"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Follow your own style

 This post is India specific.

I have a reputation and credibility in this industry to an extent that some people inside and outside of the country have at least heard my name, if not for my skills. I have a brand of my own. I have a style of my own. I call myself with cool names. I sound like a geek. I speak like an American. I pretend to be good at something. I brag. I blog. I podcast. I publish videos of my testing. I oppose certain things. I do so many other things that increases the visibility about me or my work to the world.

You should know why I do all these:

  1. To help myself be a better tester.
  2. To help the testing community in whatever way I can. 
  3. To earn a living.
The danger

Some testers whom I coach / inspire appear to have mistaken some of the things I do as THE way to go about building their reputation and credibility. Ever since I am discovering that people are falling to a trap of trying to ape me, I feel bad of having a reputation and credibility.



Not that I didnt try doing things the way people who inspired me were doing. I tried aping almost everything they did. However, I did something to go beyond aping what they appeared to be doing.

It is a known fact that my life as a tester took turns when I discovered James Bach and then Michael Bolton. For me, these people were Gods of testing. You should visit my room, I have photos of James, Michael & Jerry enlarged and framed on the wall. That is just a minutest example of how much they mean to me. 


While they didn't make a parrot out of me who repeats after them, there was a little parrot sitting in me, trying to ape the things they do. It is human nature, I guess, to try ape your hero. Be it Rajinikanth or Upendra or Michael Bolton. I felt good about myself whenever I tried aping them. Why do we ape people? To feel good and proud at least for a short while.

Lesson 1:

Mimicry is one of my hobbies. A couple of years back, I was trying to practice the way James Bach & Michael Bolton speak. I did that so much that, I am now caught up in an accent that people think is half American and half Indian. Some people think I am faking my accent. I don't know, it has so happened that whenever I speak English, I start sounding like an American. So, be careful, your nature could be altered if you are trying to ape someone and it sounds or appears plastic to many if your nature is altered.

When you are trying to be like someone as bad as me, you will become a mutation of a mutation. That's not good for you.

Lesson 2:


Just after being done with 2 exercises that James put me on, I claimed to be a Rapid Tester on my blog. Some of my readers to whom all this was the western thing, even appeared to believe it. James had something different to say, "Are you a Rapid tester?" with a big laughter. I think it was the best joke he had heard for that year. He knew I was not yet a Rapid Tester although I thought with just little appreciation from him, I had almost become a Rapid Tester. For someone who was bored of calling himself as a "Test Engineer", Rapid Tester sounded cool and refreshing. Thankfully, I can make the claim today and live up to half their expectations.

So, when you make a claim about yourself or your testing skill, be careful to check and test it out by asking others, especially those who would find bugs in it.

Plus, when your hero appreciates you, don't fly for long and go out of reach. Respond to calls from gravity.

Lesson 3

Inspired by the way Jerry Weinberg writes, I tried aping the style. The easiest thing to ape in anyone's writing is a comma or a full stop. I was successful and here is one of my old post for your evaluation. There are 77 commas in that post. I was a comma addict.

I pestered Michael Bolton more than anyone else to help me better my writing skills. So he used to say, "Pradeep, don't, write, like, this" and I used to cry like a small baby. Michael used to offer me a philosophical explanation to why I cry. Miss those times :)

You could be thinking that you are aping the way your hero does his work but without knowing you are committing a blunder of a lifetime.

Lesson 4:


I used to assume that James was aggressive when he spoke against test cases and tried aping the aggression in similar contexts. I thought if I were to be respected as an exploratory tester, I had to oppose test cases. So, during my first stint as a consultant, I was roaming around the streets of Bangalore seeking business opportunities and knocked several company doors posing to be an expert tester. None of them were bothered about what I said.

