5 Shares a Week – Fruitful Friday Week 8 ’19

1 – Read of the week: The happiness advantage. I am really enjoying this work. His way of giving examples with very memorable stories and studies. I am extremely inspired to apply some of the lessons from this book now to my Improv practice or my 9-to-5!

2 – A nice moment of the week: I love feeling helpful. Whenever I can, I try to find an excuse to be helpful, even if some of the times I come across as “really over the top”. Having a NY colleague visiting our office, I spent half an hour writing a short summary of local places I love that have a really particular taste and feel; and I shared it!

3 – An inspirational video: I love this take on public health and food. We need more warriors like him in society. We need that energy to inspire new generations.

4 – A new tool: ProWritingAid is really helping me doing the first round of editing to my improv blog posts. It is extremely helpful with my vague word choices!

5 – A new (old) routine: I am enjoying 20min walks after lunch every day again. I didn’t realize how much I have missed them, but they really enhance my day while barely affecting my performance at work. I am already a fast eater anyway, and taking a moment to stretch my legs and enjoy some air gives me a lot of energy.

5 Shares a Week – Fruitful Friday Week 7 ’19

1 – Read of the week: Me before you – JoJo Moyes (as one of Good Reads award-winning books). Romantic novels are not my cup of tea, but I enjoyed having a new perspective on the needs and cares of a quadriplegic. In the book, they explore how important is for them to feel in charge of their own decisions.

2 – More read of the week: The Thank You Economy – Gary Vaynerchuk
I have learned a lot from Gary’s Youtube channel, so I decided to start with his oldest book that I could find on Audible. I am a firm believer of always doing your best and trying to help the people around you, without expecting anything back. He explores that mindset as a business!

3 – A new toy: I just got my new Canon M6, and I can’t wait to start playing around with it.

Do I know anything about photography? Not in the least. Do I know how to make videos? I haven’t even recorded on my phone. But I decided it was time for me to feel comfortable recording myself and my partner’s shows. Nowadays having an online presence is important, and I want to find if I am game for it.

Why this camera? It had great reviews. It is light enough, have great autofocus for recording on the go and didn’t break the bank.

4 – An unexpected lesson: Yesterday I came across a very educational video about boudoir photography. I didn’t realize how empowering is an experience like this. I know many people who would benefit from such a treat. And it made me wonder, how many mind-bending experiences am I missing because I don’t give them a try?

Improv has clearly changed my life. I have many friends who are empowered by pole dancing. Do you have any experience like this?

5 – A show that made me proud: Last week I went on stage with a very close friend and explored a new idea. We did an improv set, and we called it “Two manly men”, and we did the manliest thing we could think of: talk about our feelings on stage. The idea was breaking the tabu of seeing two men expressing their vulnerabilities. For a suggestion, we asked the men from our audience what was the last emotional conversation they had with their father. It was such a nice experience, and we got so much positive feedback.

5 Shares a Week – Fruitful Friday Week 6 ’19

1 – Things I have munchedThis pretty tasty meal prep. She also shared a piece of information I had no idea about: Soaking your legumes before cooking not only makes them cook faster but improves how well we absorb their proteins!

2 – An enjoyable surprise: I contacted two renown improvisers after writing about teaching improv to international crowds, and both of them came back to me with interested! I was lucky enough to schedule an hour-long chat with one of them yesterday, and I have learned SO MUCH from that talk! I’ll be working on the notes from that chat to get a nice summary.

3 – A moment of joy: I have a lovely coffee break with a friend this week. Sometimes, I have to force myself to be social and spend some quality time with people I don’t see often. It is stupid because I am aware of how much I enjoy talking to them! But, at the moment, I try to find a thousand excuses for why I should cancel.

4 – Something I really appreciate: Taking into consideration what day was yesterday, I want to take a moment to state how grateful I am for my partner. I am not an easy person to live with, and she has been such an unconditional supporter. It is going to be a challenging period (and I know she was also affected by my previous post about depression), but I feel very lucky to have such a loving person on my side.

