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Neurodiversity Is My Superpower! (With Simon Prior)

Join me as I sit down with leader, mentor, and STEM ambassador Simon Prior for a heartfelt conversation on the importance of mentorship, neurodiversity, and giving back within the QA community. 

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Intro:

In the digital reality evolution over revolution prevails. The QA approaches and techniques that worked yesterday, will fail you tomorrow. So free your mind. The automation cyborg has been sent back in time. TED speaker Jonathon Wright’s mission is to help you save the future from bad software.

Jonathon:

Hey, and welcome to the show. Today, I’ve got a very special guest, Simon, who’s going to be talking to you about the importance of mentoring and also he’s a STEM ambassador. He’s a big community guy. I remember him inviting me to the first Aylesbury testing gathering, many years ago. He does loads for the community, and I’m really excited to have him on the show. So, hi Simon.

Simon:

Hey, Jonathon.

Jonathon:

How’s it going?

Simon:

Yeah, good. Obviously crazy times at the moment with COVID-19 and all that brings with it, but yeah, very good.

Jonathon:

It’s an interesting time. I was very impressed with your profile that you’re actually a mental health first aider as well. What do you do for that?

Simon:

It’s a qualification I did for myself about two, three years ago. I’ve had a couple of mental health issues in the past, which I can talk about if we get to that. I’ve been able to understand mental health issues, helps me be there for my team. I detect the signs of when someone’s starting to struggle and know when to open the conversation up with them and talk to them and support them. And give them the space to be able to deal with the things they need to deal with, really. It’s just another tool in my toolbox for helping get my team through stuff and get myself through stuff.

Jonathon:

And again, more than ever, it’s probably incredibly important to have that, especially with people working from home. Mindfulness. You’re classed as a neurodiversity advocate. That is very impressive. I’m actually doing a blog with QA Lead around the importance of mental illness with testers and QA. There’s a lot of stress, especially in testing. But let’s start with your story because I really want to understand how you got into QA and testing at the start.

Simon:

So, I graduated with a computer science degree. I actually stayed on at university afterward and did a research project in computer crime, looking at profiling of criminals, which was very interesting. But, unfortunately, the funding only lasted for a few months. I then started looking for roles, initially looking at computer forensics. Wasn’t very successful there, so I ended up in a graduate program at McAfee and joined as a software developer C++. Did a couple of years as a junior software developer and in the sprint model started learning more about the testing processes and realized that I actually liked breaking software more than writing it. So I started picking up some of the tasks and identifying issues, and eventually, in 2010, I became a fully-fledged QA engineer. But really, my journey in QA was quite slow for the first three, four years. It wasn’t until 2014 that I really discovered the community, like the Ministry of Testing, TestBash, the Software Testing Club and then Twitter, which is my main source of interaction with most testers in the community. 

In 2015, I attended my first TestBash. From that, I then decided after TestBash that we needed a community in Buckinghamshire. So I then set up the Aylesbury Tester Gathering. Obviously had you come down to speak to us, which was an amazing talk at the time. And that lasted about four years. 2018, I left McAfee. By that point, I was a QA manager. I was managing two teams. One in Aylesbury and one in Cork, in Ireland. One team from scratch. One team, it was quite an old in the tooth team. So I had a very different experience with both teams, and that taught me a lot about leadership. I then left McAfee and joined National Lottery in November 2018, and stayed there as the program test manager for just over a year. 

It was an interesting experience. I learned a lot being in quite a senior position overseeing all the projects. But it was very, very old traditional waterfall type development model. And, although I did quite a lot of improving the process across the organization at that time, I felt that it wasn’t quite the fit for what I wanted and how I wanted to grow. So then I joined EasyJet this January. And that’s where I am now as a test manager over what we call the core QA function. Within easyJet there’s all the different functions regarding the website, the operations, the software that does all the flight allocations, etc. And then there’s the core QA area, which is my area which is defining best practices, defining automation. Any overarching projects that are across areas come through me. So that’s my area, and I’m building that up at the moment.

