Leading an Elephant to Water and Convincing Him To Drink It

Large corporate organizations move very slowly and if you are a creative type who hates to coast along on ‘good enough’, you are probably frustrated and demotivated a lot of the time. The modern corporate workplace is a graveyard of good ideas that were quietly drowned in a washtub behind the woodshed. To survive this emotionally draining dependence on comfortable mediocrity, you have to be _really_stubborn. I’ve been thinking over the origins of my greatest frustrations with my employer and most of it boils down to not being heard and having a lot of ideas shot down or otherwise smothered in a flood of boring, soul-sucking manual regression testing that crowds out all joy from the job. Sometimes, it seems that even just exploring or trying out a concept is offensive and upsetting to someone and therefore, It. Must. Be. Stopped.

In the interest of personal development and achieving greater success, I have to own my own part in this. My communication skills have been really lacking, and my messaging has been unfocused and too difficult to understand. I have also come to the conclusion that it is best to toil away privately on some ideas until you have something that can serve as a powerful demo before you reveal it to anyone. As part of my effort to resolve this conflict over the presence of lots of labels on Zephyr test cases in Jira, I actually developed a Powerpoint presentation to cover the problem statement, the challenges and the proposed solution. I feel like a little Agile warrior right now. I’m even thinking that this presentation could work as another conference presentation and I’m kind of excited about proposing it for some other conference in the future.

I saw a really great presentation by a developer from Uber at the Selenium conference in Portland last fall that summed up the kind of frustration that has generated my exit from every job I left that wasn’t due to a layoff or the sudden bankruptcy of the company. She said that most companies exist in the middling, unambitious area where there is no motivation or desire to do more than mediocre QA, but there are organizations where QA is a first order function and that the tools, processes and infrastructure are elite, top-notch stuff. Those companies are where future of testing is.

So, I could quit my job and go work for those companies, but the only problem with that is that I want to _be_ a trendsetter who brings that to a company that doesn’t already have it. I don’t want to show up late to the party after the waves of innovation have already passed through. Problem is, you can hardly be a trendsetter in the most common reality where you work for a large corporation that is in the mediocre middle because the scale of the task is so enormous that no one person can do it. This isn’t one of the lone cowboy kind of projects where one single heroic person toils away to solve the problem and emerges with a shiny, cool solution to the adoring cheers of their co-workers. This kind of paradigm shift takes coordination and cooperation across the organization and it tends to piss of a lot of people because it makes them uncomfortable, insecure and afraid. Lately, I have been having trouble getting buy-in just from my own little team.

So, I have to sharpen my communication skills. I have to learn more patience and I have to get my temper and frustration under control. And I need to start engaging a lot more with other people outside my own insular team.

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