Postman Flows: 5 Example Flows

In my earlier blog posts, I’ve taken a high level look at Postman’s beta feature Flows, and delved a bit deeper into what each of the blocks that make up a Flow actually does.

However, I think when we’re learning, it’s good to have examples we can refer to – that’s always the shortcut I use to get inspired anyway! So here are some working examples I created to help get those creative juices flowing. Note these are all basic Flows that may form part of a larger Flow should you wish to do something more advanced.

All of my Flows use the Restful Booker API, written and maintained by the amazing Mark Winteringham. Click on the links below to access a video and short tutorial on each Flow.

Flow #1: Passing Variables Between Requests

In this instance, we create a new booking, and pass the created booking ID to a request to GET the information about that ID. This is done via the the “assign values to variables” link within a request without the need to use the now deprecated Assign Variables/Create Variables blocks.

NOTE – pay attention to those yellow warning triangles in the send request – the block will not recognise the response body data unless they have been defined in an example first.

Video showing use of “Assign values to variables” link to define and pass variables – remember to create an example first!

Flow #2: Looping data

*Updated May 2022* If you want to loop through a response and apply a rule to it then you can find an example picture below. Here I take the ID’s from a GET all request, loop through them using a FOR EACH loop and for each of the ID’s in the request I output to a terminal if the booking id is greater than 100.

For Each Loop Highlighted in Green

Another way to do this is via the Create Data/Loop Over List Flow, also shown in the picture above. Using these blocks, I also execute a further request using the ID from the loop e.g. to GET information on the booking. I then output the test run results to a Test Summary block.

The steps are as follows:-

  • Ensure you have an example saved in your collection for the requests you wish to use in the Flow
  • Add a Send Request block
  • Add a Create Data block, using the data input to select a value (in this case /data/body/ which is a list of booking ID’s)
  • add a Loop Data Until block, which tells the Flow you want to do something with the data you’ve created
  • Add further blocks to do that thing e.g. Send Request (adding the variable of bookingid you’ve generated above) or conditional logic
  • (optional) to convert the data back to its original state, add an End Loop Block
  • Add Terminal/Test Summary Blocks to output the data so you can ensure it works – it will dynamically update with new information each time the data passes through the loop

    Joyce Lin has also done a video here showing another fantastic use of loops.
Video showing for each loop logic (version 9.19 of Flows beta)

Inspired by Postman Supernova Sowmya Sridharamurthy’s recent tutorial (which I highly recommend taking a look at) if you wish to loop through data in a List, try using a Select block first:-

When Looping, you must first Select the data you wish to loop through

Flow #3: Take Inputs From Multiple APIs

This example shows how you can take requests running against two different environments from two different collections and perform a Check on them both to output to a terminal.

Video showing outputs from two API requests flow into the same check block in Postman Flows

Flow #4: Passing Data Between Requests

From version 9.5.0, you can use the Create Durables block to complete the task of passing data between requests – as long as you have created an example API request first! By adding the token as a durable type, the generated value can be persisted throughout the Flow.

Video showing data being passed through a Postman Flow using Data Durables – Remember to create an example first!

Flow #5: Generating a Test Summary Report

My fave Flow! Takes tests run as part of 3 different requests and outputs the results to a single Test Summary Block. Note these can be from entirely different collections if, for example, you want to generate a quick eyeball test report from across all your critical APIs.

I hope these will help you to see how Flows might be useful to you in your testing endevors. You can see a video of a live stream I did with the Postman team where I walk through Flows in more detail here.

screenshot of YouTube livestream showing Postman DevRel’s Arlemi and Vikram and myself

Bye for now 👋

An example career reflection: What do you want?