One company invited me inside and started interviewing me. Turns out that they had an urgent need of a tester to replace the one who had quit. I stopped the interview process and explained to them that I was an independent consultant and what it means. A test manager there giggled for a while and said, "Even to learn our product it would take you three months and you are suggesting you can work on a  hourly basis / daily basis with us". So, I challenged them that I would find bugs in one hour in their product that is outside of what their test team might have found. So, they gave me a machine, their product loaded on to it and an one hour to produce a report. I fished out 22 bugs in that hour + a spelling mistake free report. I don't know, it wasn't shocking to me about the outcome but they were definitely surprised and excited to see so many bugs in one hour. I was called in to the Vice President and he told me, "You seem to have great test ideas. Can you write us help all these ideas as test cases? We will pay you 1.5 lakhs a month" and I walked away from their office silently but with aggression at heart saying "What? Pradeep & writing test cases? You know what, he is an exploratory tester, a rapid tester, such a unique thing for India and they are insulting him".

Years later, when I think about it, I feel, I lost a potential business opportunity and most importantly, I didn't help someone who needed it. They might have just needed my test ideas and they might have referred to it as "test cases". On just working for an hour, if they wanted to pay me that much, maybe when I worked for a month, they'd allow me to coach their testers and help create some good testers for that organization. I lost all of it.

I still oppose the idea of scripted testing. I teach exploratory testing. I am a Rapid Tester. However, today, if someone wants me to help them solve their testing problems - I forget all my ego and aggression and try to be in best service of the client. My work shall do most of the speaking. I shall help my clients understand why test cases would make their testers bad instead of walking away saying, "Ah! Pradeep & writing test cases?"


Having a guru is very important but it is equally important that you don't ape your guru forever.
I used to dream "When will I become James Bach?", "When will I become like Michael Bolton?" to which they taught me to be myself. That's their beauty!
 My LinkedIn profile reads, "Pradeep Soundararajan, a tester with experience of 7 million 4 hundred mistakes in testing" and it would mean nothing if I cant test as good as you who might not have a cool fancy title for yourself. So, don't get carried away with things I do.

You are what your skills are.

35 comments:

Mohit said...

Hello Sir,

A great post again and I believe somewhere I was behind the idea of this great post :)

Well as you said don't ape your guru forever. I would like to say that aping your guru is not bad thing. Its human nature. A child starts to grow up aping his parents.He copies the actions, styles of his parents but with time as he grows up he learns the things and develop his own actions and styles of living.
If a child will not ape his parents, he will never learn the things.

Similarly a student need to start somewhere and aping his guru can be a good starting point. With time a student also develops his own skills and stop aping his guru.

So, if some one aping you, it is not bad and you should be proud for the reputation and credibility you have.

Apologies if I am wrong somewhere.

With Regards
Mohit

Markus Gärtner said...

Pradeep,

I really can't understand why you labelled this entry as being specific to India - but probably to attract me to read on. :)

To a big deal you express the passion I give to testing and that I use to "ape" other great testers. Of course, the key is not to be like James or Michael or Jerry - personally I once said I don't think that there is going to be another one like Jerry Weinberg in the next 200 years from now. The key is to know what to learn from them, and when to maintain your own style. As humans, we're unique on this planet - maybe even in the whole universe. This brings with it our own abilities and previous knowledge. We have to work on our skills all the time, though. This is where I disagree with your final sentence. Skills can be learned and deepened. It's the mastery of the skills that we know and the level of competence we have with them. We have to continue to acquiring new skills and thereby learn something new, and even learn when to apply these new skills.

Last, I must repeat that I didn't think your blog entry is specific to India, only.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Markus,

I am glad you felt this post applies to a country beyond India.

We have to work on our skills all the time, though. This is where I disagree with your final sentence. Skills can be learned and deepened. It's the mastery of the skills that we know and the level of competence we have with them. We have to continue to acquiring new skills and thereby learn something new, and even learn when to apply these new skills.

Thanks for explaining your disagreement. By saying, "You are what your skills are" I meant that - What matters is how skilled you are and not how skilled the world thinks you are.

Jeroen said...

Hello Pradeep,
A great posting you made. I agree with Markus that the basic intention of your story doesn’t only fit for India. Perhaps the story itself does. The lessons you learned are in my opinion not dedicated to geographic places, it is how willing people are to learn from their own past.

What I liked about the story is that you advice people to learn from others and learn from yourself. Perhaps you have to make mistakes to learn from it and understand much better what others can teach you or have taught you.

