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Conferences Job hunting Software Testing Technology

Next Career move

I recently asked myself, “where would I like to take my career?”. This is a blog post on that reflection. From maintaining tech skills to improving my coaching. Here are the things that are important to me.

Keeping tech skills up to date

I’ve been doing software testing now for over 7 years and even though I come from a Computer Science and Engineering background, I’m finding people too easily put me in the box of “non technical manual tester” based on my previous roles. If I do not work hard at maintaining my tech credibility I see a risk that I will be stuck with the “non technical” label for the foreseeable future. So how am I maintaining this skill? I’m working towards the following:

  • working towards a certified ethical hacker
  • Building a mobile app as a side project
  • Attending developer focused conferences

Certified Ethical Hacker

I’m working through Troy Hunt’s and Dale Meredith’s, certified ethical hacking course on Pluralsight. I find security testing more interesting than automation testing and there’s a huge demand for technical cyber security skills. The course is hard to do, there’s 80 hours worth of lecture material and it requires a commitment to regular learning to maintain it.

Wearable app side project

I’ve already spoken at conferences about my example poo tracking wearable app to talk about ideas like privacy by design. I haven’t even built the app yet and I’m using it to teach people. I’m interested in teaching myself mobile app development and how to build basic API’s. I even have someone who’s offered to help build this. Eventually I’d like to use this app to help teach people about different elements of testing.

Attending developer conferences

I’ve always enjoyed attending dev focused conferences. I always learn more compared to software testing focused conferences because it is out of my domain of expertise. I will continue to prioritise these conferences over software testing conferences this year.

Any new role that I start has to help me with maintaining my tech skills first and foremost. This is number one priority I will look at when assessing new roles.

Improve my Teaching/Coaching

I have always loved teaching. I was the kid in school that all my friends asked for help with maths questions. I’ve been tutoring my peers for as long as I remember. I’ve had my tutoring side business for almost as long as I’ve been testing. If teaching wasn’t see as a bit of a dead end low respected job, I would have studied it at uni. I do this stuff for free, that’s how much I love doing this. Being a Quality Coach at Campaign Monitor showed me that there is demand for people to teach software testing skills. In a few years I’d love to be running my company where teaching technical testing skills is my focus. I’ve been running robotics workshops for kids since my uni days. Any job that allows me to practice on the company dollar is a plus in my mind.

Speaking at Conferences

I’ve spoken at 14 tech conferences in the last 3 years. I enjoy getting up on stage. Any role that encourages me to do more of this is awesome in my books. It relates to the enjoying teaching, however getting up on stage is a little different to tutoring/coaching a person one on one. There is an element of entertainment with getting up on stage. The putting on a persona and pretending to be something more that what you feel inside.

All the data

In all of my previous roles, I’ve always enjoyed doing a deep dive into data analytics. From creating dashboard for event tracking testing to helping product understand how our customers were using our apps. I enjoy it all. I’m considering doing a Masters in Statistics in a few years when I’m more on top of my finances.

A bit of job stability

I went through the motions of job hunting 3 times last year. I do not want to do this again and again. Also meeting new people is mentally draining. A bit of stability with my work environment would be awesome. Or at least some having planned turbulence. I hadn’t had much luck with full time positions last year. Maybe this year I do all contracting? I’m still considering full time though.

Have a good culture

I care deeply about having a good social connection with the team I’m working with. I need to feel like I can bring an authentic version of myself to work. That means being vulnerable enough to talk about my struggles with depression and to be comfortable bring my quirkiness to work. It comes down to psychological safety.

Reasonable salary

I’m not solely motivated by money but having a consistent budget compared to my previous role is important for my financial security. I do feel like I’m getting at the expensive end for being a software tester and I can’t even compete with off shore testers in regard to pricing.

Practising a bit of sales and marketing

I struggle with selling testing as a craft where you want skilled people doing it for you. I’m glad I’ve never had to pitch my skills to CEO’s before getting hired as a tester. Someone else has already been convinced of the value testers bring. However with shrinking test teams I think the testers that will thrive in the future will have their pitch just perfect. Any testers who knows how they add value to others and remains relevant probably won’t struggle as much as those testers who don’t. I’m practising marketing through things like my blog and running Sydney Testers. Getting up on stage is related to marketing too. I’m also going to right a book this year as a marketing exercise.

