Working from home while a pandemic is active

So the Coronavirus (COVID-19) hit just like that.

I am glad that I am working in a company that gave us the option of work from home if we are uneasy about coming to work.

I thought of keeping a log of how this experience. The positives, the pains, learning etc.


1st Apr 2020

WFH Day -13

Has done most of the must do work today. The scariest thing is to hear the number of casualties as result of the virus. Everywhere I look its something to do with the virus. Its overwhelming.

Done a Joe Wicks PE class today with the little one. Even though he is not quite follow the instructions, that jumping up and down is good for him.

What went well?

  • Finished most of the work I had to complete and also helped few people.
  • Found some eggs and flour!!!
  • Went for a walk. Its nice to get outside even its the same path we take everyday.
  • After work, was able to do some painting

What can be improved?  Things bother me.  Other things

  • There is still lot to do. I don’t want to work until late.
  • I am feeling extremely tired – all the time.


Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work


31st March 2020

WFH Day -12

Working remote is hard! Harder for some. Today one of the best engineers was apologising for not able to be productive as his wife is busy and kids are around and not able to focus. I wish I can help him.

What went well?

  • Objectives out of the way
  • Some work got done.
  • A bit of the painting.


What can be improved?  Things bother me.  Other things

  • The first live issue. Felt helpless when everyone is messaging and calling me. I was not sure who to contact or what to do as many was offline.
  • Feel like tons to do and I feel I don’t have the energy.
  • Couldn’t go for a walk as there was a meeting.


Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work


30th March 2020

WFH Day -11

So this week we have decided to add calendar events to spread ourselves with work and be with the little one as his school holidays has started. Since its holidays, we didn’t want to spend lot of time doing some work but didn’t want him to spend too much time in the iPad as well. So we blocked out time in the office calendar, and the times we can stay with the little one as well as we made sure we are working the required number of hours as well.

What went well?

  • Time is flying today.
  • Was able to analyse the current role key functionalities and technical skills required and next level to understand what I need to focus on this year.
  • I don’t think I have any issues of social distancing. I am enjoying the freedom from getting dressed and drive etc.
  • Went for a walk. It was cold but needed to get out from the house.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.  Other things

  • The weather is getting cold again.
  • Not much got done today due to various meetings.
  • Its hard to understand people’s reactions to different options and had to call out people today.
  • I am still not sure what my personal objectives to be for this year.
  • Its real with these kinds of warnings.

Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

27th March 2020

WFH Day -10

Homeschooling Day – 05

Today is the last day before the school holidays for my boy. Yes! 3 weeks of Easter holidays. Today we only had maths work to do from school and we haven’t done computing or drama work they have sent. Everything went out of control with our meetings! We are not able to get the little one to do work till late of the day and when we did, tantrums! My head hurts…

What went well?

  • One of our colleagues left and we had a virtual send off and a scavenger hunt. Was fun. We are adopting to new normal.
  • With rising infected people and death totals, I feel we are safe – for now
  • Its the weekend.
  • Sketch the base for a new painting.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.  Other things

  • Feel helpless when I have issues with work environment. I used to walk to people and have a chat but now people can say I am busy and ignore the chat.
  • New process of testing is implemented but because of the environment issues, I feel next week will be a challenge as people want to test and things are blocked.
  • I am not getting any exercise. Feel very lazy.
  • No walk today as was waiting for a delivery.

Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

26th March 2020

WFH Day -09

Homeschooling Day – 04

Its amazing how the teachers encourage and praise the kids. It made me think how it was when I was at school. Always criticism and the praise follows a but. No wonder I didn’t like my school days. I do not think it had changed much from when I was in school to now in Sri Lanka. Its quite sad.

What went well?

  • Was able to complete two more security training that are mandatory to finish by tomorrow. One more to go.
  • Able to finish testing for some stories that had piled up
  • Able to have the walk
  • Its still sunny

What can be improved?  Things bother me.  Other things

  • I am not a person who bothered about my appearance but seems I’m neglecting myself even more.
  • Setting performance objectives for myself is hard. I don’t think i will get it right. Was trying to write the objectives from 9pm till 11pm and I am still not happy with them.
  • Seems I’m working more than I should, even with the time tracker.
  • I need to find something to Paint to keep these away from me.

Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work


25th March 2020

WFH Day -08

Homeschooling Day – 03

We planned 3 subjects yesterday but was able to do only 2. So we planned for another 3, Maths, English and Science. However we ended up doing French and Music work as well. Seems when its more sitting down, we have troubles in concentration.

What went well?

  • Disney+ is awesome!
  • Have a better control of what is merged to master and I am very excited about that.
  • Glad that my way of thinking of quality is seen the same with the product.
  • Long and unexpected hugs while I’m working.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • Didn’t go out for a walk today. Instead my husband had gone to two supermarkets to find milk and bread. Still no eggs.
  • Sometimes I think I absolutely cannot be a hands on tester and a manager at the same time.
  • Our Kubernetes environment was not working. Was not able to test on my namespace as I planned.
  • Haven’t completed the objectives.

Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

* no preparation today. Was too tired and. Just winged them when wanted

24th March 2020

WFH Day -07

Homeschooling Day – 02

Was super organised and printed out all work needed for today. It was lovely to see lots of positive replies from the teachers for yesterday work. Today we planned only to focus on 3 subjects as it was bit too much for all of us yesterday to do more than 3 subjects. And we ended up only doing 2 subjects.

