Coaching Culture 2022 – A Day of Inspiration

It’s been a while since my last post, and since today has been such an inspiring day, I thought it was a good opportunity to get back to writing.

I was given an opportunity through an internal Leadership Programme, to attend a conference of choice. I decided to go for something outside of the usual Software/Testing conferences and to go for something I’m keen to learn more about and that is Coaching. I’ve enjoyed having a coach this year (thank you Galia!) and am keen to do more to continue coaching my teams and build a coaching culture. I came across this conference by chance when looking for Coaching resources, Coaching Culture are an organisation which provides a Coaching Solution to help organisations transform their mindsets and their annual conference has been running for a few years. I’d listened to some of their podcast episodes and was excited to hear more during the day.

It was located at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham, so I made the straight forward drive up the M1 to be there in time for the start. I made it with about 5 minutes to spare before the first talk, and while the host for the day (the legendary Tim Roberts!) was warming the audience up. I learned about Tim through my initial discovering of Coaching Culture earlier this year and have been bowled over by Tims enthusiasm, passion and really candid style. His book (Break the Mould) came out this year and it’s the first book I have started reading again a second time literally as soon as finishing it the first time.

The conference was layed out in tables rather than the traditional conference setup, which was great because especially travelling alone, it meant I was instantly thrust into conversation with some really inspiring people from lots of different backgrounds and roles, including an actual Cardiologist who is trying to bring a Coaching Culture into NHS hospitals (Dr Toomas Sarev) along with Dawn, Natalie, Stephen, Joanne and a few others who’s names I can’t remember (sorry 😦 )

Session 1 – What Great Looks Like at Etihad Airways Group with Andrew Stotter-Brooks

The first session was a fireside chat/interview between the Coaching Culture CEO Jo Wright and the VP of Learning & Development for Etihad Airways, Andrew Stotter-Brooks. Before the day, this was the session I was most intrigued about due to the fact it was another airline and hopefully I could bring some learnings back to my workplace.

Andrew had a really relaxed and enthusiastic style in telling his journey and stories. It was also great to hear the history of Etihad Airways. It didn’t surprise me to hear that for a long time, Andrew said the culture at Etihad was very hierarchical and all about rules and processes, but what did surprise me was to hear that the airline didn’t make a profit for the first 17 years and as Andrew helped to change the culture, this changed and helped towards transforming them into one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

Andrew shared how the culture changes all started with asking questions in all directions, not just with his immediate teams, but also upwards, including a challenging conversation with the chairman of the airways group who insisted they were the expert even though they hadn’t worked on the ground with the airline alongside crew/ground ops etc for the duration of the companies existence. Andrew pushing that they were infact the experts. It was great to hear stories of these types of challenging conversations.

Andrew talked through some key actions that helped transform the culture:

  1. Align the org through coaching
  2. Ensure everyone feels they are part of something
  3. Give feedback and ask questions
  4. Be part of the growing and learning alongside the teams
  5. Genuinely care and be kind

“People never forget how you make them feel”

Andrew Stotter-Brooks, Coaching Culture Conference 2022

A really interesting session that I feel I took some genuine actions from and was now really hyped for the rest of the day.

Session 2 – Hiring and Leading for the Future of Work with Indy Lachhar

The next session was a talk from Global HR Leader Indy Lachhar. Indy had a real positive presence on stage and kept everyone engaged with her energy and passion throughout her talk.

“We want people to rock up to work as Humans”

Indy Lachhar, Coaching Culture Conference 2022

She covered some really poignant stats based on surveys of employees from various organisations which showed that large proportions of them felt leaders needed to be more empathetic to work-life balance and also that their orgs needed a better understanding of Mental Health. This also lead to sharing reasons why employees feel disconnected and challenges face by employers:

Indy discussed the concept of Quiet Quitting and also a term I hadn’t heard before which was “Act Your Wage”, meaning you do what you’re paid for and nothing more. This list was quite eye opening as it shows it’s common across the majority of employers. This doesn’t make it any easier for our own hiring/retention challenges, but it does somewhat help to know we aren’t alone.

This lead to Indy discussing around how we can build a culture which employees want to align with and that they also feel connected to. This includes ensuring the employees know their value and they are empowered to deliver that value. This lead to two questions we can help employees ask themselves:

  1. “Do I feel genuinely aligned to the company Culture?”
  2. “Do I feel like I belong?”

Indy then talked through some key areas of focus when hiring for the future, including areas such as “The Power of Network”, ensuring a “Human Hiring Process” and “engaging managers” to help ensure everyone is involved and pulling in the same direction. I really agreed with these as so often the recruitment process can be disconnected on both sides, from the candidate not being kept up to date and equally from the hiring manager unaware of the progress the recruitment team may be making.

Indy then covered key skills leaders need to demonstrate in order to help hire the teams of tomorrow. Including Swift/Effective Decisions, Engaging and Building Trust, Balancing Well-being and activity and embracing change and innovation. For me these are key and I have actively been trying to follow these things subconsciously for a while, especially as my team has grown and the hiring process has become more constant as far as always having new people coming in. Indy then briefly talked about how orgs need to work on developing their own leaders through internal development programmes, engagement surveys and talent development, thankfully these are things my company seem to be doing quite well with at this point. 🙂

This was a really great talk, and was interesting for me to hear from a recruitment company on their perception of the market and how companies can help resolve some of the challenges.

Session 3 – Why Every Organisation Should Have a Culture Deck with Jo Wright

The third session was the Coaching Culture CEO Jo Wright, presenting about the concept of moving from Company values to more of a Culture Deck format. This was really insightful (with lots of humour added in) which really got me thinking about how we look at company values.

Jo defined Culture as “A Set of values, beliefs and behaviours that guide how a company’s employees interact”. This got me thinking about how it often seems to be an activity that can be shared publicly to define company values and be seen as more of a marketing exercise, than actually used internally with the employees living the values. I have certainly seen this in some of my previous roles…

The above stats Jo shared didn’t surprise me, infact for the first one, I would probably expect that to be higher than 49% for most companies, so often it feels like values are created then shoved in a draw and forgotten about. With the second one (70% of employee values weren’t the same as company values). This should be a given, surely? There are always going to be differences, it’s more about being able to align to the company goals without conflict. I’ve certainly had to leave previous roles because I felt conflicted with the company goals, especially when they changed over time.

