The joy of helping others

Last week I feel I have been helping others I work with more than I usually do. Partly from as a result of being asked to help explain or fix things, and partly from offering my own services. The more I thought about what I have done last week, the more I thought about writing about it. (I meant to get this finished and published on Friday. I still need to work on time management!)

Testing is more than being able to find problems, more than being able to read requirements and work out tests. The ‘soft’ skills matter to, critically being able to communicate with others. You could be the most knowledgeable tester in the world, but if you can’t express what you need to others in a useful way that they can understand and follow, then all that knowledge will be trapped forever inside you.

The week started small, helping a contractor with a tool our developers made in-house to call some web services. When they went to use the tool, no matter what service they called or inputs given it immediately crashed. After some quick digging we found that whilst the exe file was there, the config file was missing, and that is what was causing the too to crash! Once the config file was added, everything started working. Nothing complex, but being one of the few in the team who has used the tool much, I was their go-to person.

Next I helped a co-worker in my project team who isn’t a tester with some internal pages we use on Jira and Confluence, to track what work we have. They had built a site showing what we had going on, but had unfortunately built it under their own personal site, which would look strange for anyone who went looking for it or tried to use it. I walked them through how to move it to a new location that was more relevant. We then went over our Jira kanban board for how we could make it easily show what work was being built using our new technology, and which are using our legacy technologies until the new systems are ready. I asked for permission to try some things out, experimenting with the board and tickets, until I showed them a solution they were happy with. In this case, as we were only using stories and no epics, by making an epic each for the new and legacy technologies, and then linking the existing stories to the epics, they had clearly visible tags displayed on them. If you know a better way to do this from a board view, please get in touch!

The bulk of my help has gone to a colleague, where I helped them with the analysis of their project. They were strongly advised to use decision tables to work out their test scenarios, but they had never used them before, only reading about it months ago in my old ISTQB folder I loaned to them. A co-worker gave them an overview the week prior whilst I was off, but due to helping them when they first joined the company, they came back to me for confirmation of what they had done.
I sat with them, they talked through what they had done and why, but with gentle verbal prodding I asked what made them make the choices they had, and what questions they needed answers to.
I also helped with them on validation testing, which they were also inexperienced with. Whilst the vast majority of my validation testing experience is with websites, this was for a report being generated, and so some of what I would traditionally do would not be possible. I went over boundary value analysis (BVA), which is something I feel tries to sound more complex then it actually is. For example, I have a field in the report which can handle a maximum of 20 numerical characters, and can be left blank as it is an optional field.
So I asked them:

  • What happens when you put in the minimum (1) and maximum (20)?
  • What about overloading it (21)? Does the report fail or will it cut off a character?
  • What about a non-numerical character? Alpha characters? Special characters?
  • The report states it is an optional field, so make sure we have that included too.

I then challenged them to find out where the data for the report is coming from, as that can also determine what tests can or cannot be done. They came back to me saying this was all being pulled from Oracle tables. I encouraged them to see the database tables as the guardians for the data. They will prevent non-numerical values being entered for the matching entry in this case, and as the report and table match for maximum size, they won’t be able to overload the input.

Why am I telling you all this? It is because by doing the above, from a little bit of help, to a repeated series of help, I get emotional.

Joy at knowing I’ve helped someone do something they couldn’t before.
Pride that I was the one able to help them.
Confident that I not only know something, but I am able to express it in a way that someone else can understand and take away with them.
Caring as I took the time to help and make sure they were able to continue on, not just send an e-mail with a document or link to a site telling them what to do, which may not give them the answer they need.

Sometimes in this job I feel like I don’t know enough to do things. But when someone comes to me for help and I can help them, it reminds me that I know more then I give myself credit for.


7 thoughts on “The joy of helping others

  1. Looks like your good at and passionate about coaching, its a really good skill to have. You know someone trusts you when they come to you for help!

    As well as reminding yourself that you know more than you give yourself credit for, what would be interesting to know is, what did you learn from last week?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say it helped affirm what I know, and how well I know it, so that I can explain it to others.

      I know career wise I’d want to keep the opportunity open to work with and help others, so more chances for coaching and training others would be great.


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