A night at the round table

Maybe the most interesting thing I learnt tonight is not to dismiss your role within the organisation you work. I described it as a bit random within the structures of our organisation.

This is despite probably posing the most interestingly debated question of the night around the integration between IT and Business teams. The same business vs IT conversation seems to be had in all organisations yet I posed a question that we were on the right track with elements of IT and Business closely aligned and the challenge was in to wider business and IT.

It is no surprise the question posed was why do other areas not work in the same way. Is it business or IT. It’s not one, it is probably both not sharing a common outlook so there isn’t blame. I can’t answer the reason here other than the lack of conversation as the goal of delivering value is probably equal. We are lucky within online to get a mix of IT and business looking to achieve the same outcome. It’s not easy but it is a common path. So many organisations tonight commented without a common goal.

However back to me. I felt I missed an opportunity tonight as didn’t project myself outwards. I could have called myself a transformation lead or something impactful but decided to say I had a random role. The speaker of the night suggested I needed to sell myself better. That not transformation is the learn of the night.

It’s not that I have provided a difficult challenge to him through my choice of performance services which crafted a performance legacy platform, in the organisation he now works. It’s not the insightful comment of collective ownership. All I remember is the comment that I didn’t project myself to the audience. The speaker ignored me for much of the rest of the conversation.

I feel I missed a trick here on conversation and should have projected my role and importance within the transformation that has happened to date. It’s something to think about ahead of my next dinner, presentation and round table discussion. Believe in yourself and project a positive view of who you are and what you do. Even when surrounded by CTOs who at the end of the day know less than you. It’s just what energy you project as a person that divides you.

The good thing is meeting old friends.


Is Non-Functional Testing a Thing?

How often does someone come up to you and talk about non-functional testing?  It is a catch all bucket for everything that isn’t a functional test case (doh!).  This can’t be a thing!  Yet until recently we had testers in our organisation that were described as non-functional testers working in a non-functional test team.  This is because functional testers couldn’t do non-functional testing or so our supplier said.  Actually that is a bit unfair, they had services which required specific people to undertake performance, operational acceptance testing and possibly elements of security testing.

In our waterfall delivery approach this was quite helpful to the planners.  This suggested non-functional testing came later and planned as such.  There was even phases called non-functional test phase which encompassed primarily performance, operational and implementation testing.  We didn’t even need to think about what we were going to test in these phases till much later.  Those pesky non-functional requirements for that later phase could wait till we had got the functional requirements out of the way.  This led to a programme 1 year in not having thought or documented their non-functional requirements for the functionality written.  We had one guy in the non-functional test team that would go round with a big non-functional checklist and belatedly get those projects to think about what they’d want to test.

When we started more agile ways of working, we started to get teams who felt that automation checking activity was the only required testing.  We are doing TDD/BDD, why do we need to do any other testing.  Our story and acceptance criteria has passed!  Teams didn’t even know where to start.  Today it is still a poor part of our lifecycle with some acceptance that we need to do device testing, browser testing, maybe some accessibility testing.  However because the performance and different operational tests was done by other people our testers working in agile teams have been slow to look at operability, performance, security as part of their testing.  Much of the time invested is still in functional testing but now using exploratory techniques.  I am trying to avoid the use of manual testing but that is a whole different conversation.

For our peak sales period we still have a completely different team ensuring performance of the website.  The same team benchmark’s performance on a regular basis as part of our release process.  Although elements of this are worthwhile.  Platform thinking would suggest a team helping other teams to improve performance is a good thing, especially where the platform and not specific features built within a single team are the overall performance goal.

Experience suggests things are changing, however there remains slow adoption.  We have removed the separate resourcing arm for non-functional testing.  We have people who specialise and can bring those skills to the team.  Performance testing is still largely conducted in isolation in a single large performance environment which is often contended for use.  We still lack testers in the team promoting operability (we lack people from operations in our teams also to do this, you could argue this is part of the problem).

The danger is that unless we demonstrate value in the team then why have testers as part of that team? Unless we can demonstrate that testing is more than just the completion of functional acceptance criteria on a story then we will lack ability to promote the need for testing as a whole and the addition of people in the team or supporting across more mature teams.

So how can we work to change things?  Key is promotion of testing activity throughout the team (it isn’t just having a skill tester).  Everyone has to have a responsibility.  We have lot’s of teams now delivering so sharing what each other is doing is a key thing.  The community aspect of testing and what teams are doing is important.  Getting back to basic’s is also key.  Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin uses basic agile quadrants as a way of describing the types of testing that need to be undertaken.  In many ways working in a team is like starting your testing journey over, especially where testing in the past was part of a silo’ed phase that someone else did.  Dan North uses similar quadrants as a way of educating people of all the different types of testing out there and encourages teams to explore whether they should really be thinking about them.  This suggests where specialisms may be required within the team or to join the team for limited periods to support.


