Communication and Testing

In yesterday’s test team meeting we did an interactive sessions around communication. Stickies, pens and a whiteboard were all we needed to have a fun session talking around communication.

We started by brainstorming what communication is. Then what factors affect communication. We talked about feedback.

And of course we talked about PAC – Purpose, Audience and Context.

(Those who’ve known me for many years might remember that PAC Testing was my very first testing blog all those years ago in 2009. It’s still running and getting traffic! The links are all wrong on it and the images are no longer there but the site is still up!

We also talked around some specific examples of communication failure. It was a fun session thrown in at the last minute. It’s always good to throw in some soft skills sessions.

By the way – I’m recruiting for testers!

If you’re interested in coming to work at NewVoiceMedia then drop me an email, or even better – connect with me on Twitter (@rob_lambert) and DM me.

Managing exploratory testing

One of the perennial challenges I have faced with exploratory testing is how best to manage it and then report on it.

I’ve hacked around with many different systems for years and never quite felt happy with any of them.

As most of the testing that the team do here at NewVoiceMedia is exploratory testing I’ve needed to find ways to understand how much testing we are doing and which bits of the product we are spending our time testing. The numbers alone wont say we’ve got stuff covered but when combined with metrics from across the entire Dev process I can start to piece together where our testing is focused and where we might need to make changes.

An Idea

The other month though I stumbled across an idea in my mind which felt right. I spiked it out and gathered some initial feedback from some of the team. I concluded it was worth a go and so far, when used in anger, it seems to be good. I thought I’d give it a few weeks before I blogged about it – so here it is – a hacked together system to manage the reporting of our exploratory testing.

The Beginning

During a story chat we look to put as much of the checking under automated test as possible. However, during the chat the Testers will be doodling, mind-mapping or jotting down ideas about what to test; ideas that often warrant a little further exploration. These become Exploratory Test charters.

We write our charters in the Explore [something] WITH [something] TO DISCOVER [something] format as described perfectly in Elisabeth Hendrickson’s awesome Explore IT book.

These charters are just wishes at the moment – they haven’t been run – and truth be told not all of them will get run. We’ll also add further charters, or delete existing ones, as we progress through the life of a story.

Running an Exploratory session

2013-08-23 15.42.56

Each tester will run a session in a different way, to suit their own preferences and style. They will also store their notes in different ways. Most of the team are using Rapid Reporter, I personally use Evernote and a couple of peeps are using Word and Notepad++. No matter what program they use they are creating detailed notes of the session they are running. These notes are personal to them, but public for others in the business to view. They may not make sense to others, but as long as they make sense to those who created them, then that’s cool.

The notes from the session, in whatever format they are in, will eventually make their way in to our social wiki system Confluence. In Confluence we have a space dedicated to Exploratory Testing. In this space we have a simple hierarchy of Year > Month > Test Charter.

The charters are named [TesterInitials]_[DDMMYYYY]_[SessionNumber]. For example: RL_16062013_1 and RL_16062013_2.

When creating this charter page we use a template so that all charter pages in Confluence are consistent and easy to navigate around. On this page in Confluence is a table which simply requires the charter name, testers name and date.

The rest of the page is then free for us to copy and paste our session notes, or attach files such as CSV or txt files to the page. This Confluence page essentially becomes the final record of the exploratory session. It becomes a reference point to link Pivotal Tracker stories to and it also becomes an audit point (version and permission controlled). We might never look back at it – but we keep it just in case we should ever need to.

Part one done – we’ve got the session recorded in a consistent manner. Now we need to get some metrics recorded.

Reporting the session

I created a very simple Google Form for recording results.

Once the team have completed the Confluence page they can open the form and fill it in.

The form asks for basic information such as tester name, main area of test, charter title, confluence link (back to the session notes), how many hours of testing was done (to nearest hour), any story links, browsers, operating system and environment. All of the fields are mandatory.

Once submitted the details are stored in a Google spreadsheet. Bam – basic test reporting.

