On the 7th September I attended my first Tester Gathering. I also had the opportunity to present a talk as well. I’m pretty sure there is a link going up to watch the Talks on YouTube if you feel inclined to watch it, keep an eye on the Ten10 eLearning channel.
Other Talks – Automation
Firstly – What is Automation?
Automation testing is the utilisation of specific tools in which tests can be created to complete tasks repeatedly that would otherwise take hours for a tester to complete manually. This is done using a framework (execution environment) to run the tests in the overall system. An example of an automated test could be: Logging into your account on Amazon. To save you from my average explanation, I’d recommend checking out SmartBear for more informative details on how it works etc. I have very limited experience with automation tools, so I’m probably not the most qualified person to talk about this.
There were two different talks at the Gathering on Automation Testing. The first was a shorter talk from Fruition IT (apologies, as I can’t remember the name of the speaker), he talked about the rise in automation jobs and the need for testers and developers to know more about automation. For me, it was a little bit too much of a sales pitch as to why you should learn automation. But he is a recruiter, so I can’t be too harsh on that. It was definitely informative. So, if you’re looking for your next thing to learn… Check out Selenium WebDriver as a good starting point.
The second talk, was an Ask Me Anything (AMA) Webinar. I unfortunately, can’t talk about this as the transport system in Leeds isn’t exactly fantastic and I had to catch a train – which was delayed. But, enough ranting. I’ve heard that the AMA was really interesting and has helped out fellow testers with what they can look at within the automation spectrum.
Other Talks – Accessibility Testing
This talk was delivered by and Inqiva Tester, James Sheasby. He has already written a blog about the topic on his website, so I won’t go on about it too much. I thought it was a very well thought through topic with some really interesting points that I’d not stopped to think about before. Mainly, because I take being able to use my body for granted and haven’t properly thought about how technology changes people’s lives.
One of the videos that concisely discussed the issues people face with tech was created by Apple. I’m pretty sure it’s an advert for their in-built tech, but you know what: I don’t mind advertising them, since they’re actually working towards improving lives (even if it is at a massive profit to them). Check it out here.
My Talk – Alternative Meeting Ideas
I learned something about myself whilst giving this talk…. I can’t take myself seriously. I was cracking jokes (admittedly they were probably bad). I’ve already erased everything I’ve said from my memory. But I do remember being heckled throughout my talk, so credit goes to my Ten10 peers for that one as it made my talk much less serious. The front row of hecklers then finished off my talk by singing some lines from Total Eclipse of the Heart, because I made the mistake of saying “Turn around”. Rookie error.
I’m writing this from the perspective of what I probably should have said on the evening, as I missed some of the information I wanted to say:
After my embarrassing introduction of how I came up with the idea for this talk –
About a month before the event one of my colleagues fell asleep in a particularly boring meeting, so I wondered what could actually be done to stop it from happening. To just humiliate myself I actually fell asleep in the exact same meeting the following month!
(this got a laugh)
– I thought I’d take one of my own tips and wake everyone up. So, I made everyone play a little game of “Meeting Bingo” and raise their hand when they had experienced on of the following:
I then moved onto actually giving some advice….
- Meeting agenda should be clear
- Take anything unnecessary offline – If it is not part of the meeting, discuss it another time
- All meetings should follow the same basic structure i.e. Daily stand up, sprint planning should have their own format; which is consistent across each meeting
- Meetings start on time, even if members are late
- Meetings end on time, if you’re over-running question how efficient you are being
- Everyone is responsible for the meeting to be transparent, efficient and add value to the team:
- Show up prepared
- Identify action points
- Take away those action points from the meeting
- Each team member should attend the meeting prepared
- Everyone is responsible for the meeting to be transparent, efficient and add value to the team
I also think it’s important to note the following:
For me, these are quite important as I have the tendency to rattle on. Note: I’m not taking credit for this, but I can’t remember where I first saw this said and stole an image from the internet (sorry stranger). So, I’ve talked about adding value to the meeting in the above points and felt that this image for golden rules summarised that into something a bit more memorable. I think being efficient in what you’re saying and not time wasting is respectful to your colleagues and they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say, if you’re straightforward with your point.
The next point that I feel is important in a meeting is the role of the “leader”. I brought forward the idea of Leader vs Facilitator. It’s vital in agile that the person facilitating the meeting does NOT get emotionally involved in decisions and arguments, as it is their job to help the team come to a conclusion. Leaders tend to want to have more input than the rest of the team and risk getting involved in the usual arguments that come with decision making. The conclusion drawn from this was to the managers and team leads who do front meetings to remember to take a step back and think about what the team is saying.
Not sure where the title came from, but I just proposed small ideas that can lighten a meeting up and help everyone to be in a more positive frame of mind before starting.
My personal favourite (credit to one of my grad scheme trainers for this):
- “Delay Discipline” – If someone holds up a meeting or is late. They have to do a forfeit in the meeting; this could be sing a verse of a song, tell a joke, stand throughout the meeting.
It works! It makes the group laugh for a second and then everyone moves on. Genuinely am a fan of this.
The next point was to not rehash old news. If a topic has a) already been discussed or b) doesn’t need discussing in the meeting. DO NOT BRING IT UP!!!! You’re wasting time. If you need to talk about it, address it with the person dealing with the task outside of the meeting: whether that be for a demo because you don’t understand it, or an issue because it doesn’t look right. If it needs escalate it, then do this properly; it doesn’t need bringing up in the middle of a meeting when it’s not relevant.
