In part II of our interview with Elisabeth Hendrickson (aka @TestObsessed), we discuss the influence of her testing colleagues; the difference between a great SCRUM master and terrible SCRUM master; the lack of women in software testing; her secret talents and more. If you missed our previous segment, you can read part I here.
uTest: As a frequent guest on the speaker circuit, you’ve crossed paths with many smart people in testing. How has the “collective brain” helped you throughout your career? Care to mention anyone in specific?
EH: I’m immensely grateful to our community for their openness and generosity in sharing ideas and knowledge. I cherish the conversations with folks whether we’re meeting up in person at events or virtually through discussion lists, Twitter, etc.
And yes, there have been several people to whom I am particularly grateful for inspiring, encouraging, and challenging me. Cem Kaner taught me a huge amount and encouraged me at every turn. James Bach challenged me and in doing so forced me to hold myself to a higher standard. Karl Wiegers was astoundingly generous in sharing his lessons learned as a consultant when I was getting started. Tim Lister inspired me when he asked me “Why are your pants on fire?” at a key moment in my career. Jerry Weinberg taught me more than I can express. I could go on. Just thinking about people with whom I’ve enjoyed discussing and collaborating brings more faces to mind: Dale Emery, Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory, Jennitta Andrea, Jon Bach, Bret Pettichord, Fiona Charles, Karen Johnson, Harry Robinson, Pradeep Soundarajan, and others. I feel blessed to be a part of such a fabulous community of people.
uTest: What characteristics or traits make for a truly great SCRUM master? What about a truly terrible SCRUM master? It seems like the type of role that is not suited for everyone.
EH: Good Scrum Masters I’ve seen give the team lots of room to be self-directing. Yes, Scrum Masters guide their teams in adopting agile practices. They advise. They remove impediments. But the most important thing they do is to create space for the group to learn, grow, and ultimately succeed as a self-organized team. The best Scrum Masters have such a light touch that it’s difficult to see what they actually do. It’s like being a good facilitator. Good facilitators get out of the way and let the conversation happen, only intervening when it’s absolutely necessary. Similarly, good Scrum Masters get out of the way of progress, trusting the team to find a path forward.
On rare occasions I’ll see Scrum Masters who misunderstand their role and want to make the process all about them. They see their role as managing the team. They take a directive stance, assigning work to team members. They conduct the Daily Scrum as a daily status ceremony. People on teams run by such a Scrum Master often report that agile feels like a particularly bad form of micromanagement. That’s a sign that the Scrum Master is completely missing the power of self-organizing teams. In doing so, they systematically disempower the team members and prevent the team from reaching its full potential. The end result is generally a sad parody of real Scrum with none of the benefits.
uTest: We can’t help but notice the major discrepancy in the male-to-female ratio when it comes to testing (and dev too, for that matter). What are the major challenges and opportunities of being a woman in this space? What could change the direction of this trend?