TL:DR – below is a post I wrote when leaving my last role as Staff Quality & Test Engineer. In a very strong market with lots of people reaching out to work with me, this helped me to put my finger on exactly *what* I wanted to get from my next role, and meant I didn’t persue opportunities that weren’t the right fit for me. It also meant I could privately share this with recruiters or hiring managers when they asked “So, what is it that you’re looking for?” – Having an answer to this question in advanced definitely paid off. Feel free to use this template or create your own when contemplating your next career move. 👍

———————————

Inspired by Elisabeth Fiennes’ wonderfully written article all about QA recruitment, I decided I would take her advice and use this space to tell you, potential new boss, what I am looking for in my next role. This is written in the hopes it will help you make a quick assessment as to whether I am someone who you could see yourself working with. If I’m not, no harm done, and no time wasted. If you like what you hear, you know where I am!

What have I done so far?

I’ve been testing for 15 years now. I’ve been a contractor, consultant and permie, and I’ve enjoyed them all. I’ve worked for some of the biggest companies in the world, and some of the smallest. I’ve also worked with some incredible people. But I have to be honest, despite successful delivery, repeat work, glowing recommendations and even poaching requests from clients, I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome at them all.

LinkedIn recommendation from ex-manager

The pandemic was a huge leap forward for me in terms of what I have pushed myself to achieve outside of work. I’m so proud to be a Test Automation University instructor, as well as to have helped many people more locally land their first testing role following the Coders Guild bootcamp I helped to create and deliver, including designing and delivering a full day workshop on API testing.

I like helping people, but I also like to be helped myself, and there is so much still to learn – you never really master everything I know, but I want my growth curve to be steeper than it is currently.

Within work I’ve been promoted to the only Staff Quality and Test Engineer in my company, I’ve persuaded my company to hire and taken responsibility for successfully onboarding an ex-bootcamp learner as their first ever Junior QA. I’ve rewritten a training programme delivered through the Web app I currently work on, which has certified over 25,000 teachers, dinner ladies and school bus drivers up and down the UK. And lots of other things I’d love to discuss over a nice friendly interview chat. <nudge nudge >

Shameless plug of my lovely ex-boss’s LinkedIn recommendation 😜

What are my career goals?

I really want to grow my technical skills. I know everyone says that, but I feel that I’ve done as much as I can to grow them on my own and I need to work in an environment that actively supports me to improve areas such as API exploratory testing, Shift left and right practices, non-functional, DevOps, code reviews, accessibility, security, automation etc etc. I learn best by sitting down next to someone approachable and kind, getting feedback on my work and measuring progress. I want to be confident in my technical ability.

My ultimate goal would be to continue to pay forward the skills I’ve learned in some way by teaching them to others in a training/coaching capacity (alongside my day job in QA). My mum has recently retired from a lifetime of teaching, which is a passion that I’ve inherited from her. As my YouTube channel, podcasts and various community bits and pieces show, I’m a sharer by nature, and when I am confident in my knowledge of something it gives me a huge kick to be able to help others master it too.

I want to speak at my first international face to face testing conference and I think I am on a good trajectory to making this happen.

I want to achieve something meaningful. I like being able to say I’ve made a difference.

What kind of company culture do I enjoy best?

Here’s a wee list, I expect my next company will have or be working towards most, but probably not all of the following:-

  1. A quality culture which enjoys finding out new things, experimenting and promoting quality. A team of people who want to do the right thing.
  2. An experienced and technically gifted individual or set of people who can coach me. I want to seriously assess and improve my technical skills with hands on code reviews, pairing and training – if your workplace can’t commit to 1 or 2 hours a week to support me in this effort, then it has to be a hard no from me.
  3. Vision – A leader with a vision I can align with. I’ve been most successful and found work most enjoyable when I can hook onto the vision of a leader and focus my energy on implementing what they want. I’m great for bouncing ideas off of, but really I’m a completer finisher rather than a big picture person.
  4. Remote – Hybrid working is the model for me – I am happy to work towards being fully remote, or 1-2 day per week in the office (within West Yorkshire). If a monthly in person is required, I can stretch to Manchester, York, London or Newcastle. If its quarterly, I can travel anywhere in the UK and once or twice a year I can travel anywhere in the world. I can drive if necessary but I also live close to train and bus options.
  5. Flexibility – I currently work 4 days a week, the 5th day being a flexible choice. I am very flexible to the companies needs, and often work evenings or have early starts in order to get the job done (as well as the occasional weekend). I’m focused on delivery rather than presenteeism and would expect my workplace to share the same values.

