Episode 100!!!!

Honestly folks, this is just a random collection of links that covers some of the things mentioned in some of the sections in this episode. It’s a bit of everything!

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/vegan-brownies-19282 (to make these gluten free use GF flour and add xanthan gum)
https://soundcloud.com/ramesesb/sets/essence-ep – Goddess VIP is the track used on this podcast!
https://incompetech.com/ – Where the original track came from! It’s called Itty Bitty 8bit

Shey Crompton
David Williams
Dan Billing
Andrew Morton

Ep 99: All the world’s a stage

Episode 99! I talk to Matt about Performance Reviews, me from the perspective of having my first formalised ones and Matt from the perspective of being a manager doing them.

Episode 100 next and still time to get involved! Ask me a question on twitter, email me a question (or a recording!) at letstalkabouttests@gmail.com, leave my a skype voicemail at letstalkabouttests

For a business, why have them?

  • Keeping career progression and rewards clear and transparent
  • Encouraging self development and investment in employees
  • Discovering and addressing discontent

As an employee, why care?

  • Opportunity to take control of your training and development
  • Opportunity to understand what the company/your manager really expects from you and how you can progress

Now I’m a manager…

  • I book in time with each of my team
  • I chase them to fill in the forms and regularly keep notes of progress in regular 1 to 1s
  • I try to coach and point out when people perform well and what they could set as objectives
  • I try to guide people into writing the best reviews they can
  • I try to remind people that they aren’t tied to one path, they don’t need to predict the future. Its ok to change tack, as long as you’re happy and learning.
  • I push people to make self development part of their work – its hard to make time sometimes but this is always true in every job. Its easier when your day to day is stuff you want to learn.

General thoughts

  • I don’t think anyone likes “how have you lived the company’s values” sections – don’t put too much thought into them imo
  • People always worry about promotions, pay rises and bonuses being tied to the reviews, don’t: focus on impressing in general and the rest sorts itself out.
  • Every manager seems to run these things differently and have different values
  • I like the format for objectives:
    • What is it?
    • What are your goals/how will you track progress?
    • What examples have you got towards this objective?
    • When it comes to rating/scoring – reasons why that rating or score?

Ep 98: Let’s Get Uncomfy

Hi listeners! So this is late and a little off schedule, but it’s here! I’m currently sourcing therapy as I’ve had a rough time the past few weeks and need a top up, which is why things haven’t been happening. Podcasting brings me great joy, so I will absolutely keep doing it, but my time will be stretched thin(ner) with therapy, so it may be a bit more flakey than normal. I will endeavour to let you all know before I miss an episode going forward!

This week I talk to Cassandra Leung! We talk about being uncomfortable, and how you can get benefit from being uncomfortable. Cassandra gave a talk on this at Testbash Philly last year, and if you have a Pro membership you can watch this talk here: https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/dojo/lessons/how-to-benefit-from-being-uncomfortable-cassandra-h-leung

We talk about 99 second talks at Testbash, how to keep track of your accomplishments, and rapping on stage. We also cover moving jobs, phone calls, and pushing yourself to get uncomfortable.

Cassandra can also be found on twitter and her blog.

Ep 97: Against Energy and the Caring Angry Friend

This week I talk to Matt Heusser about mental health in the workplace! We cover a lot of things, which are mentioned below, but our conversation generally centres around the unique stresses that a software tester encounters and how to help/deal/cope with these.

You can find Matt on twitter, and he recently did a webinar on Deliberate Practice: https://blog.gurock.com/deliberate-practice-in-software-testing/

  • At the workplace
  • Self-Care
    • Sleep (Relaxation before sleep, also sleep hygiene – no screens etc)
    • Exercise
    • Diet
      • Nutrition – Supplements B12, Vit D as well
    • THE PROBLEM WITH “COPING” – Coping as a distraction from dealing with issues
  • Dealing with Anxiety
    • What is the source of the anxiety? Past history of ongoing? (see trouble with coping)
    • Mindfulness / Mindful movement (yoga, etc)
    • This is broadly selfcare but also falls under dealing with bouts of mental ill-health. You up the selfcare and in movement or guided meditation you can take yourself out of the noise in your own head, and maybe come to a resolution
    • CBT
    • Thought records
    • PSTEC: http://www.pstec.org/
  • The Inner Life
  • The Chinese Farmer & The Amygdala
  • Mantras and Meaning
  • The Monster – Against Energy
    • Intimacy – requires vulnerability, which may need to be practiced
  • Acceptance and gratitude
    • Practice acceptance and gratitude
  • Selfishness
  • Chaos child
  • Stoicism – Dealing with externals
    • Dealing with emotions in a healthy way, engaging and responding, not reacting
  • Getting Help
    • Experiences with Therapy
    • Beware the Caring Angry Friend!

