Owning My Celeb-u-tester

Nada Surf taught me all I need to know about being Popular

I wrote this blog for quite a while with the attitude of, “I know know that no one is reading my blog…whoopee!”   It’s a very special feeling, being able to post whatever you want and knowing that no one is reading.  My first posts were written as part of my independent study of the semantic web/web 2.0 and morphed into posts reviewing games as part of my summer semester video games class.  (Hell yeah, I know you’re jealous!)  After that the blog languished as I slogged through a project management class that nearly killed me.

Something happened in that semester of project management.  I attended GTAC, and the blog turned into something real.  I met David Burns who writes The Automated Tester and is doing great things with Selenium and .NET.  I was so impressed with how seriously he was involved with his blog.  It rubbed off and when I returned, I started thinking of how I could get more serious about my own blog.

I knew that I wanted a new job and not in the city where I was currently residing.  I also knew that, unfortunately, my school has negative street credibility outside of Atlanta, GA.  If you want to debate me on that point, just ask the people around you, if anyone has heard of Southern Polytechnic State University. You won’t see very many hands.

I decided to blog everything that I did in school.  At least I would be able to say, “Hi prospective employer x.  I’ve done really great things at school, here they are on my blog.”  As part of this whole, getting-more-serious-thing I moved my blog from blogger to wordpress. I still had that “whoopee” feeling that no one was reading my blog.  I just thought that people would be reading it later.

I kept working my way through classes, having fun with visualization and writing my thesis.   My advisor pushed me to submit my thesis to PNSQC.  I was very shocked when it was accepted.  I had no idea it would be chosen.  I honestly thought I would get the “thanks, but no thanks” email.  It made me nervous to think about presenting my work, but I figured I would just stand up in some tiny back, basement room filled with 2 people and stumble through some slides.  Then this post of Alan Page’s happened.

At this point, I had read most of Alan’s book, (no small feat considering I had classes requiring lots of attention) and decided it was my FAVE-O-RITE testing book.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this book.  I actually did a report on Equivalence class partitioning as part of my Formal Methods class.  There is no way I can possibly overestimate how important this book was/is for me.  In fact, I was unable to post a review of it because the one I wrote was just so Fangirl it even made me want to barf.  To have one of the authors saying that he couldn’t wait to see MY presentation at PNSQC was enough to make me hyperventilate.  If your favorite tester called you up and told you how much they liked what you were doing, how would you feel?

I felt watched.  I couldn’t write for a week.  I jumped at every noise and kept turning around because I could feel someone behind me.  I was spooked.

Here’s the thing about knowing that people read your blog…you KNOW people are reading your blog.  I know that when I go into work tomorrow, my boss, several co-workers and my former neighbor will have read this post.

How would you feel if you felt your every word being read by someone who mattered to you in real time as you wrote them down?  Are you spooked yet?
I got over it which is a good thing because, at this point, not only have I appeared on Alan’s blog, I’ve made an appearance on Matt Heusser’s blog, Chris McMahon’s blog and had James Bach and Mike Kelly make comments on my posts.  I’ve even appeared in the Carnival of Testing a couple of times.  It was pointed out to me recently that my blog is number 38 on a list of software testing blogs.
So I now have an admission to make that might sound callous but is, in reality, very difficult for me:  People read my blog.  Not only do people read my blog, they like it! When my post shows up in their reader they actually take time out of their day to process what I’ve written.  They give me comments, they tweet about it, they write about it.  They tell other people to read what I’ve written.
My reaction to this has continuously been a huge forehead smack and a very loud, “WHO KNEW!!!!”  After PNSQC, I totally lost control and had a big, fat, happy cry about it over pancakes at Lowell’s in Pike Place Market as I watched the ferries chug past the window.  I mean, my make-up was smeared and everything.  I just couldn’t help it.
So what have I done with this success?  I could have tried getting a job at Microsoft or Google, but instead, I chose to take a job with Atlassian, a company I want to see succeed on a grand scale.  What does that mean?
I’ve moved.  To A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A.
This move has forced me to sit up and take notice of my own involvement in a community of well-known software testing bloggers.  In the past week, I’ve been reading about what I’ve missed:
It’s time for me to acknowledge my own role as a voice in the testing community.  I’ve ignored it and tried to pretend that no one reads my blog. I guess this was an effort to persist in the state of “whoopee!” but I’m at a point where I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate way to live my life as a blogger anymore.  I’m not an oracle or a buzzword-inducing, testing savant, but I seem to have a voice that people enjoy hearing.  The challenge, at this point, is for me to stay true to myself and understand where I fit in this mix of testing, technology and visualization.
That also means I need to recognize the gift I’ve been given and find a way to participate despite the distance I’ve created between myself and my fellow von Testerbloggers.  This wasn’t a challenge I anticipated I would be creating for myself when I moved, but it’s proving to be a tough one.  I had no intention of crumpling up all of the relationships I’ve developed over the past year or two and tossing them into the Tasman Sea, but I feel like that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Networks:  the best ones do not involve business cards and, once cultivated, are worth the effort in maintaining.
I’ve got no idea how I will make this work, but I’m committed to meeting this challenge I’ve created for myself, and I know that I can do it.

