Monday, April 21, 2008

A Really Great Afternoon

This past weekend was tough. Saturday, I attended the memorial service for a long-time friend, Lowell Burch of Tulsa.

Lowell and I met in college over 30 years ago, and were "band buddies". Not the marching band kind, but the rock/bluegrass/Christian kind. Although, Lowell did play the trumpet, coronet and many other instruments very well. In fact, he taught band in schools.

We were both Beatles fans. We played a lot of their music and really liked talking Beatles trivia.

We also both liked cars. He was restoring his 1969 AMX (The same one he drove my wife and I in from our wedding to get to my car) and I'm restoring a 1949 Plymouth. We talked a lot about that, and sent pictures back and forth.

So, where's the "Great afternoon"? It was one month ago, almost to the day.

When I found out Lowell had stage 4 cancer, I knew I had to get there to spend some time with him. It was such a great blessing to spend the better part of the afternoon reminiscing about the past, laughing about past gigs and people we know, and even talking about the future. I'm glad that he was feeling well, looking good and was in high spirits.

The first thing I told his wife Susan last Saturday was how blessed I felt that we all had the time together. (Susan was part of the band, too.) She had such a great testimony when she asked me, "Isn't God good? We had that great time together!"

Lowell left a great legacy in his wife, his sons, his extended family and so many friends. As they said at the service, "Lowell made friends and he kept friends."

Fred Smith, one of my favorite authors on the topic of sucess, wrote that his definition of success if the ratio of gifts received to gifts used. I like that definition. Applied to Lowell, he was a huge success in many areas of life.

The reason I share all of this is because I learned some very important things over the years from Lowell, that I didn't realize until now. And this is just a partial list.

1) He taught me how to think outside of my own limits. Lowell was the ultimate "outside the box" kind of guy. When we needed a certain instrument in the band, Lowell encouraged me to try playing it, even if I mainly just played the guitar and banjo. He was very creative and always doing something different.
2) He taught me how to make friends unconditionally. Lowell knew no strangers.
3) He was a "contagious Christian". He was always sharing his faith with someone.
4) He held on to me a lot more than I held on to him. He would call me more than I would call him, but he was never resentful about being the one who had to call first. He would tell others about what I was doing, where I was travelling, etc.
5) He taught me that I need to stay in contact with my friends.
6) He taught me to be positive, because God is in control. Whatever happens, it will work together for our good and God's glory. This was his last lesson to me because I saw him live it out in his final days here on Earth.

All of this lessons will be a major part of my life. I don't believe you can separate "professional life" and "personal or spiritual life." They are too intertwined. Your professional actions reflect your personal spiritual values.

I hope you have someone in your life like this. If you do, call them this week or go visit, if possible.

If you knew Lowell, feel free to post your story.

He's in the best place, now. The land of an unclouded day. Man, I'm going to miss him!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Software Testing Disasters

Thanks to everyone who turned out at the Red Earth QA meeting today in Oklahoma City!

Here are the slides for my presentation, Testing Disasters and Turnarounds in PDF. I hope to have the audio available soon!

I'll be presenting this as a track session next month at StarEast, unless American Airlines grounds their fleet again.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Makes a Good Leader?

There's this ongoing debate/discussion that asks, "Are good leaders made or born?" I say "yes". What I mean is that some leaders have the gift, while others need to develop it. And then there are some people that should just never try to lead people, no matter what!

This past weekend I was talking with my friend Clint, who I have watched over the past 10 years grow into a great leader. He told me this amazing story and I think you'll also get something from it.

A few days ago, Clint's 10 year old daughter, Keegan, asked him if he could get her into see our pastor. You may be thinking "big deal, just talk to him after church." Well, we have a rather large church (30,000 people in 13 campus locations around the country), but Clint does have access. So, he asked her why. She said that she wanted to ask him what makes a good leader. Keep in mind that Keegan is ten years old. When I was 10, I was thinking about a new bike or something as trivial.

So, they worked it out. Actually, to be able to make the meeting, she had to get up at 6 a.m., but that was no problem at all for her.

Our pastor handled this as only he can. "Does anybody know where I can get a hug from a 10-year old?" She eagerly responded, "Hey, I'm 10!"

After the hug, she asked him the question, "What makes a good leader". His response was something like this:

"It takes three key things: 1) Integrity, so like when you have a test at school and somebody has the answers, you don't look at them, even if you know you won't get caught; 2) The ability to cast a vision clearly so others can see and follow it, and 3) Being a servant to the people you lead. They are not there for you, you are there for them."

Then he signed to her a copy of one of his books on finding God's purpose for life, and got another hug.

