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As a manager an consultant one of things I frequently encounter when I am hired to increase productivity in the test lifecycle is conflict.
Now there are contructive ways for conflict to flourish but with respect to QA/ testing one of the most common occurences in the Start Up arena is the need to get deliverables out of the door compromising the test cycle. Or unrealistic expectations on R&D creating a need for them to borrow testing time in the lifecycle which creates friction between the R&D teams and QA.
 
In a previous Start Up the VP of R&D would allow me as QA Manager to borrow back Developers to help with end-run testing. Whilst not optimal the extra hands did help but, there are a few things I learnt to do from this and other occurences:
1. Getting more hands to help if they are not guided doesn’t necessarilly produce good results.
2. Developers shouldn’t (except for Unit Testing) test their own code; the corollary to this is pairwise review which works well for testing too; you can team the developer with a QA tester or another developer.
3. Have the test cases mapped out and ready to distribute/ accessible to the extended testing team [yes, this is why we love Microsoft Team System] and ensure the same for the Bug Tracking.
4. Make it fun! Use Best Bug Awards and a big wall chart in the QA Lab; if the company will spring for it even have a small cash prize/ meal out for the absolute best showstopper.
5. Don’t let this become habit. It’s not healthy for QA to continually compromise the test cycle and R&D testing means they aren’t developing and Developer hours are costly.
When I did Best Bug Awards I liked to use a wooden plaque with a gold painted big bug stuck on it. We would ceremonially review the bug and award the plaque (to be held until the next contest) at our weekly meeting; the person who found the bug would receive the award and then be responsible for explaining the process of how they tested and found the bug.
The most common phrase I used to hear from R&D when we found a bug was “I can’t reporduce this.” so make the QA Lab accessible (even by Remote) and encourage the Developers to feel at home to use the Test environments to see how the bug occurs in the wild.
All of this is part of a greater process with an underlying philosophy of marketing QA as valuable but also ensuring that other teams don’t see QA as an interference in their progress.
A lot of this boils down to something my Grandpa told me,”You can draw more flies with honey than vinegar.” This especially holds true for the sort of work done by QA/ Testing.
There are many different organizations, start-ups amongst them where the transfer of knowledge between teams or individual can be akin to pulling teeth; difficult, messy and painful.
The classic example in development is when the QA or Test team has to begin defining tests for the next release but has no clear idea beyond terminology on a Gantt or various emails what they have to test.
Getting documentation at this stage can be frustrating and even ultimately counterproductive in terms of the conflict or friction it raises between the person who has to produce the documentation (in our case specifications) and the person who needs the documentation to continue working and not become a bottleneck.
In SCRUM during the daily meeting this issue would be raised as an impediment to the testing progress and the Scrum Master would help the team in resolving this.
However as an experienced QA Manager I can state that this issue is a function of corporate culture. Normally this occurs where VP of R&D and or the CTO continues to make statements committing to full knowledge transfer but actually the real concept being maintained is that writing code comes first and if you are lucky we might get to writing spec down the line.
This truly demonstrates a Waterfall methodology regardless of the methodology that the organization claims to be using.
How do we resolve this? Perhaps this is something you just have to live with and realize that this is an organization that will never embrace Kanban, Lean, Kaizen, and Agile – SCRUM or any variant thereof without a true management commitment.
There are different personality types depending on which theory of psychology you adhere to; I’m a tools and techniques guy, I try to identify the problem and knowing it will recur find the correct tool or technique that allows everyone involved to keep a smile on their face and get the job done.
I encountered this kind of problem myself several times and it occurred to me that if the core of the problem is finding the time to write stuff down, then why make people write at all? The written medium is tiresome to create an often just as difficult to read and learn from. So why not use a different medium?
Ideally, you would introduce the use of Digital Audio or preferably Video recording and get the relevant knowledge owner to speak freely explaining the (in our example) spec. Diagrams, charts and slides could be added later making this “living document” or work in progress. (I re-heard this idea at the Israel Scrum Users Conference, earlier this month; many of us confirming that a good idea is something others thought of at the same time as you).
This is the easy part; there will still be a need for post-processing, review/ approval, document control and much larger storage/ backup than if these were simple textual documents.
Users would have to learn to be comfortable with being filmed, cameras would have to be readily available and seated on a stable platform. The video files would need some form of tagging which could be used for creating a searchable index in the Document control database but ultimately the ROI would be enormous in terms of reducing the friction and frustration in dealing with this impediment.
The times you need a printed resume these days seem to be fewer and further between. Everyone wants resumes in digital format RTF, DOC, DOCX or even PDF (some even have video resumes).
There was a job fair this week in Tel Aviv so of course I checked my resume and and off I went to print it up. On the way out of my house I stopped for a second and asked myself, which resume do I print, the English or Hebrew. Yes there are still tech companies in Israel that prefer Hebrew over English.
It occurred to me that this was a case of being able to have my cake, eat it and do something so elegantly simple that I could save paper and make a good impression too.
Picture this, I’m asked for my resume and I hand over the …. Hebrew copy; “Oh do you have this in English?” They ask, I hand it over and now they have to ensure the two loose pieces of paper stay together.
Now flashback to the question and imagine I give them two stapled sheets English and Hebrew; their first impression will be, “Oh no another two page resuem to wade thru”
First impressions do count, so I took my resume and made the Hebrew version a mirror image of the English in terms of layout and format and I printed it double-sided.
I know, forehead slappingly obvious and yet…. So I took it to the job fair, small in size but appreciated nonetheless. The response to my bilingual, double-sided resume was positive. One prospective employer has a long chat with me on the layout, format and the double-sided idea.
So, if you are looking for work and need to print your resume for someone in more than one language, feel free to use this idea. Remember, this falls under the idea from my previous blog, shared information is empowering. Good hunting.