I’m not interested in

Management; this feels like a clear way to let you tech skills go rusty and it’s becoming harder for managers to promote themselves as relevant in today’s agile/self driving teams.

Having QA in my title and working in a role that is only “Automation” testing; I find a lot of companies are demanding QA automation skills but don’t seem to understand the value a skilled tester can bring to the role or company. QA often stands for quality assurance, however building automation doesn’t assure quality, it helps the engineering team deliver code with higher confidence. To me QA stands for Quality Advocate. I can’t assure quality. You will find I never call myself QA anything in all of my online profiles.

It’s rare that I find someone who can clearly articulate why they want automation in a way that drives me towards it. I’ll happily collaborate with an Engineering team to help build this however I have a tendancy to get distracted by all of the other fascinating elements of quality. Like accessibility or security.

I’d prefer to call myself a Software Engineer in Test who is focusing on helping developers own and improve their own quality processes. There shouldn’t be a difference between Software Engineers and Testers in today’s agile teams. We are all working towards building quality products.

Summary

I’ve come to believe that my next ideal role is some kind of developer advocate role. Tech will be the focus, but that blend of marketing, community engagement, technical writing and speaking at conferences is appealing to me. Ideally I’d like to have a Mobile Software Engineer in Test role to help me move towards my coaching/teaching goals and to help me keep up to date with mobile technology.

What are you looking for in your career? Do you have a career coach to help you move in the right direction?

Categories
Job hunting Software Testing Technology

Back on the job market (again)

It’s only the third time this year I find myself job hunting (again). It was only back in June I found myself going through a break up from Campaign Monitor and in July I was starting a new role with a start up called Insight Timer that built a meditation app. I was just made redundant on Monday. I guess that’s #StartUpLife for you. Software Testers are expensive. I’m still fascinated that the CTO managed to convince the team they needed a software tester in the first place, even if it was just for 5 months. Redundancy is just another day in tech right?

I still want to do testing

This time last year I was thinking about becoming an Android Developer or a Product Manager. It seemed like the only way to progress my testing career was with Automation Testing or Management and I was not looking forward to any of those options. Over this year I have rediscovered my passion for testing and teaching. I want to combine the two. In a few years time I want to be running my own company where the focus is teaching testing skills. I’m not there yet but I’ve now got something I want to work towards. I’ll be looking for a position that has some strategic alignment with this goal. You can access an updated CV in PDF format here or as a Google Doc here. I’m hands on and very technical when it comes to my testing.

Goals

The goals I’ve set myself for next year do align with working towards my own company. I’d like to launch a wearable app, help my Nan with her digital marketing and continue to look after my health. You can read more about at at this blog post for my 2019 goals. Maybe I should add a goal, “Keep a job for 12 months?” 😭

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Job hunting Uncategorized

The future of work

There was a question at last nights Sydney Testers meetup event with James Bach, “What is the future of software testing with AI and automation?” Have a read of “Weapons on Math destruction“, it’s about how big data is driving inequality. I think testers are in a good position to raise questions around the ethics of Big Data. I’m not too concerned about our current state of AI drastically changing how I work. The tools I use might change but I’m going to remain being a tester for the foreseeable near future.

If I was to look into my broken crystal ball on future proof work this is what I’d be telling anyone who listens:

Become a nurse

Hear me out, if you are a high school student contemplating what to do and you don’t really have an idea but you know you want to go to uni and study something. Pick a nursing degree, especially if you are male. Men just aren’t taking up this robotic proof work.

With an ageing population more and more people will need care in the future and you have an almost guaranteed job for the rest of your life. You can do an accelerated nursing degree within 2 years and if you decide nursing isn’t for you, at least you didn’t waste that much time at uni and you learnt something practical.

Try it out first

If you are looking into trying this field out, approach your local nursing home or disability support group for a few weeks of work experience. If you can deal with other people’s shit (sometimes quite literally) consider going into health care.