This story really impacted me in several ways.

First, what motivates a ten-year old to be bold enough to ask a question few adults ask?

Second, there are many books on leadership, but these three things boil it down nicely.

Third, a true leader always makes time for people.

I have a feeling that Keegan is already a leader, and if she keeps seeking and learning, she'll be a great one.

Now, what are you going to do today to be a leader?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interesting Software Testing Survey from EuroStar 2007

I ran across an interesting survey that my friends Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster conducted last December at EuroStar 2007, held in Stockholm. 620 attendees participated in the surveys.

You can download the survey results at:

It's interesting reading. Plus, I think it's great that Dorothy and Mark were able to conduct the survey and report the findings at the same conference. That's cool.

Here's what I found interesting:

59% of the respondents used to write code

43% held the ISEB/ISTQB Foundation Level certification

34% of those with certifications felt that they now know more about testing, and 25% have a better job

11% of the respondents saw the ISTQB certification as a money-making scheme, 49% felt that is shows a basic level of knowledge.

36% of the people have read at least half of 1 - 2 testing books, 20% have read none and 36% have read 3 - 10 books.

50% of the people do not measure the value of testing in their organizations

Well, those are just a few of the findings. I encourage you to download the report and read it yourself. We need to do something like this survey here in the U.S.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

ISTQB Software Testing Certification Training

I'm in Dallas this week working on a project that I can't talk about. Well, I could but then...OK, you know the line.

Funny thing. I was here last week and my car got pummelled with quarter-sized hail. About $1,500 in damage. Just got it estimated for repair on Monday. I hadn't been here two hours last night when another hail storm was heading my way. So...I dragged myself out into the rain and moved by already hail damaged car under the hotel entrance. Guess what? Nothing happened. Yea! All you people at the Hampton Inn owe me thanks for keeping the hail away.

I'm happy to announce that I have submitted my Foundation Level Course in Software Testing for accreditation. You can read the press release here.

Hopefully before long, I'll be able to display the ISTQB logo and really get out there promoting the course. My goal is to get as many people certified as possible.


I think everyone in the field of software testing has an opinion about certifications. I don't believe there is a single "right" perspective. What appeals to one person may not appeal to someone else.

I am CSTE #2, which means I was there at the start. I was a designer of the certification. I am now an officer of the ASTQB, which means I now support wholly the ISTQB program. A big reason I am behind the ISTQB program is because it is vendor-neutral. It's true that people (including me) will make money conducting training courses. But if I wasn't presenting this course, I would be presenting something else. However, no one company "owns" the certification. No vendor can just change the program. In fact, there are many training providers which gives you more options.

Training is not required to sit for the exam. However, I really believes it helps because you get immersion in the terminology and philosophy of the ISTQB syllabus.

Do test certifications help your career? It depends on your situation and your goals.

I know some test managers that could care less about people who are certified and I know others that are certain that having a certification increases their test team's image in the organization. Some people find great value in using test certification as setting a baseline of software testing terminology and practice in an organization. My belief is that having a certification is one way to stand out in your career.

I have personally had clients tell me the deciding factor in using my services was because I held a certification.

There have been debates on this topic, so there are views on all sides.

I have some really cool things in the works that I can't reveal just yet regarding ISTQB test certification training. I'll just say that I'm very excited about doing some things that no one else is doing in software testing!

If you want to get training in ISTQB Foundation Level Software Testing, call me at 405-691-8075, or contact me through my web site to discuss.

Have a great one!


Monday, April 07, 2008

Making Software Testing Training Green

It's tough sometimes to break out of a mold. That's where we seem to be where training is concerned. Traditional classroom testing has the opportunity to be engaging, but too often it isn't. You have to work at it.

So when I start talking about e-learning, people get concerned about the interaction aspects. And interaction is important! It can be achieved with e-learning.

There are other considerations, such as environmental concerns. With e-learning:

  • You eliminate travel, therefore reducing fuel used in airplanes and cars

  • You eliminate the big books, therefore reducing the amount of trees used for paper

  • You reduce or eliminate the need for a physical facility to heat or cool for a class of 15 or more peopleBut even above the environmental impact, you can save big money and get training that is just as effective as live training!

Then, there are time and cost concerns. E-learning can be scaled up much faster and broader that live on-site training. For example, with my e-learning courses, it is possible to train you entire worldwide test organization in one week for a small fraction of live in-person training.

I like the time-shifted approach. In fact, I believe on-demand content is essential to make e-learning effective. It's just too difficult to co-ordinate everyone's schedule to be connected at the same time. Plus, you eliminate many of the concurreny and performance issues of having many people accessing the same content at the same time. (On the launch of Oprah's new online training event with author Eckhart Tolle, author of "The New Earth", 500,000 people tried to access the event. "Tried" is the key word.)

