Friday, March 29, 2019

The WeCode Story of Consolee

I want to share a story that was written recently by Dr. Michael Pucci, director of the Muraho training effort in Rwanda.


I wanted to take the chance to capture a glimpse into the deeply transformative impact our training has been facilitating in the lives of the WeCode women. We get these textures every day, but those who are focused on the back end infrastructure to enable the WeCode project often don’t get to see what is most beautiful (and motivating) about it.

To me the story of Consolee in particular embodies the values we are nurturing in this learning environment (We Seek Excellence, We Love Questions, We Fail Forward, We Win Together). Consolee was in our first cohort in September and October but really struggled because she was starting off from such a low level of English competency. However, she brought a lot of heart competencies to the work (positive attitude, grit/persistence), and as a result we saw great improvement across many of the competencies, as she challenged herself. 
We could see that she was really coming alive and thriving in the safe environment of her team, which embraced everyone from different backgrounds and economic means. Consolee, was from a very low Ubudehe economic level. We could also see early on in the training that her low English was really handicapping her. 
Although she completed both the Basic Work Readiness and Advanced QA & Project Management training, she failed to qualify to sit the October 15 ASTQB (international proficiency) certification) exam. There are some at that threshold who complain, protest, while there are others who (sometimes through tears) just say, “Next time I will get there."

During the internship that followed the training, Consolee was selected to be on a team that remained focused on ISTQB and English proficiency, and in fact, she was chosen as the Malayika (facilitator) to lead her team of learners during that four month internship. The internship required a high degree of self-organizing from the teams, especially those that were not selected to be on live Muraho client software testing projects but were given further learning objectives to pursue to further prepare themselves. 
At the end of the internship, we assessed the teams according to the projects they were on, including the learning projects. Those who demonstrated they were persisting in learning during the internship were invited into the second cohort’s intensive two weeks of ISTQB training and coaching to try for the exam again.

Six of those who did not qualify to sit the ASTQB in October were invited to join cohort 2 Advanced training the first two weeks of March. All six of them qualified and sat the official ASTQB on March 18. Of particular note, Consolee’s marks during the mock exams were consistently at the top of the pile, and her English and confidence were also markedly improved (measured by questions and presentations). She shifted from one of the lowest mock scorers in round one to consistently scoring at the top. When we asked her what she had done during the internship in order to improve so well, she and her team reported that they helped each other set and keep their study goals (e.g. they committed to learn 15 new words every day, etc.). During this second Cohort training, we were constantly seeing Consolee helping newer students in the mixed teams to understand difficult concepts; they looked up to her. 

Not everyone who was given that further opportunity of a paid internship after the training took advantage of it, or we would have had 20 from Cohort 1 join Cohort 2 ISTQB training. Some complained they had less formal training structure on internship; some gave up when they were not assigned to projects they wanted to be on, but some hunkered down and did the work together of on-going learning and earned a second chance. 

I am purposely reporting this story of Consolee before we have received the results of her ASTQB exam (sometime later this week). She has already proven that it is irrelevant whether she passes the exam (this time). She and all the 6 embody a "not yet”, growth mindset and a fearlessness to fail forward. They’ve also demonstrated that they are worth hiring onto teams without this certification and that the intangible qualities like dynamic ongoing learning is one of the most valuable competencies to train and nurture in WeCode. Creating the safe environment that enables that learning for women is the most fragile part of what we do. 

We hear firsthand many of the impediments these women have to overcome and when they do, we celebrate them. I just wanted to share this so you can join us in celebration of these amazing women. If GIZ wanted to give some kind of award for embodying the WeCode values, Consolee would be at the top of my pile, simply because she started further behind than most, climbed, failed, climbed again and got there, and led several up there with her.

Update on March 29, 2019: I can now add that Consolee passed her ASTQB and has CTFL after her name. Her life and opportunities are changed.
Dr. Michael Pucci

ISTQB Foundation Level Training in Rwanda - Trip #2

For those of you who have been following the story of software testing in Rwanda, here is Chapter 2.

I traveled to Kigali in early March, 2019. I left Oklahoma City on February 28 and arrived in Kigali on Saturday evening, March 2 about 7 p.m.  (Yes, it is a long trip!)