Suicide impacts older generations more, this demographic are often stuck in nursing homes and are disconnected from their families. Robots aren’t exactly going to able to replace that need for human connection for these people. An aged care nurse will be providing services to growing market demands.

Other health care services are prime for automation and disruption. A machine learning algorithm based on probability and linking your symptoms to likely causes could replace 90% of General Practitioners work. Drug dispensing machines that access your prescriptions through the internet could replace pharmacists. Health care will be a growing market but could be changing.

Any existing work that has a strong focus on people is going to be hard to automate; parenting, teaching, recruitment are a few I could list off the top of my head. Maybe people thought the same thing about bank tellers 30 years ago?

Many new roles will exist

in 10 years time there will be new roles on the market. 10 years ago who knew that “Social Media Guru” would be a thing? If you have some basic web skills (HTML and CSS) and a passion for marketing I think you’ve got yourself a fairly guaranteed position for the foreseeable future. Email marketing is still a big thing and how long have we had emails for?

Most new jobs that are created tomorrow will not have a clear path from uni today into them. People will need to be adaptable and will experience career changes. What you study probably won’t be related to your work all that closely. Why consider doing an expensive 4-5 year degree at uni when there’s many shorter ways to get to work out there. If I knew someone who wanted to work in tech tomorrow, I’d suggest doing a 12 week coding bootcamp program over going to university. I didn’t really learn much hands on technical skills at uni through my computer science degree and I’ve learnt more stuff on the job.

Having a learning mentality is more important.

Once you have a degree in anything, studying a masters for a career change becomes an option too. Why not do an accelerated 2 year degree just to get a piece of paper?

If I had a spare 15-30K I’d be studying Data Science or a masters in teaching, but I don’t because I’ve been bad with my finances. I really enjoy teaching people and I don’t need a masters degree to practice that.

Don’t follow you passions

You know that sentiment, “follow your passion and you will never work a day in your life”? That’s a load of baloney, throw that shit in the bin before it infects you further. It’s harmful wishful thinking. If you do know what you want to do and how to get there, good for you. Most people aren’t in that situation, me included. acknowledge what type of work engages you and what interests you but don’t conflate passion and work.

I find testing engaging work and I’ve made it my passion but I didn’t go through high school telling myself, “when I grow up I want to be a tester”. Often the work you do will not be what you expected. I never thought I’d be doing mobile testing for a meditation app but here I am.

I want to teach people; there’s a market for learning technical skills. It’s something to work towards that combines my skills and interests but I didn’t know I wanted to do this 6+ months ago. It’s been a recent evolution. Heck, if paying off my credit card debt wasn’t one of my main focuses I’d probably be working in a brewery. 

A lot of work is prime for automation

Automation is coming for all of our jobs. Even people who work in technology aren’t safe. However if nursing doesn’t appeal to you, consider doing engineering. Even if automation changes how we work, we will still need bridges, buildings and infrastructure to support everyone. Unless we figure out how to upload our consciences to the internet, then I have no friggin’ idea  what work would look like. 

Categories
Job hunting mental health Software Testing Technology

Back on the job market

I find myself back on the job market after a break up with Campaign Monitor. I didn’t successfully pass probation. It was a mutual thing and both sides of the discussion were adult about it. These aren’t easy conversations to have and it doesn’t serve any purpose to get angry and rage quit. I am a little sad to leave because I enjoyed the company and people but I wasn’t able to advocate for quality in a way that added the business value they needed from the role.

Depression and Job Hunting

When I was job hunting around 8-9 months ago, it took me well over 2 months to find a job and interviews with over 13 companies (blog). However in that situation I wasn’t in a rush and was willing to wait for something that looked like it would fit me well. The constant rejections were hard to deal with; especially when I had been experiencing a spell of imposter phenomenon and feeling like I was not good enough for anything. I also broke my ankle during these job hunting efforts which had a huge impact on my mental well being (blog).

