On quality over quantity and my career journey

As you might have read in last week’s blog post, TestBash Manchester, the talks I’ve heard there and the discussions I had around the event with other speakers and attendees, left me with a lot to think about. Especially Martin Hynie’s talk on tester craftsmanship, apprentices, journeymen and masters of the craft led to me asking a lot of questions to myself on where I am now, how I ended up where I am today, where I want to go and, most importantly, if the things that I am doing at the moment contribute to, or maybe hinder me, in my own journey towards who I want to become.

Martin’s talk and how he described masters of a craft confirmed me that that, for me, is what I do want to become: a master in the craft of automation. Someone that others turn to when they need help, and someone that is able to help and guide others on their way to becoming a master -or at least a better craftsperson- themselves. I also immediately realized that I’m nowhere near that point yet.

I might be on my way, possibly (hopefully!) even on the right way, but having thought about this for a bit now, it once more occurred to me that there is so much more to learn. Some aspects that I need to improve are directly tied to automation and testing, others are skills that are more broadly applicable (public speaking, teaching, communication skills, to name just a few), but all in all, there’s a lot of learning left to do.

I am very much looking forward to taking the next steps on my path towards mastery, but I also realize that I need to get rid of some superfluous baggage at the moment, consisting mostly of activities that take up a lot of my time yet aren’t contributing (enough) to my journey. In the words of the German designer and academic Dieter Rams, it’s time for ‘less but better’, or ‘weniger aber besser’ as he puts it himself, being a German and all..

Anyway, there are a couple of work-related activities that I will need to get rid of -or at least change significantly- in order to carve out the time required to work on the important. Starting with the projects I’m working on. I’ve just wrapped up one, but I’m still working on two different projects in parallel.

Where I used to think this was the ideal situation to be in (I do get bored quickly if I’m working on the same thing for too long), I’ve slowly started to come to the realization that all this context switching is driving down the quality of my work. Believe, no matter how hard you try dedicating specific days to specific projects, there will always be overlap in the form of emails, phone calls and other seemingly urgent, and sometimes even important, interruptions. Just like with other forms of multitasking, I lose a lot of time moving my mind from one project to the other and back again, sometimes multiple times a day.

What doesn’t help is that not all of the projects I’ve been working on lately have been equally satisfying (and in specific cases, that’s putting it mildly..). Doing only one project at a time should allow me to think more clearly about whether or not the project is, in fact, a good fit for me. So, effective as soon as I wrap up my current projects, I’ll start committing myself to working on just a single client project (meaning by-the-hour consulting work) at a time. Ideally, that would take up 3 (maybe sometimes 4, maybe sometimes 2) days of my working week, ensuring that I am both set with regards to my financial commitments (gotta feed the kids!) as well as have enough time left to dedicate to the other things I want and/or feel the need to work on. Most of those things revolve around training courses, workshops and a bit of public speaking, by the way.

Committing to less but better also means that I’m, at least for the moment, giving up on writing weekly blog posts for this site. Even though it is a highly rewarding activity, it takes up a lot of time to plan, write and review blog posts. I’ll leave the discussion on whether or not my blog posts look like significant time has been put into it to you.. Instead, I’ll shift towards writing at least one blog post per month.

The good news is that this will leave me more time to do research and thinking for my blog posts, which (at least theoretically) should lead to higher quality output. Again, less but better.. I might post more often than once a month, in case I’ve read a good book related to testing or automation, a conference experience I want to share or anything else I feel like writing about, since those posts take less effort in my case. However, I think I need to stop pressurizing myself to write a weekly blog post, since it might start to affect the quality soon. If it hasn’t started doing so already.

Lastly, I am considering looking for a mentor who can help me take the next steps on my journey towards mastery. The above measures I’m taking should help freeing up time to do the things I feel are important (e.g., more time for learning, more time to invest in teaching and developing courses), but I am by now quite convinced that I might benefit from a mentor that helps me to navigate the career and life path that’s ahead of me. I’d love to hear from others who either have been on roughly the same point in their career and have (or have not) benefited from having a mentor, or who can help me find a good mentor. All input is greatly appreciated.

So, in short, you’ll hear less from me from this moment on, but hopefully also more. And better. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my journey.

10 thoughts on “On quality over quantity and my career journey

  1. Bas,
    Best to you on your continued efforts. I understand and relate to the need to step back and focus on higher quality output. Not that any of your previous postings was not quality work. Quite the opposite, you have produced some very insightful and relevant work in your posts. That’s why I’ve always been quick to read what you have written.

    But I surmise you want to stay fresh in your posts, and that other factors are causing you to make this slight course correction. Happens to all of us. And I do understand the need to be more focused and not spread too thin.

    Don’t worry about becoming a master at this stuff, it is a never ending learning cycle in this line of work. I know, I’ve got to retool/reskill myself now due to the changes over the last few years with Automation and Tools. As part of your focusing on your work you will also focus on what you want to study and pursue in this industry. Continue to do as you are now, innovating and pushing the boundaries.

    But do find someone who can be a mentor AND a colleague to bounce ideas off of. Write down your strengths and weaknesses, and then work on improving your weaknesses. But do them one at a time, not all at the same time because then you will get spread too thin again. Been there, done that as the saying goes.

    Best of luck to you. I look forward to when you do post some new ideas. Quality over quantity is a good thing to do.

    • Thanks Jim, both for the great tips in this comment and the continued support. Much appreciated. Interestingly, a number of interesting things are currently coming my way. Great opportunity to learn to say ‘no’ to all but the best of them.

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  4. Hi Bas!

    Good post. I think you show an unusual courage and intelligence in wanting to master automation, and openly admitting that you’re not there yet.

    I’m learning, too, by teaching and discovering MetaAutomation (which I both discovered and invented) to push quality automation to much greater power and business value than before. Although my book on Amazon currently has a lot of great stuff in it, the book I’m currently working on will replace it because I’m building it on much stronger foundations and oh, I’ve learned so much since then.

    Practitioners of “test automation” are of course very smart and have the best of intentions, but stepping back to reexamine the big picture has shown me how much of the practice is broken and always was.

    I don’t think I can mentor you, but maybe we can help each other. I’m looking for smart, curious and driven people like yourself in the field, as reviewers. Please shoot me an email at matt AT MetaAutomation DOT net.

  5. Hi Bas, great article always and i enjoy reading your blog often.I am Manual Tester learning Automation testing.

    Recently a recruitment agency called me and ask “I can build an automation from scratch”Wow!!

    Have you got examples to answer that question in your blog!

    • An example for building automation from scratch? Wow.. That’s a BIG question, and I don’t think I could ever cover that in a single blog post. If only because so much depends on the system under test, the requirements and the expectations set by stakeholders.

  6. This was an interesting post although I wasn’t too surprised to hear you were throttling back on posting here. Don’t blame you as I think weekly posts are a bit too ambitious and exhausting! I didn’t realize that was your initial aim.

    I am not a constant follower of yours here although I’ve found myself coming back here about 5 or 6 times over the years. Why? Because I actually do think your site, and more importantly your content, is of much better quality than most out there on java test automation using Webdriver, particularly the LoadableComponent class! I think you’ve already achieved quality over quantity. However, I’m sure it can be draining especially given our “day jobs”.

    As I am now working using Python and Javascript your language-specific posts are a little less applicable but still valuable. I’ll keep poking my head back in from time to time. Thank you Bas!

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