My passion is in building high performing software quality and testing teams. I have found that successful and highly regarded teams are comprised of individuals passionate about their professional craft. Establishing a continuous learning environment is key to inspiring and motivating your teams. The following are some of the focuses I incorporate in the learning and development of my teams.
Advocate for Testing Within Your Organization
Advocating for software testing within your organization is fundamental as a test lead or manager. In fact, it is important for all testers to champion their profession. As it relates to training, it is important for management to understand the value of your team in order for you to secure appropriate budget and support for team development.
Establish a Continuous Learning Mindset
Our industry is constantly changing and it is imperative to maintain a commitment to the training and development of our teams. Continuous learning encourages an awareness of industry trends, provides a focus on continuous improvement, inspires personal growth, and through creative thinking it advances the craft of software testing. Ideally you will be able to establish the continuous learning mindset for your team, and more importantly instill a lifelong commitment to learning for each individual. Ultimately each individual needs to take ownership for their professional development.
Provide Frequent Learning Opportunities
Frequent training and development opportunities are important to remain current with the industry and to sustain the learning momentum. Being mindful of potential budget constraints, there are numerous low cost options to consider incorporating.
Incorporate Diverse Learning Opportunities
There is a tremendous number of learning opportunities for software testers. It is important to incorporate diverse opportunities in alignment with the organizational needs and the skill sets of your team. Consider including a variety of the following options:
- Conferences & Workshops
- Organizations & Associations *
- Webinars & Interviews *
- Books, Magazines, Newsletters *
- Discussion Forums & Blogs *
- Internal Cross Training & Lunch and Learn Sessions *
- Networking, Networking, Networking *
In defining your team’s training and development plan, be sure to emphasize the options highlighted with an ‘*’. These options are typically low cost or free. From my experience, actively engaging in a few insightful organizations, magazines, books, discussion forums, blogs and by networking has the potential for greater learning than more traditional options. That said, there are some excellent courses and conferences available. Research the options and leverage your network for recommendations.
Often there are internal training options that can be considered. Leverage the strengths of your current team through cross training and hosting lunch and learn sessions. Encourage the sharing of new ideas by team members who attend courses and conferences through white papers or informal presentations.
Networking is a powerful tool for learning. Extend your network of software testers and interesting minds to discuss and constructively debate ideas. Challenge your team members to seek out perspectives that differ from their own. If there is the opportunity for team members to attend courses and conferences, place networking at the top of their “to do” list. Lessons learned from networking are just as valuable as the material covered during the conference sessions. Additionally, the industry relationships that can be developed at these kinds of events can be invaluable for future discussions or support.
Do not discount the online social networking options such as Twitter. If you are selective in the individuals, lists or tags you follow, there is a wealth of valuable information. In fact, if you follow many of the industry leaders you will quickly find that the volume of insightful information can be overwhelming. These folks are constantly tweeting about new articles, blogs, interviews, courses, conferences and challenges related to the craft of software testing.
Also consider sources not directly related to software testing and find synergy in the concepts. Michael Bolton is excellent at this. He finds synergy in everything from books such as Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, to theatre and music.
Consider referring to my Resources page for a listing of Associations, Conferences, Workshops, Courses, Books and People (many with blogs) you may be interested in learning from.
Place an Emphasis on Integrating the Learning
Knowledge and skills are truly gained when new concepts are applied and integrated into our existing frameworks. The statistics on learning retention rates are staggering. The following statistics are from http://www.tenouk.com/learningretentionrate.html:
Be mindful of your organization’s context and quality needs. Practices that work well in one organization are not guaranteed to fit in your organization. Consider identifying appropriate pilot projects to incorporate new concepts, techniques, tools, etc. on your teams. Continually assess the integration of a new concept and adapt or drop it as appropriate.
Provide Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities
Many times as leads and managers we adopt roles as teachers, coaches or mentors to share our knowledge, perspectives and passion for software testing. Ensure coaching and mentoring opportunities are provided for your team members. Often times the coaching may need to be from an external source such as a consultant to assist with implementing new concepts.
Set a Positive Example
My final thoughts are to be active in your own continuous learning and share your excitement. Enthusiasm is energy that easily spreads from one person to the next.