I hope you are still reading at this point, and think my expectations are realistic. I hope there are plenty of companies out there who can meet them. Fingers crossed you are one!

Final recommendation from my contracting days.

In return, you will get a motivated, enthusiastic and passionate quality professional who will put business needs in front of ego. Someone who is a proud, committed and connected member of the global testing community. Someone who will always aim to help your team and company gel, improve and ultimately succeed.

All the best,

Beth

A Tester’s Takeaways: Postman State of API Report 2021

Postman have recently released their huge API report. It gives a long term view on the world of API’s, and includes insights from all Postman users – incredibly over 26,000 of them who responded.

I have previously blogged about a few similar reports, and what they tell me in my role as a software tester:-

What did I learn from the Postman Report?

The Postman report was interesting, because it was aimed at all users of API’s – the majority of whom are developers. You can read the report in full here: https://www.postman.com/state-of-api/#key-findings

Here are my three takeaways:-

Takeaway #1: Postman isn’t just for ad hoc manual testing anymore

Extract from Postman’s State of API Report 2021

Whilst a lot of people do still use Postman for ad hoc/exploratory testing – and as Amber Race’s seminal Test Automation University course shows, it is brilliant for that – its now clear that automating API’s isn’t seen as an edge case or extreme thing anymore. Among all respondents, 11% of time was spent on automation, but amongst Quality Engineers it was a whopping 31%. This also adds weight to the assumption that testers are responsible for automated testing in the majority of organisations, something which the other reports (mentioned above) seem to back up.

Takeaway #2: Its a man’s world

I’ll just leave this here….

Extract from Postman’s State of API Report 2021 showing 86% man, 10% woman, 1% non binary, 3% prefer not to answer

Now, this might seem high to you, but its actually double the number of women who responded to the Stackoverflow 2021 Deveoper Survey.

Extract from Stack Overflow Developer Survey, showing 91.67% man, 5.31% woman, 1.75 prefer not to say, 1.42% non binary and 0.92 in your own words

There is clearly an issue here which is tech-wide, and bigger than one company to fix. But in fairness, I think Postman do a great job at encouraging female voices to be heard, and I look forward to seeing how they seek to chip away at this imbalance in future. (*whispers* It’s actually my next career ambition to present f2f at a non-UK conference, maybe Postman Galaxy would be a good way to pop that particular cherry? 🧐#justPuttinThatOutToTheUniverse)

Takeaway #3: Remote Working Isn’t Going Anywhere

Extract from Postman State of API Report

This is one of those responses that asks more questions than it answers – I’m intrigued! It’s really interesting to me, because with 26000 replies its probably one of the most accurate bellwethers we have for tech as a whole in relation to this issue – most companies have API’s now, so its safe to assume the companies we work for fall into these categories.

I guess I would have liked to reverse the question to find out if the respondents expected to go into the office every day or at least one or more days per week (as opposed to working from home during that time). There is a big difference between being fully remote and going into the office 4 out of 5 days. It wasn’t the focus of the survey, but I’d also love to know how keen the respondents were to go into the office/work from home – my personal experience is that the younger (and often more inexperienced) folks prefer the occasional office day as its easier for them to pick up things, but its a jump to assume that’s what these Gen Z-ers thought.

In Summary

I’d recommend taking a squiz through the survey yourself – it is super easy to absorb (props to whoever put those graphics together). Its pretty clear that API’s aren’t going anywhere, are truly a global thing, and that Postman is by far the most popular tool in the market.

If you want to learn more about the features of the Postman platform, take a look at my free Test Automation University course.

T’ra for now!

A simple guide to upgrading to Selenium 4.0

What’s been going on?

Yesterday (13th October 2021) was a big day in the Selenium world. 4.0 has finally made it as a stable release.

tweet from Jim Evans announcing Selenium 4.0 Release

What does this mean for me?