Jo then talks about what a culture deck is and some of the examples of the Coaching Culture, Culture codes are:

“A Culture Deck is Company Shorthand full of idioms and memorable quirky phrases”

Jo Wright, Coaching Culture Conference, 2022

I like the idea of the culture deck and I know companies like Netflix have gone with this approach. It was also to hear some of the culture codes that Coaching Culture have in theirs:

  1. We eat our own dogfood
  2. Don’t Microwave fish (not literally, but more about not doing inconsiderate things to upset others – there is a youtube video about this…)
  3. We’re all on the same team

Jo challenges us to come up with our own. Some great responses from the audience including my personal favourite:

“Rather have a Hole than an A***hole!”

Which clearly lends to getting rid of bad people and coping without, being better than struggling on with the wrong person. Something I can relate to across my career.

Jo then made some really good points about how to frame them when building them out as an organisation:

  • What makes your organisation special?
  • What are your principles you would want everyone to follow?
  • Clarify the culture codes
  • Make them Meaningful, Memorable and Measurable
  • Champion them
  • Recruit against them
  • Keep them alive
  • Evolve them

I really enjoyed Jo’s talk and am keen to understand both with my team and the org as a whole, what we can do better in this area. Having these kinds of conversations could be fun!

Session 4 – The Importance of Belonging with Nichole McGill-Higgins

The next session was my favourite talk of the day. Nichole is a Belonging Leadership Coach and presented some really eye-opening content as well as backing up content I have presented in the last year around Neurodiversity/D&I. She started with this great slide:

I took so many notes from this talk, that I won’t be able to give it all justice here. Nichole started by giving a description of the differences between Identity, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

This is always a really good refresher and frames the differences between the 5 in an understandable way. Nichole then gave the following description for Belonging:

“Goal is to create environment where everyone feels that they are accepted, understood, welcomed and involved”

Nichole McGill-Higgins, Coaching Culture Conference, 2022

The next topic covered was biases, Nichole gave a really good exercise which really opened my eyes to the concept of default biases. She asked us to all close our eyes and then talked through the following scenario:

You are flying to a destination to attend a conference…

  • You walk onto the plane and are greeted by the pilot.
  • You get to your destination, check in to your hotel, decide to grab some lunch and there are a couple on their honeymoon on the table next to you
  • You get to the conference and the CEO is on stage presenting

Nichole then asked us to think about what the pilot, the couple and the CEO looked like in our head. For me the pilot was a white male, the couple were a young white heterosexual couple and the CEO was an older white male. This is my default bias and as Nichole said, this is OK aslong as we are aware of our default bias.

She then stated the following points for biases in the workplace:

  • Think about the potential biases you could have when hiring or promoting
  • What can you do to mitigate biases in your day to day?
  • How can you share the knowledge with your team?

These are really crucial points which got me thinking about how I can react and deal with biases in the workplace.

Some key points were also made about building a better employee experience:

  1. Train Leaders to be compassionate people managers
  2. Walk the talk: small efforts matter to feeling included
  3. Priorise Inclusivity
  4. Create “doors” not “walls”
  5. Foster a high-trust caring environment

Looking at the above list, it feels obvious now I’ve written it down, but I hadn’t conciously looked at it in this way. There is so much more we can do around ensuring the team feel included.

I could continue writing loads more on this talk, I learned so much to take back and will be reaching out to Nichole to discuss some of it more. But some key phrases that I couldn’t not include:

  • Remove the HIPPO (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion) from the room
  • Behind every privilege is an imbalance of power and it’s invisible to those who have it
  • Get Curious, Not Furious
  • Psychological safety should be understood and owned by leadership

Then to finish this talk off, i need to leave the reflections slide here which was key to bring it all together:

It was then time for lunch, and it was another chance to network. I ended up sitting with Caspar Craven and sharing a lot of thoughts around a range of topics. It was great to spend time with Caspar before his session in the afternoon. It was after this lunchtime chat that I purchased his book “Be More Human”.

Session 5 – Rethinking the rules of High-Performing Teams with Caspar Craven

This session was another interview session with Jo Wright, and the dynamic between Jo and Caspar worked really well. Caspar started by stating that it is humans at the heart of teams. This is a very poignant statement, especially being in the Tech world, it is easy to be lead by the systems and technology and leave the people behind. Caspar also mentioned that putting numbers first over people, just doesn’t work and this is another point that resonates and is part of the reason one of my mantras is “People over Projects”, as it is crucial that if the people are supported enough to achieve their potential, then everything else will fall into place.

It was interesting to hear the discussion around the fact that Caspar feels he can use the same set of skills at home as he does at work and infact talked about how he’s worked with his family on setting a vision, values and working on their strengths in discussions. I would love to find a way to improve this as I personally sometimes feel like my best self is seen at work and my family get a lesser/disorganised version of me who has channeled energy into my work. Maybe something to pick up with Caspar 🙂

I liked the concept of the values being a big part of the discussion, rather than just being on the wall and that goes hand in hand with the things we want to celebrate more and discussion the things we are doing well.

When talking more about his book “Be More Human”, Caspar paraphased a quote around the type of creatures humans are: “We’re not thinking creatures who feel, we are feeling creatures who think”. Which really helps to articulate that the way someone feels needs to be considered and this goes back to quotes from earlier talks around people always remembering how they were made to feel by someone.

Jo asked Caspar about growing a culture in the workplace, and Caspar’s response is definitely quote-worthy:

“Think like a farmer, apply seeds, sunshine and water”

Caspar Craven, Coaching Culture Conference, 2022

This links well to my “Growing A Culture of Quality – A Model” blog post as Caspar talked about finding the evangelists who can help the seeds grow. This then lead onto talking about opening the passion of every person by finding their zone of brilliance/engagement and encouraging more of it.

Jo then asked Caspar what leaders could do more and he suggested encouraging leaders to share their mistakes/flaws/struggles as this creates space for others to follow and open up too. This is something I have been doing for a while now, and I feel like it means my team and peers get a more authentic version of me!

This was a really insightful session and I haven’t even mentioned the stories of Caspar and family’s adventures at sea, but I believe there may be a book out there about that too 🙂

Session 6 – How Silva Homes built a Coaching Culture with Rob Smyth

The next session was another interview session with Jo Wright. Rob Smyth is the Executive Director (People, Digital and Change) at Silva Homes and talked about leading the organisation through transformational change to create a coaching culture.

To start with, Rob talked through the reasons for starting the transformation. Silva Homes are a Housing Association based in the Bracknell area:

  • The company has a new executive team
  • They changed name
  • Wanted to transform everything
  • Re-designed all organisation structures
  • Had a 50% turnover of staff for various reasons

Rob said the company had realised the way it was lead and the support for staff was not where it should be.