5 – Training that I am enjoying: Recently I have changed my workout routine just to shake things up a little bit, and I am really digging the new training! It fits my time schedule, it feels challenging and it involves very simple exercises. What a nice surprise!

Embracing being lost

This post is more personal than usual, and I hope you can relate to some parts. I decided to share my struggle finding direction and goals. Let’s start with an introduction.

Hola. I am Gino. I am 27, originally from Spain but currently living in Copenhagen. I work on a not-so-demanding job that supports me and my partner in an extremely expensive city (my rent is higher than the base salary of my siblings). I have a nurturing group of friends and a supportive and attentive partner.

I workout five times a week, eat healthy enough and find joy in my hobbies. I am part of an amateur sports team, and I am performing improv on stage most weeks. I have even read more than two books a month for the last three years.

And I feel completely and utterly lost in my life.

My career

I studied computer science and easily found my career path. A place where I could use both my passion for understanding problems and my skills in building software: Testing Automation was such an easy match.

Working in automation was a clear winner. I was able to move abroad, have a nice salary and fill a needed role; and it wasn’t extremely demanding! I really value my spare time.

What I love about my job has been evolving during the last years. I love pairing with people and bringing pragmatic points of view early on the discussion. I enjoy understanding entire systems and providing a bigger picture while working on a problem. I also like leading, both managing and empowering my colleagues.

But there are many things that are not for me in my current position. Coding is less appealing to me by the day. I miss more human interaction. I would like more manual labour or work within a team more often. And I wish I could give workshops and teach more often.

But I am aware that my career is bringing me down. Each day I feel less motivated to step out of my home. I even find so many excuses to not spend time actually doing my job. I feel lost and stuck in this situation.

My relationships

I am lucky to have such a supportive partner on my side and many inspiring friends.

Something that defines my relationship is my fear of needing someone. I don’t feel comfortable when a connection is defined by necessity. I value when we spend time together because we want to, instead of needing it. I choose people because they make my life better.

Being a caregiver is also part of how I see myself. I love being useful while helping the people I care about, or by trying to make the world a better place. I can see the impact on helping some people around me. Those whom I know they are struggling. Those who just need a little push to take the reigns and change this world.

I stress too much about my relationships because I take unnecessary responsibilities, creating extra burdens.

My place in the world

I am not going to be the leader who will bring the revolution, and I am happy with it. Not everyone will change this world. And, for every leader, there is a need for a second in command. I usually fill a supportive role. I am comfortable giving my time and resources. I like enabling the people I feel will change the world.

I talk about things more than I do things. In any hobby, I am more concerned with finding the most efficient way to perform something; than performing it. I am usually a better coach or trainer than a player.

All the previous identity statements create a big internal conflict. Nowadays, many people think we are all achievers and I should aim for that, but I am actually comfortable in a supporting position. Understanding that the traits I like about myself can’t build on a career also affects me. WIll I only be successful if I partner with a doer?

Things that I’m proud of

Being a natural giver, I love the impact I have had on the people I care about. Seeing how the spark of inspiration, or just that little push, has helped them grow into such beautiful beings.

Due to my love for theory-crafting, I love endless discussions. And that makes me an amazing muse. I don’t know how to finish any project but I am amazing inspiring others and keeping them on track. I am also an excellent idea generator.

Pragmatism is something I easily bring to the table. I am quite good at offering realistic points of view. That has allowed me to plan ahead for many challenges which actually arose. I believe that if you fantasize about a situation, you will be better prepared for it.

Things that I certainly should change

Not wanting to need anyone is hindering my enjoyment of life. It blocks my ability for commitment. I can’t really lose myself in the moment. I can’t truly fight for something if I don’t believe I actually require it.

I generally take a supportive role because I see it as the only way to make an impact. It probably comes from the notion of not really accomplishing anything by myself. I take the “parental” role, supporting and nurturing others, making them grow.