Your posting triggered me to think more about the positions of heroes and being part of a testing culture. Perhaps there is even room for creating an own micro culture. On august 2008 I had already some thought about this:
Succes of improving your Test Process depends on culture

In which I refer to the “union model” of Geert Hofstede were heroes are the next step in creating a culture.

In your article there seems you managed yourselves by the lessons mentioned to create a culture of your own.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
Regards,
Jeroen

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ Jeroen,

Thanks for your time and comment. I am glad to know from one more person that the post is not just India specific.

Heroes are important and thankfully there are such people in software testing but aping them so much that our originality is lost could not be where it should be heading.

I will read that article in detail and mail you my thoughts. Thanks again.

BugMagnate said...

Hi Pradeep,

This post is entirely different from what I have been reading (written by you) till date. This is about "we" as individuals. This is certainly not about Test Management but about Self Management.I must say that for many including me, it’s an eye opener.

What you mentioned about mimicking is Human Nature. These things are controlled by our sub-conscious mind and rarely one realizes what is going on?
I liked this idea of “Being Self” but first we need to realize if we are deflecting from something. I think you consider yourself lucky (if I may say so) to be coached and guided by the likes of James Bach and Michael Bolton. And this is precisely the reason why you realized things which most of us don’t. So, having Gurus is very important, like you said.
I don’t know what compelled you to share this wonderful experience of your with people like me. But this is rightly tagged as Inspiration.

This post should not be restricted to Testing or to India….this is an Essay and I would like to call it something like Self Management-My Experience with Truth.

Thanks for sharing this great post.

Regards,
Rahul Gupta

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Rahul Gupta,

Added to what you have written, don't forget about the skills part in the post.

I don’t know what compelled you to share this wonderful experience of your with people like me

I did share it. I saw people misguiding themselves and I was one of the factors. I felt guilty and I didn't want to do any damage to anyone.

I think you consider yourself lucky (if I may say so) to be coached and guided by the likes of James Bach and Michael Bolton. And this is precisely the reason why you realized things which most of us don’t

Just because others didn't share it, doesn't mean they haven't realized it. I just blogged about it. You never know someone might have written the same already.

BugMagnate said...

Added to what you have written, don't forget about the skills part in the post.

I didn't miss that rather I didn't comment on that.

You never know someone might have written the same already.

Yes probably someone would have written about it but certainly not in my knowledge.

Thanks again Pradeep

Shmuel Gershon said...

Hi Pradeep.

The post is great.
However, I disagee with some parts. :)

For example, your last statement: "You are what your skills are".

I've found that it is the opposite way -- Your skills are what you are!
The person you are defines the skills you develop and how you use them.
A person who develops himself will often acquire skills while doing so; whereas a person developing skills can be caught on the trap of not developing himself.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Shmuel,

I've found that it is the opposite way -- Your skills are what you are!
The person you are defines the skills you develop and how you use them.


I tried explaining in the response to Markus what I mean by that. Please see if that explanation makes sense.

James Marcus Bach said...

I think your style is quite distinctive, Pradeep. It's a style that I find disarming and genuine.

Testing a matter of personal passion for you, as it is for me. This is where we connect.

The title of this post is strange, because I have come to believe your true calling and talent is to awaken the testing spirit in others. Your guidance, in that way, is important. In some ways you are playing the role of a midwife for the future of Indian testing.

I have told you before that there are things about testing I want you to learn better. Some of these things you have made good progress on, others, not yet-- but you're still young. But you have always been Pradeep. Distinctive, unique, slightly nutty Pradeep. You would be a hard fellow to copy. But I would not say that you've been misguiding anyone.

Santhosh Tuppad said...

@Pradeep Soundararajan,
Today morning I was surprised to see title of this blog post [ You are guide that Indian testers and fresh graduates need ].

I thank you for coaching me because if I had got trained by someone else then I would have got misguided.

Thanks,
Santhosh Shivanand Tuppad

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@James Bach,

Thanks for commenting. This post needed your comment because I shared some things that I didn't let you know earlier.

