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Developing an offshore
context-driven testing team
Lee Hawkins
Principal Test Architect
Dell Software (Melbourne)
@therockertester
Who am I?
• 15 years at Quest Software /
Dell Software in Melbourne,
Australia.
• Really testing since 2007 after
attending Rapid Software
Testing with Michael Bolton.
• Current role is Principal Test
Architect.
We deliver scalable and affordable
solutions that simplify IT and mitigate
risk. Our offerings, when combined
with Dell hardware and services, drive
unmatched efficiency to accelerate
business results.
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How did I get
here… and why
did I bother?
Because I want to share my story…
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Why China?
vs.
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Starting to build
our test team
• First hired Charles as a senior
manager.
• Hired testers and automated
test developers.
• “Standard” tester job spec.
• Good verbal English language
skills a must!
• Not actively involved in the
hiring decisions at this end.
• After about a year, we had:
– 7 testers, and
– 6 automated test developers.
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The testing
team
Testing experience before Dell:
0-2 years:
Cindy
Elfin
2-5 years:
Aaron
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Caroline
Keven
Breeze
5+ years:
Scott
Dell Software Group
Challenges
• Cultural differences
• Language barriers
• Traditional testing status quo
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Dealing with
cultural
differences
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Cultural differences (1) - training
• Chinese cultural training sessions in Melbourne
• Better than nothing!
• Stopped us making basic
mistakes
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• Stereotypical / too
traditional
• No substitute for real
interactions
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Cultural differences (2) - the big tickets
Hierarchy
• Belief in rigid hierarchy, from Confucius
• Elders are respected
• Seniority is valued & respected
• Criticizing or questioning seniority is just not the
done thing. Group harmony is very important.
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Cultural differences (3) - the big tickets
Face
• Politeness, respect, harmony
• Pride, social position
• Gaining face
• Losing face
"Saving Face in China" (Anne-Laure Monfret, French Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong)
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Cultural differences (4) - practicalities
• Too scared to email, Lync or call the “architect”.
• Visiting them and making personal connections
helped build trust and more open communication.
• “Tell us how to become a testing expert like you”
• Give them permission to disagree with me.
• Encourage them to question everything, don’t just
follow me. Tell me I’m wrong.
• Constant reinforcement that it’s OK to disagree.
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Cultural differences (5) - tips
• There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings to
build trust relationships, so visit the team and visit often.
• Small gifts for the team work well (gain face).
• Demonstrate your interest in learning the culture and
show respect for it. Take the team for dinner.
• Treat the offshore team as part of the team.
• Learn some basic phrases in their language.
• Keep abreast of the news headlines in their country.
• Did I mention visiting the team? Do it. And do it again.
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The language
barrier
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Language barrier (1) - learning
• Our Melbourne cultural training also included a basic
introduction to Mandarin.
• We devote a few hours per week (within work time) for
them to improve their English, both in office study
groups and through online learning.
• They are enthusiastic and strongly motivated to
improve their English, so take advantage of that.
• On-going process on both sides.
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Language barrier (2) - written vs. verbal
Written
• BA to write user stories
• Provide feedback on
session sheets
• Use simple and consistent
language
Verbal
• Talk better than listen
• Don’t ask yes/no questions
• Use simple and consistent
language
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Language barrier (3) - cultural influences
• China - primarily concerned with maintaining face and
group harmony.
• Western culture - find and convey information, these
individualistic societies thrive on debate and disagreement
is OK.
• The way Chinese express yes or no is not
straightforward…
– Yes – more like “maybe”
– No - evasiveness over explicit disagreement
– Maybe – often equivalent to “no”
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Language barrier (4) - tips
• Hire people with some English skills and provide
opportunities for them to improve (within work time).
• Leverage their strong motivation to learn English.
• Use consistent language and terminology.
• Simple is good. Repetition helps.
• Learn to understand cultural nuances.
• Learn some simple greetings and phrases.
• Help out with English classes during visits (remember,
you’re visiting often).
• Simple is good. Repetition helps.
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Challenging the
testing status
quo
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Testing (1) - background
• All of our testers had only been in factory testing
environments before.
• Original expectations were pretty low.
• Decided to try exploratory testing under supervision
from day one!
• Young and inexperienced team, but very enthusiastic
and eager to please.
• Encouraged them to take risks, be critical, and think
creatively.
“The only thing more difficult than starting something new in
an organization is stopping something old” (Russell Ackoff)
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Testing (2) - mechanics
• Communication
– Daily standups
– Phone and Lync
– Regular visits (have I mentioned this before?)
• Tools
– Wiki
– User stories
– Session sheets
– Reference materials
– JIRA
– Story and task management
– Defect tracking
– XMind
– Mind maps in session sheets
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Testing (3) - reality checks
• Reinforcement that we want them to question.
• Some still see ET as risky and struggle to
know when to stop testing.
• Local leadership is critical.
• Regularly make priorities very clear.
• Learning via books, blogs, etc. is slow.
• Learning during face-to-face sessions is much faster.
• Communication infrastructure needs improvement.
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Testing (4) - tips
• Believe in your people. Always be available for them.
• Create an environment where it’s safe to fail - and they
feel supported and rewarded.
• Be patient and recognize the need for very close
support in the early stages (including frequent visits).
• Acknowledge their contributions and successes – helps
them be even more motivated, gains face for them.
• Make it easy to find good quality product information to
help with testing.
• Make it easy to record testing notes.
• Look for leadership potential to create local leaders.
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Success?
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Measuring success (1)
• Comments from Development Manager:
Finding the right defects - defects that cause workflow
breakages or would cause annoyance to a customer.
I really do feel that I can trust any of the testers to do
the same quality job as any local resource.
Although in a remote location, they are an active part
of development and often don’t feel remote.
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Measuring success (2)
• Completing feature testing within sprints (most of the
time).
• Satisfied customers - no significant production defects.
• Our team champions the adoption of Exploratory Testing
in other teams.
• Zero staff attrition (so far).
• Team morale is good (anecdotally).
• Able to work independently of Melbourne leadership.
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Thanks!
So concludes the trailer,
now for the main event!
[email protected]
@therockertester
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