"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 29, 2011

My monopoly in teaching exploratory testing in India

This is a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. She is passionate about teaching testing and has changed her teaching style tremendously over the last couple of years.

I have changed a few words and broke down sentences from the conversation to make it more reading friendly. So, Mansi, when you read this and you spot anything that I have goofed up, please correct me.

Mansi: You are a monopoly for teaching exploratory testing in India.

Me: Yes, thank you. ( Of course, MB and JB visit India )

Mansi: How do you feel about it?

Me: I feel bad but also feel good.

Mansi: Good and bad?

Me: No, Bad and then Good.

Mansi: Why would you feel bad?

Me: I feel good because it helps me make money that gets me to feed my family and myself. I feel bad because being an evangelist of exploratory testing in India, I haven't seen people wanting to teach exploratory testing or even if I have seen, they aren't pursuing it.

Mansi: Oh, you know why people don't want to teach exploratory testing in India?

Me: That's what I have been trying to find out.

Mansi: Its because of you!

Me: You mean, I am the blocker for someone teaching exploratory testing in India? That's funny.

Mansi: You have set an entry barrier to them.

Me: What kind of an entry barrier have I set? I have been asking all my students to consider practicing to teach exploratory testing and I am willing to help them out. Why would I set entry barriers?

Mansi: Well, what I mean by entry barrier is, you would intimidate them with a lot of questions on their effectiveness to teach and all that.

Me: If I ask questions about how they plan to teach, why should they get intimidated by that? As a matter of fact, I would ask questions to them to see if I could help them not do the mistakes I did. I may learn to do a new exercise for my class from them.

Mansi: Because you are THE guy for exploratory testing in India.

Me: James Bach would hate to hear that. I am not an authority trying to prevent anyone from doing anything they want to. Look at you, Mansi, your class is filled with hands on exercises these days as opposed to your past of running through slides. I think I have helped you do what you love to.

Mansi: Yeah, thats all there but I am using exercises that I learnt from you for a class on testing. I don't teach exploratory testing per se.

Me: Oh, you mean, you don't teach exploratory testing by using the title exploratory testing?

Mansi: You play with words.

Me: I am just trying to understand.

Mansi: See, this is what I was telling.

Me: I intimidated you?

Mansi: No, your view of things are different.

Me: So, is yours and thats why we are friends and have a lot to talk to each other.

Mansi: OK, so tell me, why haven't testers in India want to teaching exploratory testing despite you doing so many workshops on it?

Me: Maybe because they enjoy doing exploratory testing than teaching it. Maybe they are working on the skills and one of them might start to do it. Or just as you are doing, "Not by that title".

Mansi: ... or maybe they are intimidated?

Me: You are free to think anything but here is what I can tell to all people. James Bach and Michael Bolton didn't teach me how to teach but they did teach me how to learn things. I carefully observed how they coach testers and tried to ape them initially. I must have failed aping them but in that process, I also found my own style of coaching that appears to be working for me. If I had thought that James & Michael has set an entry barrier for me to teach exploratory testing, I would have been stuck with that idea and wouldn't have progressed at all.

Mansi: I agree but its fun to have such conversations with you.

Me: Convert the fun of conversations with me to some action.

_ end of conversation with Mansi_

So, to any Indian tester reading this. I have been enjoying a beautiful monopoly of teaching exploratory testing in India. Look at my workshops and events page, you'd know I must have done lots of them. Going forward, I am going to be doing a lot, too. I think I am going to go out of India this year and do these workshops. I am enjoying this monopoly not because I am a bully and have intimidated people or set an entry barrier for someone nor I am an approving authority. There is no certified exploratory testing coach certification that you should get to be able to do it. I am enjoying this monopoly because of people like you not seizing the opportunities dancing in front of you.

Here's how I started: I announced free 2 hour talk on exploratory testing on my blog and a couple of organizations invited me to do it. I got free practice doing exercises for testers and developers as my audience and in turn I faced a number of questions. After doing enough talks, I got an idea of what would work for me and then graduated to announce my one day workshop. After doing that for enough number of times and most importantly by gaining experience doing one day workshop, I moved to doing two days. I tried doing Rapid Software Testing, Testing Skills Workshop and Exploratory Testing. Found my sweet spot, worked on a few exercises of my own + borrowed some from James & Michael (with their permission) and tried things.