Jo then asked Rob to talk through some of the actions Silva took to try and move the needle in the right direction. These included:

  • Describing the Culture – sent a series of surveys to teams, performed video interviews to try and gauge the behaviours they wanted to see. Also try to increase levels of accountability, creativity and engagement
  • Engaged Coaching Culture to support – worked out what coaching was needed for managers and colleagues. Built out a plan of workshops and also performed some sessions with Senior Leadership
  • Redesigned Performance Programme
  • Changed 1-1 Format
  • Changed the recruitment process – 50% interview questions to be focused on Coaching/Behaviour/Culture
  • Introduced Cross Team Activities
  • Built into rewards/recognition process

Rob said it was clear that some teams picked up the culture quicker than others and also that sometimes there was a desire for coaching but time restrictions meant a more directive approach was needed.

One of the final things Rob mentioned was his pride and excitement in overhearing Coaching conversations between the team themselves in the kitchen/canteen area, and for him this was a sign of things working well.

Another really interesting session and for me, another non-tech company showing the value of the coaching culture moving things forward.

Session 7 – How Thinking Like A Marketer Will Get People Queuing Up for You Coaching Programme with Adam Kara

Adam is one of the co-founders of Coaching Culture and he came and presented his ideas on bringing Marketing into the mindset when building the coaching culture.

He started by presenting the concept of the 3 M’s of Marketing. For me not being aware of much around Marketing, I hadn’t come across the 3 M’s so this was new and useful to learn:

  • Market – Who is your audience? Get a clear profile.
  • Message – What’s in it for them? Solve a problem and stay relevant
  • Media – What is their attention? Fish where the fish live

These make sense and got me thinking about how I work on selling my department internally using these 3 M’s to get the message right and socialise it in the right places.

Adam briefly talked about lifecycle marketing including Employee lifecycle and Campaign/project lifecycle and how being aware of these can help us pitch and market programmes in the right way and at the right times.

Adam then talked about some of the different influences that can aid with selling the next step. These were:

  • Social Proof
  • Commitment
  • Reciprocation
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

This was again useful to get an understanding of some of the different factors which can impact peoples decision to buy something or agree to take part. We should take advantage of these to help get our message and skills out wider across our organisations.

Adam also gave a plug to the Coaching Culture’s new “Coach Approach Pilot Programme” which we all got a printout of as part of our goody bags

Session 8 – How the Institute of Occupational Medicine built a Coaching Culture with Michelle Reid

Now for the final session of the day, and even by 3.30, the energy was still high. Partly down to Tim’s great MC’ing and also for the table discussions which I honestly felt helped frame the talks well and would encourage other conferences to look at this in the future.

Michelle is the HR Director at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Scotland and was also one of the first customers of Coaching Culture. Clearly there was already a great rapport between Jo and Michelle when they sat down for this interview on stage.

Michelle started by discussing the state of the organisation, stating that when she joined it was disjointed, but there was next to no turnover in staff and no issues with sickness. So the workforce was strong, but it was felt they were missing a connection to a purpose. So Michelle decided that the way to get into the detail of how the team were feeling was to walk around and speak to everyone in all areas of the company, asking the following 3 questions:

  • What do you like about working here?
  • What do you not like?
  • What would you change?

Michelle also mentioned that the Senior Management team were disconnected, so she worked to bring the people on the ground closer and use them to influence the C-Suite.

She noticed there seemed to be a need for the teams to ask permission, so tried to reframe the questions to “What’s stopping you doing X?”, to understand the blockers and help empower the teams more. By giving the teams more purpose and autonomy, Michelle noticed a 5x upturn in the amount of work being completed.

One inspirational story that Michelle covered was about how the company pulled together during the pandemic. They were able to mobilise remotely within 24hrs and the team were willing to help keep the company running by taking paycuts. This showed the team had become self-sufficient and were coaching themselves.

Great quote from Michelle towards the end of her session:

Think about your Org as a house of people. People within the house create the culture”

Michelle Reid, Coaching Culture Conference 2022

From this, Michelle mentioned that the people will want to know how valued they are, what value they bring and what value they get back. She also mentioned that the C-Suite are human too and sometimes, this reminder is needed.

Overall, a really great and inspirational session, I have connected with Michelle since the event and plan to learn more from her.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely loved the conference, every session was packed full of useful information. Lots of inspiring people met and will be keeping in touch with going forward. I was gutted I couldn’t stay for the awards ceremony afterwards, but I now have a goal to find a way to speak about our coaching journey in my org at work and maybe even get us nominated for some of the awards next year.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

Something, I am certainly aspiring towards.

Building a World Class Test Team

I’m starting 2022 in a more senior role, and it has been an aspiration for the last few years to build myself up to this point. I’ve learned so much since I left my first role in management in 2018 and moved towards more senior leadership roles. One of the big things I believe I have learned along the way, through both positive and negative experiences, is the value in building the best team possible and understanding both “what” that means and “how” you get there.

What does a World Class Test Team Look Like?

Obviously, context applies here, but in my experience there are some ways which have helped identify at a high level where we are on our journey as a team to become “World Class”.

A Good Test team could be classed as a cohesive unit which ensures products are released to a high level of quality. They may or may not be embedded within their delivery team, but they are trusted that the testing they do will discover the majority of issues before release. Automation may be in it’s infancy, but what they do have in place provides value.

A Great Test team would be the above and also may help prevent defects being added into the code as well as finding them during any test execution activities. They may also be striving to improve the quality practices within the teams they work closely with. They will have good amounts of automation to compliment their manual testing and are working towards the right balance

A World Class Test team would be all the above. They would also have a positive reputation across the entire organisation for being advocates for quality, thinking about the users and driving the business towards their aim of the best products possible. They would be a diverse and inclusive team who are embedded across the business and not siloed in one area. A constant and trusted part of all product discussions at all levels but not seen as a single sign-off for releases. They have worked with teams to ensure quality is part of everyone’s thinking, but work to continue coaching best practices to improve the confidence and view of quality. Automation is a big part of their testing, but they have a balance to ensure they are automating the right types of tests and compliment this with other forms of investigative testing. Most importantly, the team have a culture of wanting to continuously improve both themselves and the products

It’s obviously not that black and white, but knowing that you can improve the work you do should be seen as a positive to help move the team forward. Of course, the journey never ends, there are always ways to improve.

How Do You Build A World Class Test Team?

As a leader of a team (whether formally or as someone who is pro-active in wanting to drive the team forward), there are some steps you can take to help assess where on the journey you may be.

