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From the Webinar: ‘Coaching Software Testers’ Q&A with Anne-Marie Charrett-->
Below are Anne-Marie’s responses to questions posed at the webinar Coaching Software Testers which took place on Tuesday 30th April 2013.
If you missed the webinar you can view the recording in the EuroSTAR Webinar Archive here and download Anne-Marie’s presentation.
Many thanks to all of you who listened to my webinar on coaching testers and thanks for the great questions. I’ve written this post to answer the questions I didn’t get to in the webinar. If you wish to be coached, feel free to contact me on Skype. My id is charretts, but please be sure to put in the word “coaching’ in the request. That way I know you’re not a chatbot! Alternatively you can find my contact details on my blog http://www.mavericktester.com
Thanks for your questions. I have tried to answer them below.
Q: Hi, Have you tried coaching face-to-face or just skype coaching?
Mostly the coaching I’ve done has on instant messaging, however recently I’ve been doing a lot more face to face coaching in a team and some coaching using voice only. I tried an approach recently where I had a Skype video call, followed by chat. I enjoyed that as it gave me some idea of who the person was.
Q: And how was this experience different than the Skype coaching?
Well, with face to face coaching there its easier to understand a person and their context. You have a lot more to read into. Think about body language, and voice tone for instance. It’s easier to see if you are adding too much pressure or not.
Q: How does one know whether s/he is putting too much pressure#intemperance
Hi Rajesh. That’s a tough call especially if you are on instant messaging. I’ve had coaching sessions where I thought everything was going well, only to find the tester feels they are really bad at what they are doing, which is not my intention at all. I’ve added to much pressure!
Its easier to monitor this in face to face coaching. Ultimately it’s a question of practice and growing more confident in your ability.
Q: Inspiring webinar! do you offer or are there concrete software coaching trainings offered in the U.S./east coast, or must this be done virtually/online?
I will be performing a one day coaching tutorial in Madison, Wisconsin on the 26th August at the CAST Conference.
I’m in the process of creating an online coaching course too, and that will be available later in the year.
Q: Would you recommend any books for coaches, so we can learn how to ask right questions and what expect from the answers?
I’m not sure there is a book on asking the right question and expecting the right answer, because has to depend on the tester you are coaching. You will quickly loose the energy in a coaching session if you ask pre prepared questions.
I do always have some idea of what I intend to coach, and there are some tasks I find I offer a lot. With these I have a fair idea of what the responses will be, however, I’ve acquired these through coaching the same task many times.
If you want to read up on the Socratic dialogue, then one book I found helpful was The thinkers guide to the art of Socratic questioning by Linda Elder and Richard Paul.
Q: Can over confidence be also considered has student action?
Hi Sowmya, I’m not sure I understand your question. I am going to assume your question is :” Can over confidence be also considered as a student action?” I
I think its more a symptom, that comes out as particular student actions. For example may say they perform exploratory testing, but when you drive to detail, there answers become short and shallow.
Q: Please share some idea on how to coach a tester become an automation test engineer.
They will have some technical backgroud to become one but to change their mindset is the biggest challenge.
Good Luck! My experience is that if a person doesn’t want to learn something, its going to be hard to coach them. You will find the energy to be low or non existent. You could try forcing them to learn automation, but that’s not coaching.
Q: which test tools do you use? and why?
I’m not sure what you mean by test tools? Perhaps you mean what test tools do I coach on? That depends on what the tester wants to learn I suppose.
Q: What is difference between training & coaching
Training is directive and often its one teacher who has all the knowledge and tells the class what they need to know. Coaching is all about the student and is most often done in a one-on-one environment. You could think of coaching as its the student that determines the class content, with the coach offering guidance and help them learn in a deep and meaningful way.
Q: What is your experience with students without technical background and want to start a testing career?
A lot of the coaching is about critical thinking, so really anyone willing can learn that. Personally, I think a technical background is a huge advantage for many types of testing, but not all. For instance, think of Usability Testing. If a student wants to learn more technical detail, for sure I would help them with that.
Q: I find the biggest barrier when coaching testers is to not create an artificial barrier between you and the tester, whereby they deal with it negatively and feel your actually testing them not working together collaboratively. How do you over come that aspect?
