Get Thee to the Konditori

I didn’t see you at the coffee shop, today.

Where were you, tester who told me that you need “certification” because, unlike me, you don’t have a public reputation? Where were you, tester who fears the big machine won’t hire you unless you conform, head bowed, to some lowest common standard? How about you, tester who told me that you dare not stop bullshitting your management about test case counts because “he likes those numbers” and, unlike me, you don’t have the credibility (and therefore the power) to say no without being clapped in chains and thrown into the brig?

I was there as usual, with my hardcover Moleskine and my current favorite pens (the Pigma Micron 01 by Sakura Color Products Corporation and the Mitsubishi Pencil Company Unipin Fineline).

I was working on my intellectual property. What were you doing?

Okay I get it: you were busy with your day job. And when the day is over you are tired and you want to go home. Maybe you have children. Children are important. But don’t tell me you are powerless to change things; that you can’t upgrade yourself. You have the power, but it’s not yet a priority for you. If you have reasonable passion and ambition in this field, you will soar above the problems that so many others feel trapped by. You must take time to develop your craft; educate yourself. Punching the time clock is not enough to obtain a better income and better job security.

One place to start is the Konditori (that’s Swedish for coffee shop… sounds cool and kind of mysterious, don’t you think?).

(This photo, above, is one of two Konditori’s I worked at today, in Stockholm.)

I have to keep developing myself and my intellectual property. It’s the engine by which I feed my family. So, today I worked on Rapid Testing Estimation. I want to roll out my new estimation methodology in time for my next test management class, next week.

(Note: I mostly drink green tea, these days… but it’s Stockholm! You gotta drink coffee in Stockholm!)

But who am I kidding? I work in coffee shops, furiously scribbling in my little notebooks, mainly because I love it. It is practical and effective, sure. Mainly, though, it’s peaceful and… hopeful. I am thrilled to feel that, at any moment, I might experience a breakthrough. And you know those breakthroughs, when they happen, can lead to a new hour or two of cutting edge class material, for which people will pay handsome sums. Last year we had the first conference on Session-based Test Management. My brother and I invented that at a coffee shop (well, it was a Denny’s… that’s pretty close).

We can wipe out bad testing. We can dump commercial certification programs into the dustbin. We can create a powerful craft where testers are well paid and respected. And this is how to do it: Meet me at the Konditori. Bring your Moleskine.

(Only if you love the craft, please. If you don’t, geez man, get a different job!)

27 thoughts on “Get Thee to the Konditori

  1. Thank you, James! This post reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing, being a tester and test manager. I love it, that’s why! I have the greatest job in the world. I get paid to test. I needed to get reminded of the joy of working in this field and this craft! Thanks for providing a good upper!
    I’ve had a bad experience of being beaten with the demand for test case counts a little while ago and I did all that I could, at the time, to try to explain and make them, the guys who liked the numbers and there where many, understand that counting test cases doesn’t tell you anything. You may think it does but please explain to me how counting test cases matter and what you learn from that.
    I never got an answer. I just got: How many test cases are there for project x?
    I got tired and they got tired of me questioning most everything and we went our separate ways. Probably the best thing at the time but I still wish I could have them listen and hear what I said. I’ll work on that!

    Anyway, what I wanted to say that I do enjoy working in the konditori, Moleskin or tablet, good coffee and the smell of pastry is an environment that I find conducive to thinking and I like to think!

  2. Today I worked on my first half-day tutorial. I only have 2 cats to feed. They are cheap, but I think testing at the level of stories and never thinking about the big picture is a really silly way to try to reach some sort of quality user experience.

    So, with help from someone I trust, I’m taking more classes at conferences from people who I’ve heard give useful tutorials, as well as reading more about how different people learn. It isn’t enough for me to build my own ideas. It was, for awhile. Then I felt that I needed to share those ideas to make them better. To expose ideas to criticism as well as good feedback means they have to be more resilient, more focused, and be worthwhile to someone other than just me.

