How The Game improved the relationship with my colleagues

“Any action or experience contain a lesson” is one of the mottos that rules my life. I truly believe it. It’s probably due to spending too much time thinking about anything, but I can extract a lesson from any of my experiences, as well as most of the games I’ve played, books I’ve read or movies I’ve enjoyed. That doesn’t mean that every lesson has the same value, as it varies dramatically depending on my context at that moment. But that’s why I try to always meet new people (from their stories is really easy to learn something), consume a variety of media and read from a diverse book pool. One of the examples is described here.

And that’s why I ended reading The Game. The book talks about a pickup artist society and how much the life of the writer changed after learning how to seduce a woman (that’s a really vague summary). I love learning about human behaviour, particularly when it focuses on the subliminal realm, so this book gave me loads of insight about how people react to certain patterns, as well as formalising in words some thoughts I already had (which helps a lot, knowing something and being able to express it are different levels of understanding a subject).

But we’re here to discuss what The Game taught me that was applicable in my life, not talking about the cheesy pickup techniques that are probably outdated and culturally dependent. I really think it helped me stepping up my workplace relationships. And no, I’m not saying I started flirting with me colleagues.

Your working environment is ruled by human relationships, that’s a fact. Even if you’re working on a high technical field where people try to encapsulate themselves to get into “the zone”; teams are the one achieving amazing projects, not bright individuals. So, if the way you talk with your colleagues, you set expectations with your manager, you manage some problems and you react to some interruptions are going to drastically change the moral and energy of your team; every single lesson that teaches me how to understand and optimise this interaction makes me a better professional.

With optimising iterations I’m not meaning trying to pursue and lie someone so things are going the path you want because that collides with my “do not be evil” motto. Optimising for me is being able to identify those “naughty tricks” some professionals use to reach their goals, learning when to express admiration, size when to take the leadership and how can show them your value. The Game gives you examples of situations where saying something completely changed the outcome, either ruining the game or delivering success. And, being honest, if you know how to overcome yourself and keep trying in the game, you’ll be way more prepared for any awkward situation. It also focuses on realising your environment and find the best technique for each context.

Being more specific, I’m going to share some quotes that have been helpful in my life. not all of them are from Neil Strauss but, for me, they related to what I learnt from the book.

What you look like doesn’t matter. But how you present yourself does.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take

The cat string theory is the most accurate theory of all time: As humans, we don’t appreciate things that just fall into our laps. We find more value when we have to bust through personal boundaries, overcome obstacles, and do things we originally thought we could not.

Be a closer: Most people are not closers and never finish what they start. I’m definitely guilty of this on occasion, I get overly excited, commit to everything, and often never finish projects I start.

Some of you may even sabotage your own progress because you’re afraid you won’t find what you seek. I don’t know about you but I’d rather find adventure in the quest than finding comfort in sitting idle.

Everything you do matters: In the end it all counts, it’s cumulative, LIVE!

May the force be with you,

Gino

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How applying to another company made me a better tester

I always say that a good professional has to be always in the market. Has to understand how the industry is shifting, what other companies are looking for, the new roles that are emerging and think about your career. Obviously, during the process, you start questioning if your current role is the one you really like, and usually apply to a position that better fits your current needs and expertise. In this case, I applied for my dream position but got a negative response during one of the last steps. But we are not here to talk about my failure now, so let’s focus on why the experience made me a better tester for my employer at that moment instead.

So, at that point, I just stopped fearing at my workplace. I started being honest when I don’t share the decision, openly giving feedback no matter where it comes from. I started saying no when I get asked to do something that I don’t see value on, explaining to them why that other approach would be better. I spent loads of my spare time reading and learning, trying new experimental (new for me) approaches in any area I wasn’t comfortable with the results. I started giving me the luxury of going bold spending the time doing what I think would deliver better results (I.e. getting involved with the user testing, UX designs, etc.). It has been a time of high risk and high gain so far. I made the assumption that I’m here because of my skills and my knowledge, so I don’t have to convince anyone prior to taking an action as long as I think it’d improve our processes, product or moral.