Ep 96: “Testers are the canary down the coalmine”

Want to be a part of episode 100? You have TWO WAYS:
Ask me a question! Here, letstalkabouttests@gmail.com, slack, or bit.ly/AskGem

Coming to #TestBashBrighton? Find me! I’ll have a portable mic and we can have a quick chat <3

This week I talk to Trish Khoo!

Trish is writing a book about scaling automated testing, and we talk about the differences between automation in a small team and automation in a massive organisation, how testers are not best placed to write automation in all circumstances, testers as second class citizens in software teams, and how testers can be the canary in the coalmine that can signify dev/culture issues.

This is a really good episode! I hope you enjoy it! You can also catch up with Trish’s Ask Me Anything on the Dojo, here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/AMA-TestManagement/register

Ep 95: “You don’t need client approval. You just need self approval.”

Title from: https://twitter.com/basithharoon/status/932872776616116224, via @agencyquotes.

As a reminder, I am still collecting questions at http://bit.ly/AskGem, come quiz me on things!

This week I talk to James Sheasby Thomas about #agencylife!

Before I moved to the BBC, I worked in a couple of agencies, and, after talking to a few non-agency testers I realised a lot of people don’t realise what it’s like working in an agency, so I asked James if he wanted to come chat about his experiences. You can find James on twitter, his blog, and you can find his TestBash talk on the Dojo (Pro account needed)

Here’s a mindmap of what we spoke about:

Ep 94: Sound Effects and Overdramatics: The retrospective

This week the Testbash MCR crew is back! Claire, Matt, and I discuss post Testbash feels: how we felt we did, what we’d do differently next time, and our plans for the future.

We also talk about Softeare Testing Clinic Manchester! Claire is running it with Richard Bradshaw, and Matt and I will be mentors! If you’re in the area, come join us! The first meeting is Monday 8th January

ALSO: Come ask me questions for the 100th episode! You can ask me via email, twitter, slack, in person, or at my curiouscat account.

Claire and I wrote about our prep for the club: https://club.ministryoftesting.com/t/preparing-to-give-a-talk-as-a-new-speaker/11476/5

Matt notes

Awesome things

  • The tasks I designed to generate discussion paid off
  • Good balance of timing
  • Self-hosting the application and removing most of the tech issues getting setup was a good move
  • Application was destroyed near the end!

Lessons learnt

  • I was going to make a text based adventure game with an API interface as
  • I really wanted to make something really fun like Richard Bradshaw’s
  • Lego Automation.I went with a much simpler “game” that better fit a typical API behaviour and I think this paid off.
  • Lights! When to prepare and when to just ask
  • Having backups – practicing backup procedure
  • Wording can always be tweaked
  • 30 people/large room might not be so good for this particular workshop
  • Felt discussions were harder to generate on the spot with 30 people

Would I do it again?

  • Hell yes, I can definitely repeat this workshop.
  • The work paid off but it was a lot of work, I enjoyed designing it and it was very satisfying to see the ideas I’d come up with actually work the way I’d hoped.
  • Plenty of requests for more advanced versions.
  • I just wanted to have a go at a technical workshop as there were topics I’d like to talk about but they don’t fit in a presentation style and I prefer mentoring.

Would I recommend it? Tips?

  • If you want to share knowledge about more technical subjects, absolutely!
  • Even for softer skills workshops can be far more engaging and memorable.
  • Mostly the same tips and advice as for talks/presentations, but the big differences being its longer and more interactive!
  • Consider the balance of teaching versus mentoring
  • Be ready to spend a lot longer preparing it and practicing it!

Claire Notes

What was good?

  • I felt like I was well prepared. I’d done a bunch of practice at home as well as doing a dry run of the talk at another event.
  • Once I got going I felt much less nervous than I thought I would, finding familiar faces in the audience really helped. I felt like i was looking round the room and not down at the floor or just at one person
  • I made a couple of jokes and people laughed! Which I think helped me feel more confident.
  • I could see some of the audience nodding when I was talking. Made me feel like what I was saying resonated with at least some people
  • People liked some of the slides – the Venn diagram I stole borrowed
    I skipped out the talk just before mine, which i was good about but having a bit of quiet time really helped
  • Loads of people chatted to me afterward about their own similar feelings
  • My colleagues who were there didn’t think I was a lunatic

What could have been better?