    I guess I’m writing to say that today is the first time I’ve ever known I had a tutorial to teach coming up. It feels exciting, scary, and hopeful all at once. Thanks for pointing out to others that good ideas can become better when shared. In fact, that seems the be the main way they make much difference.

    [James’ Reply: Cool!]

  3. If I didn’t have vacation today I would have been at work. A job I wouldn’t have if my previous employer had not sent me to a course and certification 9 years ago.

    It doesn’t matter if you believe in the certification or not. 9 years ago I was a very new tester, fairly fresh from univerity with two (in my eyes) failed development gigs behind me. I was made a tester and sent off to get certified. I don’t remember a thing of the certification course, it happened at the same time as I ran head first into the proverbial wall, but I passed the test with good margin and that gave me the confidence I needed to become a good tester.

    I can’t quite buy into your certification witchhunt. But I fully buy into your rapid software testing.

    [James’ Reply: Witch hunt? You are being scammed, and your confidence from that early certification course was based on nothing. I don’t blame you, the young tester. I do blame you, now, if you continue to believe in fairies and nonsense. Come on! This stuff would NOT EXIST if experienced testers like you stood up and told the truth about it.]

  4. Hi James,

    Making my next step closer to the “coffee shop” right now. Exciting. Still have to work on my Molskine-skills though. More on that later.

    @Lanette: What have your cats taught you about testing? Mine constantly remind me of those elusive bugs that never quite end up as you’d have wanted them to. And they only reliably surface when you dish out some “food”. 😉
    But they can also teach you a lot about hunting…..for mice…bugs.

    @Anna: If you got your job because of a certification I dare not think what your job is. Think about whether you’re doing the right stuff now. I’d bet you’re probably not.

    I know the pressures a job and the “requirements” or “required testing” puts on you but as Brian Osman said, that’s what stealth testing is all about. The challenge being that at some point you manage to introduce the good practices that you used into mainstream. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it takes years. The thing is that it’s fun and you learn a lot and you’ll release a quality product (please no comments on the wording there ;-). Oh and did I forget to mention that you’ll also automagically get a reputation for good or for worse. But you’ll always be doing what excites you.

    ….that is if you love/care for what you do.

    And certification IS a scam. At least in the manner it’s being done now. In NZ there have been several calls to reform by respected people in the business but the promoters of ISTQB have been mum so far. We’ll see if anything ever changes. Not holding my breath though.


  5. Couldn’t agree more. Take the time to create things, and ingest as much knowledge as your time will allow. Take that knowledge and catalyze it with other learnings. We all have the capacity to upgrade ourselves, we just need to drive. Surrounding myself with people I perceive as being smarter than me is instrumental to my professional development.

    Excellent post, James. For once I have no trouble to make. 🙂

  6. Pilot G2. It’s better, I promise.

    [James’ Reply: A… ROLLERBALL PEN??? Does it use archival ink? Is its line perfectly smooth like a baby’s laser?]

  7. Great post, James! I had a scare last year before Christmas when management at the company that I recently left suggested that we take ISQTB as it would make the test team look good to the outside clients. You may recall giving me some good advice that helped build an argument and convince them to drop it. I promised to take BBST Foundations and Bug Advocacy courses through AST instead and continue doing the best job that I could. They never brought it up again after that.

  8. Hi James
    As you have said, we should make time for things which we feel is important to us. The same thing is happening here. I always feel, I should be a better tester but I never spent time on what I am thinking about. I hope in the future, I will get the things right.

  9. From a Tesla speech about alternating current, 1891:

    “All these observations fascinate us, and fill us with an intense desire to know more about the nature of these phenomena. Each day we go to our work in the hope of discovering,–in the hope that some one, no matter who, may find a solution of one of the pending great problems,–and each succeeding day we return to our task with renewed ardor; and even if we _are_ unsuccessful, our work has not been in vain, for in these strivings, in these efforts, we have found hours of untold pleasure, and we have directed our energies to the benefit of mankind.”

