Self Learning – How do you eat yours?

In the past 5-6 years I feel I’ve really stepped up my game with self learning. I began to understand that to advance in my career, I need to take action on my own and learn new things to advance myself.

I find this easy to do, purely because of the fact that I love what I do. I really enjoy being a tester and talking about testing. I enjoy knowledge sharing too (I heard a good quote while I was at an OWASP Chapter meet-up the other month: “sharing is caring”).

But I cant help notice that all around me there are people who really struggle with committing time and effort to self learn to advance themselves… Even when the opportunity to learn is placed on a plate for them for free. (The expression “lead a horse to water” really does spring to mind).

But what I don’t understand is why…

Self-learning

 

Is it a lack of time? Well probably not, as everyone always has some free time, whether that’s on a lunch break or after work in the evening, or via some “disposable time” that Michael Bolton and James Bach mention in their RST course that we should make for ourselves. But then that’s where other commitments might outweigh learning, or even laziness might come in to play here too.

Can it be the “just a job” mentality? I’m sure that there are a lot of people in the testing industry that are only here to do what is asked of them an no more, so that they can earn a living. I’m sure you get people like this in every industry. But still, this doesn’t sit with me as I know people that are passionate about what they do on a daily basis, yet they still don’t appear to have an interest in learning or enhancing themselves.

Maybe some people don’t see any value in self learning? Or maybe its a case where they don’t know how to self learn?

If that is the case, then I hope that I can encourage people by detailing some tips in how to go about doing so. (Note to the people who are reading this blog: obviously you are someone who does read blogs and are probably already self learning – so I’m kind of relying on you to pass this around to people that aren’t doing much to learn more, and please also leave a comment with your own tips for encouraging and inspiring people to learn more):

  • Start reading blogs and books – This is something that we can do while commuting of if the partner is watching something guff on the TV in the evening. Even if your commute is only 5 minutes (lucky you), Thats still enough time to google a topic that you’ll be working on later on in the day and click on some of the links that appear… Or for even more convenience you could click on any of the links on Huib Schoots’ amazing list of great resources or check out the awesome information within each of the resource topics on the ministry of testing website.
  • Get on twitter – Haven’t got a twitter account yet? Then you’re missing out on a massive amount of valuable conversations that happen in 140 character bite sized chunks. There are many lists that are available such as @testchick’s amazing list of legendary testers and also @rosiesherry’s humongous software testing list. Twitter is something that you can easily get lost in, but again, if you utilise your travel times or lunch breaks then it can actually give you many more perspectives and ideas. Additionally, it will open much more doors to some new and valuable blog posts.
  • Attend community meetups – This has been by far the biggest advantage to my testing skills and my career. It has not only opened my eyes to many different perspectives and dynamics of the testing world, but it’s also opened many doors for me to get involved in other adventures within my career. Above all though, I’ve met some great friends through the testing community! Most cities have meetups now – check out http://www.meetup.com to find one near you… London has the London Tester Gathering, a great Agile community as well as more focussed communities such as the OWASP chapter meetups). And the NYC Tester meetup that I attended last week was pretty awesome too. So get onto meetup.com and search for a relevant meetup near you.
  • Start an internal community within your organisation – If you don’t have any spare evenings due to whatever commitments you have, then don’t feel that you cant get involved in any communities… Set one up within your organisation! One thing that I’ve been doing is running frequent brown bag/lunchtime learning sessions. I’ve had in many external speakers to do a talk and have a good chat for the lunch hour. You can also host regular lean coffee sessions, or even attempt to set up some agile games sessions. Things like this actually will benefit everyone in your organisation and its also worth mentioning that management tend to love things like this too.

All of these self learning activities and tools are free. They wont cost you a penny (apart from maybe your internet connection, the cost of a second hand book, or you bus/train fare to a meetup or two – but it’s well worth it!).

Again, if you have read through this blog and you already do these things, then good stuff! I’d be really interested in hearing what else you do to continuously learn. I’m also interested to learn how you might go about inspiring and encouraging others to get involved in activities such as these too.

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8 thoughts on “Self Learning – How do you eat yours?

    1. Thanks for the comment Toby. I agree. So how can we motivate people?

      I agree that we all have different motivational factors. Be it monetary, a feeling of getting better, gaining extra respect, to climb the career ladder, or one of the many other reasons…

      I can tell you that I was motivated to start reading and writing blogs, and attending meetings, etc due to the fact that I was a “sole tester” in a company, and I didn’t have anyone in the company that I could learn more about the testing industry from… I was motivated to find that from the testing community.

      But, does that mean that people haven’t discovered a motivation in order to get involved and learn more?

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  1. Where do you draw the line? It’s great to learn in your own time to help you advance in your career but what about someone who wants to learn other things in the moments they have disposable time? Is it possible to learn something else they might be passionate about(e.g. another language) and still reasonably advance in their testing careers?

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    1. Thanks for the comment Paul!
      I guess that comes down to priority. I like cooking, so have been putting some of my disposable time into reading new recipes and investigating new tools to help me with my cooking (like this amazing courgetti maker: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healthy-Vegetable-Spiralizer-Courgetti-Cleaning/dp/B00N8F640E) 😀

      The way I look at it, I’m not going to spend 100% of my disposable time on one subject. I have multiple interests, so I spread my time among them. Testing is one of my interests, therefore it gets some of my time.

      Maybe thats the problem… Maybe people that aren’t interested in self learning when it comes to testing, simply aren’t interested enough in testing?

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      1. Yeah fair play. I’d say it’s a contributing factor, I mean I’ll even test in my spare time on things I have a passion for as it’s just an obvious double win. I guess there will just always be people that draw the line too short. 😀

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  2. The big problem that I find is encouraging people to learn in their own time, I don’t think there is a quick fix. It’s like that old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink it. I see my role as providing the tools necessary that should they want to learn in their own time there are no obstacles in place, make that learning as pain free as possible. Be that recommending books, helping them find what they are passionate about (testing is a big subject, there are many areas that they may be interested in more so than others) and just being there to help them in any way possible. Sure there will be people that dont want to learn full stop, it is a 9 to 5 job, and I respect that, having said that, I’m not asking for the world, merely reading blogs/books on your commute into work is something that most people can do… (unless you drive to work of course, then I would recommend against that approach!).

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