My broken ankle contributed to a relapse of depression at the start of the year. Because of this I wasn’t able to give my 100% to the new job at Campaign Monitor and this negatively impacted the engineering’s team view of the Quality Coach role. Once your perception of value is seen in a non favorable light, it is very challenging to recover. You only get one shot at leaving a first impression and your reputation is built up on that. I didn’t do a great job when I started, then I tried a new team and a new process and saw some improvements. However there were still some doubts if this role was what the company needed and if it was the right fit for my skills. I went to a third team for the last 3 weeks but I feel like the decision had already been made by that point.

Keeping Track of Job Hunting

I used a spreadsheet in my previous job hunting efforts to help me keep track of where I was up to with every company;

spreadsheet of previous job hunting efforts

With this spreadsheet I noted the source of  the lead; I was relying on mostly LinkedIn and a technical recruiter from Opus. I noted down where I was up to in the interview process, excitement for the role (out of 5) and any follow up notes. I also noted the few companies who contact me after I had received a successful job offer.

Will I do the same thing this time? I’m not too sure. I’ve got the luxury of around 2-3 weeks for job hunting before the personal budget starts getting a little tight but it would be worth experimenting with the spreadsheet again this time.

What am I looking for in a new job?

This time round I have more confidence in my skills as a tester. Last time I wanted to quit testing and try something different (either Android Development or Product Manager). However now I know I love growing my reputation for being known as a passionate tester. In a few years time I’d love to be running my own company focusing on running workshops for technical testing and mobile apps (e.g. TDD and kotlin, Continuous Integration and iOS). I’m not there yet so I’m looking for a mobile app testing role while I work on workshops in my spare time.

I’d love to have a role with support for speaking at conferences. I’m speaking at Agile Australia on how to get more people involved with testing in a few weeks, Selenium Conf in India at the end of June on using robots for mobile app testing, CAST in Florida in August on stories in becoming a quality coach. I now have an anecdote where that didn’t work out for me so that should be an interesting talk.

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Job hunting Technology

Strategy Vs Tactics – a job hunting example

One of my pet peeves is when people use the word strategy when they are talking about tactics. According to “I have a strategy (no you don’t)” a visual guide on understanding strategy; a strategy is a planned/doable sequence of actions/tactics designed to achieve a distinct, measurable goal. Strategy is an idea in my head, I have ideas on what tactics I can implement that will help me achieve a particular goal.

book cover for I have a strategy no you don't

I have a strategy to find a job I’m happy with. Now my success metrics will look different to yours even thought it may sound like we have the same strategy. My success metrics look like; find a good team that is passionate about the products they are building, they have a respect for software engineering quality practices and to receive support for public speaking at technical conferences. Ideally I’d like to have a small gap as possible between my current employment and the new job. I would also like a 10-20% pay increase from my current salary. Through going through a few interviews/having conversations with my partner I have discovered that I want a role based in Sydney so I have adapted my success criteria. A strategy is an evolving thing, the words I write today are an attempt to formalize that strategy but it is just a snapshot. I’m leaning towards a software tester role too because it is my most marketable skill/expertise.

The tactics I’ve used thus far to help support my job hunting efforts have been:
Enable the “open to new jobs” label on my LinkedIn
Reaching out to recruiters who’ve I’ve had good experiences with before
Reaching out to old colleagues
Reaching out to people who I’ve met through the tech/meetup scene
Applying for roles on LinkedIn
Browsing the careers pages of some known companies and applying that way

I’ve had different levels of success in scoring interviews with these different tactics. So hopefully you can see I’ve employed a diversity of tactics that are meant to help support me in finding a new job that fits me

I’ve also been constantly reiterating on my CV. Other tactics that people could use are; create a custom CV per role you are applying for, seek feedback on CV, practice mock interviews for a particular role, build up connections with the company you are looking to get hired at

But all of these tactics are just that, they are actions that help support the strategy,they aren’t “a strategy” on their own. Strategy is steeped in battle, I’ll leave you a quote from Sun Tzu about strategy.

strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat - Sun Tzu

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Job hunting mental health Technology

job hunting diaries

I’ve been job hunting now for nearly 4 weeks. I’ve had face to face interviews with 6 companies, done 3 technical tasks, have 2 more interviews scheduled, have 3 more technical tasks to do and 3 more leads I’m chasing up. And I’m exhausted. I’ve been rejected by 3 of those interviews, I turned down progressing further for 1. All of this on top of attempting to work a full time job, speaking at EuroSTAR in Copenhagen and having a life. It’s getting to me mentally. I really struggled to get out of bed this morning. I even sat in front of this computer for 10 minutes struggling to start this blog post. But I’m doing this for my own therapy.