  • I’m not the strongest at slides. Think i need to practice this and get better at it
  • I tripped over my words a few times
  • Because i was on quite late in the day I had got myself pretty worked up by the time i went on.
  • I felt I didn’t spend as long on some of the slides as I should have. Possibly rushed a bit, even though i ended up finishing in time for questions

Would I do it again?

  • Definitely!! I can see how people get the speaking bug
  • Thinking of ideas for new talks is tricky !!

Gem notes


  • Felt prepared
  • Had people in the audience that were smiling and nodding and who I knew wanted me to succeed
  • Not the only Hamilton reference!
  • Great feedback
  • I didn’t trip over my own feet!

Lessons Learned

  • Prepare for questions
  • Escape afterwards for a bit – overwhelmed a bit by the adrenaline rush + emotional feedback

Would I do it again?

  • Absolutely!

Ep 93: 2017 in review

2017 has been a year!

24 episodes (inc. this episode and the rebroadcast)
12 interviews
13,544 downloads as of recording
28 Patreon posts, 14 of which were Patreon only
More tweets and slack messages than I care to think about
1 new microphone

Favourite moments: All of my interviews – finally got some names that I’ve been organising for a while. Having Maaret come back on was great!

Favourite personal moments: Giving my talk, getting a new job, which left me feeling simultaneously more and less secure as a tester, starting Inner Pod, which is a labour of love.

I got a semi-regular co-host in Matt who has been great in getting ideas together and putting mindmaps together and all that good stuff. It’s made it a lot easier to do shows when there’s fresh ideas coming in.

I was on Screen Testing, where I got weirdly aggressive about the concept of a metaphor, and you’ll be hearing me around a few other podcasts in 2018.

What lies ahead?
2018! What wonders will this year bring?

Loads more interviews! I’ve got a few that I want to do and am in various stages of setting up.
Inner Pod season 2 is coming out as well, that’s happening in the background (you’ll hear some familiar names on the show!)
More automation! More process stuff! Maybe a workshop or two~~~

I’ll be at Testbash Brighton and will have my portable new microphone so will almost definitely end up shoving that (consensually!) in people’s faces 😀

I am terrifyingly close to episode 100. If I don’t take a break or miss an episode, then episode 100 will be released on 29th March 2018. That’s ridiculous. It’s amazing. I have no idea what I’m going to do for that episode. I’d love to do an AMA (Ask me anything) if anyone wants to ask me questions? IN FACT that episode will the episode after Testbash Brighton so I might try to get some people to say some things into a mic then for my landmark 100th episode? Yes, okay, so the plan! You ask me questions, I and anyone who wants in at Testbash Brighton can answer them, and I’ll put it all together for episode 100. Deal? Deal! I will remind you of this, and if I don’t get questions I’ll have to make them up and literally no one wants that.

This is how I end up volunteering for everything btw, I get carried away with things. To make the Ask part of the Ask Me Anything easier, I’ve set up a Curious Cat account: https://curiouscat.me/Gem_Hill. This allows you to ask questions anonymously, without an account anywhere. You can also submit questions through any other means: letstalkabouttests@gmail.com, @LetsTalkTests, here on the site, on slack, in person, anywhere!

I hope 2017 hasn’t been a complete trash fire, and I hope the holiday break grants you some respite. If it doesn’t, feel free to reach out to me at the above contact methods, or there is a twitter hashtag #joinin that is essentially a twitter chat for people who need some company, or kind words, or a reprieve from whatever holiday chaos is about.

I’ll return the first week of January with a post-testbash Manchester chat with Claire Reckless and Matt Bretton!

Love you all <3

Ep 92: Everybody’s a critic

This week its just me, talking about critiquing my own testing! I’ve been doing this a lot in my new job – figuring out the priorities of the team and where my focus needs to be, and where this intersects with my weaknesses and biases. It’s been really interesting, and I’ve been trying to be really conscious about it.

And here’s the mindmap I used for this episode:
Critiquing your own testing

And a text version:

  • Critiquing your own testing
    • Plan your testing
      • Tell team what you want to test
      • Tell the team what you think you need
      • Get feedback
    • Put on different hats
      • Customers
      • back end users
      • marketing
      • support
      • Security
      • Accessibility
    • Document what you have tested
      • This will help illuminate gaps
    • Look at the big picture
      • Where does this feature fit?
        • in the sprint?
        • In the workflow?
    • Review with as many people as feasible
      • Design
      • UX
      • PO
      • Devs
      • Customers
      • Business users
    • Use heuristics
      • Elizabeth Hendrickson’s list
    • Take notice of bugs that others find
      • Own your weaknesses
        • Checklists
        • Learning