  1. How outward looking are the team? – I’ve worked in teams in the past who have been very strong “9-5 Testers”, which there is nothing wrong with, but they tend to think the way they test currently is the only way to do it. By understanding where your team are, you know what you are preparing yourself for.
  2. Assess the teams capabilities – knowing whether they are involved in looking at what is going on in the wider test community can help you start to understand their capabilities. Look into the types of testing and activities needed to test to the level needed to provide high quality products and find ways to assess where individuals are in their abilities with these activities. If there are gaps, look at ways to upskill the team members either through external courses, or online material and giving them time to learn.
  3. Break the mould with new hires – You may have a good team of testers already, but are there gaps in their knowledge, are there areas of testing which they lack the skills to perform? These would be good places to start. But for me, the bigger area to focus is on bringing in resources who may evolve the way the team works, ones who may be active in the wider external testing community and hence are able to bring new trends and technologies to the table and encourage learning and sharing within the team. This happened for my team in 2021 and the way we work as a result of these hire has transformed in an incredibly positive way.
  4. Engage them and show them that Testing can be fun – Try and move away from the “9-5 testing” view where you can, of course testing is an activity which needs doing, but it can be more interesting than just ticking a box to say a test has passed. Encourage the team to think outside the box. One way to do this would be to start doing some internal community events, whether it be an external speaker or even a group testing activity like mob testing or splitting into pairs and exploratory testing your product, working with someone you may or may not have worked with before. Doing these kind of activities will ignite an interest that some of the team haven’t had for a while.
  5. Empower them to share outside the team – After getting the team engaged more, the next step is to create platforms for them to share the successes they have with the org outside of the test team. This could be via all hands, team meetings or even just sharing brief accounts of successes over email or slack. Raising awareness of the good work being done by the team will give confidence to the team and empower them to do more. This will help to show the value of good testing to teams across the business.

This is not supposed to be seen as a definitive list of actions to make your team world class, but this helped me get to a place where I had full confidence in what my teams could deliver, how they delivered it and what feedback we got as a team from the wider business. Building a positive reputation for testing/Quality has and always will be one of my goals for my teams.

Do I speak sense, or do you completely disagree? I’d love to hear from you!

Introducing The Communications ReadMe

For so long, it’s been assumed that we all have to follow the same communication processes that the company requires us to use to do our jobs. This may be true, but within that, there are intricacies which can help ensure the best communications possible in a given scenario, equally there are some things which cause frustration and unless otherwise shared, noone would know they caused a problem to you.

I’ve been trying to work on understanding how I could make my team dynamics more accessible for all and allow everyone to have their own specific needs met. In a world where we are becoming more accepting of all kinds of diverse individuals, surely it’s ok for someone to express their frustration at people asking questions without any context over IM and expecting an answer?

So I’ve pulled together some key sections below and created my own which I will also attach below:

Why Do I have a Readme?

Everyone is different, everyone has different things which make them tick, different things that annoy them and different preferences for communication. I’d like to give anyone who needs to know, an insight into how I work best and how to get the best out of me when you need me to do something.

How Best to Communicate With Me
  • <what are some of your preferred comms methods>
  • If it’s urgent, <insert best way>
How Do You Book A Meeting with Me?
  • <insert ways you prefer meetings to be booked>
Icebreaker Topics
  • <topics people could ask you about>
What Makes Me Tick
  • <things that put you in a good mood and help with communication>
What Quirks do I have which you should be aware of?
  • <some things you may do which may seem unusual, but it is important for you to be yourself>
Things that frustrate me
  • <things people should avoid when communicating with you>

Hopefully these will help you find a way to communicate your preferences with other and improve communications across teams in your setup.

See below for my personal readme on this.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace – Part 3: Accessible Interviews

By this part of the series, we have covered how to open the job market up to a wider talent pool and have looked into how to make Job Specs inclusive, the next step is to look at how we can make the interview process more accessible for all candidates, not just those classed as neurodivergent.

For someone with a neurodiverse condition, the idea of having to communicate and sell themselves to strangers could be akin to torture, this is partly why a lot of neurodiverse candidates will avoid disclosing their condition. They will feel like it will be held against them, rather than being supported and allow for the interview to be adapted for them.

Interviews don’t give a true reflection of whether someone could do a job anyway, but for a neurodiverse candidate, they may be more than capable of doing the job well, but will not get a chance to prove that because they hadn’t found a way to talk about it in the way the interviewees want them to talk about it. Something doesn’t add up here, but the interview process is probably here to stay for a long time yet.

What Can We Do to Make It Less Torturous?

Everything should be done to make all candidates feel as relaxed and informed of the process as possible. without this, any Neurodiverse candidate will instantly feel completely overwhelmed with the lack of knowing what to expect. This alone could cause someone with Autism to become very anxious and either end up not attending the interview or being visibly not at their best during the session.

The first step to help with this, would be to make contact with the candidate beforehand and ask them some simple questions around what environment they would be most comfortable being interviewed in. Given that the point of the interview is to find out about as much about each other as possible, working out whether you are a good fit, why not find an environment which everyone can be at ease? This may be outside in an open space or it may just be in a room which has been set up a lot more informally (no desk and panel interview format maybe?). It’s also a chance to discuss any sensory needs which may be distracting for the candidate (bright lights, loud noise or strong smells). Merely having this kind of conversation with the candidate, shows empathy and care for them and will immediately make them feel valued.

Along with having this discussion, ensure that the format of the interview is documented, and the schedule is sent to the candidate. Again, like the job spec, remove any ambiguous content and make it as clear as possible. Putting times in it may or may not be a good thing, as if there is any deviation to schedule because of delays on the day, this could also lead to anxiety from the candidate.

What are the Tests Proving?

Really assess whether any practical tests need to be timed/pressured. In the working environment, you won’t be in many situations where you have an hour to write a piece of code or perform a task, so why put additional pressure on a candidate who will already be putting additional pressure on themselves? It really becomes a test of processing speed rather than quality of output.

With any tests that are devised, think about how they can be made accesible. Look into whether they are compatible with assistive technology tools. Again, this will be something which will make the candidate feel like they are valued and that you are keen for them to do their best.

Think About Your Questions

One thing that will benefit all candidates, not just the ones who are neurodiverse, is for interview questions to be more carefully planned and prepared. Think about how your questions could be answered.

Do you have any prepared questions which could be percieved as closed questions? For someone with a neurodiverse condition, something along the lines of “Can you tell me about your current job?” could simply be answered with a “Yes I can”. Or something like “What can you bring to this role?” could get an answer along the lines of “my laptop, my rucksack and my lunch”. It’s crucial to find a way to articulate your questions in a way that both sides understand the type of answer expected.

Try to avoid hypothetical questions, someone with Autism or ADHD may struggle to understand the logic of why the answer would be important. Or questions where you get them to compare themselves to the other candidates (when they know nothing about them), this could throw the candidate off and the answers may come across as blunt.

Because of the nature of how some neurodivergents brains work, questions that come across vague will cause confusion, try and ensure these are as clear as possible and don’t be afraid to discuss expectations of what you’re asking about, in order to keep them focused.

Check Your First Impressions at the Door

In the heightened stress of an interview situation, you may find that a neurodiverse candidates eye contact is not what you would usually expect. They may spend a lot of time looking away or looking down, this doesn’t mean they aren’t focused, it may just be a coping mechanism to get them through the session.

Think again about what you are really assessing the candidate on, the problem with interviews are that they often became and exercise in social interaction. And while a lot of interviews are also about how well the person fits in the current team, it’s also important to understand how you can adapt the team setup to enable a neurodiverse team member to excel. So if you think they have the capability to do the job, think about what else you could do to help them fit in.

Next Time…

In part 4, we will look into the induction/onboarding process and how it can be made as inclusive as possible when considering Neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace – Part 2: Inclusive Job Specs

Following on from Part 1, the next step of the process is to look at how we can all make the hiring process more inclusive for Neurodiverse talent. We will look at the job advert in this part, looking at how to make them as inclusive as possible.

The Job Spec is a Window into the Role, how clean is your window?

How many job specs have you seen which are clearly just a regurgitated template which has been used over and over again without being updated for a while? Have you seen jobs with huge long lists of “must have skills”? Are all of these really “must have”? This can exclude neurodiverse talent, because they may feel there is one they don’t match and maybe they see the world in such a black and white way that this will prevent them from applying, even if they are excellent at all the other must have skills.

It’s also common for lots of jargon and acronyms to be used. This can be off putting for any of us who don’t know the terms, but consider someone with Autism who has bucked up the courage to look for jobs, only to be faced with one full of words and phrases they don’t understand, it can not only put them off this job, but can knock their confidence completely that all jobs would be like that and there is nothing they can do. One way around this is for the first time a phrase is used, use the full term and then put the acronym in brackets such as “Test Driven Development (TDD)”, once this mapping has been made, it would be ok to use the acronym. But consider if there are too many specific phrases that could cause confusion. You should want to make the role accessible to all, so the language needs to be as clear and concise as possible.

Try to ensure the daily activities are called out as clearly as possible, avoiding vague statements such as “assisting your manager”, instead specify exactly what that means. The clearer you can be, the easier it will be for someone with a neurodiverse condition to work out whether it is something they can and want to do.

What will the place of work be like to work in?

One thing which is often missing, and it can be crucial for any neurodivergent candidate, would be a description of the working conditions. With the hybrid working world going forward post pandemic, being clear on the environment will be like both in the office and what support can be provided at home too. Be open, if there is a “busy, collaborative working space” in the office, mention it, also state whether there are quiet areas away from the bustle. It would also be good to mention anything which could lead to sensory issues for some neurodiverse candidates, things like lighting, access to windows, smells from the canteen drifting through the office etc. You of course want to sell the workplace, but make it an accurate description that the candidate can assess for themselves. Provide links to a virtual office tour if you can, this will help them get comfortable with their surroundings.

With the home environment, mention what support you will give around equipment setup, but don’t tie it down to just the tech. If there are special bits of equipment needed for a neurodiverse candidate (maybe an anti-glare screen as an example), be open to reasonable adjustment from the standard working setup and help them feel supported.

Feedback and Accreditation

It will also be important if you put a statement around any diversity programmes your company has, including feedback from others who have used it.

If your company has any accreditation from disability organisations or has been certified as something like an “Autism friendly workplace”, then this is hugely beneficial to be included in the spec.

If you’re unsure whether the spec for a role is inclusive of neurodiverse individuals, reach out to organisations such as the National Autistic Society who would be able to provide pointers

Next Time…

In the next part, I will discuss more on the interview process itself.

Please feedback on whether you are finding this series useful… 🙂

Neurodiversity in the Workplace – Part 1: Finding Work

As part of my journey in learning more about Neurodiversity and doing my bit in helping make the workplace accessible for all both now and in the future, I felt it was time to start putting my learnings to paper and hope that my tiny circle of influence can get something from my ramblings.

Not sure how many parts this will end up being as I haven’t done this kind of thing before, but let’s see how it goes…

As If It Wasn’t Hard Enough for Anyone to find Work Right Now!

Many Neurodivergents tend to leave school with less qualifications than their potential suggests they should’ve got. This would be due to the support not always being in place in schools to enable them to achieve their best, along with the difficulties of peers who seem them as “different” or “odd”. Schools are trying to change this and SEND is now starting to get more focus, but there is a long way to go.

It’s not just schools either, Higher Education and Vocational Qualification settings also have not been equipped with the ability to support such a wide range of neurodiverse conditions, so it’s no wonder that students with Autism/ADHD/Dyslexia etc may not get the grades or qualifications they wanted or needed.

Find an Ally, Find A Job!

Finding the right job is difficult for us all, but finding a job when you’re Neurodiverse can be 10 times harder. So how can organisations start to make jobs accessible to all and not mean that individuals feel they need to hide their condition as best they can to try and get in the door?

In the current job world, (especially in Tech and other M&A functions), a large proportion of roles are now not publicly advertised and instead come about due to networking and building personal reputations. For people who enjoy socialising and enjoy being an active part of an industry community, this works in their favour, but for someone with Autism who may not feel able to socialise, this can cause additional anxiety and debilitate an individual. This could increase a lack of confidence, self-doubt and cause someone to go back into their shell, meaning they wouldn’t find out about these hidden roles. In some markets, these roles equate to 80% of the market, so straight away the window of opportunity is reduced significantly.

So what can be done? This is a tricky one, because we can’t force people to socialise more in the industry they wish to grow in, but one suggestion might be to find allies. This could come from various sources, but could involve organisations and individuals advocating for Neurodiversity, building bridges with neurodiverse charities and organisations (eg. National Autistic Society) to open a channel with them, to enable jobs to be advertised through their connections.

It may also be an opportunity for some people within major companies to buddy up with neurodiverse talent too, maybe being someone to talk to, to mentor and coach, while also making them feel at ease with what the working world may be like

This would certainly help to open a slightly larger amount of jobs to a market that haven’t usually been given a chance to apply. The next challenge will be to make sure the jobs being advertised are accessible to Neurodiverse candidates and the interview process does not exclude them either.

Guess you’ll be coming back for part 2 for more on that!

Arthur Christmas – Fighting for the Customer

In the season of festive films, in our house, one film in particular is on almost constant repeat. That is the film Arthur Christmas. It got me thinking as I watched it with my boys again today, that really it’s a family animated film that looks at the full operational process of delivering 2 billion presents from receiving letters to dispatching the presents under the trees with the plan of a 100% success rate. Of course it’s actually described in a much more fun way than I had just said and is actually a really enjoyable film, even if we have watched it about 20 times already this year… kids hey?

The main crux of the film (apologies for the spoilers) is all about the fact that the new fangled delivery operation falls below 100% success as one child’s present doesn’t get delivered, even though initially the system says there are zero presents left to deliver…

When the present is discovered, a discussion starts over the importance of that one child because the system still shows a success of over 99.9%. So does that child matter if the system shows such a high level of success? In the same way, does it matter if our software systems only succeed 99% of the time? Of course it matters, and in the context of this one customer, it could be a huge issue that the system failed. In the film, that child would be devastated if they didn’t get their present from Santa! This is the point of view which Arthur (clearly more customer focused than his techie brother and Head of Operations, Steve) puts across and then he decides to fight for the child and insist that if the tech system can’t correct the issue, he would do it himself.

Then comes the old trusty manual workaround which resolves the issue which the automated system couldn’t do in time to still deliver the present. Again, this shows similarities to our software systems which require manual resolutions when a failure occurs or a bug is found. I’m chuckling at this point as GrandSanta (who helps Arthur use an original sleigh to fly around the world to drop off the present), talks about how he doesn’t understand the need for the new tech solution when the old method works perfectly well! Certainly a conversation I have heard too many times over the years in the work place…

It really reminded me that sometimes we get so hung up on making the technical solution as flashy as possible that we think it is infallible and it serves our needs exactly as we need it to, but sometimes the bigger picture is missed and customers may not be getting what they need out of it.

2020… what a rollercoaster

Thought this would be a nice random way to sign off for 2020. It’s been a hell of a tough year but also a very rewarding one. While there have been some real personal lows and some professionally too, I’m proud of all that I have managed to achieve this year to keep going despite really not enjoying the working from home.

I set myself a resolution this year to improve my personal brand, especially with starting a new job on January 2nd, I was desperate to help move things forward and almost wanted to be able to show what I had achieved previously, I also wanted to help out the wider community as much as I could.

Reflecting back on some of the things I did this year on a professional level is quite a list:

  • Took on a wider ranging leadership role at work, during the pandemic while others were on furlough and later leaving the company, which has now become a full role.
  • Became a D&I Trailblazer at work, particularly advocating for Neurodiversity
  • Launched an internal Test Community
  • Panellist at a Quality Leaders Network Event in February
  • Guest on 3 podcasts (The QA Lead, Test Automation Guild and EuroStar Huddle)
  • International Conference Talk at Test Leadership Congress
  • Re-launched the MOTBucks Meetup with my awesome co-host Stu.
  • Multiple online Meetup talks (Mot Manilla, MoTBucks, Quality Advocates, QA Babble and QA London)
  • Ran several online TestSphere sessions
  • Met tonnes of new faces through the MoT VirtualCoffee slack channel and through all the virtual events and discussions.
  • Mentored numerous mentees in the testing world who were either looking for work or looking for the next step up.

And then the big one, is launching the Testing Peers podcast with 3 hugely important and awesome friends who have at times kept me going this year, it’s been so natural to jump in to the regular recordings and enjoying chatting to friends while recording talking about two things we are all passionate about – Testing and Leadership. 17 episodes down and just shy of 4,000 downloads, I couldn’t have dreamed it would go this well and am really excited about where it’s going.

We launched our 17th episode and our Christmas Special today, check it out via the link above.

On a personal level and from the Peers, I really thank you all for your support, friendship and feedback this year, it has meant more than I could possibly express.

Happy Christmas everyone! Look forward to speaking to more of you in 2021!

Defining your Story – Owning Your Quality Narrative

Following up from my previous post, I thought it would be a good idea to dive deeper into the idea of the Quality Narrative. As mentioned in that blog, I first came across the term from the ‘Leading Quality’ book by Ronald Cummings-John (@ronaldcj) and Owais Peer (@owaispeer). The book is a great reference for helping to drive quality in an organisation and it has truly become my go-to reference book to understand how to move forward when you hit those roadblocks to improving processes around testing and quality. Here is Ron and Owais’ definition of a Quality Narrative:

A quality narrative is the way people think and talk about quality in a company.

Sounds simple enough, but when you think about it, there are so many parts to decompose. Let me try and do that now and show you how I use this…


What does quality mean for you and the immediate test/delivery teams? Is this the same view of quality that the wider business has. Quality is very context specific, in some, it could be measured by the number of defects outstanding against a release, each one having an impact on overall Quality, others it could be more about the user’s satisfaction of the system. Here is the definition I drive to and share with my teams:

The measure of whether the software meets the explicit and implicit needs of the customer and their ability to use it successfully

Simon Prior 2020

Having a definition for quality which everyone can agree on and work with, can really help trigger the understanding of where and how Quality fits within an organisation.


People would effectively be anyone who you may be trying to pursuade on the importance of quality.

This might seem obvious, but you can split people into different areas of influence and each will have a slightly more removed view of what quality is and how important it is.

  1. You and the test team – You are trying to help drive the culture towards a better focus on quality. To you, it is your main focus.
  2. Your Delivery Team/Department – Quality will be one of the main focus points, not the only one.
  3. Your Organisation – The further removed from quality being the main focus, the less attention given to issues. This is when it starts to become important to be able to map quality to what is important for the company. How does bad quality relate to revenue?


Relating back to the people, the company could mean any level, but ultimately, it should relate to the overall view of quality across the whole organisation.

To the outside world, your company may not talk about quality, until something goes wrong. When it does, quality quickly comes to the forefront because it is then something tangible, whereas good quality doesn’t always have something so visible.

So How Do I Define our Narrative?

So you have an idea of what you are trying to define, the next step would be to start with understanding what the current Quality Narrative is. Start by asking questions to key personnel within every level mentioned above. Ask them about their understanding of Quality, the importance of it, where they believe it fits and how we can improve the quality of our products. You will likely get very different answers for each person you talk to, unless Quality is embedded within the culture already.