My tactics for job hunting have been;

  1. Enable the “open to new jobs” label on my LinkedIn
  2. Reaching out to recruiters who’ve I’ve had good experiences with before
  3. Reaching out to old colleagues
  4. Reaching out to people who I’ve met through the tech/meetup scene
  5. Applying for roles on LinkedIn
  6. Browsing the careers pages of some known companies and applying that way

In terms of tactic number 1, I was concerned that I would be swamped with recruiters. I’m glad I wasn’t, in fact I’ve only had 1 lead get generated this way. Tactic 2 has been the most successful in generating leads, it makes sense because these are guys who are literally in the business of recruiting tech talent. Every other tactic has generated a lead or two, tactic 5 has had the lowest lead generation rates.

The feedback I get is that I interview very well, I pride myself on my skill in testing and I enjoy talking to people about it. This passion comes off in my interview and often my interviewers walk away saying they actually enjoyed the experience. One role I was rejected for was because they thought I would actually get bored in the role, that’s a far call to make and if they aren’t willing to be flexible to accommodate my skill set that is the best call to make. On a side note this is actually the third interview I’ve had in my lifetime of testing interviews to come back with that feedback. I have huge respect for companies who can be open enough to make this call.

One role I didn’t do so well with the technical task, basically they asked me to automate some tests using visual studio, c# and Selenium. I said automation is not my strong point, I haven’t touched windows in over 2 years but give me enough time with google and stack overflow I can work something out. After tackling with the tools for 3 hours I submitted the task, I hadn’t completed it 100% but I thought it would be enough to help them assess my coding styles and thought processes. I wasn’t successful and there weren’t any surprises there. I interviewed well but I was being tested on tools I had barely touched. I can code, it just takes me a ridiculously long time to do so because it’s not a skill I practice every day and I’m not going to mislead anyone about my skills here. I could have sunk more time into the technical task but for my mental well being I drew the line at 11:30PM. Lack of sleep is one of the easiest things I can do if I want to experience a relapse of depression. I got to the point where in the workplace I would ask a fellow colleague for some assistance or looked at similar tests to get inspiration but I didn’t have access to those types of resources. In terms of assessing my technical chops, I think a pair programming exercise is better suited for me.

I’m a little annoyed at what feels like wasted mental energy but I should try not to dwell on the past too much. I have a few more leads that I’m more excited about so I hope they turn up more promising results. An example role that gets me excited to apply for is Quality Coach, an example job ad can be seen here. Anything that has an emphasis on automation testing over people skills is a little bit of a red flag for me because I’ve been burnt a few too many times now. How do you handle rejection in the job hunting process?

Categories
Job hunting Software Testing

Where’s your local experience?

We had an amazing Sydney testers discussion group today on sharing stories around our job hunting experiences. One comment that came up was on local experience and I wanted to elaborate a little more on it.

I would say there are atleast two ideas behind why someone would care about local experience. Unconscious bias and culture fit. I have helped with interviewing some people in my last company so I have some insights to share. I would say that unfortunately there is some bias against people who don’t have English as their first language. People will use the rationale of poor culture fit to justify their unconscious bias.

I would say that unfortunately in Australia we have a bias against people from India, the massive call centre outsourcing efforts have not left us with great impressions. So there is an association with strong accents and having many issues with communication. Someone who’s applying for a job here with an Indian background just has a few extra hurdles to overcome, it’s not really fair but by asking for local experience we can justify to ourselves that you wouldn’t be a good cultural fit. We also imagine that you might be coming from a larger hirachical corporate structure, where there is a lack of innovation/self motivation. We imagine that if you did have an issue with your boss here you wouldn’t let anyone know about it because that’s what we understand about your culture.