Today's Big Picture

May 19, 2012  2:13 PM

Dont Underestimate Your Strengths

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

I recently did my strength finders again …. after almost 3 years. Of the top 5…. 3 remained the same from last time. I am not surprised at all. Since I got into strength finders I have been focusing on my strengths at work and on many other fronts.

My strengths this time were

  1. Activator
  2. Woo
  3. Communication
  4. Maximizer
  5. Positivity

What this gives me is a way to focus on where I want to go with my career. There were times when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do long term or short term. But when I look at my strengths it helps me identify work that motivates me, keeps me going and things I want to do. With this in mind I try to find short and long term work activities that will showcase me and my work. In any job you can make it what you want… there is no hard and fast rule about your roles and responsibilities. If you can create a position that inspires you then you are successful in your job. Here are some tips for using your straight

  • Share it with your team and explain what you are good at. They may include you in discussion where your strengths are needed.
  • Talk to your manager about your strengths. If you take the strength finders test it gives you action items on how you can use your strength. Use them to your advantage.
  • If you do things outside of your job description show the value you add. It will help you get the next job that you have been looking for.

You can go online to to learn more about strength finder book. You get a code to take online test and tada you get the results. Use it to your benefit.

April 29, 2012  2:58 PM

Unwritten Rules

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Does your company have unwritten rules that no ones tell you about when you start new but everyone knows. I have started creating this list so that I can pass it along to who ever comes new after me. Sometimes its hard to know these rules and you don’t know till you have been there a while. These rules could be as simple as using elevators to how late you can setup a meeting.

Here are some tips to learn those inside rules

  • The best way to learn these is to ask questions. People usually tell you these rules.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. If you pay attention you can find these rules loud and clear.
  • Make friends with the social birds. They will always be willing to take you along and show you things. They will also give you tips and tricks.
  • Make mistakes some one will tell you what you did wrong and take notes so you wont do it ever again.

Do you have insiders tips on how you learnt and got used to new organizations? IF so please do share.

April 29, 2012  2:44 PM

Test Strategy: Dynamic Need to change

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

I like that most organizations have a template for test plan or strategy document. What i dont like is that the document turns into a chore. When people use it as something they need to get done and they don’t use it for the value it provides to get their work done, the whole purpose of the document is lost.

Release after release people modify very little and get it reviewed by the team. Everyone is happy and signs off. But as soon as something is gone wrong people go back to how come we missed in testing or what didn’t we do differently.

I would say start with how did you strategize to test this. What was your approach and did you think of everything you needed to before you started? Did you get everything you needed? Did the team and you understand the risks? Without knowing these using any template to document is not helping but causing harm. I am challenging my team to think of test plan differently. Look at a release draw a picture in your mind or paper and then write a document on what you want to communicate to the team, stakeholders and leadership. Don’t get caught up in the template of how a test plan should look like.

It can be half a page of write up or a mind map diagram or a 20 page PowerPoint. It can be anything you want it to be as long as you cover the basics and also communicate clearly what is it you are trying to do. Dont let a document or way of thinking or doing restrict you from doing what is right.

April 29, 2012  2:30 PM

Leadership: It takes work

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

One of the biggest challenges that a lot of time new managers or leaders face is that they forget to step back from tasks and work that they are used to doing. If one was used to doing things and now have to lead others to do it one does get tempted to just jump in and do the work. Yes it might take less time to step in and do the work and yes you might feel more confident with what you do.

The important part is to teach, lead and help you employees to be successful in what they do and their success is your success. The learning curve might be short or long depending on the employee and you may have to work more time to help them. But as a manager or leader your job is not to do others work.

Separating out what you role is from what your employees should do will help understand how you can be successful.

April 25, 2012  7:16 PM

Getting Work Done in Collaboration

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

I saw an interesting title the other day “Teamwork is an individual skill”. This really caught my attention as I am trying to work in a collaborative environment where the team sizes are large, stakeholders are really involved and decision makers would like as much information as possible.

I love collaborative environments but there has to be a balance between bringing everyone along and getting them to agree versus getting the work done. This is a skill that individuals have to work on as at times it gets frustrating that things don’t get done fast enough or they don’t get done the way we want to. To work in a collaborative environment we have to remember a few tips and if we keep these in mind we can be successful.