Final little baby step – where do you have the meeting? Sometimes you really don’t want to be sat in a stuffy meeting room. You can have the meeting somewhere else. If it’s a morning meeting, grab a coffee. If it’s lunch and a small meeting, actually go out for lunch – This works really well for 1:1 meetings with your manager, you’re more relaxed and it will help in developing a relationship in which you will both benefit from. I may have been guilty of this next point: Maybe, don’t have meetings in the pub. Some occasions, I’m all for a pub meeting! But most of the time opt for a coffee instead.
Yay or Nay?
The answers for these questions were established in the tester gathering. So, I can actually give some more specific advice on this:
- Monday Morning Meetings?
- This was already a NAY – You’ve just got back from the weekend. You have no idea what you were doing on Friday and you’re probably still hungover. If you need a meeting on Monday, have it on the afternoon: People will have had time to catch up on their work and will be in a better frame of mind. There was a study to back this up, but I can’t find the link
- Friday afternoon Meetings?
- I felt the meme on the right summed this up, but sadly – Friday is still a work day, sorry everyone!
- Meetings that start on the hour?
- This was an interesting one. I got lost in a small study done about starting meetings on the hour. Again, I didn’t save the link, sorry!
- Essentially, the ‘study’ surmised that when meetings started on the hour, people would turn up at 5 past the hour and think “close enough”. From personal experience, this does happen. But not always, so I guess it depends on the person.
- The tip I gave out for this was starting a meeting at quarter past or half past instead, since people remember the time and attend when it was supposed to start. Winner!
- Working lunches – The meeting
- Working lunches suck! No go unless…
- Will there be food? This was a rather resounding yes! A lot of people were nodding their heads when this was brought up. My suggestion for this one was bribery: You put all the lovely food on the side and no one is allowed to eat it until the meeting is over and you can all relax and chat a bit. It’s stops people waffling and everyone comes to conclusions quicker and there are very few arguments. It’s fantastic – not for your waistline though.
- Do you need to be here?
- Do you need 5 developers and 3 testers? Check out something called “The three amigos”, I’d recommend this as a cut down for more effective meetings.
- If the meeting doesn’t directly affect you, don’t attend. Unless you’re explicitly asked to go to a Business Analyst meeting for your opinion, you have no business being there. Carry on with your own work.
Avoid annoying meeting behaviour. Simplifying this to a list of stereotypes that we’ve all been at some point:
- The person who talks too much – Know it all, not adding value. This person will talk and talk without actually saying anything. If this applies to you: Think about what you want to say or just stop talking.. Remember E.L.M.O? Apply it please
- The person who agrees with everything – Having no opinion. This person likes all the ideas. Advice: Think about what you do and don’t like. You won’t help the team move towards a decision. If you don’t like confrontation, just step back from the discussion for a bit.
- The naysayer – Everything is impossible. Anyone who suggests an idea is shot down by this person. If you can, ask them what is wrong and to come up with an alternative, that will usually make them think about what they’re doing. If you are this person, sorry not sorry, but please shut up.
- The saboteur – Nothing is taken seriously. This person plays on their phone and messes around on their laptop. You have to stop the meeting to get their opinion. Simple solution: Ban them from taking tech into a meeting. Might seem like you’re singling them out, but seriously? If you’re this person… Why are you being like this? If you don’t like the meetings, contribute to making them better. Talk to your team about what you don’t like. It will help
- The person who isn’t there – Well, physically they are. We’ve all been this person, the one who is obviously day dreaming, they might even have fallen asleep. If it happens once in a while – No big deal. If it happens a lot. Think about why you’re going to these meetings. If you don’t need to be there. Don’t go. If you do, have some caffeine before, doodle in a notebook – it helps some people to concentrate.
Take Away Points
- Discuss with your team what you actually want to get out of meetings
- The same thing won’t work for every team
- Come up with a general set up that works for you
- If it isn’t working after a mix-up reevaluate. It might take a while before your team is smooth sailing.
- Minimise time – Maximise Productivity
- This is a main aim of daily stand ups
- Keep things moving, show that you value each others time
- Can you summarise your point in less than a minute? The elevator spiel.
- Follow up action
- If there is work to do after the meeting – Who is going to do it?
- Actually allocate the task to a person. If you just talk about it, it will never get done
- If there is work to do after the meeting – Who is going to do it?
- Longer meetings:
- Start out with a very short game – This will wake everyone up! Hint hint: I started the talk with this. People were sat up a bit straighter afterwards. You will physically notice a difference in your team.
- Post it notes
- Flip charts
- If experience has taught me anything – People in tech like visuals, they like to play around with objects. This will help engage your team. Basic psychology – Social sciences are great people!
- Be positive – Meeting ‘leader’ especially. If you sit there miserable, you’re going to bring down the mood for the rest of the team. Perk up a bit, even if it’s forced for the first few mins, it will really help in a longer meeting.
The main questions I recall being asked were:
- Q – How long should a meeting be?
- A – No shorter than 15 mins for a catch-up/stand up style meeting. Everyone will have a chance to speak. But for big decision meetings, no longer than 2 hours and preferably with breaks. You team might need more coffee, or a cigarette break. It’ll help to keep everyone engaged, especially after a refreshing break.
- Q – Yes or no to tech in meetings?
- A – My answer was quite vague for this, as it massively depends on the team. I’ve worked on a client that banned laptops unless you were leading the meeting to present and I’ve worked for another client in which you were sent back to get your laptop if you didn’t bring it. Discuss with your team and try out what you think works for you.
I take no credit for any of the images I have used in this article. I tried to use stock images where possible and asked permission to use other's images where applicable.