Pragmatism can also lead to being too negative. Realising every way something might go wrong easily produces paralysis. What is the point of starting the problem with such a challenge? I should really be more mindful on the way I share this insight and find ways to express it in an encouraging way. “Let’s be prepared for these challenges” instead of “just be aware of these problems”.

I need stability in many aspects of my life, which heavily limits the kind of risks I am willing to take with my career and life. Unf*ck Yourself touches on the subject. If I want to grow and change my situation, my stability will be challenged; and I get really anxious by the thought of it.

What am I doing to get there?

In my career, I am looking for opportunities that are more social and less technical. Taking more responsibilities regarding people management.

Am I also looking for other incomes and toying with the idea of a less stable and more fulfilling path. There are so many skills I can learn about taking a different path.

In my life, I should stop waiting for motivation. The perfect situation is not going to come, and I will always be able to find a thousand reasons why things will crumble. But I am going to just chase opportunities. I will keep moving and inventing, and if something arises, it will be handled!

I can’t get enough of so many new activities! I never thought of them before. Activities like engaging with an audience. Or bringing playfulness to a team, with games and fun competition. Or keeping a group motivated and happy, fostering a better team spirit. I wish my career involved more of these skills.

I am also going to take more risks. I will assign a quota of resources I am willing to gamble with trying new things. Let’s spend a little bit of time building a blog, even if it will never take off. Let’s invest some money in building the prototype of an app, even if no one will use it. I have to rethink commitment as giving my all for as long as it is relevant, not the need of sticking with something till the end of time


I feel lost. Society makes me feel that I shouldn’t feel lost, but there is no denying how I feel. I didn’t have any big trauma during my childhood. I had an amazing parental example. I have never had any big problem. But I still can’t find myself, regardless of all the privileges I am enjoying.

I am ashamed of being lost, but that is nonsense. It is just part of my life. And, if you’re lost, hopefully knowing that you are not alone helping.

5 Shares a Week – Fruitful Friday

I may not take 5 a day… but I can do 5 a week!

There is a long and very personal post on the works, so this week I only have the time to publish this. Let’s share 5 interesting healthy snacks for our brains!

1 – Reading right now: Made to Stick – Chip Heath.
I am really digging some notes on how to make an idea more sticky. Chip is a brilliant storyteller and always provides a sticky anecdote to make the point. I have so many notes from this book, I will probably share them at some point!

2 – An interesting (and fast) read: Hot point fitness – Steve Zim.
I read this old (but gold) summary for a good training from Steve Zim. These are the 5 key points I keep from it while working out:

  • Breathing. “To enlist breathing as your ally, exhale as you drive the weight; hold the weight at the top of the movement; and inhale during the negative motion on a count of ‘one-two-three’.
  • Variety. “Perhaps the greatest mistake you can make, and one almost everyone who exercises makes, is to get into a routine when you exercise“. Changing the routines regularly helps to make training more entertaining. I will avoid controversial topics not talking about Muscle Confusion,
  • Balance. Symmetry prevents injury. We want to avoid compensating with our strong side while lifting, as that will affect our progression and it can easily cause problems.
  • Stretching. He recommends stretching the muscle we are working on between sets. That increases the time under tension (adding some stress on our hearts) and helps recovery by bringing more blood to the area.
  • Technique. Understand the technique of the exercise. Identify your goals and use the correct technique to reach them.

3 – A project I can’t stop thinking about: I want to create a journal app to record each improv performance.

I think the community would benefit from having a tool where you can save and share some notes from shows, create profiles and enhance the classes.

I have done no app development, so I spent some time understanding what would be needed and how can I start. Maybe it is a nice project to find someone on Fiverr and get it bootstrapped!

4 – What I have written somewhere else: The effects of improvising outside of your mother tongue.

I am passionate about understanding how English is affecting my performances. This is an ongoing discussion inside my community, so I decided to make a “short” writeup and share it on Reddit and Facebook. I loved the engagement it caused!

