Setting up targets for learning

So I have been pretty lacking in the learning department for a couple of months now. This is partly due to new team structures and a busier timetable for me in general (more meetings, more responsibilites, bottleneck in testing…) so I just don’t get an hour or two every single day to work on my development. It doesn’t help that the company put a hold on the search for a Senior QA who might be better able to guide us Junior QAs, as neither of us has experience prior to a year ago (although my Engineering Team manager has some knowledge on the subject and is awesome at encouraging us to push forwards).

I had my 6-month probation meeting last week, and the feedback was a lot better than I expected. I thought I’d have a million things to work on, a hundred ways to improve. But nope – “carry on doing what you’re doing”.

The problem is:

What am I doing?

I spend most of my work day manually testing, writing test plans, or looking up gifs to post in the slack chat. I talk big about my plans for learning, but JS tutorials are annoying to do in a 10-minute-here, 20-minutes-there kind of way. My development has just stalled.

That’s not to say I haven’t been moving forwards at all – I’m now tied a lot more closely to the kanban board, I basically control flow and decide when we release to the testing and production environments. That’s pretty cool.

I don’t know what it is about being told I’m doing okay, but it made me really want to double down on fixing all the bad stuff – the stuff they can’t see because they don’t have as high expectations of me as I have of myself.

So I decided I’m making a plan. A solid plan, from now until 6 months’ time. I don’t want to carry on what I’m doing, I want to do more.

The plan

I’m an awful human being, therefore I wrote something in spreadsheet format when it would have been better and easier to do in a text document:

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 15.45.59

I realised that one of the problems with me looking to the future was that I didn’t have an ‘end goal’. I had no idea what career development was in the testing world. I kinda figured my only way up the ladder was to become a developer and climb that way. After doing some research, I found that this isn’t the case. There’s some great places to go from here.

I decided my super long-term goal is to become a Full-stack automation engineer. Firstly, because I love the idea of learning about not just the front-end, but everything that comes together to make a product. I want to know how the back-end works, where the pain points are between services and how annoying it is to work with rubbish APIs. Full-stack is the way to go. As for automation, that’s just the future. Being an automation engineer sounds really cool, though not as cool as it would be in a steampunk novel.

I then had to ask myself – what knowledge am I missing, that would allow me to advance?

Pretty much everything. Just… everything.

In order to write automated tests, I need to be familiar with a. what it is that needs testing, and b. testing software I can use to write the tests. At the moment, I’m quite familiar with the front-end at work so I’m going to concentrate on the next 6 months on back-end work.

I’m going to learn GoLang to a level I can understand what each line of code is doing, and why it works. I’m going to learn how our back-end services work, and how all the pieces slot together to serve our product. I’m going to learn about tracking – why we do it, when we do it, and what types of tracking we use.

At the same time, I’m going to continue to deepen my experience with Javascript. There are so many little fiddly things about it that I just don’t have the knowledge to work at the moment. The more I look into our products, the more lost I get, and that’s not good enough.

Breaking it down

Now it’s super easy to make those kind of grand plans. “I’m just going to try really hard and I will magically learn all the things! I’m a planner, not a pantser.

I’m going to start work an hour early twice every week in order to get dedicated time towards my development. I have made a spreadsheet (love me some spreadsheets) detailing my planned actions for each week. Since it’s me, the spreadsheet looks awful (don’t love me some spreadsheets that much)

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 16.08.40

As you can see, I added a few tasks for this week. I have so far made the spreadsheet and created a user on the Ministry of Testing Club. I’ve also organised a meeting about tracking, and listed what learning outcomes I would like to get from it.

On the right, I have “Weekly Actions”, which are reoccurring steps I should take every week: watch 1 conference or talk (I’ll be using the JSConf channel as a starting point), read 1+ articles and write 1 blog post (hello).

I’ve also written a list of videos and articles I plan to watch and read, as well as Node/Express and GoLang tutorials to go through.

Gotta get back to some testing now, or the board will never recover from the R4T back-up. More riveting details of my learning journey next week….


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