According to the recent Mabl state of devOps report, Selenium is the tool of choice for the overwhelming majority of survey respondents using a functional testing tool:-

Extract from Mabl’s 2021 State of Testing In DevOps survey showing 41% of respondents used Selenium

If you already have Selenium and are wondering how easy it is to upgrade – the answer is, pretty easy really. Don’t be scared of it. It makes sure you’re using the latest code, plus there are a bunch of cool new features in this version for you to try, so upgrading makes sense.

That being said, I wanted to point out a few things that caught me out while attempting to upgrade from Java Selenium 3.1.14 to 4.0 today.

Where are the best instructions on how to upgrade?

I found the instructions on the Selenium site itself very helpful:-

I also used the Applitools blog post, how to upgrade to selenium 4.

One thing that perhaps is obvious to people who play with this stuff all day but wasn’t to me, was the missing reference to pom.xml. Perhaps because other setups use a different filename to hold their Selenium dependencies the articles weren’t explicit, but as a Maven user, in order to upgrade to Selenium 4.0 you need to go to the pom.xml and find the Selenium Java dependency and update the version like this:-

step 1: open the pom.xml (maven users only)
Step 2. change version

After you save this file, you may see some errors. These are visible in Eclipse as problems, or will appear if you run “mvn clean compile” from cmd line from the same folder as your pom.xml.

The selenium instructions include some more detail on this if you get stuck, but my errors were all to do with Desired Capabilities. From what I understand, this is essentially deprecated in Selenium 4, because it isn’t W3C compliant.

To fix this, we need to use browser specific Options instead.

From this:-

To this:-

I had to replace all instances in my code that referred to the previous DesiredCapabilities. Once this happened and I saved the file, everything went red. 🤯🤯🤯

I panicked. I thought I’d broken EVERYTHING. I sought advice from a more experienced automation guru than me at this point, and the fix was simple.

To fix this, you simply needed to run a command to update the Maven Project. In Eclipse, the keyboard shortcut for this is Alt+F5 (although I’m guessing the cmd line “mvn clean compile” does the same thing.)

Hurrah! That was all it took! Selenium 4.0 is now enabled 😊.

I’m sure these instructions won’t be applicable to everyone, but if they have helped you at all then that’s cool.

T’ra for now!

Postman Flows: A Guide

This post is an overall guide to what Flows are and what they can do. Alternatively, click these links if you want to see some example Flows in action or learn more about what each block that makes up a flow does.

TLDR: look at the vids, they’ll tell you all you need to know.

What is it?

Here are the words of Postmanaught Neil Studd, on the fab new Tech Team Weekly podcast:-

“We’ve done a soft launch for a new feature called Flows, which we’ve been working on for ages. Basically it is a widget based canvas that you can drag and drop components and link them together.

Previously if you wanted to start chaining requests at Postman, or start carrying values between requests you had to know a fair amount of how to structure JavaScript and work with code.

Flows is basically our codeless approach to chaining processes together. It really opens up Postman to a whole new audience.”

Now I have been waiting for this to drop for awhile, partly out of sheer consumer curiosity as someone who is still reasonably inexpert when it comes to code, and partly because I had originally wanted to include a chapter on this feature in my Test Automation University Postman course. I think any technology that wants to make it easier for non-tech people to get into and not harder gets my vote, so this is an exciting area for Postman to move into.

I’ve had an hour or so to take a look at the beta, and here are my thoughts, as well as tips on how to use it.

How do I find Flows?

Flows can be found in both the Web version and the desktop Postman app.

To access Flows:-

  • Select a workspace
  • Select Flows from the left hand horizontal menu (underneath History)
  • Click on “new flow” to view the canvas

Click on the “flow” menu on the bottom of the left hand side of the screen.

Where to find Postman Flows

How Do I Get Started Using Flows?

It is very important to say that this is only a BETA version, and inevitably lots of changes will happen between now and the final formal release. I have to be completely honest here and admit that it wasn’t the most intuitive feature for me to get to grips with, but nor was it so painful I had to give up on it completely. I’m sure by the time you come to read this Postman will be several iterations in and it will look and feel much better.