  • Always prepare: Dont go unplanned into collaborative environments. Try to talk to as many stakeholers as you can and gather what would the project or decision regarding the project or issue mean to them. Dont spend a lot of time but enough to gather some data.
  • Go into the meeting knowing that people will have all kinds of ideas: negative, positive, netutral, unrelated, etc. So gather the ideas, ask questions for clarifications if there are some you dont understand.
  • Take clear action items so that team members know what the next step is. Once the ideas are gathered categorize them and see which ones are in your control, which ones are really not going to help, which ones can be shelved till later, etc. Share this information back with the team.
  • Keep an open mind to all ideas. Others may bring a perspective that you didnt think about.
  • When looking for solutions see if you can make small improvements. Make the team understand that small solutions/improvements are better than waiting for the perfect solutions. Also knowing what the perfect solution is harder and making small changes give better results and they also give quicker feedback which provides an opportunity to change paths if they don’t work.

Working in collaboration is a skill and it doesnt take long to develop it. What are your experience with collaboration? Do you have tips to share?

April 22, 2012  2:17 PM

Earth Day

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Happy Earth to all. I hope you are looking at ways to save this earth. There are tons of small things we can do on an every day basis that can help. We all don’t have to wait till earth day to contribute.

  • Unplugging your wires is a smart move and takes very little time. Even when our phone or computer is not connected to the wire, it uses energy. So its best to unplug them.
  • When possible switch electronics off. This way we are not using up power. Does your laptop really have to be on 24/7?
  • Recycle old electronics. You can call your recycle company and ask them if they have drop off locations where you can drop off these for free.
  • If you have electronics that are working but you don’t need them, then donate them. At Least someone will use it or reuse it.

If you have other ideas please do share and enjoy earth day.

April 12, 2012  7:44 PM

Back with Some Updates

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

So I have been gone for a long long time. Yes I agree even a few months in blog world is like decades. Anyways a lot has happened since I wrote last. I was looking for a new job and I wanted to find one that would interest me. Doesn’t help that I was in the previous job for almost 6 years. Things change a lot in 6 years…. its like biking where you can pick it immediately but its like riding a rusted bike. We have to oil the bike, tighten all the loose parts and change things that don’t work any more. Its the same with resume… styles, writings, summaries change a lot. Its not because your experience changes its because what is want from the job changes. Representing what you truly want from your next job is not easy. I will get into resume writing and interview in another post.

Getting started in the new job though is fun and exciting its hard. Its been 3 months now and I still feel like I know very little. I will cross this bridge too. And in a few months I will be settled like I have been there forever. Start relationships from scratch is not easy and so if there is someone who started new at your job make sure you take a minute to say hello and make them feel at home. It cannot be easy to come into an organization and learn the culture, language and also do the job. Remember when they bring new ideas its not because they think the existing way of doing is bad but that they are also trying to learn and understand why things are done the way they are done.

Coming back to blogging… I am working for an organization that is really into blogging, sharing information and also collaboration. These are some of the things that are really motivating to start writing again. So I will try to be here more regularly to share my thoughts.

So here is to rest of 2012 and bloggin.

September 23, 2011  7:52 AM

The IT Files – Bernice Niel Ruhland – Part 4

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

What (or who) inspires you?

I enjoy challenges whether work-related or personal that either expands my abilities, skills, or provides inspiration for change. For example, at work we had a weekly walking challenge where the number of steps increased each week which motivated me to increase the time I walk every day in order to make my weekly goals. This was a great way to start the summer and get ready for hiking. Our trip to New Hampshire inspired me to want to hike more challenging mountains which requires me to take my physical fitness to a different level.  At work I am inspired by deadlines that allows a team to work together to produce a product that is beneficial to our client. Deadlines sometime require a level of innovation such as addressing risk differently or approaching testing strategies from different angles.  Those are the projects I really enjoy. I am also inspired by the younger testing generation for their testing passion and for addressing problems differently such as using mindmaps and expanding skills and contacts through weekend testing.  


How has social media changed your life?

I love social media because it connects you with people around the world and allows me to understand how testers are approaching similar problems. You are no longer constraint to conversations based upon a local networking group that you may or may not have time to attend meetings. Even though I do believe in local networking groups and face-to-face communication, I find great value in social media and have a different strategy for the different types. I am a big fan of twitter and my own testing world has expanded. I have learned about mindmaps, weekend testing, and free e-magazines such as Testing Circus and Tea Time for Testers. I have tweeted many questions and found testers that are willing to share suggestions, articles, or blogs. This has allowed me to quickly gather information I need to make a decision based upon how other companies address the problem or with additional research material. I am on twitter several times a day. LinkedIn is a great centralized location to maintain connections with business professionals and I use it once or twice a week. I do not spend too much time with their discussion groups because so far I can locate the information more quickly through twitter; though you can get more in-depth discussion using LinkedIn. I also use Google+ and have connected with a lot of testers. I enjoy learning more about their hobbies and interests because I believe it is important we do not just become information exchangers, because the person on the other end is a real human being with feelings and emotions. 