What went well?

  • Disney+ is here. Whoot!!!! So many nostalgic movies when you browse the menu.
  • Able to get testing in feature branch motion on the run.
  • We are still alive and well.
  • The sun is still out.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • I am not good at teaching the kids. I get stressed out way too easily.
  • I am stressed. Very stressed.
  • I am worried about not doing enough for work. The time capture says I have done enough but i have this guilt.

Tracker update for today

Pink – Prepping for the day (taking printouts, making breakfast, eating breakfast) | Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

23rd March 2020

WFH Day -06

Homeschooling Day – 01

Was uncertain of how the homeschooling would go on today.  Had The school had sent many many documents. Print them out, try to understand what’s what , making a time table for the little one, moving my meetings to support his work, etc etc. Its 9.15am and I am tiered already. After that, every time i see him, he is a different pose. Sitting on the chair with legs up or going round and round or standing on the chair…. This is going to be a long day…

Hope tomorrow will go much smoother.

What went well?

  • Started a stand-up for testers last week. Seems its going well.
  • Had few productive conversations over some big topics.
  • Finished all the works that little one had to finish on the day and sent the work back to teachers.
  • No one cried.
  • It was sunny and had a short walk as someone was complaining of coming out from the house.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • Need to split time between work and homeschooling. That mean start working early and take long breaks and then work late.
  • Both my boy and myself started sniffles. Both are very lethargic at night and went to sleep early. Hope its nothing worse.
  • I don’t understand why people not listening to government advice.
  • Feel stressed.

Tracker update for today

Light blue – Homeschooling | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

* Today hubby helped the little one with work. 


20th March 2020

Day -05

Its amazing how everyone adopted the new working life style. Yes its just 5 days and things can be different probably by next week. But I see people communicating more and connecting with each other with whatever ways they can. When you take a step back and look, it’s remarkable how quickly people change and adopt.

Yes its Friday. But have not seen an empty road as such.


What went well?

  • I have moved to another room in the house with a new table and a new monitor

  • I’m getting tea and biscuits in style

  • Added a testing team standup so it gives an extra bit of communication among the team
  • Had a good conversation with the team about the build process
  • Its always a good feeling to find potential issues while a story is in development
  • Had a wonderful lunch time walk


What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • How the homeschool will go on from next week
  • Having dreams about me planning the day and planning what to cook
  • I’m eating all the biscuits
  • There is one test I’m trying to fix who refuses to be fixed!


Tracker update for today

Orange – School drop off and back home (pick up done by my husband) | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

* finished work bit early today. Feeling tired


19th March 2020

Day -04

Things are getting in to a rhythm at work. Team had started side conversations that keep everyone entertained. Numbers are going up but the most worrying thing is that the actual number may higher as they are self isolating and not being tested. At least the flowers are blooming…

What went well?

  • Had a very productive meeting with the testing team
  • Office mental health first aid trainers are check-in on people on how they are doing.
  • We can see the extended family of our co-workers
  • Was able to work on the automation piece
  • Got a little bit more plants for the back garden
  • I’ve got a new co-worker

This is Dave. He listens to my frustrations and compliments with a smile. Dave is awesome.We all should be like Dave. #thesignsofmegoingmad

What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • There is one test fails no matter what I change.
  • Hope I won’t hear any bad news over anyone I know
  • Schedule for next week onward
  • Have not finished the performance objectives… yet
  • The uncertainty in general specially when you see supermarkets

Tracker update for today

Orange – School drop off and back home (pick up done by my husband) | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

* Was attending to an interview with my US colleges. 

18th March 2020

Day -03

Driving to school run was pretty quick today. In a normal day it takes roughly 40 mins and today its was 28 mins to be exact. I was taking country roads. Its all deserted. Took the main road back to see whether I can catch some traffic for a change. To feel that the world is still functioning.

What went well?

  • Planned the breaks and set alarms. when alarm goes, I at least stood up for at least for 5 mins and walked a little bit
  • Made that additional effort to ask the team, how they are
  • Started a new piece of automation on the existing test suit
  • People in the office had started silly side conversations to keep the laughs going on. Yes I need them!
  • Went to buy plants for the back garden make over. That was fun.

What can be improved?  Things bother me.

  • I miss my big screens. Everything on one screen when coding is not the best! I get distracted when I move between screens and ended up having a chat with someone.
  • I wanted to remember what colour is my desk at office and i couldn’t remember whether its white or Gray or off white..
  • From next week, I need more planning to be productive. Schools are closing.
  • Level of support I can give to who feel isolated in this situation is limited. I think i am trying my best as a manager and a person.

Tracker update for today

Orange – School drop off and back home (pick up done by my husband) | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

* Forgot to start the tracker when I was going out for the school run. so data is tad low.

* Was adding an extra project to the regression test and it was not working… Extra hours spent to make sure I get it right otherwise i will be solving that in my dreams!


17th March 2020

Day -02

It is interesting to see how the team has setup working from home situation. Started the day with a Teams discussion over how everyone is setup.  Some snippets of the the arrangements.

The best is a photo from our Delivery Manager. The most creative work table.