If you wish to explore for yourself, the Flows work by adding blocks in a chain. Think like a daisy chain necklace. Currently these blocks can take several forms in Postman:-

video showing current list of blocks in Postman Flow

If you want to learn more about what each of the blocks do, read my other post here.

There are tonnes of use cases for this that I’m sure your brain is whirring with already, but I’m going to start with a basic example.

Say you are using an endpoint that returns a list of bookings for your hotel. You want to see if there have been lots of bookings, or its been a slow day and you haven’t had much success.

With PostmanFlows you can use blocks like “send request”, and then add a chain to a “for each” condition – this allows you to iterate through the response and run a query against it using a third block called “validate”. Finally, as the validate outputs a true or false data, each of those records can be sent to a different “terminal” log group, allowing you to view what data has been applied to what “pot”.

Picture showing an example Postman Flow

You can see this for yourself in much more detail in this vid:-

How to use Postman Flows

*NEW* And here is another vid on how to chain requests together to “flow” data from one request to the next. (updated March 2022 to show the latest functionality of Postman Flows version 9.15).

*NEW* How to pass data using Assign Variables and Data Durables

I hope this very basic guide to this new feature is useful to you. I’m looking forward to what future iterations bring, and will aim to update this blog post with future updates.

Enjoy!

What I learned from Mabl’s State of Testing in DevOps report 2021

Here we go again.

A few months back, I blogged about a testing report which aims to cast light on the state of testing. That blog was weirdly popular. So much so that when I saw Mabl had released a similar report, this time focussing on DevOps in relation to testing, I thought it would be remiss of me not to talk about it (love that phrase!).

So, what is the Mabl report all about? This is the third year running that the popular automation tool has surveyed those in and around the QA profession about how, or indeed if, they work with DevOps. 600 people were surveyed, and there are some great insights. You can find the detail here, curtesy of Software Testing Weekly.

Now, if I’m letting my imposter syndrome hat drive my pre-report thinking, I’d have been expecting it to paint a picture of pretty much everybody being fully DevOps. Think multiple deployments a day, 100% automation at all levels of the stack, perfect pipelines and testers (if they even exist anymore right?) scratching their heads thinking “what can we do now?”.

However, as with so many things, the reality lives down to the hype.

Some of the facts that struck me were:-

  • only 11% of those surveyed classed themselves as “fully DevOps & Automated”. The majority were Aspiring, or Striding (in order words, not there yet).
  • there was a 14% decline year-on-year with those who said they had adopted “CI” (continuous integration) principles. 33% said they were in the process of “Transitioning” to utilising CI.
  • Just 27% of respondents said they had adopted Continuous Deployment.
  • How about regular deployments? Almost half of teams still deploy new code less than once a month – so if you’re in a team where that is happening trust me you are not alone. Just 15% deploy daily or more, and this %age has actually decreased year-on-year.
  • When it comes to what layer of the stack to automate, unit, UI and regression are the firm favourites – but all of those have only around 40% of teams saying they automate them.

Perhaps the key one for me was this.

One very interesting revelation from this year’s data is that most teams – regardless of where they are in the DevOps maturity – rely on a combined automated and manual testing approach.

Mabl, State of Testing in DevOps Report 2021, page 17.

We often here “manual testing is dead” type themes from those who want to emphasize the silver bullet type benefits that automation can supposedly bring. I’m with Melissa Fisher here, click this to listen to her insightful Racket on this topic. Automation is a useful tool that can help testers, but it can’t replace them, and nor should it try to. Speed should not come at the expense of quality.

Whilst the companies who are nailing DevOps are more likely to have a culture of quality, and even though they are smaller in number than we might have realized, they will undoubtedly be destination companies for testers keen to embrace future patterns of working. Customers of these companies seem to be happier too, which is a great measure of success in my book.

So DevOps does appear to be on the horizon for a lot of testers. We’re just not all there yet.

