From One Expert to Another: Dawn and Shannon Code


Dawn Test Code: I remember being there. Repeatedly. All is not lost, though it may not be easy.

For most of my early career, I was Dawn, single mom of Steven, a precocious and high-functioning autistic little man who kept me on my toes. I was stuck in a geographical location that limited my ability to get a job that I could juggle with daycare. I'm pretty sure my employers knew this and stretched their treatment of me as a result.

I began working on things at night, after my son had gone to bed. I looked through testing literature, learned about tools and techniques that others were using, and occasionally tried them out at work. I found a treasure trove of resources in YouTube videos and other online videos. I would download them to my iPod touch and watch them any chance I got.

I had a hard time getting employers to pay for training for me, but I got lucky and finally convinced one to send me to a conference, STAREAST. There, I met a bunch of people who were also passionate about the craft of software testing. I connected to them through Twitter and several online communities, such as the Agile-Testing Yahoo Group. Through these connections, I learned not only new techniques and tools, but also techniques for approaching the problems I was facing in my day job. I learned new ways to approach those I was working with who blocked me or who made me unhappy at work. I learned that working on a team was much more about people skills and interpersonal communication than it was about agile techniques or engineering practices.

In more than one instance, the community I had become a part of helped me in two very important ways: They helped me to see that the environment I was working in was toxic for me and was not going to change before I broke, and they helped me to find more healthy employment.

Given all of that, I can suggest the following for people who feel stuck:

  • Learn everything you can on your own, even if it means doing some of it on personal time. Even a few hours a week can really broaden your knowledge base.
  • Get involved in communities. As you join some communities, you will hear about others. Join them, too. See which groups of people talk about relevant topics to you and begin talking with others in those communities.
  • If you can, go to conferences. The big national ones are obvious options, because they bring together large numbers of people. However, there are also small conferences that are free or occur on weekends. Simple Design and Testing and CITCON are examples.

Shannon Null Code: It's easy to feel frustrated or stuck in situations that seem out of our control, I think we have all experienced times where we felt that what we loved doing was being constrained or held back by some outside force in a group, project, or process. Lately I have found reward in changing the things that are in my control, such as how I react, or how I introduce change. You might be surprised how a little change in how you operate can have a large effect in an organization.

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