I can now see how many sessions we have run against which main functional areas of the product. I can see the links to Confluence. I can see which browsers we are exploring against and I can see how many sessions we are running across different time scales. I have created a series of graphs showing sessions per tester, session per browser, sessions per functional area and average sessions per day

The next step is to pull this data down in to our bigger management dashboard and make it visible. This can then be tied to cycle time, velocity, scripted test case reporting (from a different system) and the automated tests that are running.

With all of this data we should be able to see trends and patterns which will inform our next moves. Are we covering enough of the product? Are we moving too fast? Too slow? Are we covering the right browsers? How can we improve the testing? Is the data itself providing value in decision making?

The numbers alone don’t mean anything – but as a whole they may give us enough information to ensure we keep delivering the right thing for our customers.


It’s not a perfect system but we’re using it and it was super simple to get rolling. We’ve struggled with other systems and other hacks to organise our ET and although this one means we’re hopping around a couple of different systems it is indeed suiting our work. We are in these system anyway so it’s not a major overhead.

This system will be changed up and hacked around further for sure – but right now we’re testing it and seeing what value it’s giving us.

What system are you using and is it working for you?

certification of awesomeness

Could not having a certificate make you stand out?

Many years ago when I sat the foundation certificate it made very little difference (if anything at all) to my day to day work. I remarked to a colleague though that the certification would make us all “more employable”. I was right.

certification of awesomeness
Certification of Awesomeness

Back then not many people had the certification so when you saw it listed on a CV (complete with required logo) it made that CV and candidate stand out. Had they taken their learning more seriously? Were they prepared to see what this certification lark was all about? What was this certification thing?

Soon though, everyone had a certification and you no longer stood out from the crowd.

Thankfully though – along came more higher rated (and presumably higher valued) certifications. Great. You could stand out again. Until of course – most people started to get these too.

Now you need something more to stand out. I wrote a whole book to help you work out what I think you need to do. But one thing came to mind* the other day that I realised I missed from the book.

What if your CV was the only one that DIDN’T have a certification?

That would make you stand out.

And any good hiring manager might start to ask “I wonder why they felt the need not to get certified, or list it on their CV?”. And that is an excellent starting point for a good conversation about you, software testing, certifications and your learning.

Note: Although this blog post is a flippant approach to the challenges hiring managers have of finding good candidates – it could actually be a useful approach to standing out.

* I recall some Twitter banter around certifications and why you don’t need them but can’t recall (or find) who actually made a statement along the same lines as I have. If you know who it was please let me know.

– I’ve since been informed that it was Michael Bolton via Twitter who said to leave the cert off the CV – sage advice indeed.

Remaining Relevant Front Cover

How to remain relevant and employable

Like many people, you may be struggling to find a job, get an interview and then ultimately land the job. It’s hard work trying to find work and even harder work trying to stand out (for the right reasons) from the masses.
I wrote this book to help anyone who is wanting to find good jobs, excel in an interview and improve their chances of getting a job by developing the right skills.
Remaining relevant is a collection of information and advice that I’ve accumulated over many years of enjoying going to job interviews (weird I know) and then lately in interviewing many hundreds of people. More recently I’ve been coaching people on a 1:1 basis with remarkable results.
The advice in this book is focused around helping you upskill, understand the job market, become an expert at applying for jobs and learn the right skills to excel in an interview. In a nutshell I hope this book will help you to remain relevant and employable.
NOTE – This is a new book and is NOT the testers edition. I have since retired that version for the first half of this year and this book will replace it. If you bought the testers edition I thank you immensely and I do not suggest you buy this version – it’s 99% the same book but with some minor sentence changes and a couple of new paragraphs. Of course, you’re welcome to buy it if you like 🙂

Where can I buy the book?

The book is published on Amazon – You can buy a copy here on Amazon UK (aff link)
The book is also on Amazon across the globe. Search for Remaining Relevant and it will pop up 🙂

Why did you write the book?

The book started at a quick 10 chapter book about getting good jobs and writing good CVs.

I aimed to have it released in January 2013. I released it in September 2013 initially on LeanPub and then again in February 2015 on Amazon.