It won’t be an overnight move, and if you happen to work somewhere which hasn’t fully embraced DevOps ways of working, whether that’s due to cost, politics or a plethora of other reasons, you don’t need to consider yourself over the hill and unemployable. If you’re somewhere that does bits of DevOps, but is still trying to slowly do more, you’re not alone.

And if you think you have to only do 100% automation to survive in the world of testing, you might want to think again.

Cover image: Online illustrations by Storyset

What I learned from Practitest’s State of Testing Report 2021

Look at the rules, not the exceptions

Now in its 8th year, the SOT Report provides testers with some valuable trend-based information on all things testing. The full report in all of its chart based glory was delivered today, and is well worth bookmarking. You can read the full report here.

Sometimes, when attending meetups, conferences or reading online articles, the loudest voices are often those with the most exceptional experiences. But we may discover this fact long after our own Imposter Syndrome has reprimanded us for not living up to their ideals. We may find ourselves wondering “I’ll never be a proper tester, I don’t even write unit tests” or “I’ve never done test coaching/worked on IoT technology/done BDD/shifted left/[insert plethora of missing skills]” so is there even a future for me in this industry?

Stats tend to be more accurate at revealing general trends. As I did at my Testbash Manchester talk, rather than focusing on the exceptions, I want to pull out some of the rules. How the majority of people who consider themselves to work in Testing define what they do, what they call themselves, and how they work.

Nope, its not sexy. But it is reassuring to learn that out of all the responses:-

  • 28% are known as “Test/QA engineers”, only 0.89% Test Coach and 2.14% are SDETS.
  • 74% and 60% test Web and Mobile, only 9% IoT and 18% Big Data.
  • 92% work in Agile environments, only 27% use BDD.
  • 75% have tasks that involve Test Automation & Scripting, 68% validating users stories. Just 15% are tasked with Unit Testing (and that’s down 3% on the year before).
  • 75% use bug tracking tools like Jira, only 14% use exploratory note taking tools.

Its important to note I don’t want to denigrate the activities on the right. At all. But the fact is, waaaaaaay more folk are doing the things on the left. You just don’t hear about it.

For me, this report puts into sharp relief some of the misconceptions doing the rounds, that you have to know how to do all this stuff to be successful. You don’t. Why? Because as with so much in testing, the answer is often “it depends”. BDD is a great fit for some organizations, but not for all.

Learn the fundamentals, safe in the knowledge that what you may be learning at your current place in terms of processes, tooling or skills could go out of the window at your next company. And that’s totally fine.

Testing is a broad church, and there is still a seat for everyone.

Creating A Test Automation Portfolio Episode 6: C# Solution For Ui Automation Using Selenium 4.0 (aka the missing episode)

Intro

This is the missing episode. The one that I wrote and somehow inexplicably deleted (even from the trash). Rewriting as faithfully as I can the final project in my test automation portfolio series.

This time, its the one I put off until I was too far gone into the project to turn back. The one I was most nervous of attempting. Selenium 4.0 with C# to automate at the Ui level.

The Project

I used the amazing course by Carlos Kidman on Test Automation University as my starting point, and added a few additional bits and bobs along the way. I’ve since re-used this framework for another paid project, so proof that putting the effort into an automation portfolio pays off on many levels, thanks past Beth!

So, what does it do?

The framework uses Page Factory Model (POM derivative) to organise the code. It is written in C#, and a base class to store the startup/teardown info. The tests check basic functionality on the Opencart website. But I converted the version of Selenium to be the latest big upgrade, version 4.0. This meant I was itching to trying at least one of its new features. I went for relative locators:-

This allowed me to click a button by its relative location to another button. A little flaky in practice, but handy to know for future.

Here is a video I made that goes into more detail:-

Video of how to use relative locators in C#

Rex Jones II has a brilliant set of video’s which go into way more detail on all the other cool features too.

Key Features

My strategy was basic, namely:-

  • Get the original framework running.
  • Upgrade Selenium
  • Add in a drivers section so that the test can run against multiple drivers
  • Convert the tests so they run against the Opencart demo website

Here is a video of how I overcame the difficulties of installing the Edge Chromium browser – not as easy as you’d think, and judging by the fact its my most popular video I reckon a fair few people agree with me!