Lisa Crispin: Agile Quadrants, Part of her Agile Testing book

As we start to explore other types of testing and start to check this on every build we can start to look at data ahead of later performance testing and assess whether there is a risk or need to do more, in production like environments.  Getting simple page speed checks, or function performance tests (API based or otherwise) in to build tests is a quick way of getting feedback and trending over time as to whether performance is an issue.  It’s again important to note performance is one example but then accessibility, compatibility, resilience,  alerting, logging are all additional types of testing that can be explored in a similar way.  There are lot’s of tools out there to support you.  When doing this it is essential to note that running an accessibility checker and reporting the massive list it comes back with isn’t the end.  It’s about interpreting that data and extracting what really matters.  Much of testing is just that analysing data and helping teams with feedback on that in terms of what is important.  Not just raising a defect to say it didn’t pass the accessibility checker.


Dan North: Testing Corners, part of his Testing Faster class

By thinking about these things, testers begin to acquire new skills.  That Operational tester or Performance tester didn’t magically learn to test those things, he learnt them over time and became specialised in that testing.  It’s not a brick wall you can’t climb but one you should encourage to knock down.  It is also important to note that this doesn’t mean everyone should be generalists but knowing about other types of testing is a starting point to being more enquistative in developing that knowledge and doing it yourself or in partnership with you team.  So dont think that a type of testing is something done by a person specialising in that type of testing.  Think of it as a learning opportunity where you may need advice but is something you can do within the team.  It is also important not to stop there and acquire skills which sit outside testing.  It might feel like this is all obvious stuff but I still come across this time and time again.

Lola Cat, Family, Friend, Pet


To say that Lola has been with me through the best and worst times is a understatement. She became one of the most important and consistent things in my life and has been there when needed. She has always acted like more of a dog cat, a Lo-Dog. I say that in she was so friendly, liked belly rubs and always wanted to be with you when you were in the house. She’d follow you round and always sit with you, understanding when you were ill, happy or sad. She had a unique little face and silver tanned coat which meant she looked unique and not like other cats. I can’t imagine she won’t be here anymore. It might seem a little emotional for a cat but she was more than that to me and I hope everyone that met her. Rest in peace Lola Puff.


Family, friend and pet in that order x




Fathers Day

Getting 2 texts within minutes from both your brothers is never good during a work day, “call me immediately, It’s urgent x”.  You know there is something wrong, their kids, mum, dad?  I was only there at the weekend and everyone was so healthy so could be anything.  I call, it is dad.  Taken to hospital in a critical condition after collapsing while playing football.  I walk around the office aimlessly for a bit, not really what sure what i should be doing next.  Someone comes to speak to me and I almost breakdown.  Don’t really want to do that in the office so I leave and head over the road to the Cathedral.  Sitting there is it’s vast space, I am not really sure what to do, I say the only prayer I know, The Lord’s Prayer.

I get a further call from my brother Dave, he is enroute home from Bristol and James is with mum at the hospital.  I am feeling helpless as don’t know what to do.  Do I go home?  The obvious answer is yes but i know so little of what’s going on.  I am now sitting in a coffee shop, you can’t answer a phone in a place of worship.  Mum calls, she tells me to come home.  Dad had stopped breathing, after having a heart attack while playing football and although they resuscitated him he is in ITU.  I get the train from London to Bournemouth an hour later.

For those who don’t know my dad he is the strongest and most stubborn person I know, I was trained well in all of this.  He liked to crush my hand on shaking it as a child and barged me off the ball playing football so I’d stand up for myself, make me compete.  Life is not easy but he has always been there and so has my mum, calm, together and always ready to support me, even when i’d done the wrong thing.  It’s very difficult to arrive to then see him on life support, attached to a multitude of devices.  I am not sure what to do, it is very difficult to remain calm but what can you do, it is difficult to just sit there and stare at your dad lying motionless.

So the nurses and doctors on the ward in Bournemouth are incredible, in many ways.  They all work around us during the day as they monitor his vitals and write up reports.  Every question they answer, even to my cousin (also a nurse) who phones them constantly.  The speed at which they reacted from getting him to the hospital, working out what was wrong; furred arteries which clogged up stopping blood circulating and made him stop working; they fixed this with little cocktail sticks called stints which are inserted via a artery in the arm in to his chest, unbelievable really.  Based on this it is now 72 hrs of rest to ensure that his brain recovers along with his body before they wake him up.  It’s not the heart now that is at question just his mental state on waking. You can not thank any of them of enough.  They are not the only heroes in this story though.  We spend the rest of the day with him and then go home, there is only so much watching you can do but you still feel guilty leaving him.  We all needed hugs that night.