I think this is why we added the trust element into our coaching model. Trust is huge, because the tester has to be willing to trust you when you add pressure and challenge them. I find it helps to explain my coaching method. I tell students that I will challenge them and that if they feel its too much they can tell me to stop. I want the student to feel in control of their learning.
Q: Wandering shepherd addresses the direction of your coaching. How do know which direction to choose? (Especially when you don’t know the person you are coaching.)
The key is to find out what the student wants to learn. Once you know that, work out the objective of the coaching session, and decide a task that will help them to learn that. This helps to frame the whole coaching session. Try to keep this in the back of you mind as you coach. Of course, you can stray from this, but do so in a considered way.
Q: Does mentoring and coaching mean the same?
When I was mentored, it meant someone who I could go to ask a question. Coaching is a lot more directive and controlled than mentoring.
Q: If the student seems to lose energy during the coaching session, how would a coach up his/her energy?
You could try adding pressure and see how the student responds but if the student has lost energy because you added too much pressure then this is probably not a good idea! In this situation, why not ask the student directly “You seem to be having trouble with this?” or “lets take a step back”. And of course, you could find something they did that was praiseworthy and highlight that.
Q: can you provide some example of trouble blindess? Do you mean that the tester is not seeing the problems that tester should be?
The coach is not spotting problems in the students responses. This is quite common when a coach is inexperienced. Often you know you are missing something, but you are not quite sure what it is.
Q: Anne-Marie, You mentioned in the begining that you have done Remote/online coaching – Are these usually one-to-one, or one to many? How do you ovecome the challenge of the media being “in the way” ?
Yes online remote coaching through instant chat. Occasionally I do voice and video. The trouble with chat, is that its hard to read the persons response. For example, they take 3 minutes to respond to a question. Is that because they don’t know the answer, or is it because their boss has interrupted them with a question.?
Zahir ul Din Babur
Q: Hi..while coaching we might have group of persons having different energy levels…how could we handle this issue??
You will find it really heard to coach in a group and train and maintain everyone’ energy level, because students can hide in a group so even reading the energy becomes hard. You could try to direct your questions to people you know have low energy, or you could try and get some of the higher energy student to coach the lower energy students. I haven’t tried that myself, but it might work.
Most of the coaching I do is one-on-one because of this. In a group, you are going to have to resort to more of a training approach than a coaching approach.
Q: Do you consider learning styles when coaching or is it part or recognising the energy to see how best a student learns from your sessions? Thanks
What a great question. Of course people have different learning styles and sometimes it’s hard to know what this is. You could ask the student upfront, do they have any particular style of learning they prefer? That way, you can try and tailor the coaching session to take that into consideration.
For example, you could coach by email if a student likes to really reflect on the answer before they respond.
Q: have you ever had a student seek coaching from you because he/she lacked motivation as a tester (possibly seeking inspiration to get back on the saddle)? in which case, how would you manage the lack of energy?
Oh, I get this a lot. In fact the last tester in the webinar, Chris, he contacted me because he wanted to ‘rediscover’ his passion in testing. I have immense respect for anyone who comes to be wanting to be coached. Even if your energy is at a ‘low’ you have still enough to ask to be coached. I try very hard to tap into a persons energy at the start by connecting with the student as much as possible at the start of a session. You can do this by asking questions about their background. Also, remember the expectations and aspirations attributes on the left hand side of the coach? Keep the aspirations about where you want the student to be high but don’t expect to much at the start. As the persons energy begins to rebuild, increase the expectations.
Q: Would you please share any tips/experiences to coach experienced testers to keep their motivation levels up for doing manual monotonous tasks like regression tests?
Its hard to answer this question without having some background understanding of why they are doing manual monotonous tasks. The consultant in me wants to challenge you on that! But I’ll try and answer this from a coaching perspective.
The coaching I perform and train others to do, is really exercises in critical and lateral thinking. Many experienced testers learn how to develop a questioning mindset which leads to motivation within the coaching session. Be warned, if you encourage this type of coaching, your experienced testers may start challenging WHY they are running monotonous manual regression testing! But is that necessarily a bad thing?