Knowledge is Power, or is it?

Early in my career, I learnt a crucial lesson that knowledge is not power. Watching all the greedy information hoarders, holding onto crumbs of information for their own benefit. It struck me as incredibly weak.

Those of you lucky (lol) enough to have read my resume have seen that I have led a diverse career in terms of the types of employers I have had; start-ups, software houses, factories, public sector and big business.

As I passed thru my 20’s into my 30’s and rose up the ladder from QA Engineer to Team Leader and Manager I noticed that no matter the scale of a company or its background if the corporate philosophy was unhealthy in other ways then the concept of knowledge is power (in it’s classical or negative sense) was prevalent.

shared knowledge is power

Early on I realized that this paradigm is a precursor to failure at many levels unless you shift the paradigm to shared knowledge is power (or empowering).

Whilst magicians do not explain their tricks I have always believed that if you know something valuable perhaps how to do something then passing the information on to your team or anyone else shows you as an investor in others, empowers you and empowers those who you share with.

It doesn’t detract from the value of your innovation or source knowledge now that others know what you know as they may add to this or even reciprocate. Furthermore, demonstrating a depth of knowledge or a skill in mentoring others ultimately defines you in a positive light.

SHaring - knowledge is power

During several social networking events (particularly) my skill cloud was noticed on my business card and compliments paid for originality. Beyond the ego boost (yes that too, feeling good is a reward unto itself no?) several people did ask me how I did it and I was happy to explain the process and even sketch out notes.

The Warptest POV

Do I fear seeing emulations of my card? No not in the least. Firstly this was only a customization of an existing tool and secondly if others copy it then I was doing something right.

My real question for myself is what skill or knowledge do I want to acquire next?

Technorati Tags: ,,Shared Knowledge,,,,QA and Software Testing,

It is a definite sign of intelligence when you find other smart people who have the same idea as you but it’s also a sign that you need a stronger coffee blend in the morning if you have the idea five minutes after them.

My resume has been a challenge to me on several levels; as my job hunt progressed in the past I have had positive responses to the design and layout even though I broke one of the cardinal rules that all the people in the know, blogs and books tell you: it was a two page document.

I didn’t see how to pare down the level of detail to one page and still maintain confidence that I was showing my full skill set to prospective employees. In my moments of doubt I wondered if maybe I was simply overwhelming them with detail and not presenting a polished personal brand.