I wrote the book during my lunch breaks at work. I’d shuffle off to the the 7th floor to an empty desk space and spend an hour writing. I’d often be surrounded by other escaped artists trying to grab some quiet time to get projects finished.

I wrote the book to help people understand how they must remain relevant, to provide advice on how to find good jobs and how to rock the application process.

Blurb from the book?

Blurb from the book
The following is from the book introduction:
“I can’t find any good jobs,” someone said to me at a conference recently.
“I can’t find good people,” a hiring manager said to me at the very same conference.
So what’s the problem?
Is it because the hiring manager and candidate don’t know each other exist?
Is it because the expectations of the hiring managers are too high, weird, or abstract?
Is it because the candidates simply aren’t good enough?
In many cases the answer is yes, but it’s not always the case.
Or is it because many candidates don’t know how to get themselves in front of hiring managers, show the best side of themselves and then get hired?
In my experience, this is the most common answer.
The world of employment is changing, and changing fast.
Getting a job (and keeping a job) in this fast changing world requires hard work and a commitment to remaining relevant to the needs of the company you work for and the changing demands of your industry.
Sometimes this commitment is a commitment too far for some people.
For others it’s a commitment they didn’t know they needed to make.
The job market is swamped with average people creating a sea of conformity and standardization.
In this sea how will you stand out? How will you get your next great job? How will you differentiate yourself from the next candidate? How will you add value to a business? Why should someone pick you?
The Internet, improved communication channels, cheap global travel and the ability for people to relocate easily (or work from home) has meant that you’re no longer competing against people in your local area; you’re sometimes competing against people from all over the world.
It’s not all bad though.
I believe that there are people standing out from the crowd and filling the void that many hiring managers talk about.
Some already have the skills and ability but lack the tools to communicate effectively, promote themselves and interview well. Others need to learn lots and commit to self-improvement.
That’s why I wrote this book.
I wrote this book for those people who want to forge a good career but feel stuck in a dead end job.
I wrote this book for those people who don’t want the next standardized job where they are simply treated as a resource. They want more.
I wrote this book for those people who want to up-skill but lack the insights, structure and drive to do so.
I wrote this book for those great people out there who aren’t projecting themselves well and creating compelling reasons to get hired.
I wrote this book with the hope that many hiring managers may also read it – after all they are often the ones creating the demand for standardised people.
But mostly I wrote this book to help people, whether employed or not, remain relevant in a changing world by giving them the tools, approach and skills to wow hiring managers.
I sincerely hope this book will help to provide some enthusiasm, inspiration and ideas to help you remain relevant and employed in a fast changing world.

What’s actually in the book?


The following are the some of the main chapters from the book with a little text explaining what to expect in each chapter.
  • How to get started – Why are you job hunting?
  • Is there really a career in my industry? – Many people believe that jobs in their industry are simply stop-gap jobs, something to do until something better comes along. The reality is there are some great careers to be had in almost any industry.
  • What Skills Do I Need? – Do you really need to upskill to get good jobs…….yes, yes you do.
  • Learning – How to learn and why learning should be core to your self improvement strategy.
  • Organising Your Learning – ideas for organising learning.
  • Communicating Your Passions and Values – How to communicate to other people what value you offer.
  • Creating Your CV – Lots of hints and tips on how to create a good CV.
  • Creating An Online Presence – How to create a validated online social presence.
  • Networking And Connecting – Why networking in person is so important to getting a good job.
  • Finding Good Jobs – How to find good jobs.
  • Understanding Job Adverts – How to make sense of boring, dull and misleading job adverts.
  • Applying For Jobs – How to do an awesome job application.
  • Speculative Applications – ideas on how to apply speculatively to companies meeting your criteria.
  • Phone Interviews – Ideas on how to rock a phone interview.
  • Interviewing – Ideas on how to rock a face-to-face interview.
  • Accepting A Job – How to accept a job like a pro.
  • Dealing With Rejection – Hey, it’s going to happen, but how you deal with it matters more
  • Patience Is A Virtue – Slow down. Give it time. Patience is indeed a virtue when job hunting.
  • Never Give Up – Don’t stop. Ever. Not until you get the job.



You can buy a copy here (aff link)