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How Advice to Beginning Pipe Bands also Works for Testers (Rhythm of Testing)

On September 5, 2015, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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When I was in demand to teach drumming workshops for pipe bands, I used to wrap up weekend sessions with new, or new-ish, bands with a session for both pipers and drummers. Usually, after they have had a practice together.

The typical format for these workshops was generally straight forward. I’d roll in Saturday morning between 7:30 and 8:00 AM with coffee and a pile of donuts and bagels (something like at “Take 10” from Tim Hortons, where an entire pot is in a take-away box with a stack of cups and sugar, milk, cream, etc.,) and a mix of donuts. People would start showing up a bit later, find coffee ready – at least enough to hold everyone over until a pot was brewed and ready at the venue. I’d set up the materials needed for the day while folks were chatting and drinking coffee, although some opted for power/energy drinks they brought themselves.

We’d work in sections, according to a pre-defined schedule. For example, beginning snare drummers at 9:00, more advanced snare drummers around 10:30. Break for lunch around 12 or 12:30 and back at it again as soon as possible after that. When I finished with each group, they’d head off and work on their assignments/exercises in a corner or a different room. Early afternoon, I’d work with tenor and bass drummers, typically, around 1:30 or 2:00. Around 3:00 everyone would come together and play exercises as a group – and then work on playing music.

We’d break around 5:30 or 6:00 for supper. After that, while officially “done for the day,” usually, I’d work with people one or two at a time – if they wanted to. That would be more informal and very relaxed as we were all pretty tired by then.

Sunday, we’d start a little later, depending on venue and the individual band. We’d spend a lot more time working as a full group, working on the music and exercises from the day before. If someone was having a challenge with a passage, I’d spend a little time with them. If they still needed help, I’d send them off with someone who had it right to work on their own. The emphasis on Sunday was to work as a group, together, to make sure everyone was progressing – and to be ready to play with the pipers when they joined the drummers.

Usually the results were pretty good. The drummers were pleased to have made obvious progress. The pipers were pleased to hear the drummers playing with them and sounding good. At the end of the practice, I’d give a wrap up talk and encourage the drummers in particular and the band in general to keep working.

A typical message was something like:

The band has made huge strides. You all have come a very long way from (some point earlier.) This weekend the drummers have worked their butts off trying to get things just right. There has been really good progress, and there is still more work to do.

At the level of band’s development and performance, there are a couple of things to think about and a bunch of stuff to set aside and ignore.  Don’t worry about wearing the latest style of uniform. If the band can afford only the basics – kilt, shirt, cap – then so be it. If the kilts don’t match – so be it. You are starting out. All that stuff will come. Don’t worry about designing band cap badges or patches for the shirts or who wears what insignia. Don’t worry if the drums don’t match in make or color.

All of that will come in time. All of that will come as you get established and play out in public.

Don’t worry about anything anyone else says to or about you. Don’t worry about the condescending comments that some pipers or pipe bands will make. Don’t worry about what other bands have or what attention they get.

Don’t worry about seeking the same attention they get.

Work for yourselves. Practice hard and well. Practice individually. Practice with small groups. Rehearse as a band. Play well with the best sound, tone and execution you can achieve.

That will get the attention of people you want to get the attention of. If you are competing, the judges will know you are a new band and will not worry about details like if the kilts don’t match. They will be focusing on what you do as a group. They will listen to how you perform. Perform well and the rest does not matter.

Let others worry about the periphery. You worry, and do something about, your task at hand. Let your fingers and hands do your talking for you.

To testers, I’d like to say something similar.

The people shouting for attention and making a big deal about what they are doing – let them. Truth will out, as is sometimes said. Eventually people will figure out if there is something to their shouting or not.

Don’t worry about them.

Don’t worry about what they say. Really don’t worry about what they say about you.

Let them.

Do what needs to be done to support your organization.

Educate over time by doing good work, then explaining the work you do – gently, in language that is understood by the people asking. Work to develop your understanding – and share the understanding you develop.

Share that with developers you work with, other testers, people who ask at the coffee or snack station or cafeteria.

You don’t need to be a name at conferences or on twitter to be able to influence other people and help them learn.

Most people doing good work are doing it quietly, getting the job done and moving on to the next item.

The clanging gongs of people shouting about how cool they are are just that. Noise.

Let the work you do, do the shouting for you. 

 

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