 70 people at the time. As I start to write about SupportSoft, my heart dances with joy. It used to be a techie’s heaven. Employees were very talented and passionate. For me, most employees at SupportSoft demonstrated the highest level of professionalism I have ever witnessed in my life. If you are a startup and you want to create great stuff, you must be like SupportSoft. In here, I just put what I learned at Oracle and McAfee to use – effortlessly. I honed my leadership skill. I learned a lot more about Professionalism, Passion, Love and Mutual Respect at workplaces. Until then, I thought organizations had highly political environments where people always stab you in the back and where you should just do your work and get away without sharing what you know with your colleagues. At SupportSoft, it was one family working to build a great company. There were a few bad weeds, but the leadership team was so powerful, kind and lovable that the bad weeds never grew. They had to leave some day and that someday wasn’t far off.

I had started to read Pradeep Soundararajan’s blog while I was in McAfee. I started meeting testers outside SupportSoft, discussed testing, discovered Exploratory Testing, SBTM and Context Driven Testing. I must say I was na├»ve when I first encountered these new buzzwords. I used them just like that – buzzing around without really understanding what they meant. These started making sense only when I started to apply my knowledge on real projects.

Good things don’t last forever
ESG division of SupportSoft (where I worked) was sold off to Consona who took over our team. The transition was hard, although not new. I had been part of 3 acquisitions before - at Oracle and McAfee. The acquisitions at Oracle had a great impact on me in terms of understanding what job security meant and how it leaves people almost homeless. I had strong views around firing or laying off people. Some of those views have changed now. What I loved at Oracle was the way they handled Lay-Offs. At SupportSoft asa well, transition was handled with utmost care. The leadership team made sure it was that way. Great level of professionalism.

When Consona took over, I decided to stay. I wanted to be a part of that journey and see where it could take me. New leadership team took over, there were changes every day, resignations were dropping on desks every week. It was painful to see some of my great colleagues leave. My manager left from whom I learned a lot about project management. I stayed. I was resilient. It paid off in the end. 

Life is all about choices!
What I learned post Consona acquisition was amazing. I was constantly observing how the organizational goals were changing. I finally decided to invest on my learning all over again. I decided to pay from my own pocket to attend Pradeep Soundararajan’s workshop. The fee was 50% of my monthly pay at that time. I told my family to bear the cut for that month and told them how important it was for my career. That is one of the biggest decisions I made in life that has paid off so much. If I had looked at money and opted out of Pradeep's class, life would have been different. My director Sai sponsored a couple more workshops by Pradeep Soundararajan which I attended during his time. He wanted to bond with his new team while I wanted to learn new stuff. It was mutually beneficial.

In the meantime, there was a personal turmoil and my support system took a hit. My second child was 3 months old. I had to take a little break so my parents could take care of other important things in life. The long commute to office was eating into my health too. It was time to say goodbye to Consona. I loved what I did at SupportSoft and Consona. I groomed myself pretty well.

Moolya happened around the same time my second child was born. It was a little baby taking tiny steps in this big world. When my child was 6 months old, I joined Moolya as the 4th employee. Today we are 67. The journey so far feels awesome. At Moolya, I was knocked out of my comfort zone every single minute. At the end of one year, I had accomplished a lot and yet had not accomplished many other things. My growth in Moolya has been phenomenal in terms of what I learned and how I made use of every opportunity that rocked my life. I work with some of the best colleagues in the testing industry at Moolya. I interact with some of the greatest minds in testing and outside testing using technologies like Twitter, Skype, Facebook. I have started to attend entrepreneurial events and meet passionate people every day. I now have so much do to in life and so little time. Well, Einstein had the same time. I better work harder and smarter!

My Inspiration – People who helped me be Parimala Hariprasad
Devang Mehta – Karnataka’s IT minister who took IT to a new level during my college days
Dilip Ranjekar – CEO of Azim Premji Foundation who wrote great stuff in Times of India when I was a teenager
Ishwar Hangargi – my first mentor in IT
Harini Swaminathan and Ramanjit Singh at Oracle
Amit Kumar Yadava, Dipankar Roy, Smriti Metikurke, Lakshmi Athreya, Vadiraj Thayur, ShyamSunder Jaju, Navarathna Narsimha Murthy, Rahul Verma, Rahul Mirakhur at McAfee
Yatish Nagavalli, Sanjeev Kumar, Sai Balakrishnan, Shan Kadavil, Arvi Krishnamurthy, Ravi BV, Seema Bharadwaj, Rituja Indapure, Meera Huddar at SupportSoft/Consona
Pradeep Soundararajan, Dhanasekar Subramaniam, Sunil Kumar, Manoj Nair, Sharath Byregowda and Warriors (my team) at Moolya. Moolyans also inspire me. I work with most of them in different capacities and am inspired at different levels. Muthu Kumar from one of our client locations inspired me big time. 
James Bach has become very special especially after I got an opportunity to ghost-follow him (for five days) everywhere during his visit to Moolya. Thanks to Pradeep for making this happen
YOU – All of YOU whose names I haven’t mentioned, but who touched my life in some way or the other have inspired me. 

Special thanks to all those wonderful critics who said I couldn’t do it, who hoped I must fail, who prayed that I should wither out and who told me I can never be happy and successful at the same time. Special thanks to you folks because without you, I wouldn’t have challenged myself. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey!

I often wonder what is it that I was actually doing in these ten years. In these ten years, I have been in search of my Master. Have I found my Master?

Watch this space!

Parimala Hariprasad