I have to say that I am impressed as well as have a huge admiration towards the team for showing the commitment and adjusting to this difficult time.

I have upgraded to my son’s room today. Simply because the dining room chairs are not comfortable for long working hours.

Working from home is challenging specially when we do not know the end date. It was once a luxury but now people are struggling specially there is no end date.

Now the government encourage people to work from home if possible and avoid public gathering.

I feel privileged to work in an industry where work from home is possible. There are many industries which this kind of a lock down will make their job redundant. In larger scale, countries will have economic crisis when this virus swooped away. Worried!

What went well?

  • I was able to join a meetings that I wont be able to join if I am in the school run
  • Getting in to a routine now
  • Getting a little bit more breaks than yesterday
  • Had few very productive calls over automation
  • Was able to see the progress off the back garden make over


What can be improved?

  • VPN is slowing down the work when everyone is joined. When I join on a different VPN than UK VPN, I was not able to connect to some links.
  • MS Teams was facing issues when video is on. People switching off videos for that reason and we loose that connection.
  • Probably make few meals ahead so I don’t have to cook at lunch time

Went for a walk with hubby. Met many people doing the same. Everyone need a break.

Working from home for a long time can make them feel lonely. If they are living by themselves, they will find it difficult to cope this. It is important to plan the day, make hours flex if possible, take breaks, have a long walk, or a cycle ride and most of all be mindful about your mental health. Its important to look after yourself.

Tracker update for today

Orange – School drop off and back home (pick up done by my husband) | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

16th March 2020

Day – 01

Working from home is challenging. If you do not focus, you will work without taking a break. Or you can get distracted. There is a TV, a fridge , a couch , the bed! how to make sure you are focused and productive. I thought to record my time. So at the end of the day, I can see how my day is split and I have done justice to my work day.

My workstation for today

I made sure I work exactly as I will at office. Took a walk outside as I will do in lunch time. Sun in shining and surrounding looks beautiful.

What went well?

  • Collaboration was successful and used MS Teams well
  • Decisions that needed to be taken was taken with everyone’s input.
  • Conducted the first 100% remote retrospective with a small activity and a quick discussion.
  • Productive day and I think everyone did a great job

What can be improved?

  • Some team members has not switched on their camera when video call and it is not the best experience.
  • Laptop screen is too small.
  • People talk over each other in discussions.
  • I should get more breaks. My daily tracker shows that I am sitting and focusing for 3hrs.

Tracker update for today

Orange – School drop off and back home (pick up done by my husband) | Dark blue- breaks | Lime – Work

The need for testing strategy document

In a recent meeting one of my colleagues asked me why we don’t have a test strategy document. I asked why we need one but I didn’t get a straight forward answer.

I personally do not like to have these kind of documents. I am sure these documents may help in other teams / companies but for the last 14 years these documents were more of a burden than a help or guidance.

First of all, what is a Test Strategy? It is basically defining how we are going to test the application. What sections does it contain? In high level,

  • Document review and approval process or people
  • Scope
  • Test approach or different levels of testing and by whom
  • Environments the application will be tested
  • Tools be used
  • Release process
  • Risks
  • Other process like defect management, etc

Almost all the test strategy documents that I have seen in my previous experiences and the templates online shows a section for definitions of each test type and who own each section. For example, Unit tests by Developers, Feature tests by Developers, Acceptance test by Testers, Performance test by Developers etc along with what is a unit test, what is a feature test etc.

Some can say, this is assigning responsibility. For me it’s encouraging a division in responsibilities. A division between development and testing teams. Becomes a waterfall method and push the responsibilities over the wall. You may disagree with me here. However, my thoughts and my behaviours are a reflection of my own experience.

As modern teams, we expect development and testing functionalities to be working together. Pair when possible. Open discussions and collaboration on how the product quality will be assessed. There for I do not want to introduce these definition documents and encourage the division of responsibilities. Sometimes people find comfort on these definitions and role association. This can be harmful if you are expecting the teams to be working together.

If you are working in a free thinking, dynamic team who know that they should be flexible around definitions and roles and responsibilities, then you can have a test strategy as a guide document. But if your teams are not there yet, there can be confusions of who do what and when and these type of documents can limit their thinking. If not having these type of documents will help the team to be independent and flexible, then definitely that’s where I would go for.

Sometimes teams can get hung with the document and as well as quote the document out of context. For example, in your test strategy document you have defined that test environment should not have live data. If there is a situation, that you have to have live data in on lower environment, someone can say, it is defined in the document and we can’t so we can’t. Deal with the issue in a different way. The different way can cost time and money and the data that is coming from live have no sensitive data. But yet because the document say so, it is not possible.

You may think this is an extreme scenario. It is actually not. I have experienced this in several occasions. As agile teams we are fast paced teams. Sometimes we have to be creative in dealing situations and the whole team should come together. The document can isolate test teams and let the rest of the team go “It’s not our responsibility. We have done what we are asked for”. I have being there, many times. What we say is no finger point but the first question anyone will ask is, how come this slipped testing? Not, how come we missed this as a team? May that question should be documented in the Test Strategy?