I have been the one recruiting in the past so I tried to get my head around being the recruiter who needs to understand the terminology and can grasp my brand in a short glance yet have a resume that still stands out from the pack.

I have a rule of thumb for productive brainstorming to solve any problem: –

Use a pencil and pad and do the brainstorm away from the computer.

I decided to sketch a “map” of how the resume should look. I used to be a cartographer at one time so maps of any kind always appeal.

Whilst doing this I wondered what was missing from my resume and how the resume fitted into all the information on the Internet about me. I wanted it all to jell into a cohesive picture that did represent my personal brand. My attempt at creating a business card for networking events helped me realize I wanted my LinkedIn, Blog and Twitter addresses in there; (I also wanted my Facebook link but since I feel that I use Facebook for my Social Networking more than Business I have left it out until I can revamp my profile there sufficiently) I also added a head-shot photograph to the personal information section.

I was (surprise, surprise) having a cup of coffee when it occurred to me that this was evolving into a Web 2.0 Resume; something was missing and still trying to reduce the document down to one page my Management and Technical Skills sections leaped out as important but in need of reducing in size drastically.

Today I took a metaphorical meat-cleaver to some of the details having realized that the ultimate Web 2.0 component needed adding: a Tag Cloud based on my technical and management skills and experience. 

The act of ensuring the tags I felt were the most important and thus prominent in the cloud made me look long and hard at my skill set which in turn helped me refine how I describe myself.

What is left for me to do?

    1. Translate to Hebrew: this I am going to post online and add a link to the English version for the more and more infrequent occurrence that someone in hi-tech requires the resume in Hebrew.
    2. Revamp my Facebook profile and add the link.
    3. Create a ready to go PDF copy of English and Hebrew resumes.

The resume is down to one page and I am hammering out the formatting so that I can insert the tag cloud as a vertical sidebar in both the Word doc and PDF alike.

In away the process of doing this has been more about self-awareness and interview preparation than just redefining my resume. Now I just need to get some good hits and sit down in the interview calmly and confidently knowing that I am the best person for the job. Wish me luck.

Today I popped down with my wife to our parking space just to check the water and oil on her car.

I had borrowed the aging Renault Megane  several days ago and for some reason suspected the radiator was a little low.

One popped bonnet/ hood later lo and behold the water level was showing a dire need for refill.

The Megane has a nice little plastic reservoir that feeds into the radiator but the cap would not open. I looked at it, the cap was plastic with six large teeth, if I tried to use a wrench it would probably snap off or at least get damaged .. what to do?

Inspiration struck and I whipped off my leather belt, looped it over the cap so that the steel belt buckle locked over one of the teeth and the leather loop provided a nice contra and with very little effort I was able to open the cap and have my wife on her way; all the while whistling the tune to MacGyver.

Feeling suitably pleased with myself I went back upstairs to finish my coffee and start the day.

Technorati Tags: ,,,,Practical Technologies,

Several weeks ago the company I was working at suffered a series of cutbacks. The first of us to lose our jobs were the outsourced personnel or consultants (it just sounds a little more dignified doesn’t it?)

My outsource parent company was left to see if they can relocate me and several others whilst we engage in some hasty thumb-twiddling and navel contemplation.

Actually though this month is somewhat of a none entity as the Jewish holidays land squarely mid week. My son is ecstatic to be home with Mum and Dad so much, however the lack of routine does seem to be wreaking havoc with his nearly three year old moods.

Regardless of this and the fact that most headhunters and Start Ups seem to stop recruiting for August (Summer holiday) through the Jewish holidays I am reasonably happy and optimistic. Will I have to compromise on my requirements for a job, possibly given the state of the economy and yet today the headhunters seem to have risen from their hibernation and discovered my resume amongst the huge pile that accumulated in their Inboxes since the Summer holidays began.

All this leaves me with time. Time to do all those jobs my wife would love me to deal with at home like clean out the shed (arghh); time to refine my resume and time to redefine or hone what I want to write about, here in my blog and that unfinished novel I occasionally mention.

The first step to personal growth actually occurred due to having my job cut: I decided to provide the company with an in-depth report analysing prospective improvements to productivity within the scope of my experience there. 18 pages later and on my last day I was making a presentation of my findings to the CEO of the company.

