… being the grasshopper

A true story about learning about software testing… a long while ago I had a boss named Bob. At the time I was fairly new to software testing. Bob had knowledge on many topics. He had an approachable way about him that made working with him and for him one of my most positive experiences in my life. I realize now the primary reasons for this: I love to learn and enjoy the role of the student. Bob was a great teacher by nature. Together for a long stretch we made a great pair.

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I use to ask Bob time and time again, what should I learn now? He would sit back at his desk and think about this. Then he would take a book from his bookshelf. Sometimes he would suggest reading a whole book and sometimes just a section. The concept of not reading a book front to back like a novel gave me permission to take what I wanted and leave the rest. He’d answer in ways like this: learn a little more SQL, learn more about data types, or go look read more about user interface standards. Sometimes depth, sometimes breadth.

But here’s one point. he knew me. He knew what I knew, he knew pretty well what I didn’t know and he knew clearly what my work objectives and challenges were – and sometimes he would ask me, what are your current frustrations or stopping points? This made my asking Bob a good question because he had a frame of reference. This is an important point – sometimes people email me this same question, so please consider that I’m going to be limited in how I answer the question because I don’t know you and I don’t know your background. And I don’t know what you might be trying to accomplish. But you do.

I remember one day after working with him for years, I asked the same age old question. Bob, what should I learn? He looked up at his bookshelf turned to me and said; it may be time for you to teach. I was actually sad that day; I wanted to remain the student. But with a deep sigh, I accepted that it might be time to pass on some knowledge and that it was also time for me to continue on my own.

I had resolve this continuing question for myself. I think I learned a bit or more about learning from Bob. I look for my educational gaps. I know where they are. I have a mix of topics that interest me, topics I feel/know I need to learn more and sometimes topics I need learn to resolve new technical challenges at work. Sometimes I catch up on pure software testing materials from the work of other people in the field.

Bob hasn’t been my boss for a decade or more now. But I was fortunate to have had the time with him. Years later, I find myself hiring testers. I share every book I own. I highlight sections, I point out websites. I suppose, the cycle repeats. It feels good to help other people. Though a large part of me I suspect remains a grasshopper.

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