Jonathon:

That sounds super exciting, I’d say. Both close to my heart as well. From the other side of the pond, when I lived in New Zealand, I worked for the lottery there and obviously doing QA on that kind of platform for those kinds of scales, it has its own challenges. Just the sheer amount of complexity. And now, I can only imagine the kind of challenges that you’ve got at EasyJet dealing with the flight systems as well as booking. I noticed you just recently changed your policy to allow people to do refunds due to the issues. How quickly can you move now? Have you seen the trend moving towards more agile and releasing faster?

Simon:

Yeah, it’s different in different areas. Certainly, in the digital areas, there’s a lot more focus on moving to agile DevOps type models. Some of the corporate systems, the projects make more sense to be run in a waterfall type scenario. It’s getting that understanding of what fits for what scenario and not just assuming that one size fits all. Because at the end of the day, if we can deliver software successfully, as long as the methodology works for the people inside it, then that’s the most important thing. Although, agile DevOps is preferred for a lot of people, there are still scenarios where a more traditional model makes sense. It’s having both types in your toolbox and knowing when to apply the methodology that makes the most sense. That’s something that’s become quite challenging is understanding which projects need what.

But like I say, certainly, the digital space, which is where I’m spending most of my time at the moment, is certainly more scrum-focused.

Jonathon:

I can only imagine the challenges, especially now with how quickly you may have to implement things, make changes, support the resilience of the system, especially under high load. Have you experienced that kind of huge volume increase in the recent couple of weeks?

Simon:

Yeah, definitely. And there’s also that very immediate need to get something out quite quickly. So it’s learning to scale down your usual quality front, the way you see quality in some respects. And understanding we’ve got an urgent need to get something out to market so that we can process refunds or something like that. Therefore, you kind of do enough to get it out the door so that it doesn’t fall over. But you accept that it’s not going to be gold-plated to the level that you would usually put in place. So there is that difference of mindset when you’ve got to get something out the door quickly in an emergency. That’s certainly another thing that’s had to be learned quite quickly over the last few weeks.

Jonathon:

Yeah, I remember a great example. I think we may have even talked about it at the Aylesbury event was when digital was the first kind of coming on the scenes and the UK government was really adopting digital. There’s all these success stories about the fact that they brought a platform to gov.uk petitions website. Went up in six weeks with four members of staff and all open stack. It wasn’t until Brexit happened that everyone hit it too hard that the system went down. If you remember, that security issue where when they brought the system back up on the petitions website, then somebody was just using API calls to inject phony messages, and then they couldn’t figure out how many people had voted.

Sometimes you’ve got to get the product out, and it’s a case of putting some of those things on hold. But when it comes to something as critical as flights, there was a really good example. While we were out, I was in New Zealand with New Zealand Air. I don’t know if it got all the way over there to you guys, but we were doing some testing. I say, we… I won’t name and shame the people. But we were doing some testing, and when they released the app, the day they released, we realized that when you click back, people were getting other people’s credit card information, which obviously is fairly serious, right?

So it brought the system down, obviously. But then someone said, “Well, you can’t bring the system down because actually we use that for checking in. That then brought down everybody who was waiting to get on flights for New Zealand Air and just caused an absolute massive systemic failure across the business, because of all of these systems kind of interact. I guess you’re used to that kind of complexity in McAfee with the complex landscapes of an anti-virus and web security and all that kind of side of things.

Do you find that the systems are still equally as complex now in your current role?

Simon:

I think in some ways they’re more complex because there’s a lot more moving parts. There’s a lot of different technology stacks in different places doing different things that are all highly critical, from payments to booking seats to booking the flight itself to allocation of flights. If they’re disrupted, there’s a lot more complexities in a different way. It’s interesting coming from a company that is purely tech-focused like McAfee where they have the latest and greatest tech stacks and all the different tools for automation and AI and everything all built into their process. To come somewhere where technology is not their focus, technology supports them to do their job. And actually it’s bringing the best practice into that environment is in some ways more of a challenge. You find the systems are actually more complex.

Jonathon:

I know you’re big with the community. Do you find that when you need to reach out for experience, you go into people like Ministry of Test, TestBash, those kinds of big events that you do? Where do you find your source of inspiration in the community? And how do you learn and grow in your role?