He didn’t agree with everything I wrote but then each company is its own ecosystem and is limited by the history and personalities therein. I learnt a lot from his counter-arguments  but maintain that if they fail to grow and find new ways to be productive then bad things lie ahead for them.

Is this my new path, is this even the path I want? I have the time now to see if this sort of consultant work is for me or can I apply this to my new job just waiting around the corner.

Ah yes, Microsoft Outlook. With all that processing and management muscle one might think you could run a small country with it. Let me ask you though, do you use Tasks?

Do you allocate them to yourself via Outlook, do you use them to allocate work to your team members at work or to send a shopping list to your significant other? Tasks are great and you can Categorize them and Deadline them. Some of us tend just to use the Calendar appointments though.

Now think a minute, how many of you use Microsoft Project? Do you get misty eyed at thought of intricate project planning and Gantt charts. I use Project because I have to at work; we all do. Ask yourself this though in all of the Microsoft Live revolution involving collaboration why is Project the most high maintenance?

Once you have invested hours on balancing the Gantt and distributing the workload and time per task, resource allocation etc you save your MPP file and ….. then what?

You discover that your organization never invested in Project Server so the collaborative options, the true beauty and strength of Project are disabled and you perform an act straight out of the 1990’s you email the whole MPP file to every person who has a task and your boss. The Exchange Mail server groans under the collective weight of multiple attachments ricochetting back and forth with each miniscule change by each addressee … hyperlinked, server based documentation anyone?

Somewhere between needing a full-blown Project Server and attaching that MPP file Outlook needs a scalable, Enterprise/ Business version that allows Outlook Tasks to be part of the Gantt tree structure and link one task to another.

Shared View is this scalable Live product to Sharepoint server, so when can we expect to see the Project product team join the 21st century and leverage a scalble solution using Outlook/ Exchange as their Client – Application/ Web Server architecture?

Last post I raved about the winning features, design and functionality of Microsoft Shared View. Now don’t get me wrong it’s amazing, I’m still using it and my on-the-PC version of Office 2003 in concert.

However, since then I logged into my scarcely used account on Buzzword, now Acrobat.com and remembered why I liked it and why I didn’t.

Buzzword is Adobe’s online Word Processor and so much more. When I was in the throes of job hunting I imported a copy of my resume and discovered that at that time there was no save as PDF option; now resolved – you can just about save to every major format including PDF. Furthermore, the GUI and interface is nothing short of gorgeous; in a beveled black. Adobe have gone to lengths to ensure that the Macromedia acquisition is not for nothing so of course there are implementations of Flash technology there.

For the font junkies out there a plethora of non-Office fonts are just waiting to be tried but, I have not checked if they are True type or not yet.

The user may share documents and create online meetings to discuss these much akin to the Shared View paradigm.

This is competes nicely with Office/ Shared View and Google Apps but, my resume was laboriously slow in loading and why does Acrobat.com insist on loading a Microsoft Scripting Component to work?

So, will I be using this beautifully designed, elegant offering from Adobe? Yes, but if you are reading this at Adobe, remember the P-word … performance!

Several weeks ago I made the leap and made the update to Office 2003. The update was seamless but as a prior user of Office 2003 there was one feature I was determined to keep. Microsoft Photo Editor.

Every other application in the Office suite is markedly improved yet Photo Editor which allows multiple images to be opened and is child’s play to use as a basic editor is replaced with the Office Picture Manager.

Picture Manager is divided into three primary panes: –

    • Left pane: this is a classic explorer tree with view of folder structure.
    • Center pane: the user may see single images, a thumbnail of each image in the selected folder or single picture view.
    • Right pane: this is the Office 2003 goodness – the drop down menu containing primary functionality

The crop feature is undeniably nice in Picture Manager but the lack of paned view or a standard Microsoft -> Window drop down menu was a little exasperating.

I used Photo Editor as my external editor in IrfanView (probably the best free image editor available) and opening multiple images from IrfanView in this manner would open one instance of Photo Editor with multiple images inside.