If you have test strategy documents, how frequently are you keeping them updated? Or have you created them so generic so the document is valid for all purposes? Once we had a 60+ pages power point document that no one in the team read, or used. But it ticked a box. The management wanted a test strategy and there is a test strategy. Nothing beyond that point.

The document sometime can limit the communication and creativity of the team. Instead of have ad-hoc discussion about how we test something, teams can refer the document and make their own assumptions and interpretations. This also can discourage people to try different tools and techniques. I had being questioned trying out a new tool just because it is not mentioned in the test strategy document. When I update the document, it had to go through the long list of approval process which I had gave up trying the tool.

Does no test strategy document mean, the team doesn’t have a strategy? Team doesn’t know what to test, how to test, what tools to be used and what environments to be used?

I think testing strategy restricts teams and their capabilities. It can depend on what type of a project / product you are working for. If you are working in a critical application you may need one to define all the complexities. Others should learn to collaborate. What’s the word? Be agile about it…

So who should have a test strategy document?

  1. Teams that are new to Agile practices
  2. Teams who have less experiences team members who need guidance over best practices and process
  3. Teams that works in different geographical locations

Above mentioned situations do need a strategy to guide the team and make sure the team is evolving / practicing a defined process. However, these documents should be used for short time until the teams understands the process and value. Then it should be open for discussion and changing according to the team / project / product needs.

My final thoughts to summarise above is,

Testing strategy is Testers should collaborate with Business Analysts on requirements gathering, estimations and story writing. Then collaborate with developers on pair automation while executing their exploratory testing skills. Occasionally use a written document or guideline to support the teams who need direction but later encourage them to start discussions and create team level work methods.

So what about the test plan? I have listed my thoughts about detailed test plans in here.

Glad the interviews are done

Why do we conduct interviews? Why we not hire people just by looking at their CV? Because you need that personal interaction before the decision has made.

Recently I went through the process of interviews. It was the time to finding a new team member. Yes, I have done interviews before but this time I have documented my experience.

The interview process I followed was,

  • Initial screening of the CV
  • Phone interview
  • If the phone interview was successful or I am in doubt over how the phone interview progressed, I called them for a face-to-face interview
  • On the face to face, I have spent a half an hour discussion with the candidate alongside another two of my colleagues who represent development and business analysis. This gave me an idea how the candidate will work with the team.
  • Then I asked them to test a section of our application with me as a pair testing activity. Talked about what they would do, asked questions and explored the application. It was an excellent opportunity for me to understand their testing skills.
  • There was another task on whiteboard to write the high-level plan or code to automate a simple section from the application. This was their opportunity to show their knowledge and understanding on automation.
  • Take an IQ test as a part of the company requirement.

So yes. The whole process was time consuming. However, it helped me to know the candidates better.

I had a clear goal from the beginning. I was looking for a candidate who is passionate and excited about testing. Someone who is open to learn. A fit for the team as a whole not just testing function. Good communication. Automation experience was just cherry on the cake. I always believe that automation is not testing but a tool to help testing. Therefore, I had no plans to be strict on the automation experience.

I interviewed almost twenty people via phone and face to face.  Some of the unforgettable characteristics were,

  • Attitude

Some given us the impression that they really did not want to be in the interview. They spoke over us when we wanted to clarify things, did not wait the question was completed, no smile and not joined the friendly chitchat before the interview. It might be the nervousness but it did not come out well.

  • CV is not represent the exact skills and experiences

When there were automation knowledge in the CV, I always asked a question or two. Of course, I have asked the most basic question to start with and if they show potential, I asked bit more. For my surprise, candidates with impressive automation skills on CV, struggled to answer and said they had never worked on such. So why the experience was in the CV? To get through the selection process?

  •  Question time not used effectively.

Question time shows the interviewee their personality. Candidates can ask about the role, about the team, career progression etc. Not everyone showed this enthusiasm or make use of the opportunity.

  • Demands

Apply the job via the advert and when the internal recruiter call the candidate to arrange a phone interview, they ask for a higher salary than what defined. The job advert clearly mentioned the salary range. I always say no to such candidates because I feel what they do is not professional.

The main characteristic I saw in most candidates were, they are not thinking outside the test script. As for them, the business analyst should write the acceptance criteria and the testing team follow it to the point alongside other scripts. My question to everyone was “what if there is no requirement or documentation. How would you test? What would be your approach?” About three people said they would do exploratory testing. Rest said, no there should be some documentation to learn about the application. When I ask them what their understanding over Exploratory testing, their definition was close to ad-hoc testing than what Elizabath Hendrickson had explained in “Explore it”.

Why does this happen? Is it because companies not invest on people as much as they should? Is it because people not invest on themselves? Of course, these candidates will find another job. Companies who want scripts followers will hire them. I felt sad for them because they are missing so much that happening in the industry. In the UK, we have a fantastic testing community. Why are they not taking the advantage of it? Lack of knowledge or lack of enthusiasm?

The interviews helped me to see through the candidates and gave me an idea of their managers. I think managers have a bigger role to play in helping their teams than just get the work done. We work with different cultures and diversity levels. No one rule applies to all. I have met few managers who genuinely interest in helping their teams to grow within the team/ company and in the outside world as well.

In my mind, it is unfair to limit people’s potential because managers think they will leave otherwise. Well, people will leave anyway. However, I think I will be a very satisfied manager if I know that I truly helped the person who is leaving than hold them back.

