Thursday, 25 February 2016

What the Minions movie taught me about job hunting

The Minions sole purpose is to follow the most evil boss they can find. They are completely fulfilled by following their master. They are easily distracted from their current master if a new, more evil master comes along.

They don't get paid. There is no package and employment conditions are dubious to say the least.

What we could all learn from the Minions is that their choice of employer is solely based on leadership. The more bad ass the boss, the more the Minions want to work for them.

So when the Minions meet up with Gru, they know they have found their 'big boss'. They follow him because he is the baddest, most evil villain they have ever seen and that is what they need to believe in his leadership.

When was the last time you did this when you were looking for a job?

We all read a spec, find out where it is, what the package is.... how many times do we look into the guy or girl at the top? Not just finding out his or her name but understanding what they are about - 'why' they do what they do?

This was a question I asked myself not only because I recently have made the decision to move to another company but also because I was reading "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek. It made me question how I had been looking for roles which has been governed by the dating style dance of supply and demand rather than a desire to work for a specific company based on leadership.

The recruitment industry fulfills a difficult dance - an employer needs to fill a role and the recruiters essentially play a numbers game trying to find a fit for the person, skills, place and time to fill it. Someone might be a perfect 'fit' but unless they are ready to move on, it simply won't happen.

But how many people search for their role based solely on the ethics or purpose of a company? I'm talking about companies that have a clear intention and vision - those who are led by people who inspire us? People who have inspired an entire workforce to follow them.

On a practical note, how would we find these people or organisations? The large companies are well known - they cannot be the only ones! How do we find the next generation of Virgin or Apple? How do we know they are looking for people like you? At the moment it feels more like luck than a plan - like the Minions following a new master until something better comes along.

This is slowly changing to a more pull style recruitment drive where social media plays a pivotal role. My recently journey onto the job market was totally different to anything previously - I reached a dozen or so organisations through introduction alone. I managed my own interviews and offers and yes, it was hard work.

In the meantime, I want to pose a question:

How many of us really see an interview as a two-way thing?

Shouldn't we be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing us? As much as they are trying to find out how we will make their 'why' real, shouldn't we be trying to find out about their 'why'?

Whilst we might not be able to target our recruitment 'aim', we can certainly make sure we know what an awesome company looks like when we end up in an interview with them. That is only obvious when you find out 'why' they do what they do and you believe it too.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How I would interview developers now

I have done my fair share of interviews. I recently realised I was doing it all wrong.

Now, I would only talk about testing. It's a much better gauge of a developer than anything else.

If the developer is describing manual testing, I'm thinking Junior. At best.

Everyone has heard of unit testing, so I'm interested in the level they have taken this to. Have they only done unit testing on green field projects? Did they add functionality to a project that already had good coverage? Did they have to bring up the coverage of something that already existed?

If they had to add tests to something that existed, how did they deal with architectures that didn't have testing in mind? Did they use any patterns to help with the transition? How did they negotiate the risk of refactoring code that had no tests? Did they form a strategy for ensuring the functionality was the same before and after - what was it? Did it work? What did they learn?

Test driven development usually comes up too. Describe it to me - I'm interested. How did you get started with it? Do you use it for everything? TDD is hard and you can loose the discipline quickly. I have come across only a few developers who really did TDD - the rest write unit tests after their implementation, which is not the same. What's the difference? Is it OK to do it this way - sell it to me.

So you're writing tests. I'm now thinking you are developer with a few years experience - you've seen things, you have scars.

Again, I'm interested. What does a good test look like? How would you name a test? This is particular PITA since we all know naming things is haaaard. I want to know the thought process though. How have you managed hundreds of tests? How about thousands? How did you structure these, how did you evolve this over time and what did you learn? Did you group tests together - what has worked for you in the past?

Let's talk smells.

What does a really long test tell you about the code you are testing? If you have initialise half the app to do the test what's going through your head? If lots of your tests are using the same dummy data, what might you expect to happen in the future? What would you think if you saw multiple asserts - is that OK? If not, can you think of any examples where it might be OK?

Tools can also be a topic of conversation. What frameworks have you used? Can you do unit testing without them? How would you go about that? What's the difference between a fake, a mock and a stub? How would you use each?

Getting more interested. You've probably refactored some tests - maybe had to teach people. Maybe had to be the sheriff at times. All good - I thinking more senior now. You've probably had more responsibility or accepted more for 'the cause'.

We're in integration land now. How have you set the state of a test - what strategies did you use and why? How do you deal with large databases during tests? How did you deal with specific customer configurations? How can you structure tests around failures - how does this affect automated runs? What happens when you have too much to run in a single night?

Depending on your flavour we might be talking API or UI. Have you had to apply tests to a legacy Windows application? What challenges did you face? Have you tested Web applications? Is there anything you had to differently to allow the UI to be automated? What mistakes did you make or uncover? How about mobile applications? How did you deal with apps that were for multiple OS's and ensure conformity?

Integration testing is often tool heavy. What did you use? What's your favourite? What features really helped you? Did you write anything to enhance your toolset? What did it do?

If we get here, I really thinking lead. I'm liking the embedded approach to your thinking - QA is a part of your thought process and experience.

Testing is a part of team life. Agile teams own quality. They nail it in the sprint - it is a part of the DoD, one guy in the team cannot do all of it. How far on this journey are they? How do they plan testing in their team? How do they estimate it?

Think about what I'm REALLY asking. If you are not testing anything yourself, I'm wondering about your code - to be honest, I'm wondering if I could understand it and maintain it. If we are talking unit tests, you have probably had to confront this and do something about it. We all have had that "who wrote this rubbish?!" moment only to discover it was us.

Talking about unit tests means, I'm pretty sure you are familiar with Dependency Injection, if you can describe smells you probably also get Single Responsibility Principle too. You might have had struggles with the Open/Closed Principle and realised the pitfalls of inheritance and how this affects what we are testing. So we are also touching on OO principles like encapsulation and composition which influence how we structure code so it can be tested. I don't need to ask you any basic questions because if we got here, I'm pretty sure you know that!

I'm also getting direct feedback on how you regard quality. This is not the QA's job - it is everybody's job. It is core to delivering product. Quality is embedded into each line - code is crafted to be tested, products are designed to tested, developers need to think in terms of delivery - the output of which is also tested.

Anyone can rattle off definitions but describing how you apply these to deliver software is easier to gauge if we only talk tests. It's also really hard to fake.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Why I hate 'Best Practice'

I hear the words 'best practice' almost every day. My eyes roll over and I look vexed. I don't mean to, I just hate this phrase.

I live in a world where we make things transparent so we can inspect and adapt.

How does this work with 'best practice'?

By adopting 'best practice' we are making the assumption that this is the ideal, that there is nothing left to learn.

We might also put this all in a locked box so we can't change it. It is 'best practice' after all - you will probably mess it up if you play with it.

So when one of my team recently said he could not change the QA 'best practice', I suggested that we absolutely needed to try.

Together we proposed we do something different - based on observation and experience - that might make the process better. We decided to run an experiment to test our own theory that the 'best practice' was flawed and can be improved.

We proposed how we could evolve the process and measure it's impact so we can decide whether we should keep the change.

So what is 'best practice' in a process that designed to evolve?

To me, it is the last thing that worked.

This might not be the last thing you tried since you always have scope for experimentation and learning.

In my world, nothing can be 'best practice' since we can always improve it.