I have changed the title. Many people have disagreed with the title, too. Changed from "Stop being misguided by me" to whatever you might see up there now :)

I have told you before that there are things about testing I want you to learn better. Some of these things you have made good progress on, others, not yet-- but you're still young.

As you know, there is more to come. When I started to make progress on a few things, new ideas pop up and distract me. Some were worth pursuing and some were not.

I shall make progress and someday shall make you proud of it. I just wish I had an opportunity to work more closely with you.

It would make a huge difference to my learning. Hope to be a better tester got me this far, and shall take me further too.

Distinctive, unique, slightly nutty Pradeep. You would be a hard fellow to copy. But I would not say that you've been misguiding anyone.

Slightly nutty :) Thanks for that.

I am not consciously misguiding anyone but I feel my appearance might be misguiding people. So, I wrote this post to request them be careful about it, just in case.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Santhosh,

I thank you for coaching me because if I had got trained by someone else then I would have got misguided.

If I taught you that I am the only good guy here then I have misguided you. I am sure you didn't mean that.

I am glad to have coached someone like you who is an upcoming bright guy. Just be consistent :)

Venkatesan Kannan said...

Hi Pradeep,

Great post with awareness ( heavily appreciated….)

@ India specific – whether you mean to say ”only Indians are following you..?” (hope I got it right…..)

@Little parrot - human nature - >really cool…. That’s true :)

Finally @ Ever since I am discovering that people are falling to a trap of trying to ape me, I feel bad of having a reputation and credibility.

” NO guru will like to see their students IMITATING them” Its up to learners(us) to be aware and cautious to avoid little copy cat and have our own style….. So don’t feel guilty…..

Cheers..
Venkat.

John Stevenson said...

Brilliant article Pradeep.

I agree with many others on here this is not just specific to one country.

I too have had the fortune to have been coached by people such as Michael Bolton and find it difficult to disagree with such people even when my mind is in disagreement with what is being said.

When you place such high regard on some people within our profession you tend to agree with everything they say, even if they are wrong, and as you have quite rightly pointed out that is a dangerous habit and one you have now noticed.

Your article has made me think about I interact with my fellow testing peers and I applaud you for such an honest and personal article.

John Stevenson said...

Brilliant article Pradeep.

I agree with many others on here this is not just specific to one country.

I too have had the fortune to have been coached by people such as Michael Bolton and find it difficult to disagree with such people even when my mind is in disagreement with what is being said.

When you place such high regard on some people within our profession you tend to agree with everything they say, even if they are wrong, and as you have quite rightly pointed out that is a dangerous habit and one you have now noticed.

Your article has made me think about I interact with my fellow testing peers and I applaud you for such an honest and personal article.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@John Stevenson,

Thanks for your comment.

When you place such high regard on some people within our profession you tend to agree with everything they say, even if they are wrong, and as you have quite rightly pointed out that is a dangerous habit and one you have now noticed.

Partially right. However, here is a case: I met Adam White during TWST and he said something like this, "Jerry once said something and I almost instantly disagreed but 2 years later it struck me that he was right".

When being coached by people like them, it might be a good idea to not think about they being right or wrong but to hold those ideas in a buffer and bring them when needed.

I am hopeful you are doing it irrespective of you are conscious of it or not.

Sometimes, they are wrong, too. That's why they try to have students and colleagues who can help them point it out early.

Ah! Looks like I should take out the specificity to India.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Venkatesan Kannan,

@ India specific – whether you mean to say ”only Indians are following you..?” (hope I got it right…..)

I meant it might not be applicable to people outside India but the comments above prove me wrong.

” NO guru will like to see their students IMITATING them” Its up to learners(us) to be aware and cautious to avoid little copy cat and have our own style….. So don’t feel guilty…..

Guru will like to see some good things being imitated but not the bad things.

I just hope those who are inspired by me ape good things than bad.

Ola said...

Good post Pradeed

I would boil it down to a version of my own "title/tag line/mantra": Think for yourself!

I stole that, with pride, from James Bach the other year when I had the good fortune to meet him, and you, at Öredev in Malmö. I of course stole the method of constantly using it from you :)

I'm ordering some new t-shirts for myself with I THINK FOR MYSELF in big capital letters!