Simon:

So I have two things that I work quite a lot with. I have a very small slack group which myself and three others that are all test managers we call the Testing Peers. We are actually putting a podcast together as well because we feel that we’ve got something useful. But we’ve been talking over Slack the four of us the last couple years, sharing ideas. If we’ve had struggles… Three of us have moved jobs in that time, so we’ve talked about that between the four of us because we felt, sometimes in the testing world you may be a test manager. You may not actually have any peers in your company. So having this small group of people that we talk to every day, has actually helped us grow ourselves and learn more about how things could be done differently.

But then I find Twitter is one of the most powerful places to learn stuff. You can put a message up on there about, “Oh, I’m investigating something around AI automation.” Or something like that. Somebody will respond. Somebody will DM you. You’ll soon have a Zoom call set up with two or three people. You’ll talk things through. You’ll get some good ideas. I did something for an ex-colleague last week. She was asking about model-based testing. I put a post up on Twitter. Seven or eight people come back. I then set up a LinkedIn group for them all to talk and let them get on with it. And it’s just nice to see people willing to share ideas. So I think social media and LinkedIn and Twitter have been very useful for me.

Alongside that, the conferences. You can’t beat the conversations you have at conferences or listening to some of the talks and then talking to the speakers afterward. I find that invaluable as well. And it’s just building those relationships. Once you’ve met someone in person that you’ve been speaking to for a while over the internet, it builds that relationship even stronger. And I’ve had a few relationships now that I’ve been speaking to for a while. I meet them for the first time at conference, and then we start talking more regularly. We start bouncing ideas off each other, and it just builds that knowledge and that willingness to grow as well because you’ve got people that are working with you on stuff.

Jonathon:

Yeah. It’s probably understated just the importance of the community side of things. And I think probably from QA and testing is probably one of the strongest communities that we have out here. THere’s a lot of people who are happy to help. I know you do a lot with the STEM stuff as well and from an inclusion perspective, younger people trying to get into IT. That must be really rewarding. But do you also find that it helps people guide them on the way that they need to take their journey? Whether that be digital or through their career.

Simon:

Yeah, it does. It certainly gives you the ability to give them the options to talk about. If you can get more people involved that come from a similar background or come from a similar experience during their career, it does help get that message across and you can persuade people or give them the options to look at different career paths. Show them the different types of options. It really is a hotbed of ideas. And when you’ve got young people that are in school or university that just have no idea where they want to go, you’ve almost got a clear canvas to try to persuade them.

And one of the things I’ve been very passionate about in the last couple of years is testing isn’t taught in universities. Still, to this day, very few universities have any particular modules on testing or quality to any level. So it’s trying to some way give them the knowledge about testing so that they’re not coming into the industry completely blind. I came out of university thinking the only thing I could be was a developer. So being able to now feedback into that system that there’s more to computing careers than just being a developer was really crucial for me. And I did toy with… I started setting up a community called Future Tech Stars, but I’ve not been able to follow it through as much as I would like.

I got a whole load of tech people interested in giving back to the schools and sort of showing that there’s more to IT and computing than just programming development. That there’s a lot more out there. And I had quite a few people that we’re keen to go to schools and talk, but it’s getting that ability getting into the schools, getting into the universities and actually having a presence to be able to talk to the students about that. So that is something I will follow up on when I have less time, I guess. But it’s certainly a passion of mine to make sure that people are aware of all the options they have when it comes to starting their careers.

Jonathon:

Absolutely. I was just finishing doing an article today around the importance of education but also creativity. I don’t know if you’ve seen the TED Talk is around the importance of… Do schools kill the creativity? It’s an interesting talk about the fact that we don’t really know what those skills are going to look like in five, 10, 15 years. They need the kind of guidance on what’s important as well as education, as well as the STEMs, the science, technology, maths, and English. The core foundational skills. It’s also about their digital capabilities and understanding. We had someone on the show who was doing DevOps skills. It’s about extending past the standard coding, but making things interesting, making people find their passion within the IT landscape.