How I broke free from script testing

I became a tester without any training. I was doing testing as part of “Making sure what we deploy to live is working” as a sub section of my day, job and I loved it. I decided that subsection should be my job and I applied to become a tester without ticking most of the boxes in the job description.

At that time testing as a job was not popular in my country. So naturally, I used the online guidelines. They were talking about documented test plan before the development, doing testing development phase, make sure test scripts created and followed as it is.

My main task was to create test scripts in my first job as a tester. I felt bored as all I did was going through a web site and write test scripts. When I found issues, they went to a backlog where they will looked at later. No date given. Nevertheless, they were live issues. Some issues can cause customers not fulfil their journey. I suggested that we should start testing with what we have developed than waiting for the last minute. My thoughts are very unpopular because the tech lead/team manager did not like me coming up with new ways of working also not adhere to the process they are committed. They also commented on my lack of experience as a tester. I left the place in 3 months, as I was not enjoying my work.

I started questioning my decision on changing to a tester. I felt lost. In my next job, I started asking questions from a developer mind-set. Fortunately, there were right questions to ask and that helped the team to think. I created test scripts and shared with the developers but kept some scenarios for myself. I guess I wanted those failed scenarios. I wanted to make sure I clear myself as a person who finds the cleverest issues. Be the cleaver one. It paid off. While a new section develop, I just wondered in the application. Came up with situations that are clearly not behave as wanted or a missing requirement.  Not everyone impressed as my issues was delaying the project. However, I was so satisfied with my job. Company closed due to financial troubles and I was on job-hunting again.

Meanwhile I did ISEB beginners course. It helped me to understand some concepts and open few doors to experiment.

Next job required script writing as well. Nevertheless, I slowly moved away from it as the script writing and updating them so much of my time. Slowly I negotiated with the PM and used the scripts as a guideline. As a basic test to provide some documentation that, he needed. One thing I realised is some testers in the team did not know the application well enough to explain it to someone else. They used to follow the scripts and they did not know anything outside the scripts. I did not like the fact. I wanted to wonder around the application and learn about it. How it works and affect with different inputs. I learned so much about the application and found issues in the same time. I was able to explain the application and discuss the functionality with others without a problem.

I practiced the same in my all other jobs after that. People were not happy about it first but I gave them results. Therefore, I was able to walk away from scripts slowly. When there is UAT I had to create scripts as we wanted the people who do the testing to follow exact steps. No room for users to wonder around and find issues. My objection to this dismissed in all projects that needed a UAT.

In current job, when I first started I needed to write teat scenarios for each story. Of course, I did not like it but did not raise my concerns as I was more adjust to the country, people and their practices. Later with my confidence grow I stood up to my beliefs. Wrote a line or two of what I test to make sure I remember what I have covered. I have commented on this several times but I did not change as my manager wanted. She was a project manager and not have any experience on testing. She made sure she read about testing online and make sure I followed the same. However, she slowly gave up following me up with what she read and I got things my way.

Later I read that what I was doing was a flavour of Exploratory testing and I was right to get away from scripts and scenarios. I read the reasons behind the decisions. Nevertheless, I know I am still not doing the Exploratory testing on the right way. Which I am trying.

Lesson learnt was to follow your heart, show results and slowly break away from things that take away your time for documentation and reporting.

Think differently when working with distributed teams

Distributed teams. We all working with distributed teams. Whether it’s in different countries, different cities in the same country, different floors in the same building, and different teams in the same floor or working from home. All count as distributed.

What issues do we face? There is a lot! However, when we start to discuss the issues, we always see the negatives and we talk about issues caused by the other side.

What we can do to correct this? We go hands on the air and say they should do this and that. Yet, we never think what might they think? What we can do to help? What behavioural, thinking and communication changes we can adopt?

These discussed in a Testbash workshop where Steve (@sjwatsonuk) and I attended. We recreated the workshop in our company as a pilot. Due to its success, we did it again to a different set of people and it got all positive feedback. Positive feedback for the workshop is brilliant. How positive the people feel at the end of the workshop matters. However, how much they practice the learnings is a question. Which we hardly get any feedback.

I am fortunate that most of my team was in the pilot program. From the next day onwards, they started to discuss how they could do things different. Now they are thinking differently. Take actions to include the nearshore team more in team discussions. They see why this is important. The nearshore team ran few retrospectives from their end and as well as conducted few stand-up sessions. Progress…

I believe if we think open-mindedly, we can collaborate successfully. Distributed teams created to deliver more work with a high quality while maintaining the costs or reduce cost. Everyone is part of  the project success. Build trust not pointing fingers, build communication openness on both sides so no one feel left out, build environments where everyone can ask questions and give answers to make the product better. Give constructive feedback and encourage it to come from every team member disregarding the location. Learn about their culture and try to help them to connect with you. Specially, praise each other when do well.

Have you ever worked from home? Was it easy to connect with your team virtually even you know them? Can you find people when you need an answer? Have you deliberately picked up work that you can do without the need of anyone else when you planning to work from home? If you are getting frustrated with your team when you work from home for one day, how your other teams might feel when they have to go through it everyday?

