I’ve been getting to a few conferences recently and meeting lots of interesting people. One thing that is common amongst all of the conferences and user groups I get along to is that there are always people at these events who have one of the two following problems (and any number more that I won’t delve in to):
1. They work for someone who cannot, does not or will not share their knowledge
2. They are someone who cannot, does not or will not share their knowledge
It’s scary stuff. A lot of people in our testing community seem reluctant to share knowledge, skills or learning advice, even if they are at conferences. I’ve no concrete evidence of why but I suspect it could be any of the following:
1. They don’t realise other people might not know what they know
2. They don’t realise other people might know other stuff that they don’t know
3. They want to hog the knowledge and information in a belief they are more employable and less likely to be made redundant
4. They don’t know how to share their information
5. They don’t think people will want to learn from them
6. They lack the confidence to share information
7. They don’t value collaboration on test approaches and learning
8. They are scared people will become more knowledgeable than themselves (see point 3)
9. They don’t like other people
10. They don’t like communicating with others
No doubt there are thousands more reasons but I think it’s something we need to address as a community. There are lots of lessons and learning out there that many people could benefit from. We could all learn from each other. We could all improve our knowledge, understanding and skills.
I’m also surprised at how many stories I hear of Test Managers and Test Directors not sharing their wealth of experience (assuming they have it) with their direct team. The team is their key to success. Build the knowledge , share the knowledge, avoid the silos and encourage mastery amongst your team and I have no doubt you’ll see lots of success. So why don’t people do it?
So how can you help to share the knowledge and tease out the learning:
1. Take ownership of learning within your business / group.
Organise some learning sessions (lunch time learning, after work learning, internal blog, wiki, weekly training meeting).
Think about the Purpose, Audience and Context of your communication and choose channels and environments that compliment that.
For example, if someone in your group is unbelievably shy then presentations might not be the right choice. Maybe an internal company blog or wiki would be better.
If someone is terrible at writing and refuses to share their work in written form, then maybe an lunch time round table session might work. Experiment and keep adapting.
2. Join an online community focused on learning and sharing
For example, The Software Testing Club has an active forum, friendly people and whole wealth of groups available.
The Weeknight and Weekend Testers are very welcoming and friendly and have excellent testing sessions
There are countless forums and social groups online who are all very welcoming. Find the one that you like the feel of and sign up.
3. Join a larger social network and become part of the bigger community
Try Twitter (follow the #testing #softwaretesting #qa hashtags for a steady stream of new information) or maybe check out the softwaretesting tag on WeFollow.
LinkedIn has some good groups too, but be careful, LinkedIn has become the stomping ground of many “Best Practice Practitioners”
4. Create a local user group / meetup
Create yourself a local user group or meetup.
The Software Testing Club have some meetups throughout the year can help you get one off the ground.
There’s the very excellent London Tester Gatherings. (expanding North to Leeds also) and loads of other local meetups.
5. Slowly but surely explain and demonstrate the value of sharing and learning to those who are resistant
For example, run a training session with those who are open to sharing on some tech or some technique that you can all go away and use. Go away and use it and report the findings.
Maybe you started doing some security testing and found a SQL Injection vulnerability or you did some accessibility testing and found that none of your site is compliant with even W3C single A compliance.
There are many other ways to help promote a culture of learning and always seek to tease out information from those with a wealth of experience. It could be that they simply don’t realise how much knowledge they hold or maybe they’ve just not found the right medium to communicate it in. Keep chipping away. Keep seeking new ways to share. Keep learning.
After all, someone knows something that you don’t know. And you know something they don’t know. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to bring that together and share?