    [James’ Reply: Wow, great find.]

  10. James…thanks… and ya know… you are so damn right. There is no one stopping me – EXCEPT ME – from excelling in my career as a tester or in becoming more proficient in skill…. Where was I?? I need to find an answer to that question but I sure know where you were. Thanks for the kick in the seat… I needed that motivation today.

  11. So the thing that I am working on right now in my own career is that it seems to me there needs to be a balance of time spent in the coffee shop talking about testing and time spent getting your hands dirty actually testing. It seems to me that the hands-on experience fuels the conversation at the coffee shop to go in directions that actually apply to real life. So the question is what is that balance.

    [James’ Reply: Agreed.]

    I have now been labeled in my day job as a tester for around 2 years now. For the last year I have tried to listen and insert myself into as many conversations as possible in the time I have set aside for that. Early on I felt like there were lots of conversations going over my head because I lacked experience in different environments the conversations were about. To remedy that, I changed jobs 8 months ago because I wanted more relevant experience to talk about within the testing community.

    That shift has granted me experiences that I now talk about when occasion permits, but I still see a wide world of testing that I know nothing about. I see you James, coining phrases and techniques that you recognize as already happening in teams, but I wonder when/how I will create the same experiences for myself to create the intellectual property that i want to sell later on in my career. I already moved my family 2500 miles once this year, now I am very seriously considering moving from Michigan to New Zealand to stretch my views on testing and the world and create some of those experiences that I can package up as IP for later in my career.

    [James’ Reply: You’re still quite young, Wade. But it seems to me you have the habits you need to be a leader in this field. I had a little argument with you on Twitter, today, for instance. I thought you handled it well.]

    I do love this craft. I don’t have a certification, or a college education, nor do I want them. I don’t yet have a huge reputation within the testing community but I am working on that daily. I don’t feel trapped by a day job, but I have changed the companies with which I have worked for the better, and I feel that change is fuel for my reputation outside of the corporate walls. I spend time reading, conversing, blogging, participating in podcasts and conferences, but after all is said and done, I still feel like there is a wider world out there that I need to understand better to really contribute to the testing community.

    [James’ Reply: One thing you might do is read *weird* stuff. Try to find a philosophy book that the rest of us haven’t heard of. Anne-Marie Charrett seems to have a talent for finding offbeat sources, and that is an interesting reputation to have, right there.]

    Ultimately, I think this is a great post and it covers a topic that I have been preaching to my team and anyone that would listen to me for a while now. I recently made the claim in Toronto that not only is it a good idea to be interactive with the testing community, but it is an ethical responsibility of a professional tester to do so. But no one likes a comment that says ‘great post’, so I added a bit about the balance that I am seeking between scribbling in notebooks and actually testing.

    One last thing to add, I really like the concept of the coffee shop and using it as a tool for new thinking. Steven Johnson talks about the coffee shop as a key for innovation and new ideas in his book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From.” Just this week I have been conversing with my company to create a coffee shop environment to allow for innovation within the workplace.

    Next time you’re anywhere near Northern Michigan I will gladly join you at the coffee shop.

    [James’ Reply: I spent part of my childhood in Glen Arbor. I would really like to visit.]

  12. I count myself lucky that I have 2 hours of commuting per day, 80mins of which is just sitting on a train with nothing to do but read and think. It’s mandated thinking time.

    I like what you say about reputation and credibility. Designers put their work online in the form of images, developers share their work as code and programs. Testers share our work as ways of thinking and analysis. So we blog, and we talk, and we debate and discuss. I love it. I want to see more testers getting involved.

  13. Love it, James! A favorite quote… “You Will be the same person five years from now as you are today except for two things. The people that you meet and the books that you read” — Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. We are where we are ultimately because we like being there. If we didn’t, we’d do something about it. Some of us are, and thank you for being one of the loudest and most out there voices leading the charge. We don’t have to settle for mediocrity, but we first have to prove we are not mediocre. I second your advice to read the weird stuff. It really does help :).