The objectives were to train another 50 women in ISTQB Foundation Level software testing certification, and to hand deliver 5 new HP notebook computers made possible through the generous donations of people through a gofundme page I had set up.

At first, I was hoping we could have raised a bit more to buy a few more computers, but really, 5 was all I could take with me. Thankfully, all 5 computers, plus another one I was delivering for a friend, made it without damage or being stolen. I had many people praying for their protection!
The New Computers Unpacked and Being Set-up

This week of training was just one week of several in the full internship program as part of the WeCode initiative that has received much help and sponsorship from Germany government’s GIZ, the Private Sector Federation and the ICT Chamber in Rwanda.

Before I arrive, the ladies in the program have in-depth training on teamwork (although in the Rwandan culture, that is an inherent trait), problem solving, critical thinking, communication and many other competencies. After I leave, the ladies practice a full week on sample exams, then they have two weeks of project management training. All of the training is conducted by industry experts.

A Sampling of One of the Team's Values

This competency-based internship led by Dr. Michael Pucci has received international acclaim. In fact, the first part of my week there, Michael was presenting about the model at a UNESCO conference in Paris. The feedback he received was overwhelmingly positive.

The training I conduct there is in a 5-day format, which is different from most ISTQB Foundation Level courses, which are 3 or 4 days in length. The difference is that we go over the materials in the morning, then afternoons are for exercises. On the afternoon of Day 1, I have the ladies testing an actual software application and applying critical thinking skills.
Day 1 Exercises

Throughout the week, we covered in-depth all the syllabus topics and worked in teams to complete exercises on the "Big 4" test design techniques - Equivalence Partitioning (EP), Boundary Value Analysis (BVA), Decision Tables, and State-Transition models. I worked with the teams to make sure they were applying the techniques correctly. To break things up a bit, they also did a "Vocab Jam" as a contest between teams to review terminology, along with electronic mock exams.

By the end of the week, we were working through the entire testing process from start to finish. I made some comments and adjustments along the way, but at the end of the day, I was confident they had it down. Then, like in the last class, I thanked them for all their hard work and welcomed them to the profession of software testing.

When I say "hard work", I mean just that. These ladies go to extreme lengths to arrive early, stay late and work harder than any other classes I have ever taught - and in 30 years in the software testing training field, I have trained over 10,000 testers personally across every industry sector, so that is saying a lot for these ladies. Not to diminish the efforts in other classes, but for these ladies they know this is their golden opportunity to escape poverty.

I read and hear the criticisms of certification, and I understand why some people feel the way they do about tester certification. In fact, at one point many years ago, I was a bit jaded myself. But seeing how these ladies worked and learned the material was truly inspiring.

Click here to read Consolee's Story

One might say, why certification? Why not just teach them a basic class on testing?

My response to those questions are:

1.  There are hundred, if not thousands, of courses on software testing. I have written 70+ of them. What you get a mixed bag of techniques and terminology. Some of the content is terrible and just simply incorrect. In fact, my personal opinion is that the field of software testing has "devolved" in the level of knowledge and practice. Someone new coming into the field immediately picks up on this. The result is confusion. Which way is right? Which way is best? I agree there is no single "right" or "best" way to test software, the thing that has gotten lost in our profession is how to know which way is most effective in a given situation. While no certification is perfect, it does base one's understanding of testing in a codified, reviewed, body of knowledge. Certification is one way to achieve consistency in knowledge.

2.  Future customers will find value in the level of training behind the certification. I am fully aware of the certification mills that certify hundreds of people at at time just so they can point to the piece of paper. This is not that!  Muraho chose the ASTQB exam because the questions are constantly measured, and ASTQB is the only exam provider that has the "Proficiency Distinction" to show that a candidate has actually demonstrated proficiency in applying the material.

3.  The achievement of the certification is a point of pride for these women. It should be a point of pride for anyone. All the arguments made against certification could also be made for degrees or any kind of learning for that matter. I will never take away from someone's sense of pride and accomplishment because of others who may not value it. There is an old joke that goes, "What do you call the person that finishes last in their class in medical school? Doctor." So, the certificate is the first step, experience and practice is needed after that to gain mastery.

