How does Mentoring work where you are?

(Stuart) #1

Hi All,

I’ve recently been given the task to look at how we can officially run a test mentoring scheme at my company, as we currently have no such scheme at all sadly :(.

I’ve got some ideas of my own, but I was wondering how the rest of the industry is doing this?

Some ideas I’ve had:
The role can be a “mantle” that people pick up for a specified time, a bit like a Fire Marshal. For example, Barry is going to be the Test Mentor or Coach for the next 6 months. He’ll run surgeries, be available for 1:1 sessions at people’s desks to be a sounding board and potentially promote testing around the rest of the company to areas where there is no testing resource.

Alternatively, it could be done as a buddy scheme, for example, if someone feels they need some guidance, or for new entrants. A more senior member of the team would be made available to spend some time with them each week.

If anyone has any advice, or knows of any good articles, please let me know!
Any help will be much appreciated!

Best Regards

(David Shute) #2

It’s not working as well as I’d like it to just yet, but we’re a small team of two so we’ve got some flexibility.

The primary role here is to help the other person ask relevant questions and make solid decisions. While the tester I’m working with is solid, there’s a bit more than just chiming in when they need help. There’s quite a bit of active work that needs to be done.

The first thing is just to test together. Paired testing sessions go a long way to sharing implicit knowledge.

The second is walking them through various tools, technologies, and processes. The ideal here is to have them with their hands on the keyboard and perform actions that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for them instead of having me “just do it for them”.

From a very high level, the final major thing we’re doing right now is throwing him in way deeper than he should be. These are the types of test planning, technical exercises, and managerial experiences that are pretty much outside of his regular work load. He’s observing, absorbing, and occasionally contributing.

The ultimate goal here is self sufficiency with an eye to be able to mentor someone else to the same goal in the future. It means going slow for awhile. Slow enough in some cases that my instinct to just do it myself needs to suppressed, but it’s in investment in his capacity in the future.

If we were in a bigger team I would be cycling paired testing across the department and also running some mob testing sessions. In the past, I’ve had testers paired up with a buddy and I like this process. That said, I think I’d be changing that up a bit, given the opportunity. The buddy system needs to be proactive. Whoever the “senior” in the pairing is needs to be willing to seek out opportunities to build up their partner. That, typically, requires that person to be mentored on mentoring others in turn.

We’re still early in the process (though a couple months later than I’d like), but it’s showing promise.

(Stuart) #3

That’s really interesting to hear, thanks for sharing. I’d not considered paired testing, there’s so many different methods to consider.

I’m very conscious of the fact that mentoring isn’t teaching or training though. Personally I believe an engineer could mentor a senior engineer, if the mentor has deep enough knowledge in a subject area which the senior doesn’t.

The main analogy I’m trying to keep in my head is football coaches, most of them were never as talented as the players they coach, but they enable those players to be better at what they do.

We have a lot of isolated testers within development teams, so one of the first things I want to implement is mentors being available as sounding boards, to sit with those isolated testers, see what they’re doing and offer an outsiders opinion on the situation.

(Ady) #4

Hi Stuart, you could consider a community of practice to discuss testing in general and develop a backlog of subjects you want to explore as a group. I presented a talk on that very thing at Leeds Test Atelier in May. Link to the talk is below and I’d be happy to answer any question you might have. Contact details are on my blog, Could possibly be a nice lead into pair testing and mentoring. Good luck with your project, I’d like to hear how you got on in 6-months or so.

(David Shute) #5

Oh, and test session debriefs. Forgot about that first time around.

(Lee) #6

We’ve had a CoP for a year now where I work, and I can agree that they are very useful. In my situation, as the testers are in different parts of the same building or even different but nearby buildings, it’s one of the few times we all get together.

(perminder) #7

Hi there.
We have implemented two types of test mentoring. One is for those new to testing altogether (ops colleagues) so that they can cross train. They have a buddy who assists them with a small project and literally hand holds if required. Once they have some experience we will move onto theory. As TA (although I kind of see myself as a Scrum Master type role) I ask for input from the community for ideas on things they want to learn. It can be something specific to what they are involved in or to keep current. The other test mentoring is more of a group where we have hands on technical learning sessions. One to one mentoring is sometimes required. One thing I have learnt though is that everyone has a different learning style and/or pace. It’s important to recognise this so people don’t get left behind or pushed into the ‘they dont want to change’ corner. People still find new things scary. Btw love the football coach analogy.

(Gavin) #8

Mentoring at my place of work doesn’t work at all.