Simon:

Yeah, it was always interesting because one of my good colleagues when I was at McAfee we used to do a schools program for internet safety. But we used to attach on the back of that doing career talks. And one of my colleagues that I worked with most closely was a tech writer. And he used to be able to make his career sound the most interesting thing in the world. But, for an outsider looking at tech writing, you don’t see that as a, particularly interesting job. You’re just writing a tech manual for the software. But, it is all about the passion you have for that career and building that passion in someone. And in lighting that flame that then enables them to go on and be great at what they do. And that’s the key thing for me is you can have just one person that you can flip that switch on and they get excited about it. 

And I’ve seen it with people that I’ve brought into the organization as a complete graduate, junior, no idea what they want to do. And I’ve brought them in and put them into testing roles and seen, with a little bit of nurturing and mentoring and making sure that they’ve got the tools they need to do their job, they get excited about coming to work. They get excited about doing the job, and you can see them grow. And it’s those people that I’ve always had the most rewarding feeling for as far as I’ve done something right in getting them in and helping them make the choice they needed to make.

Jonathon:

Yeah, I think it’s essential to have that kind of support. I know we talked at the start about the stress associated with this kind of thing. I started putting an article around… Because I’ve always suffered from anxiety all my life. Part of is dealing and managing your stress levels. And I know the government have had a lot of guidelines now about mental health and really about making sure you still… I know social distancing is in at the moment. But part of it is go outside, get fresh air. Do you find you’ve got any little tips that you do that help that kind of thing out as far as people who are struggling on that side of things?

Simon:

Yeah, I can only talk from my personal experience. I think one thing for me that I learned… I learned a lot when it happened to me was a few years ago, when I was at McAfee, when I had the two teams in different countries doing different projects at different levels of maturity, I was burning the candle at both ends to keep the teams going. Obviously, with McAfee being an American company, we’d have late-night calls to the US. I had teams in India working with us as well, so I was on calls early morning. And then, having two teams working on different things. One being completely green, new to McAfee, new to testing. So I was spending a lot of time mentoring and coaching them. And then I’ve got the team local to me in Aylesbury at the same time that were certainly more long in the tooth, set in their ways, not wanting to change, to evolve to do testing in the way that I wanted to move forward. So I was putting in a lot of extra effort into getting those teams working.

On top of that, I was still running the test meet-ups in Aylesbury, and I was starting to develop my speaking at conferences, doing talks here in there in a different place and doing the school stuff. So I literally was burning the candle at both ends to try and fit everything in. It got to a point where my work was becoming my social media. So I’d wake up in the night and I’d be checking my work emails just to make sure I was on top of stuff. And I reached burnout. I got to the point where I collapsed at home in front of my kids at the breakfast table. Ended up at A&E for the day because I banged my head on the table on the way down. I had two weeks off after that and my boss who at the time, a really supportive boss, he just said, “You need to take a couple of weeks. Just take a couple of weeks off and get yourself sorted. We’ll cope without you for a few weeks.”

And that was part of the anxiety as well. What if they cope without me so well that they don’t need me? There was always that anxiety playing as well. But it did really give me the ability to reflect and look at what I needed to change. And one of the things I did straightaway was made sure the team in Cork had a lead in place. Probably one of the best hires I ever made. He was a really solid guy. Still leads the team now. Did a really good job of taking stuff on so I didn’t have to do the day to day management of those as well. And then started to look at how I could reduce down as a manager, as a leader, reduce down my technical interaction day to day and trust the team to do more. And give them the tools to empower themselves to do work. And that’s one of the biggest tips for me is, as a manager, you need to be able to trust your team to do the technical work, and you need to be there to advocate for them, support them, empower them, encourage them, nurture them as best as can so they can be the best people they can be and work to the best ability they can.

Once you’re able to do that and step back and allow them to do the job, you’ll find they’ll either flourish or they’ll fall. And when they fall, be there to support them. Be there to help them get back up. Give them the tools, the support, the nurturing, the mentoring to make it right. It’s very easy when sometimes someone fails to finger point and say they’re rubbish. But my mantra has always been, if we fail, we fail together and we get back up and we work through it together. And certainly, I’ve carried that on in my future roles since then as well. So, yeah, for me, you need to know your limits. You need to not take on too much. Now, I’ve got an ability to continually want to take more stuff on. So, I want to be able to relaunch the test meet-ups. I want to do conference talks. It’s just in my nature to have several plates spinning at the same time, but it’s knowing when I can switch off. 

