Challenge: focus on value

I’m so tired of things that waste or unnecessarily demand so much of people’s time. You’ve got that meeting where people don’t bother to come in on time. You sit through meetings seeing people kill time on their mobile phones (either that or they’re also people-watching just like you). You have all these goals and expectations thrust upon you, and you can only shake your head over how un-SMART a lot of them are. You’ve got young, impressionable team mates working overtime to prepare for game shows, plotting surprises for people they hardly know, making fancy props for who knows what, etc.

Maybe that’s aligned with what they like. Maybe noontime show antics is what floats their boats. Maybe I’m the boring, cultural misfit who values people’s time (mostly, my own), how it should be the individual’s choice on how they would rather spend it, and how they should have a say if other people are wasting it for them.

Maybe we should challenge ourselves to find focus, and focus on just one simple thing: providing value.

What if our focus is on producing quality interactions with whoever we deal with. We set up meetings that people don’t dread going to and they actually find value in attending. We hold general assemblies where people will get key take-aways other than free food, and they leave feeling inspired or motivated. We hold activities where participants would feel they are better or they’ve grown — even just a little teeny bit — for having been there; rather than have the feeling that they’ve just killed off 30 minutes or more of their lives.

I don’t think it’s possible to get it right off the bat and all the time. But wouldn’t this be a better direction worth going for?

Testing Mindset

At work, I’m helping a colleague in developing a material on ‘testing mindset’ which is to be shared to our fellow testers. Initially, we have this list of one-liners — catchphrases that we hope would stick like: Always ask the question why, Assume the product is broken, Trust but verify, etc.

I tried going over them one evening. And while they do emphasize some qualities that are important for testers — like being persistent, curious, attentive to detail, critical-minded — I felt that it was still lacking. Some qualities that I deem important were missing — like having good communication skills, being a team player, being technically skilled, striving for self-improvement, having pride and ownership of your work/craft. I came up with an 8-point bullet list describing qualities that I would like in my test team, until I cut myself short since I was working time-bound. And as I’ve taken a step back from the one-liners to come up with this incomplete list of desired qualities, I took another step back from these qualities and thought of what is the driving force behind the need for these qualities.

Why must testers have those qualities I’ve been enumerating?  Why must they keep those catchphrases in mind?

In pausing and taking a step back, I realize it’s all for making things better. I guess that’s my personal testing mindset: I try to make things better.

When I started testing, I thought it was my nitpicking skills and slight OC-ness that made me such a good fit for the job. I just loved finding bugs (and still do)! Over time and over many projects, I found that my purpose in the team isn’t just to find bugs. Essentially, it’s to try to make things better. By “things”, I don’t only mean the products under test. But also my working relationship with my team mates, work loads, schedules, processes, the team itself, and even myself.

  • Say, I try to expose the bugs and report them, so that they’d get fix. Product gets better.
  • I try to provide suggestions for improvement like a comment on usability. Product gets better. If fixed, that suggestion could cut short the work that the end-user has to do.
  • I try to report bugs clearly and concisely. Dev’s life and mine are better than it would have been if i had given a vague report. Dev will hopefully be able to replicate the bug so he won’t have to nag me for details.
  • I try to find shortcuts and tools, and share them with the team. Tester’s lives are better. Even just the little things that could help minimize the tedium of some of the tasks we do is something I appreciate.
  • I try to read up, and try to continue learning and improving myself. I (hopefully) get better. (Well, i try.)
  • I try to encourage knowledge sharing among team members. The team (hopefully) gets better.
  • Etc.

Yoda might disapprove, because after all he said “there is no try.” But still, we must persist. The things we do, the qualities we instill in ourselves, our values — these must all drive towards the betterment of our team, our product, and ourselves.