Alternative Paths for Self-Education in Software Testing by Markus Gaertner (EuroStar talk)

Markus Gartner is very skilled in speed-notes. He’s been around EuroStar speed-noting all the session’s he’s been into. He calls it live blogging, but I use the term Speed-Note because, well, I think I coined it ;).
He was live-blogging all the talks, but… who is live-blogging Markus’s talk? Who watches the watchmen? Well, I took the challenge. What you see below are my notes from his ~40 minutes talk.

Alternative Paths for Self-Education in Software Testing by Markus Gaertner

Markus’s main motivation for organizing this talk was noticing an economic downtime a few years back, where conventional commercial education was costly to follow and pay for by companies or individuals. But even in this situation, if you’re in a position where you want to learn and educate yourself, there are other ways…
Markus’s first conventional/official training course in Software Testing was in 2007, 1 year after starting his work as a tester. By that time he already had got responsibility leading people and projects, and he attributes this to spending that year learning about testing from books and people, thinking “how can I advance in this?”

Who is responsible for your education?
One can assign the responsibility over her education on the employer, on teachers, certifications, family… Markus main message on the lecture is that YOU are responsible for your own education. (editor’s note: I agree. In fact, I believe it can’t work any other way).

Shino (as he’s called informally by school friends) presented some options to self-education:

  • Feedback.
    • By writing a personal journal one can assess how his thoughts change over time — that’s self-feedback. By writing to a blog or magazine you receive a different feedback, which is external feedback by other people reading your stuff. For even more direct feedback, you can write on mailing lists or present at conferences. And there’s also an environments built specifically for getting quick and easy feedback, and it’s called, guess what, Social Media. On Twitter, on LinkedIn, the Software Testing Club or Weekend Testing, you can get immediate feedback to questions and affirmations (editor’s note: some of the links point to my own profiles).
  • Learn to Program
    • Programming can be a very useful skill for a tester.
      You can try to learn some scripting languages to help you during your tests, or study design patterns to understand more about software construction. Learning about programming techniques and technologies or pairing with a programmer can give you a great understanding of what goes on in the code.

There are many more options to learn and advance. Markus divided them by two:

  • *HYPOTHESIS* – Left Side of the Brain
    • Books
      • There are many books you can read, but Markus mentioned specifically three.
      • Testing Computer Software – Cem Kaner
        • Gives a very good understanding of software testing and it structure. Markus heard rumors that a 3rd edition might be on the way. (editor’s note: Can it be? Remember, you heard the scoop here first! :) )
      • A Practitioner’s Guide to Software Test Design – Lee Copeland
        • This book structures techniques of software technique, in a very short form. This is Markus preferred and recommended book. (editor’s note: I like this book a lot, thanks Justin for the great gift. But the book I like most is Testing Comp Software by Kaner (and thanks Hayim for this gift!))
      • Lessons Learned in Software Testing – Kaner/Bach/Pettichord
        • An easy reading book with a multitude of different aspects and ideas about testing in all its aspects.
      • Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar
        • This book by James Bach includes heuristics for learning (like the SACKED SCOWS, Long Leash Heuristic, Obsess and Forget…) that can be used in most contexts.
    • RST
      • It’s a commercial course by James Bach and Michael Bolton. You have to take the course frontally in a class room. But the slides are available online (!) at http://www.satisfice.com/rst.pdf and they include models, heuristics and other valuable points from the course.
    • BBST
      • Developed by James Bach and Cem Kaner, this course is an in-depth view of software techniques and our work as testers (it covers Bug Advocacy and Testing Techniques). One of the ways to take the course is by looking at the videos at the BBST website, the other is by taking the course with the AST association, which include — in addition to that material — collaboration and feedback with peers and instructors.
  • *SYNTHESIS* – Right Side of the Brain
    • Testing Challenges
      • Solving challenges as a game may condition you to solve challenges in real life. Markus reminded us that James Bach is willing to share testing challenges over Skype to anyone who contacts him (http://satisfice.com/blog/archives/393). Eusebiu Blindu, for example, has challenges on his website as well (link, link, link).
    • Dojos
      • On coding dojos, programmers pair and try to solve one specific coding problem. They include collaboration, a safe environment and a deliberate practice. Markus cloned this idea over to testing, and in Testing Dojos testers solve a problem (test this, evaluate tools, learn new approaches…) in pairs or individually to sharpen their skills.
    • Weekend Testing
      • A weekend testing session is an online ~2 hours session of testing where people work on their own or pairing. They are like dojos in matter of mission, and include a multi-person discussion over Skype on the mission and the results. (editor’s note: It’s certainly a fun way to spend the weekend! I was there and recommend).
    • Miagi-Do
      • This ‘school’ for software testing was founded by Matt Heusser, is non-commercial and zero-profit, and aims to improve testing skills through practice. By proving skills when solving testing challenges you earn colored belts. Markus is a Black-Belt Miagi-Do tester and can be contacted for more information or for initiation. (editor’s note: While is it true that there isn’t much you can do with the belts :), there’s much you can do with the skills.)

Summarizing his talk, Markus says that there are different styles for learning, and you are responsible to discover what your own style is and how you will advance on it. Markus recommends, in any case, trying as many types of learning as you can.

11 thoughts on “Alternative Paths for Self-Education in Software Testing by Markus Gaertner (EuroStar talk)”

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  2. Interesting write-up indeed! Learning is not only what you are qualified of and become conscious with but in some ways it can be what your mind sets to do from what you had encountered in life. I think we have to improve on this by selecting helpful and well-organized ideas from other people’s creepy-crawly. I guess you can’t miss a point to think of and make it genuine.

  3. The hard part about testing, is that many of the ideas are experience based.
    It’s these historical memories which are stored in the back of the head, regarding past issues you have encountered.

    The most trivial way to improve these, is by reading other peoples bugs – anyone can set aside 30min to read all new items in the local bug tracker, thinking – how do I apply these to my current tests.
    Another way is by reading Risks-Digest etc.

    halperinko – Kobi Halperin

    1. I like this idea Kobi!
      Reminded me of this text I adapted from Erik Sink: http://testing.gershon.info/200904/read-the-bugs/ . When the team spends time reading bugs, everybody wins: The person reading, the bug submitter, the team… ultimately, the customer!

      Thanks for this nice addition to the list above!
      We often give much importance to exoteric or extraneous sources for learning, forgetting that the best learning is happening right under our nose. Many learning opportunities go away because we think they’e just work…

  4. Thanks Shmuel for this great write-up. You captured pretty well, what I was saying. Awesome job. Maybe I will continue work on that paper that I started on the topic when submitting this session.

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