While you won't have this type of load, you can still have problems with load.

My entire attitude toward training changed after 9/11. It was tough for anyone in the training business for some time because so many people were on travel restrictions. Many conferences were cancelled.

If fuel costs continue to soar, travel costs will also rise. E-learning just makes sense on a variety of levels.

If you want to learn more, check out my e-learning offerings in software testing, IEEE standards and user requiremnts here.

Speaking of green, here is my favorite fishing spot.
It is Bear Lake, close to Cuchara, Colorado.

That's why I say that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Makes Software Testing Training Effective - Part 2

Today I did something that many of my friends have advised me to do for many years. I had my head examined. Really.

I had a brain MRI performed because I have tinnitus in my left ear and in order to rule out a tumor, I had to get this done to get life insurance.

The funny thing is that there was power surge about 10 minutes into the process and they had to "re-boot" the MRI machine. I told them not to worry. "It's not you, it's me! I'm a tester."

To add on to my last post about software test training effectiveness, I was thinking about something I've been intending to post for some time.

That is, to learn in small doses is more effective than trying to train in large chunks. Now, this is just the opposite to how many people think. They want to cram as much information as possible into a training day. The problem is that people start to suffer from information overload.

One of my mentors, Fred Smith, said that, "The best mentoring is intensity in a narrow field...learn, practice and assimilate." He used the example of how he used to dramatically improve the performance of salespeople by teaching just few simple techniques repetitively. Then, the people would go out and try them. When they came back, they all had glowing success stories.

It also reminds me of a friend who is a great guitarist who told me the secret to playing fast is to play slow.

So, for software testers, I suggest in really drilling down into one technique. In one of my intermediate testing courses, I spend two days just teaching and practicing pairwise testing. We spend about three hours on learning how to find the right size orthogonal array. We spend a hour on how to use some of the pairwise tools that are free. I guarantee you one thing. When the workshop is over (it's really not fair to call it a class), people know all about pairwise testing.

By the way, if you would like a taste of this class, attend my Tuesday half-day tutorial at StarEast in about a month.

You will find that some people want to just breeze through the material quickly. These people just want to cut to the chase. They are likely to get impatient when the class wants to discuss questions and observations - you know, where learning actually occurs! I like to set expectations by letting the class know that the goal is not to get through all the slides. It's to internalize the information. So, I encourage people to enjoy the journey!

Remember, another way to make training stick is to take it in sips instead of gulps!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Software Testing Training - What Makes it Effective?

Man, it's been busy here in the office today, but I love it!

I've been thinking a lot about really what makes training "stick", especially in software testing and software quality. Actually, I've been thinking along these lines for several years.

It was a defining moment when back in 1998, I re-designed my testing courses to be "hands-on" computer-based. Then, in 2001 I attended an AYE conference and that put another spin on things for me. (BTW, I highly recommend that conference!) It caused me to add many more experiential activities to my training.

So, why doesn't training "stick"?

Well, besides the basic things like:

You get out what you put into it.
Learn, then apply.

1) I have observed that my very best training experience, both as trainer and trainee, is when stretching happens. When training doesn't stretch you, it's easy to just coast along and not change anything.

I think learning should result in some form of change. If it doesn't result in change, then has anything been accomplished? After all, there should be some form of improvement seen.

But, back to stretching...

Stretching happens when you have to think long and hard about how to solve a problem. It happens when the case study software messes up and then you have to troubleshoot, learn, test, try again, fail, try again and FINALLY get it right.

Some people complain that the case study should have been more trouble-free. Then, they don't believe that I designed it that way!

Training sticks when people fully understand WHY certain things are done WHEN they are done. Unfortunately, too many trainers focus on the WHAT and HOW, which is great for robots, but not great for transforming people into thinking testers.

So, I'll warn you in advance. If you attend one of my sessions, you will probably be stretched. It's not because I'm mean, it's because I want you to remember.

2) People remember stories more than bullet points. I have had people tell me they didn't remember the bullet points on my slides, but they remembered some of those great project stories. (By the way, my track session at StarEast will be "Testing Disasters and Turnarounds" which will be based on three situations where things went really bad and how some of them were corrected.) You will also hear some good stories in my training sessions.

3) People learn better when things are light. So, I like to use humor tastefully and keep things loose and informal in the sessions I teach.

Here's another take which has a really good example:,b4V6LhgS

That's it for now. I would like to hear what you think makes training effective!