  14. Thanks for your lunch session today and your thorough answers. It was a mind opener for a PM like me. I will look further into your posts here to find out how I best will plan for testing in my future projects.

  15. “The only thing I am extremely passionate about – Is: Not becoming an extremist.”

    [James’ Reply: Expecting myself and others to behave ethically is not extremism, sir.]

    I agree with Anna’s comment – it does starting to feel like a witch-hunt, If certifications urge people to attend courses, and clear some of the test language Babylon affect, for me – That’s a good start.
    And YES – don’t take it for granted, it’s just the 1st step – From there we should continue with active curiosity and open mind to become good testers.

    [James’ Reply: Giving your money to an organization that actively promotes and embodies poor standards and bad behavior is not in ANY WAY a good first step. I weep for you if you think that your test language is better now than it was before you were indoctrinated with that crap. If you accept their glossary, you have accepted into your heart confusion and empty rhetoric. Congratulations on your great achievement.

    I have good standards. You should have good standards, too. But if you don’t, please don’t pollute my blog with your apologies for mediocrity.

    I don’t see the ISTQB people as witches. Rather they are scam artists. They exploit the fear and uncertainty of people such as yourself to line their own pockets. Shame on them. And shame on you for defending them.]

  16. The biggest risk I took in an interview once was to the question “so what did you think of ISTQB” Luckily he was of the same opinion that it was “essentially useless” but as the company was paying I went in the belief that it may help on the cv. It does offer a standard glossary (or their version of) but is that much use if you clients don’t understand your new fangled gobblegook.

    On the subject of passion. I keep thinking that I want to get out of testing (I’ve been on this boat for the past 13 years or so). But as I thought a bit more about it it’s not the job that I necessarily don’t like; or to put it another way, changing jobs to something else will, more than likely, elicit the same response in a matter of weeks. So what does interest me, thinking about the craft and asking myself silly questions to revisit my assumptions (why have 4 severities and not just 2?). Can I get this interest from testing still, absolutely. It’s just a case of diving into things that interest me, and I believe that there is enough left in testing to offer this fulfillment.

    [James’ Reply: It offers a useless glossary that people don’t understand, anyway. Let’s let it die, please.]

  17. Slightly OT:
    “a baby’s laser”??!!! James, trusting a kid’s interest / unschooling is all very well, but giving a baby a laser takes it a bit far, don’t you think? 😉 🙂

    Rebecca 🙂

    [James’ Reply: It’s a BABY laser. They are far less dangerous.]

  18. Hi, James!

    Bloggers who (/Blogs that) have tons of comments “scare away” shy testers like me (every one who knows me knows that was sarcasm) as I may not have as intellectual things to say as Lanette or rex Black or who ever comments Satisfice-blog. The amount of comments forces you to read every single one through so that you don’t repeat someones thoughts as your own (It really get the juices flowing if you COPY someone’s comment) But none-the-less I do have something to say.

    Some testers say “testing is their day job” or “I do this until I find something more exciting to do with my life”. I myself live for and to testing. I thrive to better my self and to be known. Known as in “Hey, there the a**hole goes! But he’s a helluva tester!” And I encourage every one I know to better themselves in testing theory, skills, thinking, tools, in any way so that they do not lay stagnant and rot their skills. I do have the certificate (I was about to say that I don’t boast with it but “look at me! I have cert!”), but I find it more useful to know the things they teach so that I know how to stay away from those toxic way to dull and stupidify testers and stakeholders.

    We do need those ISTQBSRWENVSDO-people so that we know where we are! As they try to raise the bar for us, we grab it and take it even higher! Then we see whether the ISTQB-people reach the bar WE do.

    And by the way… Finnish “konditoria’s” are way better that those Swedish. 😉 If not in coffee then in ice-hockey!