Picture Manager however opens a new instance of itself each time IrfanView sends an image to it as the external editor – irritating and an excessive use of screen real estate on the system bar.

So I decided no matter what, Photo Editor was going to stay. I searched for the PhotoEditor.EXE and copied it and its sub-folders to a new location prior to the upgrade to Office 2003. Unsurprisingly (Microsoft makes robust applications after all) it ran and is now co-existing nicely with Office 2003 on my PC. Of course, I am sure that if Picture Manager had feelings they would be hurt by all this – this is why when you offer an improved version you don’t drop major features.

Technorati Tags: ,Killer Apps,,,,,Practical Technologies,

Originally, I am a Manchester boy. Many people tell me here in Israel that my time living here coupled with marrying a New Yorker have softened my accent considerably. Before I moved to Israel I was a tea-drinker; not in the classical English sense of tea with milk in china but strong black tea with nothing in it; preferably leaf tea and Kenyan if I could get it or Earl Gray.

I came to Israel and during my time in the army I discovered coffee. Now mind you, none of this instant, granulated stuff but what they call Turkish Coffee. Strong, thick, black and sweet this coffee is coarse ground and brewed in a small tin open pot over a naked flame. My first taste of it was in the middle of an Armored Infantry exercise in the IDF Southern Training Center in the Negev. We were finishing up a morning of various exercises in APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers) when ours stopped and the driver fished out his coffee kit (pakal kaffee as they call it). After brewing up using the APC as a wind-shade he handed me a shot-glass of coffee. One hit and I was hooked. Not just on the caffeine hit which for a coffee newcomer was considerable but also the rich flavor.

Since then I have discovered the wonders and differences of French Press coffee and Espresso. Each time I travel anywhere it fascinates me to see their idea of what constitutes good coffee.

Now if you aren’t a true coffee drinker you may not understand what on earth I am going on about here but the fact is in hi-tech particularly or if you are a night-owl like me in general, then coffee can really help your alertness and at least for me, productivity.

On days when my allergies may be bad or I simply didn’t sleep well the night before nothing helps like a strong cup of coffee. The caffeine from a double espresso seems to clear the thinking processes and it certainly stops the incessant sneezes of hay-fever on bad days.

However, I have a couple of rules for myself when it comes to coffee: –

  • No more than two cups of double espresso a day.
  • Never drink coffee after 8pm
  • Only, only, only drink the good stuff

Nothing is worse than drinking espresso made in a poorly maintained machine or bad coffee. So with this in mind I try to stick to drinking only really, really good coffee. Luckily, Israel has no shortage of excellent coffee houses who invest a lot of time in finding excellent coffee beans.

For those of you who get the chance to visit Israel and love your coffee these are my personal favorites: –

Cup O’ Joe / Cafe Joe: across Israel in various large towns

Arcaffe: as above

Sarahleh’s Bakery: in Modiin. They have excellent coffee and the baked goods a great too.

Well, now I have had my cup of coffee … back to work 🙂

 

 

In a previous life I was a geographer and no, that doesn’t mean I can tell you all the capitol cities in the world; I studied Geographical Informations Systems (GIS) and even worked in the field for a while. As to being a Geographer, there are more of us out there than you realize. When you ask someone at a party what they studied and they mumble something incomprehensible you can be reasonably sure they are embarrassed but they majored in Geography.

You are probably wondering what this GIS stuff is well, if you ever used one of these online locational services where you query how to get from your house to point X and it gives you a lovely map and directions this is a basic GIS. (Someone reading this just said to themselves, “Doesn’t he mean GPS?” GPS is something completely different, that’s what inexperienced hikers take into the woods and get lost trying to use to find there way.)

Anyway, I was saving the phone number of a great restaurant in my cellular phone (a Nokia 6233)contacts and accidentally hit the option to add more details. I had a really nice idea then and went online on my desktop PC and found the restaurant on the map, saved the map as a JPG and then sent it via bluetooth to my Cellular phone. The JPG map now resides as the photo for that contact and when inevitably someone asks me how to get to this restaurant I can message them the map and phone-number.

If you have a PDA or Smart-phone you may not need this litle hack but still for those of us with slightly less advanced technology this is pretty neat.