One of the comments pointed me to How Speaking a Second Language Affects the Way You Think. It is fascinating that our moral compasses might be affected by the language we are talking at the moment!

5 – A nice tool I have found: Many libraries with free stock images! These are not the ones that I normally use, so I like having some variety!

Having a blog, this is an invaluable asset! I also needed many strange pictures to make…

Extra points: Presentation karaoke

I love this improv game, and I decided to play at the office. All the PMs were in love with the idea of finding the “Ultimate presenter” in our company!

The preparation is fairly simple, but it involved having MANY silly pictures to create those presentations. This is the list I came up with, do you have any more examples on silly pictures? I really encourage you to give this game a go. It is so easy and fun!

What about you? Which are your 5 points of this week?

Fruitful Friday – Week 5 ’19

I may not take 5 a day… but I can do 5 a week!

I have decided to make a weekly summary of what I’ve learnt from what I am reading. There are many books that I have devoured too fast! Forcing myself to come with a one-or-two liner lesson sounds like a good practice. Also, inspired by Marcus’ 5 share, I have decided to also include other items that made me grow that week. Things like something that made me laugh, or something I need to share. What a simple way to better start my Fridays!  Now I can feel my baby-step growth, and share a bunch of silly things!

Read of the week: Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art – Sam Wasson.

I love learning the origins of Improv Comedy. I enjoy understanding the history of my hobbies, and I’m getting more involved with improv by the day. But let’s try to keep the improv content to a minimum! Let’s talk about something else that the book made me think of: how many North Americans think the world is about them.

It can be summarised on the quote: “and all of it as American as Democracy”. Sure. As democracy. A big part of the book talks about how Improv Comedy started in the States. It explains why it is a completely different art compared with its roots, like Commedia dell’arte. But when I heard him making that statement, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Of course, as American as Democracy.

This situation had happened before while talking with some North American friends. I don’t think it’s something unique to them, tho. Living in Denmark, I have heard comments on the lines of: “well, we don’t have that problem in Scandinavia, we would never act like that”. So I am pretty sure everyone has their own quirks!

Personally, I find it quite amusing. It makes me think of my dad! At home, we are all Spaniards but him (Italian). So, many times, he tries to convince us that Romans were the firsts doing (insert blank). Sure, there are many things that modern society should thank Romans for, but this argument usually escalates to the absurd very fast.

Quote that moved me: “A worried champ is more interesting than an overconfident champ”. It comes from Del Close class’ notes, unable to avoid the Improv theme. I see it as embracing ourselves, without using the “I have everything under control” mask. I fake confidence many times because I think that will help me. But, actually, seeing someone being honest (and worried) is always more interesting, intimate and powerful.

Toy I have started playing with: hosting a static page blog on GitHub. This blog is hosted on WordPress, but after restarting my writing habits I wondered if it is the best option. I also wanted another place to put my improv ideas, and maybe a new space to build some kind of resume.

Having a static page on GitHub sounded like an interesting idea! It requires minimum maintenance, it’s more affordable and some of the parts are open source. And I personally like the geekier feeling of using those tools.

What I have sunk my time on: getting comfortable with Lightworks. Learning the basics of video editing is almost becoming a mandatory skill. We have so much footage from Improv… It is a shame no one is doing anything with it! So I am using some of those clips as a playing ground.

This was also inspired by the chapter about editing in Essentialism. I am even thinking of writing about this on one of my future posts! Until then, let’s leave it on “To attain knowledge add things every day. To attain wisdom subtract things every day”. (Lao-tzu)

5 Audiobooks to start listening to right now!

If I had to choose the habit that made the biggest impact in my life during 2018, it was for sure listening to Audiobooks. This allows me to enjoy my commute and training time more, adding up to more than 10 hours of “reading” a week! That is the main reason why I could beat my challenge reading 29 books on the last year! And I even have four books under my belt so far on 2019.