As it turned out, that Friday, March 8, was also International Women's Day, and I could think of no better way to celebrate that day than to see these 50 tired but smiling women celebrate their work. Pictures were taken and we just enjoyed them moment. I was humbled and touched by the gifts the ladies gave me and my wife (for letting me make the trip). A wonderful Rwandan shirt, and woven bowls and earrings for my wife. These gifts are special to me because they are given not out of abundance of provision, but out of pure appreciation and love.

Rwandan Coffee is Amazing!
On Saturday morning, we had a great opportunity to meet with Michael Pennick and others in the Muraho team to discuss future plans. Michael "just happened" to be in Kigali for the day. It was an awesome visit over awesome coffee.

On Saturday afternoon, my host Dan Munkittrick and their housekeeper, Claude, took me to the market. It was an amazing experience to see all the food, souvenirs, hardware, household supplies all in this one place. It was like the Rwandan version of Wal-Mart, but in a bazaar setting.

Dan with the World's Largest Package of Steel Wool!

Lots of Green Bananas!
I left for home Saturday evening, just as a storm was moving into the city, but I made it out fine and mad it home tired but safe.

We just found out the exam results and learned that over the first two rounds of training, over 60% of the ladies passed the exam!

Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, for the "rest of the story."

I know this is a very long posting and at the risk of going even longer, here goes...

On the way from the airport upon my arrival in Kigali, I remarked to Dan about how unusual and impressive the last class was. I have never seen that in other classes.

That started a dialog that lasted all week and involved all the leadership team of Muraho Technology on the topic of me bringing the testing services of these ladies into organizations and projects in the USA under my test leadership here in the USA.

So, I am happy and excited to announce that I am actively working to engage these women on projects in a concept we call "co-sourcing." It different and better than outsourcing because we have a connection in the USA (me) and there is a native English speaking team in Rwanda (ex-patriots) who form this bridge of communication. The women themselves can communicate well in English but the USA - Rwanda connection is there to plan and manage the work.

The key values in our approach to co-sourcing is Excellence and Opportunity.

Yes, by working with us you are providing an amazing opportunity to the team in Rwanda, but more importantly, you will receive the excellence in service that so many companies seem to be missing in the traditional outsourcing model.

You will be hearing more about this in the days and weeks to come. But, if you are intrigued, just call (405-691-8075) or e-mail me (webrequest at to discuss it further.

Thanks for reading this long post!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Press Release - Randall Rice to Address ITEA Cybersecurity Workshop

March 26, 2019, Oklahoma City, OK
Randall W. Rice, principal consultant of Rice Consulting Services, Inc. and a Director of the American Software Testing Qualifications Board (ASTQB), will present a technical presentation at the International Test and Evaluation Association's (ITEA) 5th Annual Cybersecurity Workshop on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019. The ITEA is the premier organization is a leading in advancing software test and evaluation, including cybersecurity, in the Department of Defense.  The conference is being held near the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Belcamp, MD. Mr. Rice's talk is sponsored by the ASTQB.
            Rice’s topic will be “Defining Solid Security Requirements” This presentation will show how software professionals can identify the security needs of a system and an organization for the purpose of achieving secure systems. “Software requirements are a challenge for most organizations, and security requirements are even more challenging. Most companies don't consider the security requirements of a system until it is too late. Then, the main options to achieve security are patches applied during the lifespan of the system or product.” said Rice from his office in south Oklahoma City.
            "ASTQB has been a leader in advancing software quality worldwide in all forms, including cybersecurity. We are excited to share this information with the DoD community," Rice continued.
            Rice has been speaking at international software testing conferences since 1990 and is a popular speaker at conferences such as StarEast, StarWest and EuroStar.
            Software testing is the activity organizations perform to assure the software they buy or build is working correctly. Because of the critical nature of many computer-based functions in everything from medical devices to automobiles, software testing is an important activity in reducing the risks of software failure. With the sharp rise in cyberattacks in all sectors, including industry and defense, security testing has become an essential way for companies to know if their security defenses are working as designed.