On spreading myself (too?) thin

As some of you might have seen, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing in the last couple of months. Next to a weekly blog post for this website, I’ve been busy writing several articles for TechBeacon and StickyMinds, as well as a couple of one-offs for other sites. Next to that, I’ve also reviewed a couple of chapters for a book, I’m preparing another webinar and I’ll be delivering several training courses and talks in the next couple of months, so I’m spending time preparing those too. And there’s this thing called ‘client work’ that takes up a lot of time as well..

Needless to say, it’s a challenge sometimes to get everything done and still stick to my own quality standards. So much so, that I’ve finally realized it might be a good idea to back down a little. That’s hard for me, because I love doing all the things I’m allowed to do and I like to do as much of them as possible. But I feel that slowly, I’m starting to compromise on quality, and that’s the exact opposite of what I stand for.

Maybe even more important, all that writing and other stuff works with quite narrow deadlines, which on the one hand is a blessing for a world class procrastinator like myself, but on the other hand, it also is the main cause of me putting the urgent (the work with the short deadlines) before the important (the work that I really feel needs to be done). Because there’s always another blog post or article to write, or a call to do, there’s no time for the deep work required to create some of the things I want to create.

Some of you might know what I’m referring to, because I’ve been in touch with a number of people to discuss the idea: I’d love to do something about the way test automation is taught in courses. See this blog post or a more elaborate explanation of what I mean by that statement. But creating a course that covers everything I think should be covered will not be easy, nor will it be fast. But since it’s something I feel so strongly about, it’s worth it to carve out the required time from my schedule. Even if that does mean disappointing some people, or saying ‘no’ to requests or invitations.

And there’s another, albeit smaller, course related to automation (and to Selenium in particular) that I’d like to see published as well. So there’s time needed for that too. That means I’ll have to be a little more careful with my time and planning, something I never really had to do before. So, in a way, this will be a good lesson for me as well.

I’ll still try to write a blog post every week, but if needs must, I might have to break that promise to myself as well. I’ll keep you posted.

An update on crafting my career

Now that it’s almost time for me to go on what I think is a well deserved holiday, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time and see where I stand with regards to reshaping my career the way I want it to look like. In the last couple of months, some interesting developments have taken place that I think are small steps in the right direction. I also discussed my ideas on how my ideal working life would look like (freedom and variety basically sums it up) with some other people, resulting in either encouragement or blank stares. I don’t know what to make of the latter, but the encouragement is nice.

So, what have I been up to? First of all, I started a new project, since the one I was previously working on was not a good fit for me. I didn’t feel I could make a valuable enough contribution there to warrant both my hourly rate and the commute (an hour one way), so I decided to end it and go look for a new one. My current project is in an enterprise environment with a very heterogeneous application landscape and lots of room for improvement in the testing and test automation area. I’ve come to realize that this kind of organization and project fits me much more than the web development organization I was at before. Also, my commute has been cut in half, which gives me much more time to spend at home with the wife and kids, and to work on other projects, which to me is huge as well. That’s one thing I love about being self employed: the ability to choose what you’ll be working on and when to stop a project that is not a good fit.

Freelance freedom

Also, I’ve been asked by O’Reilly (the media and publishing company) to write a 20-30 page report on the state of and current trends in service virtualization. At the time of publishing of this blog post, it’s up for a final review, with a planned publishing date of September of this year. I’ll probably write a separate blog post with a link to the report once it’s published, so keep an eye out for that one to see if it is interesting to you too. The report will be accompanied by a blog post on another web site as well (of which I currently do not know the URL), which is part of the package deal agreed upon. The report will be freely downloadable and sponsored by HP Enterprise. I am very excited to have been asked to do this in the first place, much more because these writing assignments are exactly the type of projects I would like to fill my ideal workday with. Also, it’s another valuable exercise in honing my technical writing and English skills.

Furthermore, a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to receive an invitation to deliver a test automation-related workshop at the first edition of the Iasi spin-off of Romania Testing, to be held on November 4th (thanks again, Richard, for referring the organization to me!). Needless to say I happily accepted the invitation, so I’m currently in the early stages of workshop preparation. Also, I’ve never been to Romania before, so that’s a nice bonus too for someone that wants to see as much of the world as his schedule and finances allow.

Romania Testing - Iasi edition

Next to that, I’ll be giving a presentation at Centric (an IT services provider) in November as well on a yet to be determined topic related to test automation. I was invited to do this thanks to a referral from Sara, who attended my REST Assured workshop in May. So, again, thanks for that! It’ll be a nice opportunity to meet new people, do some networking and to further practice my public speaking skills.

Another thing that has kept me busy for some time now is the idea of transitioning from billed-by-the-hour work to offering project- and value-based services. Or even a product.. I’m still not sure as to what such a service or product should look like, but I AM sure that I don’t want to be depending purely on hourly work for long anymore. It doesn’t scale and it is a restriction to the freedom of working when and where I want to that I would like to have. As you can read above, I’ve been given the opportunity to take some small steps in the right direction, but I’m not nearly there yet.

The last I’ve been thinking about, and this is the first time I’m talking about this to anyone but myself, is writing a book on test automation. I know, there are lots of those already, but a lot of them focus on specific tools and how-to’s. What I think is missing is a thoughtful and balanced overview of the current state of test automation, and a debunking of a lot of still common test automation myths. If I decide to go through with this plan (currently I’m veering towards a ‘yes’) that’s another thing I would like to start on this year. Any comments or ideas are highly welcomed!

To round things up, I’m still not sure as to how to move forward, but writing this up makes me see for myself that I am moving in the right direction. The end goal is pretty clear now, but the road towards that goal is still pretty misty. Maybe some time off work will generate new ideas that can be pursued once I get back.

Finally, I’d like to share two blog posts from Louise Stigell that pretty much describe how I’m thinking about my career at the moment: ‘Being rich versus being free‘ and ‘Unemployable and proud‘.

Oh, and if you’ve already returned from your holiday: I hope you had a good one. If you’re still going: enjoy it! If you’re currently on holiday: what the &*%^ are you doing here?