I’ve been reading an interesting and thoughtful post by Adam Knight about the effect of social media on the testing community. Adam was right to say that the response to my CAST talk was possible only because of social media. I’d go further than that. I would never have been in New York at all if it had not been for social media. When I became self-employed I had no option but to get out there on the internet, to network and write. That opened doors and eventually led me to CAST in New York.
One of the surprising aspects of my story is that I never intended to go down the route of being a Stop 29119 guy, or even a critic of standards. I wanted to concentrate on other things.
However, I got better and more interesting feedback from what I’d written about standards and governance. I responded to that and the story developed naturally in a direction I’d not anticipated. I hadn’t realised what aspects of my career were unusual, even unique, to me. It was only through interacting with other people and responding to their interest that I came to understand what particular insights I could offer.
If I had set out a fixed timeline of action for the topics I was originally interested in I would probably just have hit a wall, and never noticed the more realistic and relevant alternatives.
I am still plagued by the fear that I’m just bluffing, and that I’m not really qualified to tell people anything. I try to get past that by telling myself that it’s true, but the same applies to everyone else, most of the time, in most contexts. What sets me apart isn’t that I know a whole load about testing, or about auditing.
What does make me unusual is that I’ve worked inside both professions, and also dealt with both from the outside. That makes me extremely unusual, and it is that rarity which gives me an interesting perspective. It was only through being open and public on Twitter, blogs and articles that I was able to work through to that insight and see what I could offer. In marketing terms I didn’t know my own USP (unique selling proposition).
Tacit and explicit knowledge are fascinating and important topics, especially for testers. A blinding flash of understanding that we all need to grasp is that we do not know which aspects of our knowledge and experience are of greatest value. We think we do, and we may be reasonably accurate in our judgement, but these assets change over time. I don’t know all that I’m capable of doing or contributing, but I now have a better understanding that my grasp of my intellectual inventory has always been limited.
Social media, conferences, Twitter, networking all help me enormously to know other people and their work. But they’ve also helped me to know myself better too, and that might be the most important revelation of all.