YouTube video of how to run tests using Microsoft Edge Chromium Browser and Selenium 4

The Code

I’ve published my repo as a template, which means you can use it as a basis to begin your automation framework. Check it out here if using the drivers is your thing:-

https://github.com/askherconsulting/CSharp_.Net_Selenium_Automation_Portfolio

However, I’ve since revisited Carlos’s course, and added a lot more of the bits I missed out from the first framework in this new upgraded version here (so I’d suggest you use this one, unless you want the drivers in which case look at the other one, I’ll update this when I have time):-

https://github.com/askherconsulting/Mailinator_Selenium_Automation

Lessons Learned

A lot of people still default to using Selenium and Ui automation tools like it. We know that isn’t always the most robust way to automate, but once you have the framework up and running and just want a quick and dirty test, sometimes it is your best option.

When I finished this particular framework, it meant that my test automation portfolio that I’d set out to do 4 months before (target being 1 year) had been completed. I was ecstatic, and continue to be proud of this. Others have read these blog posts and been inspired to do something similar – I hope you may be one of them.

T’ra for now!

Testing Pearls Of Wisdom

As you may or may not be aware, I’m currently half way through helping to deliver a software testing bootcamp. This involves me working as part of a team of instructors (who are all working testers) to give sessions on various topics to those wishing to pursue a career in software testing.

I’m enjoying the course a lot, as aside from learning loads it has made me reassess some of my core values, and try to put them in a pithy, easy to read way that can translate to different audiences.

I decided to create Twitter/LinkedIn posts using tools like Canva and Piktochart to create the images below, and I’ve been pretty amazed at the positive response.

Personal Brand Vs. Personal Reputation

My philosophy on growth

"If you learn the why, you can always Google the how"
“If you learn the why, you can always Google the how” quote

I’ve learnt this from years of watching developers and other testers, whilst also letting my Imposter Syndrome talk me into thinking that doing exactly as they were doing somehow translated into me being rubbish at my job. I attended a mock interview recently, and one of the responses was “we don’t expect you to have the answer to your fingertips every single time, just tell us your thought processes to how you know where to find the answer”. I Google stuff every. single. day. I couldn’t debug an automated test without using Stack Overflow, and I lean on others for guidance and support both in work and outside it. And this actually makes me better at my job – because often my instinct is proved wrong, and I can refine what I’ve done long before I’ve taken myself down a rabbit warren of mistakes. And judging by the 200+ comments on this post, a helluva lot of people feel the same.

Automated Car Analogy

Quote "Automated software testing is like driving an automatic car.  The car takes care of the checks, like wipes, lights and gears. This frees up the driver to focus more fully on the unexpected and more complex twists, turns and bumps in the road."
Test Automation Analogy: Automated Car

I came up with this one when driving my car (my first ever automatic, nothing fancy mind) back from the supermarket. I noticed a car in the opposite lane with its hazards on, and it took me fully 5 seconds to realise it had stopped on the road so that the driver could visit the Tesco over the fence. Not a great bit of driving, and the cars behind were similarly confused. I thought to myself, if I’d have been thinking about that for 5 seconds and had to concentrate on the road as well as gear changes and wipers (it was raining) I’d have probably stalled. But my automatic car took care of those checks for me, giving me that head space I needed to assess the dangers, or lack thereof, in front of me.

Automated testing is just the same – get those repetitive regression checks taken care of by the machine, and allow the driver to explore the application at leisure.

Bug Reporting = Archaeology

Quote "Reporting software bugs is like digging for dinosaur bones.  The best thing you can do when you find something is to uncover as much as you can before you confidently shout "It's a T-Rex!""
Bug Reporting as Archaeology Analogy

I’ve got to thank @TheTestingPeers for this one, as they refined my original thoughts. This one works on a few levels, as identified by David Maynard and Russell Craxford. Firstly, in archeology people dig in teams of different experts – so you can call on the right person to help you figure out what you are seeing as part of your analysis.

