Training New Testers

So as my more regular readers will be aware, at work, we are changing some major systems for something a bit more modern. This means more testing is required than my test team is able to do. So we’ve recruited some more people to test. I decided that the  best approach for this was to recruit internally for people who had the familiarity with the business processes that are impacted by the software change that I could teach how to test.

Now there are obvious risks to this approach, my ability to assess someone’s ability to learn quickly, have an appropriate mindset for good quality testing, my ability to train them, the list goes on. However, I felt that connection with the business was worth the risk, the ability to see what’s going to be a challenge in the departments, and what’s going to work well, plus the increased trust for the business by having key people involved in the testing process.

So the challenge that I have is to train them all to be great testers, well as great as I can help them be. There are plenty of great resources out there, videos, blog, books etc. However there are 5 of them, and we have to be testing the system at the same time as I’m training them. So I recruited them all earlier than I actually needed them, so they could start learning before it became critical. My first step was to get them to watch James Bach’s open lecture, I used this as a starting point as James has an engaging style of presentation, and the lecture covers some of the basic challenges in testing in an easy to understand way, with little need for the watcher to already understand testing or a great deal about software development. I also ran some training on the basic housekeeping tasks that make up the test process we are using here, session notes, timings, bug reporting etc. Plus a have a small selection of books that they can borrow which cover aspects of testing.  We also have regular open discussions about testing where we can share what we have learnt, and ask questions about how to do things. I’ve also given each of them a cheat sheet with some helpful heuristics and information about data types.

I have also encouraged them to spend a little time every week on some self-directed learning about software testing, which I ask them about, and when they have found something that is useful to the team to share it with them. I have also encouraged them to just log into the system, have a poke about, see how stuff works, and practice session note taking while doing so. This has been of great use, it’s uncovered a few bugs, and given me the chance to run a few debrief’s, and provide some feedback on both the notes they have taken and how they have thought about what they were doing while logged into the system.  My next challenge is to give them a grounding in some test methodologies, without confusing them, so they can start applying differing approaches to what they are doing.


How have you approached training new testers? Do you have ready-made material or favoured techniques?

Understanding risk from the perspective of stakeholders

A key part of getting software signed off is having the key stakeholders happy that it does or is what they wanted. So how do you make sure you address this in your testing?

There are a few different approaches that you can take to gain an understanding of the risks from the perspective of a stakeholder, at there core though there are a few skills which you need to use regardless of if you interview, produce an information gathering form, or run a brainstorming session, to name a few ways.

What you are trying to do is gain an understanding of their real needs, and the stakeholders may not understand what these are in the early stages of a project, or at least in any great detail. You need to draw these out of them with the use of open questions that lead them to think about the details that you need to understand. You have to do this without imposing your concerns on the conversation. Yes, it needs to be a conversation, it’s not a question and answer session, you have to build rapport and trust with them so that over time they will volunteer this information to you as they are beginning to trust your judgement and that you will take what they say seriously.

You need to set the initial conversation up wisely. You have to give the stakeholder plenty of warning about what you want to do, and what you want to get out of the conversation so that they can prepare. You’ll also need to prepare, make sure you can provide answers to any questions they are likely to ask that you have accurate information about, however, you have to be able to say, ” I don’t know that yet” or, “let me look into that”. nothing will damage the relationship you are trying to build faster than guessing at answers and getting it wrong.

It’s okay to go off script, when it is done for good reason, to gain greater understanding, try to bring it back on track at the appropriate time, when you have explored the topic you were discussing before you or they have started to ramble or moved too far from what you wished to talk about.

You’ll need to practice active listening, being flexible about your questions and asking questions to draw out more details, these are not easy skills and deserve a post in their own right, so I won’t go into them in detail hear. I’ll just say you need to be paying close attention to what you are being told so that you can ask the right questions, at the right time to draw greater detail out, all while writing down the important pieces of information.

you can also make great use of silent pauses to draw further details from them, people will naturally want to fill gaps in conversation, and you can use them when you think someone is holding back. Just don’t go overboard, it’s not an interrogation. You have to practice the suspension of the ego, as these conversations are not about what you think, they are about what the key stakeholders think. You have to cultivate your curiosity about what other think, this will help you forget about your opinions on the matter as you seek a greater understanding of the thoughts of others.

You have to practice the suspension of the ego, as these conversations are not about what you think, they are about what the key stakeholders think. You have to cultivate your curiosity about what other think, this will help you forget about your opinions on the matter as you seek a greater understanding of the thoughts of others.

And remember this is an ongoing conversation, you should get back in touch with these people on a regular basis, even if it’s just to let them know you are still actively using the information they have provided as a form of measure against the quality of what you are looking at. If you maintain good rapport with them, they will more naturally include you in conversations about what their concerns are, and if you have done it well they may even come straight to you when they have concerns or questions.


Let me know your experiences of build an ongoing relationship with key stakeholders, and how you went about it.





If it’s a journey…

As those of you who have read previous posts of mine will know, at work we are installing a new ERP system, and taking out the very old one.
One of the phrases that are being used is we are on a journey, this provokes an irrational response of wanting to strangle the individual uttering it.
So I thought I’d explore what about it drives me mad.
The way it is used implies that we are following some path that leads us to our chosen end goal, and if we travel it we will discover what we need to know along the way and get to this nirvana.
However, there is no path, we don’t know what we will encounter, we are drawing the map as we go, as what we require is unique to us, as is each major software installation. We don’t even know if our compass works here, the things we have used before to direct us no longer apply, the context they worked in, isn’t this context.
This journey would be more akin to some explorers landing on a new planet and having to map it all by hand, without knowing whats safe and whats not, let alone having a known destination to head towards, best we have is large geographical features, ie it needs to me able to manage stock.
It is this apparent gap between the reality and the phrase that causes my sanity to fray.

New project

Well I get to move on to a massive new project in the next few weeks, really excited about it, I’m nominally named as the test lead, not like there will be many people to lead though, we do have a new tester starting in november, taking to total number of dedicated testers to two, I know good isnt it. I should have some project resources for testing as well though.
Why am I so excited though? Well its my opportunity to demonstrate that exploratory testing is a worth while thing to be doing, that gives tangible results, and  works on the largest of projects, this is the biggest thing we are going to be doing any time soon.
The downside, I get this wrong and they won’t support ET any time soon, that and it could cost me my job, but hey I’m willing to take the risk, as I believe it will work and that we will show them that test case counting is pointless and a waste of valuable resources, and you never know i might get a new job out of it if I can play my cards right.
We are going to be installing a new ERP over the coming months, I suspect longer than they currently think, but that’s definitely for another time, and I will be responsible for providing updates on testing, bug tracking, test management and resource coordination, currently. We are getting a consultant in to help produce a strategy, and give realistic time frames and resource requirements for testing a project of this size, how much we agree is something that I will find out when they get this guy in. I might even post about it if it goes well.
I plan on ET with session based management to ease the company into the realms of real testing. that I will most definitely post about as I go along. It all starts in around 4 weeks for me. Here’s to it going well, lots of hard work but I am looking forward to it.