I am working with Abby (@a_bangser) who is one of the original presenters of the workshop, to deliver the same workshop in Helsinki for European Testing Conference. An exciting opportunity to help more people build empathy towards each other.

Remember, we all distributed to each other and small change of thinking can make a big difference.

Sometimes its good to ignore the rules 

Yes. Sometimes it is okay to ignore rules, think from a different point of view. This may cause you issues and criticism and temporary failures but as long as you have a plan, it should be all right.

This is my journey on implementing a regression test suite in current project, how I solved different hurdles. I have broken many rules but now I believe it is a success.

When I join, the project there was acceptance tests embedded to the code. So as the unit tests, feature tests and integration tests. Those acceptance tests not cover user journey but more of a single function. All different tests are based on one code base. Acceptance tests were running in TeamCity as well.

I spoke to the team and then start adding tests to the acceptance tests because I felt it is not enough. However, it was making the code build too slow and maintenance get out of control. Why? It was one code base. When acceptance tests fail, the tests were either ignored or made to pass. Tracking them was difficult.

Therefore, it was a failure. I was discouraged and almost given up!

Then I asked the team how they feel about me creating a separate test suite. Seniors objected because it will make a duplicate code, unnecessary maintenance etc. I felt disappointed and discouraged again. I maintained an Excel sheet as a check list for different functionalities but wasn’t happy. Testing had become a long process when it come to build pick and deployments.

Few months later, I started creating the test suite without telling anyone. I copied some of the functions from the main code base that I can use and build up on it. It came out as exactly I planned. I started using it for checking the releases. So far, all happening in my local machine. Then I showed it to the team saying this is what I have done. I even used the test suite against live environments, which had not happened before.

Only few impressed. Same arguments came. I mentioned this is only maintained by me so it should not be any overhead to rest of the team. It will be in the common repository but I do not want the development team to update it because I would like to have a control of what goes in and out!  Did they agree? No. They were telling about what happen if they change the modules that I have copied. My tests are independent from their code base. I just ignored all their concerns for their displease.

Some helped me setup the build in TeamCity and the team started to see results. Build picking and deployment times reduced. Issues caught up front in areas that was not thought of… Stage 1 succeeded.

I wanted to discuss the tests and its coverage with the business but the tests are very technical. Therefore, I wanted to do BDD format. However, all the documents I read and all the courses/workshops I went to told that BDD is a way of communication and it should start from the business and the teams talking to each other. I agree yes.

However, our team was doing most of these things. We are having open discussions with the Product owner. The business analysts are writing the stories in a Given, Then, When fashion .Doing changes from top to bottom will be troublesome. Many people do not want to change how they work unless there is a perfect valid reason.

Therefore, with a help of a contract tester we changed the existing test suite to use SpecFlow. Introduced BDD to the Regression tests and converted all tests. Detailed SpecFlow reporting and tests running in multi-thread mode the reduce overall time impressed the team. They now backing us with having a separate test suit.

When mobile tests needs to be done, it was easy for us. We expanded the tests to different devices to different break points with ease.

Then I showed the test suite to the product owner. Taken him through few scenarios.He was clearly impressed on what we have achieved. Now I am working with some editors to understand what scenarios I might be missing from their point of view. Involving the business with testing was great.

Now I am working with the business analysts to see how we can work together with the BDD scenarios. Whether I need to change the language that I used in the feature files or they need to change theirs or whether we can meet half way. We are going to try it on a small functionality change so there will not be less impact.

There is long way to go but I am happy the way I have made an impact without playing by the common rules.

Therefore, I think it is good to break rules now and then. Well it worked for me so far.

London Tester Gathering Workshops ’16

I had a chance to join by LTGW in June 2016. I took my time in writing this blog because I wanted to see what I would remember after sometime. I normally blog as soon as I come out from a conference but this time I thought to wait and see.

LTGW is different to other conferences because it is only contain workshops. Many interesting workshops. Personally I had went through the list of workshops several times, made my mind, changed it, went through again, changed it to original and changed again. That probably explain how interesting the list of workshops were.

Tony’s (@tonybruce77) power of asking questions workshop was a highlight. Asking questions is easy but asking the right question is difficult. One of key point I remember is that we should ask questions not only for self-benefit but for the benefit of others as well.

Yes true. Many times, I have asked questions where they benefit me but sometimes I have asked questions to make sure the person who explains the situation had thought about them too. Many occasions I have seen people build up conversations based on the question I have asked. I have not thought that the conversations that build, ideas that triggered and areas that discovered are results of a simple question. Sometime your question can be the answer. It is always better to ask the question than being scared of it.

Then I went to another session on Mentoring by Tony and Dan (@DanAshby04). We had discussed about what is Mentoring, Coaching, Teaching and Leadership. In a summary,

Mentoring is about to grow others skills, Listening to others and share experience, provide continuous help on need basis, guiding, encouraging and help

Coaching is about transfer of skills, problem driven, not on going, maximise skills, and have an end goal

Teaching is a structured program, delivered one direction, share Information, inspire, and evolve

Leadership is about being responsible, Delegation, Representation, Accountable, Inspire, Motivate and Organise.

It was nice to see the difference of each sections as sometimes mentoring and coaching described in the same manner.

Both above workshops filled with interesting videos and fun exercises.