I get a call from the community chairman of Bournemouth AFC, Steve Cuss.  He was there that day and helped ensure dad made it.  He mentions two people Neil and Andrew both of whom administered CPR on the pitch and ensured he made it.  Without these two guys my dad would be dead the doctors later said.  They found his car and his stuff, there was very little in there to get them in contact with us, the closest they got was the home phone number via a recycling id.  I try to thank him on the phone for helping but nearly break down again, have you ever thanked someone for helping to save someones life.  

They plan to wake dad this morning, it’s difficult after two nights sleep to know what will happen.  There is nothing much we can do but wait and see what happens.  we don’t all go in, we can’t all be there.  Mum goes and Dave goes to support, I stay with my other brother James.  It’s moments like this where you feel a junction.  Will it be fine or days, months, years of something harder.  It turns out well.  This is the bit the nurse, Michelle enjoys she says.  Dad is awake, breathing unaided and seems to be fine.  Drugs are making him groggy and blunt.  I see him, “you don’t believe, you don’t believe in god he shouts at me”.  No idea why and still don’t. He is rambling.  Doesn’t believe he is in the hospital, that all around him is a dream.  Are we real, he tries to pinch me.  “why are you here?”, “why is the time wrong?”. It was 1.30pm not 11am when he last knew anything.

This is all good, very good.  It doesn’t stop him being mean to mum, “you put me here”, “you never listen” he shouts.  Mum leaves the room, it’s not him, just the drugs.  Our aunt many years ago was exactly the same but then this bought her a mental home for a period.  Times change.  They start to detach the tubes and wiring over the next few hours.  It feels great to see those go, even if they didn’t go without a fight from the “attractive” and “not so attractive” nurse and “very attractive” Dr Shaw.  The drugs do work.  It’s kind of what i was thinking also.  I hold his hand, “can you squeeze this?”, he tries and nearly breaks my hand.  He is back.

Progress now is rapid, almost unbelievable.  He came in Tuesday and by the time Saturday comes he is sitting in a standard cardiac ward, with nothing but a catheter rammed up his penis (his own fault for trying to remove it overnight) and the blue outfit somewhat not hiding his modesty. He can recount mathmatics (he is a Dr of), remembers everything clearly up to the day, he can even shuffle around although unsteady on his feet.  Now comes the incredible moment.  Neil the guy who saved his life proper calls.  He is so matter of fact about the incident, telling me “you’d do the same for my dad”, yes, but how?!  Turns out he is a FA trained coach who looks after his autistic son and is genuinely a very nice guy.  My dad says he looks like Kenny Rodgers.  Again thanking him on the phone is so difficult.  What do you say?  “I’d just like to thank you for saving my Dad’s life, the doctors have all said without you, he wouldn’t be here”; “does you dad know yet i had to get intimate with him?”; I smile and cry. “Can i come and visit tonight he asks”.

When he does turn up it is again a strange intense moment.  A hug from mum, a shake from me and a thank you from dad.  It is all that simple but means so much more.  He recounts to dad about what he did on the pitch; My dad had just keeled forwards and fell face down on to the pitch while playing football.  It seems Neil just took charge, initially it looks like a stroke, he is gargling and breathing lightly, then he stops breathing.  Getting the other guys to call a ambulance and get the trainers from Bournemouth FC, Neil administers CPR and kiss of life to my dad.  He get’s him back before talking to the paramedic, dad goes again, he saves him again!  The ambulance turns up and the paramedics take over.  “Can you cut off his top?” they ask Neil, he does so hands shaking “Mind his balls they say”.  That focused him he said and the rest is what I have already told.  

I am off to visit my dad later, it is fathers day next week, something that i noted with heavy heart on the journey down to Bournemouth in every shop window.  Having him here next week is all i can ask for!


Running in the Rain

Getting out of bed and seeing the rain this morning made me want to get right back in. The thought of 16 miles in wet cold weather didn’t really fill me full of joy. However once out and on the road it actually felt pretty good. I went a new route and didn’t really have a plan, run out towards Welwyn and see where I ended up. Running through muddy fields with mud caking the back of your legs and then getting soaked by passing cars seems to numb the pain I usually feel in my legs. It might also help that the last few days have seen me eat more than usual – last night a curry, huge brunch and lots of nibbles. With my 90’s/noughties ipod playing out music (all my new stuff is via Spotify) helping too, it all made me not feel the 16 miles at all. If it rains on the day, bring it on as after 16 miles, i felt like i could do another 10, sprinting back through the streets of Hitchin. Run over let the eating commence!