One of the examples is saying no when I was asked to automate every piece of testing for our GUI. I’m a Software Developer in Test, I believe that automation (or how I prefer to call it, software tools for testing as described my James Bach here) allows to enhances quality in lots of ways, for example providing an exhaustive safety net to prevent regressions while building an extensively updated documentation; but, at that time and with that team, only focusing on automation wasn’t going to give us the value we needed. Instead, I focused my efforts on building a minimum GUI automated checking suite, while spending the rest of the time giving feedback on the product prior to the release through exploratory testing session, an informal way to centralise and share it (a Google Sheet instead of the usual Jira bug tracking), pairing with the developers doing a quick demo after the feature was done and involving everyone who volunteered (ranging from designers, stakeholders, operations..) to give feedback about the features, experience and suggestions (using myself as a hub to deal with duplicated feedback, fixes already on the pipeline and reducing noise). I would have never tried this if I wasn’t spent some time on the recruitment process learning about exploratory testing, if I still feared to say no or if I didn’t question my expertise considering areas outside automation.

Other areas where I feel it affected my job was dealing differently with each team, considering in each situation how should I approach the Quality. Previously, I tried to standardise how the company deals with Quality, but every small development team had different levels of involvement with Quality and my energies (as the only QA) were limited; so I found way more valuable to trust the approach of the ones who already see quality as part of their deliverable and dive deeper in the cases where changes were needed. In some cases, it only took the time of slightly changing the output for a cleaner reporting, reviewing their progress and offering consultancy and guidance; using the majority of my time addressing processes and assessing the Quality of the deliverables for the teams who needed more help.

This situation taught me that working in an open environment where you don’t fear about being questioned about your decisions (either if it’s because the company culture, or because you stop fearing to be fired) makes me a better professional, especially a better tester. For me, tester’s duties consist on questioning every process and methodology in order to change them to delivering higher quality products, hopefully leveraging the development process during the journey.

I was in a recruitment process because I felt that opportunity would be more enjoyable and enlightening. That mean I needed to either change how I was working to enjoy it more and learn as much as I could, or get sacked because stakeholders didn’t like the new approach. Either way sounded like a win for me.

May the force be with you,
Gino

How killing raid bosses made me better colleague

OK, some of you won’t even know that a raid boss is, and those who know won’t probably see any relation; so let’s start from the beginning.

MMO is a genre inside video games, and it’s principal characteristic (I’m my opinion) is having a huge number of players working together for the same goal. The most famous example is probably World of Warcraft. One of the activities most of these games offer are Raids, which are challenges for a considerable number of players (10-25 usually) that need to be accomplished through coordination, proper leadership and fast reacting. And I’ve just spoiled you.

In order to succeed on them, I had to commit to a time schedule, build some relationship with my guild mates, learn some strategy or, in the funniest of the cases, worked it out with my friends failure after failure. There were some days when we spent hours retrying a hard challenge without beating it, even if we achieved small improvements (and learnt some mechanics). I really remember those experiences and feel so lucky. If you don’t know how it feels, or you just want to remember it, malukah’s beautiful post is for you.

And now, back to our business. OK, we know what a raid boss is, and how can it affect my career? I truly believe that every single of your experiences sculpts you, to a greater or lesser extent. I think those were the first times when I had to meet people’s expectations (and it was completely volunteer) while learning how to handle them. I had to commit my time, spent my energies keeping the moral up, convinced stakeholders to try another approach, decided when to take a break… Do these skills sound familiar to you? And, for me, the most important thing was that I was enjoying my team while learning because I was just trying my best to beat the challenge.

Years later, when I spent some time raiding again in another video game, I was the one explaining to the team the different approaches people are trying online so we can build our own with those premises. It was my duty due to my insane obsession with knowledge and efficiency that forced me to surf the net understanding the challenges. It also forced me to talk over a mic with Swedish, German and Polish people. Believe me, if make fun of me now because of my English, it was a huge step for me talking with those guys back then.

And this why I believe that every single of your experiences makes you the person (and professional) you are right now. For me, that was the time when I started building some of the skills I am proud about now.

Remember it when you start yelling at your child for wasting too much time playing video games. It’s not a completely waste of time!

May the force be with you.
Good luck & Have fun,
Gino