One of the reasons why I decided to listen to audiobooks is because I am obsessed with efficiency. It is actually a treat that I am working to improve, as it also affects my ability to find joy, but I think the impact this is having in my life is invaluable. It also made my commute more enjoyable, encouraging me to walk and be active more often! This is not even counting all the hours I have listened to amazing podcasts, such as the Backline (a didactical podcast about Improvisation) or Tim Ferris’ Podcast (inspirational interviews with different “Titans”).

Trust me on this one! Give this a try. Find a moment when you could focus on what you are listening to and pick an audiobook to start learning from! Nowadays it is extremely easy, especially using Audible. You can sign up freely (like using this referral link) and pick two books right now. Oh, you can’t think of any interesting book to listen to right now? I have you covered! Here there are some of my recommendations!

Five amazing audiobooks that you can start learning from right now!

Mating in Captivity – Esther Perel

I fell in love with Esther Perel after listening to her interview by Tim Ferris, and last year I decided to read two of her books. In this book, Esther explores the complexities of sustaining desire through many case studies. The stories hooked me while also making me rethink my previous relationships, as well as gave me the tools to build a stronger connection in my current one.

You can also listen for free to the first episode of Where Should We Begin?, a podcast where she shares some of her counseling sessions. It is such an intimate experience!

Essentialism – Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown explains his definition of essentialism: “less but better”. It shows a way of thinking about productivity and business, helping you find which is the biggest impact you can make and the importance of focusing on that (and reducing the noise). He shares numerous examples and techniques, like asking yourself “how much would I pay to get this if I didn’t own it already?” to discern what do you value the most.

I personally agree with the pursuit of “living by design, not by default”. This is a read that I highly recommend to anyone managing people, as it contains many lessons I wish my managers would share. And it’s less than 6 hours!

Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

If you enjoy fantasy, give yourself the treat of enjoying this masterpiece. It might even be your gateway to the incredible work that Sanderson is doing. He has become my favorite epic-fantasy writer, and his world-building work is more impressive every step you take down the rabbit hole.

I personally get caught on making “the most out of my days”, and sometimes I forget the importance of play and joy. His work has been my drug of choice. I personally find it deliciously immersive, and I can easily enjoy it through my day (in opposition to watching Netflix when I get home!).

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans – Sarah McBride

Sarah is a leading activist on the National Press Secretary at the Human Rights Campaign. Her book explains (with depth and brutal honesty) some of her struggles with gender identity and finding her way as a political person. It is a powerful tale of confusion, pain, empowerment and lost; all while keeping a stoically positive view and fighting for what it is right.

I didn’t know anything about Sara McBride prior to reading this book (even worse, I barely knew anything about Trans struggles in North America), and reading this book broadened my view. I am extremely inspired by her work, and I’m sure you’ll find it as enlightening as I did.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lammot

Writing is an integral part of our interactions in this digital era, and the understanding of how to deliver a story is one of the skills I am actively working on. Anne empowers a beginner writer with many insights, tips, and tools; while keeping it entertaining. She is actually hilarious!

I am spending more and more time writing on my social media, so learning some basics of writing is already having an immense impact on my interactions. Being a non-native English speaker feels already like a disadvantage to me, so the more (good) lessons I can enjoy, the merrier!

And you, what are you listening to?

I am constantly looking for new books to listen to, as I am listening to more than 10 hours a week! Is there any book that you have loved recently? Is there any podcast that has changed your life? Which are the habits which impact you the most? I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

What makes a good leader, and how I will become one

Much of my job experiences have been heavily influenced by the leaders and managers I worked with. This seems to be a relevant topic, as you can also read many case studies of the heads from very successful companies scrolling through our social feeds. There are even science talks about the impact leaders have in organizations! So I decided that there are some thoughts I want to share on the subject.

