Karen Johnson at CAST 2015

I was about to throw away a whole notebook full of conference notes I'd already blogged about. But because I'd already shipped these notes across an ocean and ignored them for a few years, I figured I'd give them a final read first. Luckily I found a few pages of gems.

Karen Johnson's talk at CAST (The Conference for the Association of Software Testing) in 2015 covered the breath and depth of her experience in the software industry. I've taken on the career coaching role for some colleagues, and so much of what Karen emphasized is what I've been saying to them as they try to advocate for that promotion, discover their next step, or accept that they have done the best they could given the circumstances.

Testers should have a portfolio

How do you make your work visible? Particularly when your work is invisible when done well? Tell people about it in standups. