Experience Reports Ramblings

2023 – A Reflection

It has been some year. I started in a dark place with lots of change underway. However it is, professionally speaking, been a bit of an immense year.


Building upon my first time speaking at a testing conference in 2022, I’ve been fairly active. From running a threat modelling workshop for a small set of people at an Edinburgh MoT meetup to tackling a new topic within security at TestBash UK with a range of activities, it has been really positive. I’ve started feeling like I’ve gotten my name out there and importantly, people seem to like what I’m sharing.

Whilst it can be an exciting (yet nerve wracking) experience to speak and of course having positive feedback and comments makes you feel great, I think the biggest buzz is when people take something away. Speaking always seemed way out my comfort zone but my passion for the topics drove me to give it a go. Consequently when it goes well and you think people are learning and will try out things themselves, it makes it all worthwhile.


Building upon my speaking, I took my Threat Agents game to a cyber security event for my work. We used it in the threat modelling workshop and I spoke a little and got involved in helping people. I even got a special award within my work for contributions to threat modelling!

Somehow, despite only working part time for a chunk of the year, I’ve managed to achieve a few awards from work, given by peers. This obviously means a lot. However I think a lot of it comes down to…

An Interesting Role

This year I’ve taken on a new role. Whilst I originally dubbed it as a “Free Range Tester”, in reality it has been a senior test engineer who doesn’t test. I have tried to both lead and support.

It was a difficult start and a frustrating one. Quite quickly I learnt why we were struggling to ship a release. I was also distracted with extended leave, reduced hours and helping run our intern program (I even wrote some code!).

But the role has gone well.

My crowning achievement has been my work on analysing our quality for the first major release in a long time. We analysed bugs, reflected on our challenges and took actions. I brought all this together into a presentation (not given, just shared).

For example, whilst a large portion of bugs were attributed to internal mistakes when working on stories, several issues we found, raised and fixed were actually legacy behaviour. We made the software better through these bugs. That is good to know.

It has been quite interesting having this roaming role and getting involved with different teams. As we no longer have a scrum master, I’ve helped fill a little of that void. I’ve had the opportunity to learn how different teams are working and help them with their challenges.

I’ve also been there to help teams out when they are stuck on testing. Who would have thought that getting rid of testers would impact a team’s ability to plan their testing?

I’ve also had the opportunity to get myself involved with the wider organisation. Whilst I’m a shy & timid person most of the time, ask me for my opinion and I’ll give it. And even when I wasn’t asked, I sometimes offered it. Having a culture where anyone, either senior leaders or that weird new tester guy across the ocean, can speak up is wonderful and I definitely appreciate it.

Whilst I haven’t succeeded in getting the organisation to test better, I have raised awareness. I have got allies. This won’t happen overnight but I am confident that in time we’ll get there and what is exciting is that I think I’ll be involved and part of this.

It is a real step forward.

A step back

Unfortunately not everything has been coming up amazing.

I fear that I’ve lost my appetite for actually doing testing. Given how much I love the profession (I’ll post about that separately later), whenever I have some free time to do testing, I’ve often found myself not bothering. I’ll admit that I’ve often found myself reaching over to my Xbox controller when I could, and should be testing. I’ve found excuses not to do actual testing myself. Some of that is semi legit (“managing my energy levels”) but also I know that a bit of the hunger is gone.

Part of this is not having the domain knowledge of the past. Moving to a new, large area when outside a team has made on-boarding very hard. I’ve found it massively overwhelming to try and test a feature that I don’t know, which is part of a very complicated solution full of TLAs and systems named after random comic book characters… and my energy levels & brain capacity are both low.

Strongly held opinions that are easily changed

One other thing that I wanted to reflect upon my opinions and ideologies. I’ll write a separate post about it in due course, but I started the year feeling pretty certain about how things should work but have come to be more flexible over time this year. Maybe there is method in the madness?

Perhaps I was wrong to loathe test strategies so much. I wonder if those times when I was doing copy paste reports that no one really read or cared about tainted me too much?

Challenges ahead

Next year scares me a little. I feel like I’ve over achieved this year and despite knowing I’ve not worked and pushed as hard as I could have, there’s nothing left in the tank.

It has been a draining year.

Next year I think rather than trying to excel and push, I want to build stronger foundations. A wonderful new hire within my work means that I don’t need to push. Just be there to support and be involved.

I am hoping that I won’t need to push to get involved, to get the testing mindset involved, as before. I’ll be there by default. My challenge will be, how do I provide that coaching now that I’m present?

To achieve this I will need to learn how better to coach and help the teams develop their testing. Thankfully we now have 10% time at work so that will be my focus. Having a day each sprint that I can dedicate to the coaching side of things – either by getting time with devs to try new things or just researching & learning, it will help a lot.

However most importantly, I do want to test again. I love testing. I want to find that drive in me again to go try and find those hard to find bugs. To remind everyone what it means to be a tester.

Experience Reports

Running Workshops

A little while ago I was asked about my experience and learnings from running workshops and what advice I have. I thought I’d share my thoughts on here.

As a quick note up front, I am under no illusion that I’m not an expert and am still learning. I did also look into teaching as a career so some of this is influenced by what I picked up from that.

Expect to fail

Timing will be hard and when it comes to activities, people will be slower than you expect. For example when I first ran my threat modelling workshop it included an activity I assumed that an activity would be 2-3 minutes break from slides and brief re-enforcement of knowledge. Fill in this, bish bash bosh, done. I got Hannah, my wife who wasn’t from a software background, to try and it took much longer (5-7 mins). It turned out that the group needed that time and many people didn’t finish in the 5 minutes that I set aside or the 2 mins extra that I let it go on. I’d suggest finding a newbie and definitely make sure you have room to flex.

Exercises that don’t need a fixed end point (e.g. have a debate/discussion, write your reflection or practice writing these tests) can be handy when it comes to giving you that flexibility.

Not everyone will understand what you’ve just taught or appreciate the point. Don’t fret about that. Maybe have a resource that you can point them to, or get them working with someone. One of the key advantages of workshops is that you can support different learning styles so for those who struggled to understand your words, perhaps they will benefit from pairing and more collaborative learning.

Be wary about asking questions early. When I was teaching I learnt it was good to ask the group questions rather than just unloading information. However don’t expect a room full of shy geeks who don’t know each other to speak up before they’ve had a chance to interact with those around them. Nothing more awkward than the silence when no one raises their voice!

Finally some people will be visibly bored/disinterested (or even say something negative when they think you can’t hear). This isn’t a reflection of you, your delivery or the topic. The reality is that sometimes people get bored or dislike things they are doing. It happens. Just ignore that and avoid fixating on them.

If you’re not sure why everyone in the room isn’t amazingly enthusiastic and quick learners in your chosen area and style, put it down to being first thing / post coffee crash / craving lunch / tired after lunch / tired for end of day.


I am easily distracted when watching someone talk. A late comer arriving, someone on my periphery getting a drink out their bag or someone chatting and I might not get as much from a session. When I close my eyes and listen it can be transformational. However it was pointed out to me that a speaker thought I was dozing off, when I was just losing myself in the words!

The other week we had a visitor sharing some learnings and there were a couple of people who I was hoping would bring enthusiasm, only for them to have a pretty blank look on their face. Afterwards they told me how great it was.

My point with these anecdotes – don’t judge people by their faces.

Closing thoughts

Running an effective workshop isn’t something you can quickly bodge together but you don’t need to be a rock star in your field or devote your life to it. If you’re given the opportunity, go for it. Check out your local MoT group, or other meet ups in the area, and offer a bit of your time.