I have met a wide array of leaders on my career, both being directly managed by them or feeling their effect in the company. But there are few who I consider had a lasting positive impact on my life! I remember having a manager who shielded us from external pressures so we could have the biggest impact, and how much that impacted our daily Job. Other times I felt heard and supported, allowing me to focus on my tasks. And I loved seeing how they embraced playfulness, fostering a funnier (and more engaging!) environment.

Most middle management is pushing for more productivity and longer work hours, without taking into consideration the impact that has. There are many traits from traditional management that really put me off, even when they sugar coat it with phrases like “we will share the success together!”. I understand there are deadlines. I know we are talking about work, and many times it will feel like a chore. But if we are trying to make something creative, that style of leadership will alienate me instead of bringing my best self.

Luckily, there are some leaders who are taking a completely different approach, and you can clearly see the effects. When I feel inspired by a mentor, I bring my A game every single time. It can be because I can focus on my small area of expertise while feeling supported on all those that make me struggle. Other times, I just have so much joy (and respect for their work) during my interactions with them, that I can help but look forward to meeting and working together!

What makes an inspiring leader

So, which traits define these magical leaders? They can be many and varied. Some have such a passionate vision that most of us can’t help but jump on their wagon regardless of what is required from us; like Elon Musk and his contagious passion. Others show how they prioritize their life and family, earning my respect and making me dream of becoming like them one day; like Jeff Bezos talking about quality over quantity of working hours. There are also the ones who include some level of playing or showing how to deal with a problem by setting themselves as examples; like Dick Costolo and how improvisation made him a better leader.

What do I value the most from a manager, then? Bringing a well-defined vision makes a huge impact on me. When they believe in the direction we are heading and feel passionate about our goal, I easily get on board. And that is no easy task! A big part of my job is offering counter-arguments and adding reality to our vision, and I feel that passion is the best way to win me. Another thing I strongly value is showing real competence, while still deciding to trust and delegate some of their tasks to the team. I feel empowered when I am trusted with a task by someone who is capable of doing it but recognizes their value of focusing on what they can impact the most.

What makes me run away from a manager? Feeling micromanaged easily makes me lose the motivation, even if I understand the value of checking for progress regularly and finding blockers early. Being managed by someone who focuses heavily on a strict process, without really understanding how it affects the rest of the team and lacking the fluidity needed to grow. I can also have difficulting if I am led by someone who doesn’t show expertise on our tasks, making it way more difficult to share success stories and explain the difficulties that I am facing.

Am I ready to become a leader?

I am approaching the point in my career when I am no longer scared of management tasks, and I really want to understand what shall I focus on if I want to become a manager. I would love to learn more from game theory and gamification, to create rewarding and engaging environments. And I should improve the ways I give and receive feedback, being a critical part of any leadership position.

If you are interested in the topic and you would like to learn more, there are many books which have inspired me on the subject. As I previously mentioned, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less taught me the importance of focusing on your biggest impact. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most helped to build your tools in those moments that matter the most. There are also many skills from improvisation that easily translate to team environments like focusing on listening, embracing the fact that you will have to drop your ideas, the joy of playing or focusing on this exact moment; just to name a few!

Let me hear from you!

What do you value from a manager? What would you recommend to some of your previous managers? If you are a leader, what do you struggle the most with? Do you agree with the points exposed here? Please, I would love to hear from your experience!

Three steps to improve the quality of your development process in a startup

I’ve been working in the IT industry as a QA engineer since the start of my career. Sometimes, my position was just hands-on testing in a waterfall-like process; other times I worked closely with the developers to write all the automation needed before the feature was considered done. Every company offers a different approach on how to increase the quality of their product, and I’ve also seen companies trying the same thing with completely different results. But there is always something that kept being constant: when a company reaches enough user-mass or the codebase gets big enough, the conversation about ensuring quality gets more and more important. Speed and productivity matter less if you alienate the users with buggy releases, and your engineering team gets afraid of areas in your code which changes _always carry side effects_. That is the moment when the way of _just getting things done_ that has worked till now starts getting on the way of a healthy product. That’s the point when the organization thinks on increasing the QA headcount.

