Test Awareness

In my sight Out of mind
My kids were playing somewhere and I was relaxing. I did not have to entertain them. They were self entertaining. Then my wife asked: “Do you know, where the kids are?”
I took a good look. It was not possible to pinpoint them within a minute. Then my wife told their locations. I relaxed.

A few minutes later she posed the same question. This time I used a faster way to locate them.

Several quarters of an hour later “Do you know, where the kids are?”. This time I knew the last locations and the area to be scouted was a way smaller than the area I scouted the first futile time.

What’s going on?
In the past I was a test coordinator in waterfall projects. Some readers might remark that this is old fashioned. My answer is, that it depends on the context. For a few years I was responsible for performance tests. These complex tests needed a rigid string of tasks, but the durations were known in advance.

In order to coordinate 20 performance tests with my peers within a team there were the weekly meetings. These were real tough. It was a mixture of management and testing. There was a steep learning curve for performance testing. I got questions, which were incomprehensible at first. I was scrutinised on details in order to deliver good projects. I learned to do my homework and keep a good overview.

Out of sight You do mind
On a birthday party I was constantly turning my head and sh.. [word I cannot use without writing a disclaimer] to check my children. Then my wife remarked:
“The other grownups watch them.”
So I had to watch the kids in front of me. It sounded like a good deal while minimising the use of my muscles.

How are things going?
A call came in at the service desk. The agent answered the call of her colleague. By posing questions she tried to pinpoint the problem. Then she looked at me with the silent question:
“Would you please help me?”
I had tested the system; I had some inside knowledge of the system.

Another time another situation. The most boring part of an administrator job is browsing through log files. And I knew what to look for. Once in a while I had sneak view of the files. It was not a surprise, that I found some neglected situations, which I dutifully reported to the service desk.

Once I noticed, that I got a server error message instead of a proper reply after using a form on a website. It was a challenge for me to find another discrete channel to inform the owner. The reply on my notifying mail was most grateful.

Fortunately I worked with people watching me testing.

 

A stoic view on the Circle of Influence

This is a story, which matured over the years. Lingering in my thoughts waiting to be told.
So behold.
(Yes, it is time for a rhyme.)

Circle of Concern
At the end of the workshop Introduction Mind Mapping I told, that I was working on a workshop about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Two young colleagues reacted immediately. All smiles and eagerness.
“I want to come. Where is it?”
This announcement was a typical case of skin in the game. I could not stop now.

I kindly informed the programme committee about my intentions. Also now I had strong reactions: offices were fighting for my workshop. I picked the first office, which had reacted. After the announcement other consult giving colleagues on projects reacted with:
“Are you willing to give the workshop in the evening?”

During my time as a consultant I visited the office regularly between projects. People had finally time to wind down after a busy period. There was also time to study books. The book of Covey was an intriguing one. It was hard to grasp and it was a must read. This was a real dilemma.

The first time I told about my plans. A friend reacted with:
“You are all smiling.”

During the first day of the workshop I introduced the Circle of Concern.
“The Circle of Concern contains things you bother about.”
A compelling example was easily chosen: that very evening a manager might call team members, that they were fired.

Circle of Influence
I also pointed out, that not everyone or everything in the Circle of Concern could be influenced. So I signed a Circle of Influence inside the Circle of Concern.
“Can you call some persons you cannot influence?”
After a suggestion I placed a dot with Manager inside the Circle of Concern, but outside the Circle of Influence. More options were discussed and more dots placed.
Particularly in the Circle of Influence.

On my way home I received a call from my emotional manager:
“I have to call you, because you are fired.”
I protested formally and the call ended.

That very evening I  concerned people by phoning them, that I was fired. Looking back at this period my wife said:
“You were really confident to get a new job.”
Due to the exercise I knew exactly what to do. There was no grief, only determination.

Interlude
In the days after the dreadful call I was kindly requested to stop all my activities including the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Attendees protested to no avail. What I had planned as a viral workshop, was put on hold.

Looking back to this course of circumstances I might challenge the reader to point out a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. There are multiple. What I want to write, is to give a philosophical view of the story.

Stoicism as a Service
I still remember the discussed options in my Circle of Influence. They gave me a direction to move. There were no emotions at that moment.

While writing this article I somehow became emotional. I tried to trace it back to its roots: I was reflecting the emotions of my manager and my co-workers.

Once I heard a family member quoting, that being fired is one of the most emotional things that can happen to people. The actual message of the firing did not influence my emotions. I somehow reflected the negative wave.

Until a week ago I did not give much thought about it. A common thought would be:
“I take this as a grown up. I won’t budge. No cry.”
But then I had no superman feelings at all.

Some people might say that I was past the denial phase. Or was it “Walk your talk”?

I was rational at that moment. Bad thoughts were not bugging me. I had a stoic attitude during those days. I viewed the loss of a job as a broken shoestring. I just needed a new 1.

Is a stoic approach not a bad way of living? A denial of emotions and focusing on the current steps. I once read a book about stoicism and one of the lessons was to shield myself against negative thoughts and let the positive feelings in.

I still remember that great feeling, when my young co-workers were excited about announcement of the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Or feel the excitement of my colleagues on projects. Or that warm smile of me, when I heard “You are all smiling.”, when I told my plan to a friend.

Does this Circle of Influence make me bullet proof against bad feelings? No.
During the writing of this blog post I felt the loss of my former manager and the disappointment of my colleagues. As a tester I am still busy to keep my emotions under control. And I think, that it can be useful to show, that I am not pleased with a particular situation.

I am a testing human being, not a testing robot.