Immitation is a great way to learn new skills. I worked until my fingers where near bleeding immitating Jimi Hendrix, Dave Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen when I learned to play the guitar many years ago. When I got better I started developing my own style and today that's what comes out naturally when I pick up a guitar.

To me developing my testing skills have kind of worked the same way. No sore fingertips but tired eyes and tired brains :)
I am developing my own testing style based on what I learned from different gurus. As you perhaps remeber I try to mix in my old punk rock heart and attitude in the mix and it works well for me. It might not for anyone else but then again it might. I don't know!

Most important:

Think for yourself!

I do, and I know you do to

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Ola,

I stole that, with pride, from James Bach the other year when I had the good fortune to meet him, and you, at Öredev in Malmö. I of course stole the method of constantly using it from you :)

Thanks and I hope it was helpful :)
Actually a question and a statement you asked when I was there has been echoing within me for a while and I shall tell you what it is when we meet next.

Immitation is a great way to learn new skills. I worked until my fingers where near bleeding immitating Jimi Hendrix, Dave Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen when I learned to play the guitar many years ago. When I got better I started developing my own style and today that's what comes out naturally when I pick up a guitar.

Cool. I am fine with that. What irks me is when people do something just because their hero did it.

To me developing my testing skills have kind of worked the same way. No sore fingertips but tired eyes and tired brains :)
I am developing my own testing style based on what I learned from different gurus. As you perhaps remeber I try to mix in my old punk rock heart and attitude in the mix and it works well for me. It might not for anyone else but then again it might. I don't know!


You started a blog (or revived it) after Oredev 08. I hope you write a series of what keeps making your eyes and brain tired - that will be very interesting and important for the community.

Think for yourself!

I do, and I know you do to


Some of us are fortunate enough to be forced to think for ourselves :)

Jassi said...

I am re-posting my reply from Google Buzz,
Hi Pradeep,
Again a Profound post with unfathomed knowledge.
I believe its not completely aping when we say, we wish to become like our Mentors,at least for me it is learning from Testing Gurus Pradeep ,Mr James & continuing to share the knowledge like they do :)

The statement "However, today, if someone wants me to help them solve their testing problems - I forget all my ego and aggression and try to be in best service of the client."
says so much :) yes it is so very necessary to keep our ego away.

Thanks for this post Pradeep ,I am also able to understand what you are trying to convey to all of us.

Cheers,
Jassi

Selim said...

@Venkat,
@ India specific – whether you mean to say ”only Indians are following you..?” (hope I got it right…..)
I completely disagree with you. Nowadays not only Indians are following Pradeep but also from other countries. I know many of them in Bangladesh including me and hoping same for some other countries too. Definitely, Pradeep will do the same like James Bach, Michael Bolton, and others did for him. And i belief Pradeep will agree with me.

@Pradeep, Thanks for sharing your experience and thought with us.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Selim,

Thanks for your kind words. I am just in the search of myself and shall strive to be myself.

Every serious tester in this industry has a role to play and I am playing a role to help people play their role while trying to work hard to be a better tester. That's it about me.

I am hoping to connect soon with more Bangldeshi testers because they are definitely interesting.

Madhukar Jain said...

Dear Pradeep,

Today i will speak what i have not spoken since long time. After reading your post i felt that i am also in the same shoes as you are in. I also mimiced James and i put the Title of my Blog as "A Rapid Tester" which is present till date and i don't know why i feel myself to be a Rapid tester.
Here is how it happened.
On 25th May 07 i emailed you and asked your comments on my Blog and got a good reply from you as well.

After few months i felt that i am following James, hence i too started feeling myself as "A Rapid Tester" and i put the same in the Title of my Blog.
On 25th Mar 08 i got another mail from you as below:
Can you explain in your blog why you think you are a Rapid Tester?
I did not know what to reply to that email and neither did i know why i feel myself to be a rapid tester. Hence i thought of replying to your email sometimes later when i felt that i knew the answer.
Today seeing your post related me in the same situation and i remembered your email to me.

Thanks for coming out with such amazing post.

Madhukar.

Anna Borovcova said...