This may take time to build up, so don’t expect to be able to get this defined instantly. Once you have pulled this information together, think about the format of defining it. This could be a single slide in a deck or even better, a mindmap. Don’t make it too complicated, keep it succinct and straight to the point on. I would suggest breaking it down to the main 3 areas:

Perceived Quality OwnershipQA Department
Quality FocusAny discussions around quality start at end of development phase
Value of QualityRegulatory Requirement and purely confirmation testing (Checking requirements fulfilled)
A very brief example of an “As-Is” Quality Narrative

This should give you an understanding of where you are now, the next step would be to look at where you might want to get to. Understand there will be a journey to get there, but it’s a good time to collaborate with key people again to understand where they would like to focus on quality to be. Quality ultimately doesn’t just mean executing tests, there is far more to ensure the quality is good, everything from ensuring requirements meet what the customer is asking for, all the way through to the right monitoring/observability tools used in production to give feedback effectively and enable the product to be improved based on real usage. Tools such as MetroRetro or Miro can be a great tool (especially during these remote working times) to get people collaborating on this from wherever they are. Bring the key people together, brainstorm the ideas and collaboratively build out a future vision of where you may want to get to. This is then the first step on that journey. Then the hard work starts in moving the culture forward.

Growing A Culture of Quality – A Model

Following on from my earlier blog post (Changing the Perception – Working towards a Culture of Quality), I have been lucky enough to have a submission selected for the Test Leadership Congress 2020 which is a virtual conference happening over July-October this year. This got me thinking more about this topic, and it really has become my thing to talk about. At every possible opportunity, I am trying to find ways to change the work culture to have more focus on Quality in any way I can. Whether this be trying to insert myself into Change Review meetings so that someone is representing testing to ask the difficult questions, or even whether it’s starting to define new processes which will help the teams move forward with providing more information about the quality of the system earlier.

With that, I started planning my talk and came up with a model which helps me frame my thoughts and works (for me atleast) when trying to make it a process which teams could follow to improve their working culture.

I’ll add a huge caveat here, that the teams and organisations which this has worked for me with, have not been agile in any particular way, maybe lipservice was paid to ceremonies, but there wasn’t a collaborative culture to any great extent. Testing was generally seen as an expense only considered towards the end of a project and getting involved any earlier was seen as a cost not worth considering.

So let me give you the model, I will then talk through the component parts and how it all plugs together:

So what is this Quality Narrative thing?

I first came across the term “Quality Narrative” , when reading the awesome Leading Quality book. Effectively, the Quality Narrative is how quality is perceived within your organisation. Some of the following questions may help you understand

  • How important is quality seen when releasing a product? Is it given the right focus? Or Is it an after-thought?
  • Who ‘own’ quality? Is it a collaborative accountability or do the wider business deem it the responsibility of the test team?
  • What is the perceived role of the test team? Do you even have a separate test team or do you work more collaboratively?
  • Are the test team engaged early in the process ?
  • How is testing done?
  • What Value does the testing provide?
  • What is the business’ view of risk?
  • Does Quality mean more than just testing?

Understanding the answers to these questions for the current state, will give you a fair assessment of the importance of Quality and testing within the organisation. The next step would be to then define what you would like the Quality Narrative to be going forward. Once you have the As-Is and To-be states, it will give you a vision to share and build out the journey to get closer to the ultimate state of Quality being an important consideration in every release.

So you have the vision… what next?

As a leader, you may have driven the definition of this vision, but it should have been a collaborative exercise (with others within the test team and wider delivery teams atleast) in defining the direction and getting buy in at a high level that it is acceptable. Once it’s defined, the next phase is to start engaging the immediate test team, so they can all be advocates for it. Use every opportunity to get them on board with it, give them time to digest it, ask questions and build enthusiasm for working towards the end goal.

One way to do this will be to get the fire lit on their passion for quality. Get an internal community of practice going if there isn’t already one, get passionate speakers to come in and share their ideas and give the team the chance to innovate and change the way they are doing testing too. If they see that their voice is important and you as a leader will listen to them, it will encourage them to stand up when needed, to voice their thoughts.

As small improvements are made to the way testing is done/measured/perceived, celebrate these successes, no matter the size. Seeing that any improvement makes a difference, will help the team feel like what they are doing is worthwhile.

So you have the team on board, now to share wider…

Now you have a passionate, engaged team who are all willing to make a difference and move the business forward, the next stage is to find the opportunities to raise the awareness of Quality around the business. Use different forums internally to share new processes such as metrics which are now being used or a new test strategy which focuses on the vision. Maybe there is an internal blog platform? Are there internal all-hands or departmental meetings which would be good opportunities to discuss such topics and how it could impact those teams? Discussing the test strategy with the customer support teams by framing it around reduced call volumes, would help them buy into the vision in a way that it can help them. By finding ways to discuss quality, it will help get you and your team involved in earlier discussions when projects are initiated. Therefore meaning that what “Good Quality” looks like for a particular project can be defined.

It may also be the opportunity to coach the business to test better themselves too, whether it be asking questions from a quality perspective or for teams which may be working on hot-fixing production or developing internal tools, but don’t have their own test resources, providing support and helping them learn to test effectively, will improve those relationships too.

Sharing is one thing, but can you find Advocates?

When sharing with the business, you may find there are a small group of people who really get it and want to find out more or find out how they can help. This happened to me and this was the time I started getting the TestSphere cards out and invited them to discussions with the test team on all things testing. I’d start getting comments like “I didn’t realise you Testers knew so much!”

Having these voices in wider teams, adds clout to the message. Especially when they are the ones to discuss it with their teams. I had advocates who would be discussing the updated test strategy, or the risk based testing metrics which we had devised and shared with the wider teams to show what we would be reporting on going forward. I actually walked in on a debate in the canteen, with no-one from the QA team involved, but they were discussing how much more confident they felt about the actual quality of the release with the metric I had devised and rolled out. It certainly gave the “warm fuzzys” that we were making a difference.

Improve the Quality Processes and Shout About it!

While also building the relationships with the business, it’s important that they are seeing the value and improvements that you are doing. Of course, alongside the daily expectation of proving the quality of the software through testing, there will be improvements and discussions going on to try and raise the bar and give better indicators of the quality of the software.

As mentioned earlier, this may be working closer with the Customer Support teams to assess call volumes and working on correlating specific customer issues with some additional testing which could be done to find these issues earlier. It may be looking at an approach to Testability which means the system is assessed as testable based on requirements/architecture before any code is develeoped which should mean the systems are of a better quality and less defects found later on. There could be a new approach to automation, maybe it’s been seen as a cost before that wasn’t worthwhile, but by showing the ROI and the feedback cycle reduction, it could be something which can enable earlier releases.

Whatever the initiatives end up being, it’s important to be transparent now that you have built the relationships with the wider business. They should be able to see what you’re doing and collectively reap the rewards of better quality systems.