I was in two other sessions thinking I should have gone to a different workshop one workshop was too basic for me and the other one did not make any impact on me.

Other than that, it was a great.  Thanks Tony for the free ticket! It was an amazing experience.

LeanCoffee style online meetup : Experience report

My first LeanCofee experience was with TestBash in 2015. It was before the conference start and I was very excited about the concept because it gives everyone a voice.

I wanted to introduce this to my company but was not able to do it for a while because I was looking for ways to do it online as most teams we have are distributed.

Leancoffeetable tool was introduced to me by the weekend testing group. It is not the most advance tool but it does the job. I trailed it by myself several times before introducing it to wider group.

We have a QA chapter in the company and I wanted to introduce LeanCoffee to them just because only few people raise their ideas. The rest are not actively participate because either they are not interested or they do not know how to contribute. However, I believe everyone have their unique experience which worth sharing.

The introduction went well and people wanted to try it out. So we dedicated a one QA chapter session for LeanCofee.

First, we thought we will do the leancoffee with four small groups and then feedback to the chapter but we had issues with number of people who wanted to join the chapter itself. So finally a one big LeanCofee session online, facilitated by me.

We got participants from differently businesses across company and from different geographical locations. In a normal day in the chapter, someone will do a demo or a presentation about a new tool or practice so this time it was time to share. We heard voices we have not heard before. Current issues the testers face in their own projects and want to know how others will react. What to do? Seeking information that we thought everyone is aware but not.

Meanwhile the discussions I have created a mind map for each point as well. This shared later as the meeting notes / summary.

Topics discussed,

  • Can developers help with testing in scrum?
  • How to get developers to do more unit testing?
  • How to plan testing when there is no documentation?
  • How to encourage testing community to engage more in RBI?
  • What value QA chapter add?

1.5hrs passed quickly. There were number of issues we have not addressed due to timing constraints. Nevertheless, we achieved a lot.

Feedback was fantastic. For me, it was a great experience. People share their ideas and experience to others who need help is what a chapter should be. That is what we achieved.

Most of all they want to do the chapter in a LeanCofee style from now and that I call as success…!

Recreate Building Quality in With Distributed Teams

After attending an exciting and educational workshop in Brighton (read more), Steve (@sjwatsonuk) and I decided that, we should recreate the workshop for our colleagues in Reed Business. I am very grateful to Lisa (@lisacrispin) and Abby (@a_bangser) who not only helped us with sharing all materials but with plenty of encouragement as well.

Since we are a big organisation with many different projects, we thought to stick to the projects that we are in as the pilot. We also included members from a team who deals with internal clients as well. The presentation tweaked but the rest of the workshop was as it was originally.

The teams were well mixed up and distributed over different floors (we were not able to book the rooms in the same floor). We took the liberty to mix and match people and that they work with majority of people that they do not know than the number of people they know.

We got two excellent and exciting helpers as well. Saima Poorghobad and Michael Lopez (@lopezma) was continue to support us by showing thing that we have not noticed. Fantastic!

All started well on the workshop. Steve and I had a plan but not rehearsed a thing. Therefore, we thought we would improvise as things go. We got people to talk. They came up with the issues that they face with working with distributed teams. Everyone was facing the same issues such as communication, culture, language etc. The examples we gave related to each business. We also mentioned the internal teams that support different projects that have a different level of distributed team challenge, which normally overlooked.

Then two teams sent away to different rooms with their tools. Straight away communication issues bubbled up. Lync was not working properly. Sound quality not there, video not working.

In the team I looked after as the Product Owner (PO), rushed to get in to work without even looking at the schedule. They wanted to get things done. Therefore, the inception and planning sessions were almost wasted. Many assumptions made. They did not ask me the right questions in the beginning until I clearly said I am not happy with the work they done. Offshore was asking what my favourite colour was than asking the right questions. Then they all started asking what my requirement is for each individual piece of work than one person dedicated for that – because of not planning the session and not assigning roles. Offshore team tried to gather the requirement with the work that they assigned but it was harder. Therefore, Lots of frustration! Time pressure! People running up and down! It was chaos!

In the retroactive it was highlighted that product owner did not have any bandwidth to answer all questions. I hinted saying I would be happy if one person talk to me than all. It was fascinating how teams forget the basic roles under pressure.

Another thing I observed was that the offshore team were trying their best to get the attention from the onsite team but they all busy either talking to me or colouring away. The offshore contact had to talk very loud several times and to shout to get the attention. Also later, I have to know that they were there with less or no work for most of the second sprint.

Everyone came back together and discussed the issues that each team faced. Offshore teams were frustrated and was very vocal about the whole thing. Then we decided to give additional 5 minutes to the teams to decide how they want to do the next sprint from the challenges they have/had. That was something Steve and I came up at the time so the people can learn the importance of planning and communication.

There were team members who wanted to talk to me and gather requirements while the planning, share information and retrospective sessions. This shows how people want to get on with their work than making sure they work as a team and achieve a common objective. Alternatively, let the others do the communication while these individuals busy with the ball rolling. Either way it was not helping the team.

The third sprint was a success. Steve and I took 2 minutes holiday and done a change of mind on a requirement. Teams did not seems to mind it at all. The requirements gathered for most of the work so they were caring out the work. How great is that!