Currently, I’m facing this situation again, with the difference that I feel way more prepared. Of course, every company has a different way of working, but starting to be a veteran in the industry allows me to recognize common troupes and analyze the situation with frameworks which worked for me on previous cases. For some of these steps, I highly recommend finding a person who will bring the expertise on automation or testing principles in your team, but a lot of these steps can be performed without by anyone, especially if you already count with a Quality-crusader in your ranks. And that’s what I’m going to help you with right now, giving you an example of the steps you can take to start improving the quality of your product and processes by yourself.

Before starting, I would like to share the first step I take when joining a new startup, particularly if there’s not a defined Quality process in place. I always start finding the Quality Crusaders currently working with you, those bright knights who, regardless of their work title, push for a quality-first approach of working and cares about following best practices. I even ask for them during my interviews when considering a new job. Having allies who will share their view on how to improve the current situation is invaluable. So, find them, and involve them in these first steps!

Step one. Describe the development process.

Ok, so we are all making software here. And the process seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Some people sit in a corner. They write some code. They push that code somewhere. And our users enjoy it. Pretty simple. So let’s add a little bit more flavor to it, shall we?

I like to start naming the different the different states that a task (bug fix, feature, etc.) goes through before our users enjoy it to pieces. Of course, this is more of a guideline than a cooking recipe, but I’ll describe an example as broad as possible so hopefully, you can get inspired. In this case, a task can come from a bug report, a new feature requested on some work that we want to do internally (tech debt, etc.). At some point, an engineer will pick it up and start working on it. It will land the codebase. It will be deployed to some testing environment. And finally, it’ll be in our user’s hands. So, without caring about actions and transitions, the states would be:

Coding – Code on the repository – Testing environment – Production

Now, let’s start the fun part. If we know that our code will go through these steps, how can we improve the quality adding actions or extra transitions?

Step two. How can we inject that quality?

This will drastically change depending on the previous experiences of your team, as well as what are they currently doing. Involve different people in this step, as they’ll offer valuable insight from their previous works of things that worked and didn’t. This is an example of what I’ve proposed in previous occasions. I usually include a short description of the different steps.

Copy of Quality Process

For instance, involving people with different expertise on a Design Document before starting to work on a feature has worked with great success for me. That document can take any shape, but having a little discussion on what is the problem that we’re trying to solve, where does it interact with other modules, what is the threshold needed to feel the implementation is good-enough helps A LOT to most engineers when working on it. Just having “what might go wrong” in the back of your head while you’re coding a solution can work wonders.

Another key element, apart from the description, is figuring out the owners of those actions. As I said, many don’t require any new technical expertise in your organization like Design Document, or Demo Testing where the developer runs through the solution with a peer or a product person to spot errors and understand how others verify that feature. Others really benefit from a specific skillset. That’s why, for instance, I took the ownership of working on the automation that will provide a smooth and reliable way to assess a solution. I’d work on building and improving the frameworks (Unit, Integration, End to end, Performance testing…), as well as working with the team so we can all embrace quality.

I also recommend that you don’t try to tackle all solutions at the same time. Set priorities, where can you get more bang for your buck, which skillsets do you already have, etc. All of these solutions will go through different cycles, and spending enough time and energy to set a nice foundation will help with the resistance that every organization faces when introducing change. Focus on feeling a constant momentum of change an improvement, instead of the speed of that change. Personally, the workplaces where I could focus on a steady pace, end up having a way more impactful change in the end.

Step three. Measuring the impact, reviewing and improving.

This is, in my experience, the hardest part. It’s really difficult to measure the impact of shifting to a quality-focused development process. Are you having more bugs because the engineers are working on a harder problem? Or did we get better at finding those bugs? As a quality engineer, part of my job is also finding ways to measure the impact of any change, so we can iterate through them and find a better approach. We all share a common goal: develop a product that will bring more value to our users, and doing it in an environment that we enjoy working at.

