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So You Wanna’ Be a "Rock Star"?! (TESTHEAD)

On October 16, 2011, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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There’s a phrase that those of us who hang out on twitter, or go to conferences, or participate in forums see a lot, and many of us aspire to be it. I’m talking about being a Rock Star Tester. Oh, come on, admit it, I wanna’ be a rock star tester! In fact, part of my wanting to be a rock star tester comes from my earlier life when I wanted to be a rock star in music. Why am I bringing that up? Because I think the two have a lot in common.

First, ask yourself, why do you want to be a rock star? Let’s take the musical example. There’s lots of reasons. Maybe you enjoy songwriting, and want to have lots of people hear your material. Maybe your a performer who loves being on stage and you want to perform in front of hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands) of people. Maybe you want to be in magazines. Maybe you want to have people recognize you and say “hey, that’s [fill in the blank]”. Maybe you want to have the recognition of your peers and be seen as being part of a movement. Maybe you want to travel the world and have an impact on the lives of a lot of people.  Maybe you want to party like a maniac.  All of those are valid reasons, an they are why lots of kids all over the world strap on guitars or basses, hit drums, play keyboards or grab microphones in the hope that they will one day hit the big time and live their dream.

In reality, becoming a rock star is not easy. A lot of it is tremendously hard work over a period of many years. It’s hit and miss. It has a lot to do with who you know and how you can interact with them. It has a lot to do with the circles you run around in. It has a lot to do with how much of your life you are willing to put on hold so you can live that dream. Oh, and generally speaking, you have to be really good at what you do, as in orders of magnitude better that the average guy who plays an instrument (there are exceptions, some can point to the punk rock movement as a goal for a more everyman type of music, but even that morphed into groups that could play together tightly and preform sets regularly, which required a level of skill beyond just the basics). And even with all that, there’s no guarantee you will be able to light it up and go all the way to the top. Luck, timing, and a fickle marketplace have a lot to do with that, and sometimes an act that has all of the pieces needed for superstardom just never gets that shot, while bands that make you scratch your head and ask “huh?” seem to catapult to the top of the charts.

A local band in the Bay Area that we knew called T-Ride (don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them, if you weren’t an adherent of the early 90’s scene, you probably wouldn’t know of them, but if you do know who they are, props to ya’ 🙂 ), said something in an interview that I thought was great, and offered some great advice to anyone looking to become performers. Not necessarily rock stars, but solid performers. I’m paraphrasing here, it’s been two decades since I read it:

“Bands go through lots of things to try to be successful. They try to find the right agent, they get stylists to make sure they look the part, they hire photographers to make them look great, they go out and promote their shows like mad, they work to get the right producer so they can get the right sound, but all of that doesn’t matter if you don’t spent the time to get good! We spent four years in our rehearsal room practicing week after week, learning from each other, practicing playing together, getting our ability to work together as tight as posible. All those other things matter to a point, but first, you’ve got to get good!”


Testers, the same goes for us. We need to get good at what we do, and that needs to be the first thing we focus on. Like songwriters who want to become rock stars, just as they need to learn how to write songs that have impact, we need to learn how to do testing that has impact. Only then will be have the chops necessary to start exploring the avenues that can get us out there. The cool thing? It’s a lot easier to become a rock star tester than it is a rock star musician! There’s very little that involves luck. There’s a lot that involves skill. Develop solid skills, and then develop a desire to share those skills with others. Really, there’s no reason to be a rock star if you have no songs to play to people; that’s the reason they buy your music and pay to see you perform. Likewise, develop a testing ability that makes people stand up and take notice, so that they want to know what you know.

From there, you can start writing about what you now (and sometimes about what you don’t) under the right circumstances. A blog is the perfect rehearsal studio for this. Your costs are very low, and the changes of messing up big time are also really low (unless you are going to plagiarize other people’s stuff. Then you can mess up right out fo the gate). Generally, you can develop a following, get feedback, and perfect your writing and skill development in a medium that people are interested in. Grow it from there. Other opportunities to write, present and spread your message come from there, and with dedication and effort, we can all grow and develop to the point of eventually being  Rock Star Testers.

 

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