Secondly, archaeologists have to document the position of what they have found, in much the same way testers do (e.g. this is on chrome version 88.39393) – adding this detail instead of just shouting “I’ve found something”, when something may turn out to be a chicken bone will save the team time and earn you a reputation as someone who’s opinion can be relied upon.

Thirdly, archaeology, just as testing, is mostly about what you don’t find. You can asses the quality of a piece of software by its absence of bugs (as long as your testing the right things) as much as by the existence of them. Knowing something isn’t a T-Rex, and being confident of that assertion, is just as mighty.

Summary

I hope you’ve enjoyed these pithy analogies. Feel free to share with anyone who would benefit from seeing them.

How RuPaul’s Drag Race Has Taught Me to Be a Better Tester – and Why You Should Watch it too!

OK. So I have only just discovered that the new season of reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race will air on Netflix Saturday 2nd Jan 2021 in the UK. I cannot tell you how ludicrously excited I am by this news. 🥳

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is a competition with a $100,000 prize fund, where Drag Queens from all over the world compete to win “the race”. It is incredibly popular, and I have loved watching it for years.

It seems a tenuous link, but I honestly think my all-time favourite TV programme has a lot to teach us all. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt from the show:-

The power of community

If anyone is looking to join, build or grow a community this year, Drag Race is the perfect example of how to do it. It respects its roots, celebrating what came before it such as the iconic “Paris is Burning” documentary and the Stonewall uprising. It also embraces and celebrates all that is weird, “other”, non-conformist and challenging. As testers (and as people), we need to embrace other points of view, and be a part of a psychologically safe workplace. It might sound wooly but it makes the difference between dreading coming into work or staying around for years and years. RPDG provides a space for everyone spectacularly if, like me, you’re into the Testing Peers concept of culture-add not culture fit.

The importance of being authentic

I’ve always loved that Drag Race Queens are selected because of their “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent”. A drag act might be all about image and looks, but that alone won’t get them a ticket to the final. What matters is what you do and who you are. Queens who don’t fit the looks mold but excel comedically or are super kind or super talented do spectacularly well.

“Club Kid” looks celebrate the unusual and unique

I’ve always liked that I work in an industry where I’m not judged on my looks. That I come to work most days with no make up on, my hair tied in a crappy bun wearing an old jumper and jeans and that makes zero difference to people’s respect for me or their view on how well I can do my job. Trying to hide who you are at work to fit in is exhausting, and as a long term strategy will likely fail for you. Be yourself, and support others who want to be authentic too.

You will fail. Success comes to those who keep trying.

RPDG has become a phenomenon. It has spawned so many successful global careers for the contestants (who win or lose, yes you Porkchop) that they are often willing to come back and try again. Many who failed to snatch the crown first time around try harder, work on their failures and return to take the “All Stars” title – another RPDG series which takes past contestants and puts them through their paces once again. A lot of the contestants have endured genuine and profound hardships to be who they are, and to even make it on to the show in the first place is rightly considered a major life win.

The power of resilience and persistence in testers is a mighty one too. RuPaul himself says “what other people think of you is none of your Goddamn business” – and I believe this to be 100% true. Do not waste your time stressing about what others think, or being afraid to be the one who says “I don’t understand this”. Push those boundaries Queen.

Shea Coulee, runner up then crowned winner in 2020.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

From the pun-tastic names (“Bagga Chips”, “Heidi n Closet” and “Lattrice Royale”) to the tasks and even the guest judges, everything about RPDG has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Be prepared to work hard, but know life is for living and enjoying yourself.

I always work best in teams with a healthy approach to their work life balance and who enjoy lifting those around them to be positive and have a good experience at work. If your only focus is on delivery on time at all costs, this will lead to burnout, low morale and all the best people leaving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, just don’t be a dick.

I intend to add to this post in future once I’ve watched the latest season (and probably gone back and watched the previous ones for like the 10th time too) but after the year we’ve had I would wholeheartedly encourage you to jump in to the the craziness and life-affirming goodness that is Drag Race.

Can I get an amen? ;o)