Do you bog? Your blog and twitter link if you would like to share with the readers?

At this time, I do not have a blog. Instead, I have been contributing articles based upon my experience to Testing Circus:  I can be reached at Linkedin: ,Twitter:!/bruhland2000, and I am on Google+.

September 23, 2011  7:52 AM

The IT Files – Bernice Niel Ruhland – Part 3

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Name your favorite work related book.

One of my favorite books is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. This book has helped me better prepare and react to difficult situations. As testers, we provide information on what we are seeing during testing to help other people such as Product Managers make better decisions. I highly recommend this book for all testers since building relationships and the ability to provide feedback that people may not want to hear is important. For example, every tester has found critical bugs close to shipping a product. A tester should not make the decision to delay shipment, but provides important information to those who make the decision. This may become a difficult conversation with questions asked of the tester such as “why wasn’t this problem found earlier” and other questions that might make the tester defensive. Learning how to handle this type of conversation is just one example of how this book will help you approach conversations differently.


Who is your hero?

I really do not have a hero; but there are people I admire for what they accomplished. In particular, I enjoy learning about women who were pioneers in their field and overcame gender or racial barriers. Currently, I am reading the book “Women on High: Pioneers of Mountaineering” by Rebecca A. Brown which is about women who were the original mountain climbers back from the Victorian times when women were considered frail and in need of male protection. These women were pretty amazing considering the clothing of their time and the lack of modern technology that we have today for hiking and climbing!


What do you do when you are not working?

Music has always been an important part of my life. In particular, I listen to independent music because the groups have artistic freedom to create their music instead of following corporate direction and rules. Physical fitness is important to both my husband and to me. We enjoy an active lifestyle that includes working-out, hiking, and disc golf. Recently, we took a trip to New Hampshire to explore some of the hiking trails.  We enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and the more challenging hikes that included steep climbs and rocky terrain. We will be going back to explore more of their trails! I also love to cook and I am always looking for new, health-conscious recipes that provide the energy for our active lifestyle. When I have the time I enjoy getting lost in a good book; my favorite authors are Maeve Binchy, Jane Austen, and Jan Karon.


What is a skill or strength that sets you apart from others?

By nature I am a tester and a planner. This is not a job for me, but is a part of who I am. As a planner, I am able to react quickly to changing testing situations such as reduced timelines and the identification of new problems. I do not follow a heavy-weighted test plan; instead I believe in a living document or process where your planning changes based upon what is learned during testing. I can work through and implement new testing strategies and testing direction based upon changing situations and at times that needs to be done rather quickly!

September 23, 2011  7:50 AM

The IT Files – Bernice Niel Ruhland – Part 2

Shilpa Venkateshwaran Shilpa Venkateshwaran Profile: Shilpa Venkateshwaran

Is testing in pharmaceutical industry different from other industries?

I do not believe it is; because data is data. Whether I am in the pharmaceutical or financial industry our clients are using the application or reporting system to make a decision and they expect the results to be correct. The terminology may be different but I am testing from an input, processing, and output perspective.


Personal growth and continuous learning – how important in this in our times?

I am a strong believer in continual learning and taking personal accountability for expanding your own knowledge and skills. This has always been my opinion but I believe it is even more important today with social medial, on-line education, webinars, weekend testing, and a wealth of blogs and articles. Given there are so many sources of learning, there really is something for everyone! I believe there is a lot of competition for jobs especially when you consider some companies allow telecommuting or outsource to other companies. Employers are looking to see how you are improving your skills and how you will contribute to their team.  I often am asked if testers should seek certification. When asked this question, I respond with more questions. I would like to know what the tester hopes to achieve through certification; what are their goals; is certification the only way to achieve their goals; and what are they doing now to achieve those goals?


Quality – what is your definition or understanding?

I believe quality is driven by the client and what is important to them. From a testing perspective, we know it is impossible to test every scenario and to deliver a bug free product. However, the more knowledge I have on how the client uses our product and what is important to them plus understanding coding risks from a development perspective, allows a testing team to better target their testing to improve the quality based upon what is important to the client and known risks.


From a product standpoint, I believe quality is a collective effort in that everyone has a role from the sales people on what and when they promise a feature; the quality of the requirements; the development and testing groups understanding and translation of the requirements; and through implementation and customer support.  I believe the different departments working together can deliver a better product if information and risk is relayed and discussed. We all have an important role and I believe a Testing Department should not be in charge of quality.

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