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:
- To help myself be a better tester.
- To help the testing community in whatever way I can.
- To earn a living.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.