  19. Note: I am not the same Anna as the Anna above! I never got any testing job by having a certification. To the other Anna: I can see how you can look back at your life, and pick that course as a turning point – but couldn’t any number of other things have worked just as well to convince you that you could do well at this? It seems rather an expensive placebo.

    I am in a job now, that I would not have if I had not sent myself off to learn what I needed to learn. I am surrounded by smart and thoughtful colleagues who don’t hesitate to go learn what they need to improve their skills – they don’t need the permission of a manager or a teacher to want to learn. It hardly needs saying, but this is an *amazing* environment to work in.

    Fear could have kept me from even applying – it would have, once. I was definitely what Carol Dweck calls an “entity theorist”, but I have learned, gradually and painfully, to be an incremental theorist. (It just made more sense.) But that distinction – between intelligence being a fixed and unchangeable attribute (where any failure shows that you just don’t have it and never will), or being something that you can improve by working on it – seems to me to be related to the heat of the pro and anti certification disputes. Learning at the Konditori is very threatening to an entity theorist – anything could come up! You might not be prepared! You might fail, in front of everyone! Everyone would know you don’t deserve to be there! But those are precisely the things that make it attractive to someone who sees failure as an opportunity to learn and gain mastery.

    [James’ Reply: Thanks, Anna!]

  20. Busy tester can still learn on his current work as well. It happens that tester completes the testing without learning anything. I will say, it is just a matter of putting little focus on problem being solved by software being developed.

  21. I started reading this thinking, “Damn! Don’t ever leave Mr Bach stood up at a coffee shop!”

    [James’ Reply: Yeah, don’t do that! But of course, you didn’t agree to meet me, so I didn’t feel particularly stood up.]

    A nice little piece of inspiration for all testers (and others too!).

    If the ‘recruiters’ of the world would just stop putting such a HUGE emphasis on having a ‘certification’, I think we would be part of the way there!

    [James’ Reply: Maybe the problem is you are relying on recruiters to get a job… or at any rate, the *wrong* recruiters.]

    It’s true people… you can learn far more from 3 days reading than from 3 days in a ‘certification’ course. It’s the recognition of that course that I see as a big problem.

    Keep fighting (aka educating) please JB. Your army shall keep fighting with you (aka learning)!

  22. That’s so true… I love those moments of breakthrough… and those *potential breakthrough* moments even more. They’re exhilarating.

    I was in a similar location (ahem… a club at 1am, actually) when after some brainstorming about how to make a testsuite as efficient as possible when executed (enterprise systems require cleverness when testing, otherwise tests might run for days or weeks), I had a breakthrough and developed a method that shrunk the test run from 6 days to 2.3 (that’s 61% reduction in test time).

    I’ve been using that method ever since for all my testsuites.

  23. Where I am, the ISTQB certification is very popular. I did one certification years ago for VB 3.0 or something like that and said never again. They are a scam. I could create a new testing methodology and a certification for it and call it Testing Secret and everyone would sit in a circle and meditate on testing for an hour and charge $5,000 for it. When anyone asks me about certifications, I say they are useless.

    I only do consulting these days. I am also offended when a client wants to interview me and they are asking me dumb questions you would ask someone new out of college or a regular employee. Don’t ask me where I want to be in 5 years or what System testing is. Obviously many huge international companies hired me to work on high profile complex projects, then surely I must know what I am doing after all these years.

    [James’ Reply: You’re a consultant? I’m curious why you aren’t using your name, here.]

  24. Hi James, probably because I wouldn’t want potential clients reading my griping. 🙂 I’m going to have to brave one of these days.

  25. @TestingThem

    “I wouldn’t want potential clients reading my griping.”

    If they’re the right clients for you, they’ll be find with your griping about bogus testing (which is what certifications are).

    “I’m going to have to brave one of these days.”

    If you’re brave, the right clients for you will admire your bravery.

    —Michael B.

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