New Year's Revolution

I'm at an interesting crossroad in my career. Allow me to think out loud and recap a few things..

On the one hand, I have a formal Science education. I love Science. I got into it because of Physics. I loved the problem solving. However, I didn't see myself as a Lab rat for the rest of my life, despite the coolness factor.

Enter my second love: Teaching. I went to Teacher's College and became a High School Science teacher. Interesting thing about teaching is that you actually learn more about a subject than you ever did as a student. There's something about looking at a particular concept from many different perspectives to try and explain it to a variety of students with a range of skills and interests. I learned even more about Science and I loved it even more. However, the reality was that I needed a break from school so the timing was a bit off. I can always return to it later if I choose.

Somewhere in between all this, a hobby of mine (fooling around with computers, and software in particular) turned into something of a recurring job. I did the programmer thing for a few years. Did my time in Tech Support for almost a year, and then I fell into QA almost by accident. I liked Testing. It was somewhere in between the programmers and the customers, but there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on that kept me interested in it.

When I chose to not teach anymore, I decided to go back to QA & Software Testing. I didn't know what the difference was (between "QA" and "Testing") but I knew that: I enjoyed doing it, that I could do it, and that not a lot of people really wanted to do it. I spent about 6 years trying to figure it all out. Eventually I came to understand what Quality Assurance (QA) really was about and how different it was from Software Testing. At that moment, I chose to continue to pursue learning and doing Software Testing.

The years have passed, and I have become quite Senior in this field now. That means that I can be dropped in pretty much any situation now and have a reasonable chance of success (but more on that later). One of the problems when you reach this point though is that there aren't many people you can turn to when you have questions. As luck would have it, I stumbled across the right set of email discussion forums where all of the industry experts hang out and discuss ideas. These are some of the smartest and nicest people I have met in my life -- outside of the circle of Physicists I once knew who still ponder the mysteries of "Life, the Universe, and Everything in it" today.

I gotta say that being able to talk with some of these people is really cool! I don't think I've ever been this close to the cutting edge of creating a new profession and affecting an entire industry as I am today.

Here's my dilemma: I'm enjoying my work as a Tester too much, but the "teacher" side of me is aching to get out and spread the word! BUT.... to become a teacher here, it would mean either becoming a trainer/consultant of some kind or going into an educational institution of some kind (a university or college).

Going the independent consultant route involves risks that I'm not prepared to handle at this particular moment. I could do the consulting and training part, but I don't have the business skills I would need to keep myself busy. There's a recipe for disaster! So, until I find a partner who can help me with the marketing and finances side of things, I'll keep this one on the back-burner for a bit.

Going the educational institution route has it's own interesting problems too. If I wanted to teach at the local college, I could probably do that. There's not a lot of money in that though, so I don't know how long I would be able to keep it up. Teaching at the university has a great many attractive qualities. Just one thing: I don't have a Ph.D. Oh ya, I'd need one of those.

The funny thing is that I know exactly where I would go to get one (can you say the Florida Institute of Technology?), but there's a few things keeping me from packing up and doing that right now.

Okay, so fine. I have a few options, but I have relegated them for the time being in favour of staying where I am to see what else I can learn and help contribute to the Testing Profession as a "practitioner".

So, what now? I wrote an email to the Software-Testing mailing list a few days ago asking for a sense of direction. Maybe it was an unfair question to ask. Maybe it wasn't the right place to ask it. But I felt that I wanted to open myself up and see what kind of response I would get.

I got some good replies, but one of the best by far came from James Bach when he wrote:
We are headed toward a world that recognizes and respects testing as a skilled investigational activity, and is able to systematically describe and foster those skills.
  • Can you list your testing skills?
  • Can you demonstrate how to develop testing skills?
  • Can you describe a model of the testing activity as you see it?
  • Can you explain and defend your work without appeals to authority?
  • Can you relate testing and testing skills to other established fields of intellectual work?
Let these questions, or others along the same vein, guide you. Anyway, they work for me. Please suggest others, if you want.

I like James. He makes me think. =)

I'm pretty sure that's why I love Testing so much. It really is the closest thing (for me) to Physics when it comes to the think-work required to do a good job of Testing. I've met so many drones in my career and only a few who ever gave testing a passing thought. But here, now, is the paradigm we are striving to communicate: to do a good job of testing, you have to use your head.

Imagine that!

Well, of course it's actually a bit more complex than that, and smarter people than me can explain it really well, but I'm content to just know what I'm doing right now.

This is it. The beginning of a movement that will change the way Software is developed forever. (Welcome to the Revolution!) Historians will look back at the early 2000's one day and try to piece together the events that led to the paradigms that affected future thinking on the subject of Software Development and Software Testing in particular.

That history - our future - isn't written yet. Someone's gotta make it happen. In the words of William Shakespeare:
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts..

This is my part and the curtain hasn't fallen yet. So I have some improvisation left to do.

At least I can use James' questions as a guide in the short-term.

Let's see where it takes me, shall we?