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Lisanne van der Kaaij 11 July 2016Tags: Development, English

Test Team ≠ Testing Community

When I started as software tester at TOPdesk, I automatically became part of the Test Team. Now, four years later, this Test Team made place for the Testing Community. Sounds as simple as just changing some words, right? But it actually asked for a whole new mindset. You were part of the Test Team ‘just’ because you were hired as a tester; nowadays we are trying to involve any colleague passionate about testing in this group of people, no matter the job he or she is hired for. And that’s exactly what the Testing Community is about.

So… why a Community?

Let’s start from the beginning: what does a Community, or more complete Community of Practice (CoP), actually mean in this context? Software developers at TOPdesk have different backgrounds in education and work experience, and are hired for different jobs: designing, programming and testing. But does that mean a programmer cannot be enthusiastic about testing, or a tester about designing?

That’s where the communities come in: people that gather because they are interested in a certain subject, who are willing to learn more about this and in the end bring that particular subject to a higher level at TOPdesk. If there is a topic that’s not your cup of tea, there will probably be somebody else who thinks it’s worth the time spent.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it asks for thinking outside the clear frames that we set for ourselves, and therefore turned out to be quite of a challenge.

Working together across boundaries

Collaborating in this community perspective gives all kinds of opportunities, but at the same time it means that you might need to cross two boundaries: job descriptions and country borders.

Let’s start with the first. I am currently collaborating with a colleague from another scrum team to get an image of the state of test automation at TOPdesk. He is a programmer, I am a tester. He can add insights from a technical background, I can do the same for risk management. By joining our expertise we are able to get this job done in an efficient way and at the same time learn more from each other.  Experience we can bring back to the daily work in our own teams.

Secondly, TOPdesk is an international company. We have software developers in Kaiserslautern (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) and Delft (the Netherlands). Sharing knowledge is way more difficult when you are not in one room, as we were only a few years ago when Development was mostly located in Delft. Of course, there is Skype to reach each other for an urgent matter or a short chat. But it’s way more fun and productive to actually work together on a project you are all passionate about. The last few months I worked together with a tester from Budapest and Delft to identify the most essential parts of our software for customers. Based on these findings, the need of test automation was determined to guard the quality of releases. With testers from different scrum teams and countries coordinating this project we had a larger scope, which was beneficial since the project required a departmental-wide effort.

Daring to experiment

So can we say we are there yet? Honestly, I don’t know, and I also don’t know when we can actually say we are. But I think the transfer from Team to Community is not a goal in itself. It’s about trying out new ways of working that have potential to bring a company, and in this case our Development department, to a higher level. And that’s what we are doing: working in a community is a new road that needs to be explored, and step by step it’s revealing its opportunities and challenges. Anyhow we learn a lot and we can see what we need to improve on.

 

That’s what I like about working at TOPdesk: the continuous trigger to re-invent your job and the part you are playing in that, with room for failure and celebrating success!

 





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