And I now try to make a conscious effort not to work too much in the evenings. At least limit myself to two or three evenings a week. Give myself some downtime. Make sure I get time to read, time with the family. And know what’s most important to you. End of the day, all the extra-curricular activities aren’t going to pay the wages, pay the bills. So, make sure you prioritize your main income and spend the time with the people that care for you most. But around that, if you can fit other stuff in because you want to, then do it. But know your limits and don’t reach the burnout.

Jonathon:

Some amazing advice. On SlideShare, you’ve got an entire presentation that you gave on diversity and getting people to understand the difference between people who are autistic. Everyone’s somewhere on the spectrum, I find, especially we work with. Things like dyslexia. I suffer with that as well. Part of it there’s so many different aspects. We may do something like Myers-Briggs from a business perspective to understand how we can better communicate with each other. But, until recently, mental illness has been one of those things that haven’t really come out. And it’s really good that it is. And it gives people the ability to understand how better to interact with it. I’ve had a close family member who’s actually been sectioned this week, just not been able to cope with the lockdown. It’s really difficult because people maybe haven’t been able to get the help they need. I remember seeing a stat which said, I think, something like 17% of the entire population at some point in time will suffer through mental illness. I think it’s probably even higher than that now. 

The lessons that we’re learning through this crisis, how we’re working together with people, how we’ve got to be able to say, when we’re available and when we’re not and take those breaks. Make sure that we’re not trying to work longer just because we’ve got people who are worried that are working remotely, therefore people are thinking we’re not doing enough. There’s so much additional stress that’s been put on us with this situation. I’m sure lots of people, even regular people who haven’t identified that maybe they are potentially on that spectrum. It’s worth definitely checking out your presentation. And I’ll make sure that’s available on the show notes.

It’s obviously a difficult topic to talk about, but there is a lot of pressure, especially with from a QA is kind of seen as the ambassadors of quality, but also being responsible for quality. Things that go out the door. But it isn’t everyone’s responsible for quality. Is there any advice you’d have there around testers who are probably worried that they are releasing stuff that isn’t up to scratch and they’re blaming themself and not maybe working together, like you said, a bit more celebrating the failures and learning from them collectively as a team? Do you have any tips for those kinds of junior testers and QAs?

Simon:

I think the one for me with that it is all about communication and building that culture of quality across your organization. If you’re a junior QA, at least try and get the support of your lead, your manager. And try and build that same mindset on what we feel like our narrative towards quality is, what we feel we should be aiming for from a quick QA perspective. If we’re in an agile environment then everybody’s responsible for quality is definitely one way of trying to push forward. Talking about QA and quality at every opportunity, trying to build to a place where quality is thought about earlier on. I talked at several conferences about how we need to shift left on quality and have quality at the table at the start of the project and make sure that’s discussed earlier on. Bringing in testability, bringing in these new ideas that help us identify issues earlier. And just doing your research as well. The one thing that stuck out for me as a junior tester was, the simple graph of the cost of a defect. Leaving defects ’til a week before release to find compared to a defect found in the requirements, the cost difference is huge.

As a junior QA that’s a big strong message to be able to take to the rest of the team and share with them and to the developers and say, “Look, if we look at this earlier on, we can find these defects earlier. We can stop the cost of the project escalating out of control.” And it’s little things like that. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people in the industry. Social media, as I mentioned earlier, there are loads of really smart people on social media that will literally drop everything and answer your question and be there to have Skype calls or Zoom calls with you and talk through some stuff and help you move forward. So it really is about building up your confidence and that you’ve got the conviction behind what you’re saying. And once you can do that, people will start listening and people will start being your allies, and you can feed your message in.