I am supriced you were offended by offer to generate ideas.
This is what good testers do. It is boring to create test cases from these ideas and even more to execute them. (Even if you execute them every time in diffrent way). But generate ideas, make the whole process better this is what we really try to do. You had fine opportunity to change their testing process and gain good reputation.
It is very very refreshing to read store about one of your big mistakes. Because we can learn from someones else mistakes more than from someones else advices.
Could you write more posts about the mistakes you made as a tester?
It would be the best lessons of all.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anna,

It is very very refreshing to read store about one of your big mistakes. Because we can learn from someones else mistakes more than from someones else advices. Could you write more posts about the mistakes you made as a tester?

Right and I have done lots of them and hope not to do as much as I did in the past :)

Ola said...

@Anna Learning from our misstakes, and others misstakes, is always good.

I try not to make the same misstake twice, and like Pradeep said, I want to make less misstakes in the future. Howerver I do hope I make misstakes! I learn alot from the ones I make. If you have the time and interest you can read my post on a misstake I made last year. it's here.

@Pradeep, make misstakes but make new ones! :)

Алексей Лупан said...

Every poet, or musician, or tester from the scratch tryed to be like his hero or heroes. Normal situation. It looks like your personal 'high level' - to play like Hendrix and to think like Barantsev itself.

Achievement of this level is mandatory for each pupil.

In fact, this 'high level' is his own 'zero level'.

Nevermind, if later I will cannot play like Hendrix or test like Barantsev. I should follow this way just because then I'll try to mim someone, I will learn such little things, that cannot be teached. They can be only learned. This is the basic of your own style.

And even you will try to look like bearded James, in fact, you will be yourself for the rest of the years. Well, you will have your beard. I have my own beard, but I am not Bach at all :)

Because 'You are what your skills are'. And skills should be trained.

(as usual, sorry for my brilliant english)

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ Alexei Lupan,

(as usual, sorry for my brilliant english)

Keep me as your hero for improving your English :))



In fact, this 'high level' is his own 'zero level'.

Nevermind, if later I will cannot play like Hendrix or test like Barantsev. I should follow this way just because then I'll try to mim someone, I will learn such little things, that cannot be teached. They can be only learned. This is the basic of your own style.


I agree that miming helps in learning things that couldnt have been taught but miming alone doesn't help beyond a start - that was my point.

Priya said...

Hi Pradeep,

First time commenting here though i've been reading your blog since 4-5 months now. Loved this sincere article of yours. And the conviction with which you write!!

As a tester, I can relate to many things that you write.. but there are lots of things which are new to me. I was most influenced by your take on 'why testers should blog?', though i must admit i have procrastinated on that since long! i hope to start one soon.. :)

Thanks for sharing and inspiring!!

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Priya,

First time commenting here though i've been reading your blog since 4-5 months now. Loved this sincere article of yours. And the conviction with which you write!!

Giving up silence is sometimes a good idea and you did that :)

As a tester, I can relate to many things that you write.. but there are lots of things which are new to me. I was most influenced by your take on 'why testers should blog?', though i must admit i have procrastinated on that since long! i hope to start one soon.. :)

The right time is NOW!

Tarik Sheth said...

Hi Pradeep,

nice and insightful post.
I feel the point of attention should be gather knowledge and gather more knowledge.
"Follow your own style" is watch your skills and develop more..

Incarnated Atma said...

Hi Pradeep,

I am a silent reader of your blogs. Believe me i have read most of your blogs and i simply love the way you express your thoughts. Excellent writings and i believe you are one of the most passionate tester out there who always try his hand in helping out the testing community. Keep up the good work. You are a role model for many. Hope and wish many gain as much knowledge as possible from you and build their career in their own signature style as you did. You simply rocks bro...

Cheers,
Vijay...

vvk said...

Hi Pradeep,

That was a good read, and i am of the opinion that when assume some one to be a Hero then we need not ape hem, but instead take the best of the qualities from the individual and add it to one's arsenal. By doing so we can become a person who has built himself by taking good qualities from different people.
I am always of the belief that if we learn from others ( Not exactly imitate) then we are failing forward and it key to succeed in the career.

Regards,
Vijay V.Kalkundri