9 thoughts on “Owning My Celeb-u-tester”

  1. “I had no intention of crumpling up all of the relationships I’ve developed over the past year or two and tossing them into the Tasman Sea, but I feel like that’s exactly what I’ve done. Networks: the best ones do not involve business cards and, once cultivated, are worth the effort in maintaining.”

    Well Said! But don’t forget – you have also made some new relationships… and moved to a far nicer country :-)

  2. Hey wow, I’m happy for you.

    I do only have on thing to add – and that’s not to worry too much about where you went to school. I mean, I got my Bachelor’s from “Salisbury State University.”

    Wait for it.

    Wait for it …

    Yes, that’s right. “Salisbury State University.”

    Yes. I went to college at a Stauffer’s Microwave Entree.

    Cem Kaner has two doctorate’s, James Bach is a high school dropout.

    I stopped worrying about degrees and started getting into /learning/.

    From what I’ve read on this blog, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

  3. I hope after meeting me that you realized I was just a normal person (well…mostly).

    I initially found your blog because you mentioned hwtsam (from my side, the reaction was “OhMyGosh – someone actually read the book and liked it!!!”). What kept me reading your blog was that you used the book as a starting point and came up with your own ideas. There is NO book in the testing world that can be used as a “reference”, but there are many that can guide you in your own learning, and I’m still grateful that you found hwtsam valuable.

    I’m giving a talk this afternoon at an event about “influence”. I am planning on talking about “the power of communities” – there’s probably an anecdote in here somewhere that I will use.

    Oh – and while I’m confident that you could have (and will always be able to) get a job at msft, if I were in your shoes I would have chosen Atlassian ten out of ten times – it’s a super cool gig.

  4. I started working as a tester in the bad old days of the mid-90s. The tools and concepts available to testers at the time were expensive, buggy, and often just plain stupid. By the time Y2K was over, the testing discipline was a decade behind that of pure programming/development in terms of tools and maturity. The Four Schools breakthrough sorted a lot of that, and so-called “agile testing” has made up a lot of ground since then.

    But I think there is a real danger that the testing discipline is again being left behind by other aspects of software development tools and processes. To my mind, the only way to keep software testing a viable discipline is to embrace and master new tools and new concepts for whole-system analysis and design, areas not historically part of pure development qua programming. Data visualization is clearly going to play an enormous role in the very near future.

    The other day, in a brief conversation with Cory Foy about the relevance of “QA” I discovered that I no longer think of myself as a dedicated tester. I am simply someone on the team who occupies a set of roles. I think I told him “I consider myself an expert on the validation of UIs, APIs, and process”. If that takes programming, then I’ll program. If it takes analysis, then I’ll analyze. If it takes mastering new tools, then I’ll master the tools. If your team needs somebody to do that stuff, then I’m your guy. If not, then you have my best wishes anyway.

    So I think all of our buzzwords are becoming obsolete. The tools at our disposal are multiplying and evolving so quickly that entire institutions are being set up and torn down in the time it used to take just to debate their merits. What lasts is our ability to provide relevant information in important roles.

    Right now we don’t know how data visualization will affect testing. We don’t know what the endpoint of wiki evolution looks like. We don’t know where DSLs and cloud computing will take us. But like the man said, those of us watching these things will have to hang together or surely we will hang separately.

  5. @Matt so if you put our schools together you get Southern (Fried) Salisbury State.

    @Alan Yes, I now know you are a real person. I’m not commenting on whether or not you are normal. My reaction had lots to do with just how disconnected I was feeling at the time. That was partly because I was a solo tester working in a company full of people whose ideas about software persist in the 70s. Seattle and the Microsoft campus felt more than a universe away.

  6. @Chris I’ve found myself taking an approach to my job as a tester that is at odds with much of a what I learned in school about Quality Assurance.

  7. Well said! And i agree with Sheriff – you have made some new relationships downunder and its great to have you here :)

    I mean, Weekend Testers Australia and New Zealand is now alive thanks to yourself and other testers who have helped get this off the ground!

  8. @Brian @Sherif

    Without the support I’ve gotten from the software community in ANZ I would never have even considered writing this post. It’s been eye-opening in the best possible way.

  9. Hi Marlena,

    I recently made the move from Sydney to Dublin, Ireland and know a bit how you feel. I’m having to re-create a whole new network, but I’m having real fun doing it.

    Have you met with Jared Quinert (Melbourne), he runs a monthly software testing meetup (MAST).

    Good Luck and hopefully we can catch up sometime when I visit.

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