Live Blog: The Art of Testing Transformation: Blending Technology with Cutting-Edge Processes, Jennifer Bonine, STAREAST 2014

Cameron Philipp-Edmonds's picture

Jennifer Bonine took the stage for the final keynote presentation of the STAREAST 2014 conference. With the audience winding down from a week’s worth of learning, she quickly delved into an exercise to get the crowd involved.

The exercise involved everyone in the room standing up and talking to each other. They were supposed to ask each other what they learned from their days at the conference. The reasoning behind this exercise was then explained by Bonine.

Bonine told us that what we, as a society, have learned from studies is that talking to other individuals, regardless of what they are talking about connects people together and because of those connections, they perform better in teams and on projects.

She then transitioned into a tangent where she brought up some nostalgic technology. She talked about dial-up internet and how new generations are growing up with wifi. New generation not only expect it—they demand it. She talked about old cell phones which were as big as backpacks. Now we have tablets that are thinner than pencils and as light as a feather. Technology has advanced significantly in the last years, and with it the way we communicate.

But where will we end up? Especially after so far we have come? It’s hard to tell, but what we do know is that now we are at a point where good quality is of high importance. But just like new generations expect things that never would have been expected before, such as a computer you could carry, now the testing world expects things that weren’t expected before. Developers are expected to have those testing skills. Quality Assurance is expected to have those skills. There has to be quality across everything and that comes from collaboration and a cross-understanding.

So what are the critical dimensions for evolving? Develop plans of action, build commitment, multiple communication styles, establish synergistic relationships, respect differing frames of reference, understand power and influence, and anticipate and manage resistance.

Out of all of those, she looked back to the importance of communication. Communication skills are key. Practices and principles are both important. You need the understanding and the repetition to get to that level of mastery—that level of quality.

We are seeing the quality assurance position needs the convergence of three core skills: quality assurance, technology, and a competency of the business industry. When you have all of those three, you have reached a magical trifecta where you become indispensible and become a huge asset to the team and organization.

But this is a huge change from the way many people were led to believe about computer engineering positions. But in order to move forward, change has to happen.

The biggest opposition to change is coming to terms with the idea that change can actually happen. Change is often difficult because it isn’t embraced, even when we say we do.

Bonine told us about a practice she does that sheds light on how hard it is to change. She explained to the audience about an exercise she has done before. In this exercise, she would give a presentation and then stop 30 minutes into her speech. At this point she would have the attendees who had just come into the class 30 minutes earlier get up and change seats. Even though they had only been into the room for thirty minutes and they had never even seen that seat before today, there would always be some hesitation and some resistance. And people would often find themselves uncomfortable in their new seats. Even people who self-identified as adaptable to change experienced some resistance to the exercise.

With this exercise as reference, Bonine then went on to explain that if there is such opposition to change with simply changing seats, then it can be easy to understand just how hard it is to make fundamental changes and changes to things that have been held on to and done for long periods of time.

Change is about people and how you choose to receive it and adapt. Focus on relationships as well as task, find a common language (both verbal and visual), seek to understand, be a part of change, see it from all angles. That’s right, be a part of change. A lot of people are just okay with change when it is happening elsewhere, and when it doesn’t affect them.

So what can make change easier for people to go along with, especially when it directly affects them? Great communication.

So what is the communication strategy? Identify need to change. Select an initiative that aligns to the culture of your enterprise. Communication is only made up of literal words 7% of the time. 38% of it is by tone of voice and 55% is context, body language, and their interpretation of you.

Perception is everything.

Change the way you communicate and you can change the toll that change will have on both you and those around you.