One other tool I’ve used quite a lot recently is the Ministry Of Testing TestSphere card deck. Oy, it’s not the Ministry of Testing’s deck, but they sell it on the Ministry of Testing’s store. The TestSphere deck of 100 cards of testing topics that I’ve literally used in meetings with other testers, with other areas of the business, developers, PMs and just said, “Look, let’s talk testing. Let’s talk about these things.” And just put some cards on the table and say, “Tell me your experience of stability here. Tell me your experience of testability, performance.” And after an hour or so of talking about these different topics, people that are not in testing will suddenly go, “I didn’t realize you knew so much. I didn’t realize you had so much knowledge about other areas rather than just testing.” And it’s just having those discussions about actually, testing is a lot more than just execution. There’s so much more to what a tester can bring to the table, or someone in QA can bring to the table. And identifying where quality can be improved.

The small wins, especially from a junior tester perspective, if you can make a small win by advocating for a change in process where we start identifying defects in requirements rather than leaving it ’til the end, that can have a huge impact. And you’ll suddenly get the respect and you can start moving forward with your career.

Jonathon:

Yeah, that’s really interesting in the sense of people recognizing the value of just the sheer range of activities that’s part of testing and QA. You spoke at UK Star 2019 which I found out recently is, unfortunately, going to be the last one they do. And you were on at the same time I was speaking.

Simon:

I was, yeah.

Jonathon:

I did look through your slides.  There, I’m talking about your leadership side of things. You’d recommended some really good books around managing the test people and the manager’s path, and some podcasts, Simple Leadership and I think, Testing in the Pub. As far as your journey on leadership, how have you seen that evolve? And kind of give us a bit of a 30-second overview of that kind of presentation.

Simon:

Yeah, in that presentation I did kind of talk about what happened with my mental health burnout at McAfee and how I recovered from that. Really, the journey was, I always felt, I was told quite early on that I was more of a people person than a techie person. I’ve always felt there’s been that drive to do more to look after my team, to support the people that needed support. And that kind of goes hand in hand with my passion for the neurodiversity side of things. I’ve got an autistic sister. My wife’s a special needs teacher. So there are definitely links, and that’s been close to my heart and that’s why I’ve pushed with that.

But it all comes down to making I’ve got the tools in my toolbox to be able to deal with whatever person I have in my team. Learn how to adapt so that I can support that person on an individual basis and not just use a one size fits all approach to talking to them and dealing with them. Some people like fluffy instructions. Some people like it black and white, down the line, this is what we need you to do. And it’s just knowing which way you have to go for each person in your team. So that’s always been a strong part of my leadership style is, ever since I became a lead at McAfee and I had a team local I was sort of not line managing but coordinating while the line manager was offshore. 

I knew that I had to try and do my best to get the most out of the people. Give them the support and the mentoring they needed to get the job done. But equally, be there when they needed someone to talk, to rant at. If they needed to have five minutes to scream at someone, I’d stick my hand up and say, “Yeah, come and scream at me. We’ll sort it out. We’ll get back to it. We’ll forget it ever happened, and we’ll get on with the job again.” And it’s just sometimes being that sounding board for people or being a safe place for people actually really helps them feel comfortable around you. And then, they feel they can come to you with anything.

I once got described that I needed a counseling couch in my office or near my desk because people always come to talk to me. And although that was said in a negative light, I kind of saw it as a yeah, that’s because they like coming to talk to me, and they feel safe talking to me. And actually, safety is important as well in the workplace. And sometimes, work can be a scary place if you don’t feel comfortable, especially if you’re maybe of a neurodiverse condition such as autism or ADHD. It might feel like at times you feel unsafe in the work environment because it’s not set up in a way you feel comfortable. So, being able to help them, support them, give them the tools they need to be able to do their job correctly or to the best of their ability has always been important to me. And that’s followed me through my career.

So now it’s a place where I have done the neurodiversity deck. I gave that as training at Camelot at the National Lottery. I’ve also changed into a deck for EasyJet, so that’s going to be taught at some point with EasyJet as well. And it’s just a part of the bigger diversity program of making sure that everyone is able to feel themselves at work. As I say, that’s always been an important part of me. But equally, with that, I’ve also been very passionate about making sure the teams that I’ve managed have always had the best ability to do the testing in the best way possible. So I’m very keen to advocate on exploratory testing. Making sure that exploratory testing is treated as importantly as automation. Equally, I know automation is an important part of testing, so, therefore, it’s making sure people don’t assume that everything needs to be automated and actually learning and helping them learn and identify the ways where automation is best placed and where it isn’t needed. And actually, there are other tools such as exploratory that can fill that gap. 