Gin Running

For some reason running after a night of gin or actually several days of drink bring out the best in me. I ran the Letchworth half last year after a few drinks the night before and a mad dash across London to make it to the event. I also ran the London Marathon a few days after waking up on a couch. Now it doesn’t exactly bring the fastest times but does seem to numb the bordem of running which is my number one problem. Roughly every 6 miles the mental this is boring, god this hurts kicks in and bang goes the times, only to recover a few miles later. I think this is common and different to the 16 mile wall of pain. However, after a few drinks this doesn’t seem to appear. Now this time it might have been waking up in Brixton, pulling on my trainers and armed with my oyster card just setting off runnning. 10 miles later and I am in Greenwich, having run to the southbank, along and over tower bridge in the morning February sunlight. I was going to get the boat back along the Thames but felt good, so carried on back to central London along the Marathon route. I had thought i’d run further than I did but 16 miles later and I am back In Kennington. Assuming Em is now wondering where the hell I am after saying I might die after a few miles, I go the bus back to the flat. Run over.

Running Letchworth

So have been running a half now or there abouts for nearly 3 weekends.  With work and life it is becoming a hard slog to pull myself out of bed and onto the road.  I am running at the time I would be for the marathon and also at the moment seeing at what point I need energy – so no water or food while running.  Seem to start to breakdown around the 10 mile spot, with a need for something to power those legs.  It might be that I am always reaching a large hill at that point but it shouldn’t matter.  What I remember from the London marathon last time was Mile 10+ was a uphill run back to Canary Wharf.  It killed me, so any chance this time to do some more hill training will be a plus.

I did run the Greenway today around the outskirts of Letchworth.  Great route and has those hills to challenge you. Running a 7 and half minute mile for the first 10 isn’t too bad.  My rough calculations assume that will get me in around 3hr 35, if I maintain that pace throughout which i dont think i will.  We’ll see.  They always say you should run the second half faster but I go with my new book mentor Dean Karnazes, whose basic early learning was go hard and stay running hard until the end.  If it doesn’t hurt like hell then you are not trying.  I am not quite that hardcore but today it hurt and I have to do that twice.

Running 13 miles

So, I ran 13 miles today round the Hitchin countryside.  The first 10 miles always seems to drift by with no real issue, the last 3 seems to last forever, the feel of the knees going, the calves aching.  It didn’t help that my music cut out for this last few miles.  I also decided to run up the steepest hill in Hitchin as a final challenge so I only have myself to blame.  I did fail on the hill though, walking the last few meters.  In two weeks time, I’ll run that!  I have run almost the same route for the last 3 weeks.  I need to find some new routes and expand my home time runs from work.  Victoria to Finsbury park last week.  Maybe a river run or two over the next few weeks.  There are some amazing routes I can try and if feeling a bit mental then a marathon is Victoria to Welwyn Garden City – I feel that is a few months away yet.  This run was the first one timed – 1hr 49 for just under 14 miles.  Not great but if can build on this distance, at this pace then I might beat the 3hr 52 that i have as a goal.

Marathon Training Log Starts Here

I am starting this running set of posts having run 60 miles in the last 2 1/2 weeks, so you know I am not a novice.  I do this for fun though rather than through hard training.  My first real memories of running are from school days where I used to do track running in PE and then some long distance runs in the sand dunes around school.  I was lucky where i grew up, on the banks of the North Sea in a small town called Formby, there was plenty of sand and beach and wind to build that stamina that stays with me today.  I ran initally with asthma but kicked that over the years.  Not sure on how far the runs were, but they took the PE lesson and I always wanted to finish first, running hard from the start in the hope of wearing down the opposition come the beach.  It often worked but not always.   Often it was running against Mr Pickering the PE teacher, think 118 and you have him.  It was the eighties though, so guess he was hung up in the seventies still.

I also remember the school championships, running the 800m for our school house, Blundell.  That was always good and maybe the one time of the year where I wasn’t a dork or no mark in the year and actually was seen as someone.  The last lap bell running through the crowds of my fellow classmates and in fact the whole school, gave me an adreniline rush every time that made me want to run faster and harder.  Usually this meant I sprinted off into the distance on the last lap.  I was good, but not fast, i finished 4th in the county trials abeit with no training.  In hindsight I would have practised more.  I was once asked to join a club but at the time was too shy, stupid decision that i didn’t now.  I might have been better as a result.

Anyway, enough of the glory days and back to today.  I run regularly and enjoy it.  It is a release from the crazy shit that goes down at work and the thought that it is all a bit pointless and tedious.  Running is pure, you get outside and put one foot in front of the other then just carry on.  Work is just over complicated for what it is delivering and too many people get in the way.  Running breaks through all of that.

This will be a series of posts about my running prep…