After a few months, my students started contributing exercises to my workshop. I started to recognize the problems that testers and managers face in India to get Exploratory testing mainstream into their projects and started to do "Accountable & Manageable Exploratory Testing workshop". Session Based Test Management got into mainstream of my workshop and this led to me consulting and helping organizations achieve this. Today, I have success stories with Indian testers, managers and most importantly organizations that beat the s*** out of all other testing training done in India. Again, its you, dear Indian testers, who make me feel like that. So, if you see me as a big ego out there, ask yourselves, "how have I contributed to it?". If you don't know the answer, then here it is, "You have contributed more to my success than what I have done to myself" although I appear to take complete credit. Jon Bach wrote a beautiful blog post on the testing moment around the same topic.

On the other side of my analysis is that more than 99% of Indian testers are not career risk takers. Most among them think, they have taken enough risk in their career by choosing testing.

So, someone coming out of their so called permanent job in India wanting to teach exploratory testing or becoming a consultant is so unlikely. It may happen but that would definitely be surprising to me. If you dare, get in touch with me, please.

While you would just continue to read or maybe enjoy my blog posts, I would continue to play a monopoly for exploratory testing in India. What a shame!


Parimala Hariprasad said...


As a kid, I wanted to grow up and teach as I thought that was the most satisfying thing to do (Of course, after motherhood. And no, I didn't dream of motherhood as a kid :-)). Over the years, many things changed and I took up testing. I still yearn to teach. I try and teach as much as possible at work. I am one of the few folks at my organization who has mentored umpteen number of freshers - not just testers, but programmers too! I love teaching testing.

So, what stops me from taking it up a step further? It's this little devil in me that says, 'Hey you. You don't know enough yet. 'Learn this, Do that, Perform, Excel, then think about teaching others'. In my experience, I have seen that a teacher is expected to be perfect. 'That idiotic teacher doesn't know such a basic thing. Doesn't she have common sense' - Trust me, I have scolded my own teachers using same exact words as these. As long as fellow testers expect teachers to be perfect, its going to be hard to find teachers like Pradeep, James, Michael and Cem.

And no, intimidation isn't stopping people from teaching ET as far as I can think. There could be another problem. Probably, lack of motivation and confidence! (Sorry Mansi, I hope you were kidding on that part!)

Talk about Daring - I dare myself to teach ET someday. I truly DARE!

Parimala Shankaraiah

Darren McMillan said...

Hi Pradeep,

Excellent post and once again a very honest one.

Perhaps people are intimidated? Who knows, what does matter though is that people still express their ideas on testing from India. Be that from teaching, or from talks at conferences or simply their thoughts penned into a blog post, it does and will continue to make a big impact to the testing community.

Thanks for sharing.



Mohinder said...

Nice post.
It is ironic why so many people hate to enter ET teaching although they are very best ETers. I know one reason why it is stopping them from entering ET race as a career progression. When someone enters the job market he makes a path of progression to reach the ranks of managers and above. If you choose ET , you reach the peak very quickly and suddenly hit the ceiling after which there isn’t much career progression. The only thing one can do is to start training others with your art provided you are good at sharing your knowledge. This is not an easy road to take and is littered with risks. One can go down the path of consultancy but there are far fewer inroads one can dig into. Most testers would prefer mixed testing skills and do not specialise in ET which is a shame. My career has been so diversified in the last 25 years that I never had a chance to stick to one particular technique, methodology and practice although I like spending more time doing ET. We’ll see what the future holds.

Deeps said...

Hi Pradeep,
I very much agree with what Parimala has said. Its that feeling that a teacher to be as perfect as possible is one aspect which may stop people from moving ahead to teaching. Also one interesting attribute I found in you to keep the day long session alive is an excellent blend of humour with seriousness that you bring to the session. Yes of course, the wide amount of knowledge that you possess, so much readings & testing so many different products is a great asset, which allows you to answer so many different questions.

Intimidating, that you would ask so many questions, is something I would like to face....failing in front of you is better, rather than failing else where. And I agree that you like to bring on your view point with those questions, which helps other person to avoid the errors.

And about the Dare, yes I dare, but I still have to be much better than what I'm now. As you know, my exploration has just begun. Next time we meet, we may discuss more on this aspect as well, if your time permits.

Looking forwards to meet you soon.

Thank you.