Reflect, Rinse and Repeat…

This will be a constantly evolving process, a culture is never complete. Enabling it to grow will be important but it will require regular reflection on what could be done to improve and also assess where it isn’t working as well. Maybe there are pockets of the business which don’t see the value, so how could we speak their language and help them buy into it.

Reflecting and re-aligning the vision if necessary will be imperative to ensure it continues to be embedded as a culture. If you stick to your original focus and don’t flex when you need to, you won’t end up with a collaborative culture.

In bigger organisations where there are engineering groups everywhere, it will be important to use shared communities of practice to build the knowledge and share good practices. It will be important to set achievable goals like improving the view of Quality across your engineering group first including all stakeholders outside of engineering. But don’t try to boil the ocean, use regular reflection and feedback to know when to push yourself further or when to focus on honing what you have already achieved.

Let me know your thoughts on this, am I talking rubbish or does it relate? Come and join me at the Test Leadership Congress 2020 to hear me talk more about this. Register here

A Decade in Testing – How did I get here?

Ten years in a field of work I love, it felt as good a time as any to reflect on what brought me to this point. I still remember that feeling the day I finished my last exam at University in May 2006 and realised I needed to try and do something with the knowledge I had spent the last 3 years accumulating. I was adamant then that I didn’t feel I would make a good developer, University is a dangerous place for comparing your abilities to your peers and there are always those genuises who seem to know how to do all the tasks that take you hours or days to complete. I genuinely didn’t know what I wanted to do, but felt that the development route may be the best one.

To start with, the University has it’s own in-house development company called Seed Software where graduates could work for 6 months on commercial projects, so I joined there and started work on a .Net project for the Fire Brigade. Less than a few weeks into that, a position came up as a researcher in the University, researching Computer Crime. The project was called Cyberprofiling and was all about identifying ways to create a profile of criminals based on their activities online. I spent time learning Linux, setting up Honeypots and wrote a research paper which can be found here. This lead to my first public speaking slot at the E-Crime and Computer Evidence conference in Nottingham.

The funding ran out in the January and I was out of work. Going on Job-seekers was demoralising, but i found work as a Bingo Caller in a local club and ended up designing a member database for them which I believe was used long after I left. They certainly got value for their £5 per hour salary!

Eventually, after months of interviewing for Computer Forensic roles and graduate roles, I eventually was successful at the McAfee graduate scheme interview. For the next 6 months, I spent my time split between 3 teams in McAfee, one team was a C++ development role for the core Anti-Malware technology, one team was testing the Gateway Appliance hardware and one was doing Anti-Spam research. Out of the 3 roles, I enjoyed working in the development team, but even then, I enjoyed the testing work more. I even asked if there was an option of doing testing for the development team, and there, my interest in testing was born…

I joined the Anti-Malware development team as a junior C++ developer. C++ was the one language taught at University which I said I would avoid like the plague, it was a struggle to feel like I was getting anywhere with it. I could get the simple coding tasks done, but the whole pointers thing really screwed with my head and I beat myself up comparing myself to the team of developers who all had 10+ years experience. I learned a lot from them all and had some great mentors, but something wasn’t clicking for me

The team were using Scrum, so I very quickly became familiar with the process and started championing the agile practices, eventually becoming a Scrum Master for the team. It was at that point, I was told I was different to the others in the team and definitely had more of a people focus than the rest of the team. I took this and ran with it, did the Scrum Master course and worked 50-50 between scrum mastering and picking up dev tasks in the sprints. I then started learning more about the QA process and started helping out with test tasks to keep the sprints on track. I also ended up in our build room (yep an actual server room with a dozen different OS servers), I got to learn Perl/Python as I worked to improve the scripts used to build the software and burn it to discs for distribution).  Again, here, I spent time testing the scripts and learning how to improve the scripts in any way i could.

Deciding to Make the Move to Testing

Eventually, in early 2010, in one of my performance reviews, I was asked what I wanted to do, and by this time, I’d built up great friendships with several in the QA team, that they had shared stuff with me. I told my boss that I wanted to move to QA and from there, I started transitioning over to the QA team.

My first testing project was our URL reputation scanning technology and I spent my time writing python test scripts plugged into our automation framework while learning and developing my skills both from a testing and also python perspective.

Over the next 2-3 years, I moved between teams in QA and worked on multiple different projects, eventually moving into a lead position where I coordinated the testing efforts across our globally distributed team. It was here, that I started to really have confidence in my ability to challenge and question features from a testing perspective and helped build a team to do this too. We became a well-oiled machine and helped deliver high quality software with a huge regression automation framework running thousands of tests across dozens of operating systems.

By 2014, I moved teams again and went back to being a QA Engineer working with a team that didn’t have a QA team apart from an architect and myself. Together we defined an automation framework in Robot Framework, hired some great team members and pushed the development cycle to new dimensions with CI and even getting QA involved in code reviews (I wrote about this here). It was around this time that I attended my first Testbash in 2015 and it really pushed me to start loving my career. I set up the Aylesbury Tester meetup on the back of this and started sharing my passion with others.

I found my voice, people started looking to me as the voice of quality, I had a place at the table of discussions for new features, new projects and process improvements too. The team had the respect to make decisions around quality and I started coaching and mentoring the team to push the boundaries and improve the deliverables and influence the end to end operations process.

In 2017, I became the Manager for the local team and a second team in Ireland and found a new passion for leading and coaching my teams. Building a whole team from scratch, using my principles written about in my #makeatester blogs and conference talks, while also nurturing the existing team who were set in their ways and trying to push them forward.

By the mid of 2018, McAfee was changing it’s focus and I felt i needed to look at something different, I jumped to try a more senior position as a Program Test Manager at the National Lottery. While the company was very set in it’s traditional ways around software, I enjoyed changing the culture and helping give QA a place at the table for discussions and not just be a team which executed 100s of tests at the end of a cycle. I was hellbent on raising the awareness of quality and ensuring a focus of testability and automation across all workstreams. It was an enjoyable year in a lot of ways, but i didn’t feel like i fully fit and needed to find somewhere where I felt I could be myself 100%.

This lead me to where I am today, leading the Core QA team at EasyJet, where my focus is on building a centre of excellence for testing which then works to assist the delivery teams across all areas of easyjet with automation and good testing practices.

Who knows where the next 10 years will take me, but I’m confident that I have found my niche and will be pushing ways to improve the focus on quality through coaching and culture changes for years to come.

I couldn’t have done a lot of this without a huge list of mentors and supporters over the years. Far too many to mention here, but I hope they all know how much it meant to me. I will continue to do my bit by paying forward advice and coaching to peers, team members and the wider community.

Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss how I could support you in you testing or leadership adventures!