It’s always been a passion for me to make sure that quality is important and giving people the ability to learn new techniques to support them if they’ve got new ideas. To brainstorm things, to help them come up with solutions to problems without being the one to tell them that this is the solution. Sit with them, coach them on what about this problem do you think is the most important part to solve? How do you think we can do this? What ideas have you got? Give them the coaching questions and let them build up the response. And that gives them the empowerment to then feel that they’ve achieved something. And for me, if your team feels they’ve achieved something, then ultimately, you, as a manager, have achieved something too.

Jonathon:

Yeah, I think you’re like a modern-day Frasier, but in the QA sense. Maybe we’ll rename the podcast for that. But, yeah, it’s interesting because I call myself a digital therapist at the moment. It was always a joke. We’ll have to get a few people on the show. But it was around listening to people, trying to understand where the challenges are and then help them. You’ve been talking about the neurodiversity. We’re going to do a QA article around that with The QA Lead. If you fancy contributing to that, it would be great to have your viewpoint because, I think, you’ve lived it. And you’ve also come out the other side where you’re able to share your experience and also give people a framework to operate around and give them the information that they need to have a better understanding. So it would be great to have you.

I know you’ve got a few blogging sites that you do. Your testingpeers.wordpress.com. It’s getting that balance of some downtime to do those kinds of things. You’ve obviously got the podcast coming up. For those people who want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Simon:

So, Twitter is siprior. I’m quite active on Twitter. I’m happy to have conversations with people. Equally, LinkedIn. I’m quite active on LinkedIn as well. Or, just email me: [email protected] and I’ll pick up the responses. I don’t blog as much as I would have liked to have done. I’ve got several blogs in my drafts that I’ve not finished yet. I did write one on neurodiversity last year. It’s been well-read. It’s been shared quite a lot with different autism charities and people in the autism space and ADHD. And that was the trigger for me writing the training deck that I’ve used in previous roles as well. So, yeah, I’m more than happy to be involved in any blog posts that you’d like to write about diversity, mental health in the testing world. That’s definitely something I’d be interested in.

Jonathon:

Perfect. For the listeners, have you got any other kind of last advice around a tip for people starting their career or just people who maybe are struggling out there?

Simon:

For people starting their career, it really would be, don’t be afraid to reach out. Look at the options, especially in the current climate, if you’re recently new to the tech industry and you’re finding yourself in the situation where you’re now working from home all the time because of the current health pandemic, look for the content online that can help you move forward. Certainly, from someone who runs a testing community, we are starting up. I’ve now got a co-host in Stu Johnson in Milton Keynes. We were planning on having our first meet-up in Milton Keynes in April. That’s now going to be an online webinar on the 22nd of April. We’re just finalizing the details, but there are loads of events. Especially people like the Ministry of Testing and other testing organizations around the world run so much content online now. Webinars, Q&A sessions, open calls where you can talk to people. Just join some of that online content. Learn and then use that to build your knowledge up.

I always say that it’s okay learning something, but it’s how you then apply it afterward. So making sure that you actually do something with it. Attending a conference is great, but if you don’t do anything with any of the talks afterward, then it’s just a fun day out. You don’t actually get anything from it. So it’s really about working out what your learning outcomes are. Blog about it, write about it, talk to people about it. Put something in place. Suggest something at work, “Hey, we could try this new process.” And really get going with improving your skills in that way. 

As far as someone struggling, reach out. I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s finding it hard at the moment. But again, there’s so much out there as far as wellbeing, healthy minds, how to get yourself up and running in the way you want to be again. But, yeah, happy to support where needed.

Jonathon:

That was a wonderful podcast. It was very heartfelt. Add in Mind.org.uk if you’re based in the UK. Fantastic session. Thanks so much, Simon. I will definitely be attending the next Aylesbury testing gathering and we’ll have to get you back on the show.

Simon:

Brilliant. More than happy to. Thanks Jonathon.

Slack Team

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