Spend some time profiling the process so you can get data on it. Sometimes, it’s as easy as holding periodical meetings where people discuss how it worked or didn’t work for them; or you can find entry points of measurements to take a data-driven decision. Be mindful of how hard this task is. If people feel that they would be reviewed by these metrics, they would be reluctant of iterating and embracing them. This is not about pointing fingers, but devising a way to improve the process for everyone.

As in most tasks I usually work on have more an internal impact than an external one, I like to measure my success on the perception of the codebase by our engineers. Of course, I hope that changes in frameworks and automation will impact the end user experience; but I like to focus on our team first. Examples on measurements that I use are: periodical surveys to the engineering team on how much they like working in our codebase, or how safe they feel when doing a refactor or change based on our automation; pairing with different developers so I can see how they work and their interactions with the frameworks; workshops on how to approach different bugs or problems; etc.

Another thing to be mindful of is that, at this stage in a startup, Quality is a buzzword used as an escape goat quite often. Most teams had to focus on quick and “dirty” deliveries on their first steps as an organization. When the conversation about Quality starts arising, it’s usually because that speed has started to produce difficult releases, and “the lack of a QA in your team” is frequently used as an excuse. Having people with different expertise always bring value, but it’s everyone’s responsibility in following the best possible practices to their knowledge, and voicing their complains about the current process. This situation can also create a toxic situation where, after hiring someone who that expertise, it’d be required from them to just fix everything.

Final notes

To wrap it up, I want to finish that this is not a magical tool that will increase your productivity and ensure the quality of your product by itself. This is a progressive change of mindset. It’s about changing how we work to spend more time on “how we can ensure and verify the solution”, and less on “how can we get done with this as soon as possible”. I personally believe (and I’m backed by plenty of evidence) that an increase of the efforts regarding quality will also bring speed on the long run, as it will require less of the VERY COSTLY redoing and fixing, that can also undermine the spirit of our engineer team.

If you’re starting to ask these questions in your organization: congratulations, you’re going through a change that your users will thank, and will produce less churn on your engineering team. But, I’m also really curious about your approach. What is the situation that brought you to start talking about Quality? What are the current solutions that your team is working with? Which are the points are you most struggling with?

The book of the five rings: Why

I’m enjoying The book of the five rings (Miyamoto Mushashi) way more than what I thought. It’s not only teaching m about martial arts and war but all the lessons are easily applicable to professional and personal situations. Even if I wish to never have to apply this knowledge about sword mastering in my real life (although with my passion of role games, I know they’re going to be handy!), revisiting some experiences in my head as they were a duel, running through all the points Mushashi explain in this amazing book.

What hooked me to continue reading (on top of my inner nerd feeling like a ninja!) was how surprisingly relatable were the lessons and statements to my career. And we’re talking about a half a century old manuscript about surviving duels to the death.

For instance, Mr Mushashi talks about how a bad rhythm can kill you. Moving too fast in a fight is as bad as being slow, as you might make a mistake. That’s why he always keep a steady pace: fighting, walking and living. It allows you to study your opponent and plan a strategy.

He also says that repeating a technique that previously failed will kill you. You might be tempted thinking that the failure was because a bad performance, but the chance of another failure is really high. If you tried it and manage to survive, your adversary will be ready for the third time. And you’ll die.

He stays the importance of your environment. Every one of its details might be an advantage, and you have to avoid that they become an adversity. You should also have expertise with a large variety of weapons, not just mastering a few of them like other duelling schools. Adaptability is required if you plan to keep duelling and survive. People will bring new weapons and tools, and they’ll focus on countering the common techniques.

As he says: no technique is invalid if it makes you survive. I want to end talking about the book with some if its quotes:

“Do nothing that is of no use”

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet”

“You can only fight the way you practice”

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain”

― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

May the force be with you,