Later we talked about the culture differences a bit more. I talked with my personal experience. As I speak about how other side of the table might be thinking I saw some eyebrow raises, nodes, note taking, and look of surprise. I might have invoked some thinking and awareness.

At the end, there was real light bulb moments in most people on how to do things differently. We asked what they would do differently and things like make sure communication issues (technical, non-technical) resolve sooner than later, involve product owner with offshore discussions, gather / clarify requirements early, make sure the offshore see the bigger picture and be more understanding are some of the things came out.

Well, all workshops we have people who think it is a waste of time, as they know the subject better. We had couple of them and they had given us negative feedback. One response was that, that person already knew these challenges and nothing new. Well in my point of view, everyone knows the issues but how they react to solve the problems is the key.

Two negative feedback against 21 from 23 participants. I take that as success!


Next, we have to collate the feedback and present to a wider group and who knows we might be able to take another group of people the same journey and help them to build quality with their distributed teams…

We learned a lot how this could improve. Such as dedicate someone else to coordinate the timing, bit more descriptive in the inception, bit more organised with the rules and do some adjustments to the schedule.

You still reading? Great… Few more lines…

Finally would like to thank Steve for encouraging me to do this workshop and made me believe that I can talk in front of many people without making myself a fool. Great co-host to work with. In addition, Saima and Michael was so helpful and given us fantastic feedback. Could not ask for more enthusiastic helpers than them. We were very lucky.

In summary, it was a great experience for us and as for the participants. Looking forward to recreate the workshop and of course looking forward to learn more.

If you like to read Steve’s experience you can find it here.

Is networking important?

Recently I went to a Lean-in meeting organised by my company and the topic of the day was networking. What is networking, why it might be difficult to network as a woman and what we as woman can do? We listened to a video done by Professor Herminia Ibarra from INSEAD business school and I think what I learned is both helpful for all genders equally. Therefore, here I am with the topic networking…

Why networking important? Networks allows you to generate new ideas, get information and support, and expand influence and more impact on you and your career.

According to her study, people often not focus on having a network because you depend on get things done and move ahead with the career. Most of the time people say they do not have time to network. Of course, it takes time to build and maintain a network but the real reason people not interested to have a network is it is not a top priority as part of the day job and do not know how to build the correct network.

Most people think that networking should happen between people who just click with each other in a more spontaneous way. The risk of this that you ended up networking with people just like you. Same class, same neighborhood, same hobbies. That kind of a network does not give the diversity of information that you need to advance yourself and your career.

Another aspect she described was that we tend to network with people we know for some time resulting a close network. However, mostly the people who we do not know very well or people who we do not see very often who also called as “weak ties” are the people who help with new career opportunities. It is not that the close relationships not help you but they share the same information as you compare to the weak ties.

She was talking about three kinds of networking

  • Operational – Relationships with people at work that allow you to get today’s work done
  • Personal – Relationships of your choosing, popular you like to hang out with informally
  • Strategic – Relationships that help you envision your future, sell your ideas and get the information and resources you need (most important network for career advancement)

Great strategic networks are,

  • Broad – Connected to diverse range of people
  • Connective -Lined or bridged across people and groups that would not otherwise connect
  • Dynamic- Responsive and adaptive, growing as you grow

It is challenging, particularly for woman to build and maintain an effective network. According to her study, men’s work and social work tend to overlap whereas woman’s work and social work not overlap. That overlap keep expanding when woman have kids as then the focus is shifting to the needs of the kids and their friends and families. Woman often weight the importance of attending to a networking event with go home for the kids and attend their homework.

One of the facts she mentioned was to focus on the value you bring to the network than what the network can do for you. With that, you can raise your profile among the network and grow within. Also as a woman who have different priorities in life to start small. May be one event and focus to get the maximum out of it.

Strategies for building an effective network she described as,

  • Engage in activities both inside and outside your organisation
  • Connect through people you already know
  • Focus on and develop the value you bring to your network
  • Priority and invest in few activities – favour active over passive networking

How to go in to a conference, seminar and network? Professor Herminia advice everyone to go in to these events with a curiosity. What you could learn about the people? What could they learn about me? 

At the end of the video ,it was the time to reflect, share and discuss the topic with others relating to individual experiences.

Question: What your networks currently look like? Do you have mostly “just like me” convenience networks? Do you have valuable “weak ties” in your network?

My answer: My network is currently shaping up. I am working on it. Most of the connections I have are  “just like me” “weak ties” mix. {This is where you go “Eh?”. } Well I have connections with lots of testers (just like me) but I am not seeing them very often or talk (weak ties) because they are all over the world. I am sure some of these connections are very strong which helps my own development.

Obviously I have more to achieve. But so far i am happy about my progress. 

Question: What challenges have you faced when cultivating your networks? How might you address these challenges?

My answer: My language, my cultural differences, the fact I did not knew anyone in the UK were few of the challenges I faced.  Blogging, tweeting, contributing to discussions were some of the things I think I have done right. Ah! being confident of me, my knowledge and my experience is also helped.

So, what are you waiting for?

Think what you would like to gain from the network, think what you can give to the network, think of whom you would like to network with and plan. Then review and do the adjustments. Make sure your network grow to a strategic  network and make sure it grow with you.

Simply, Just start!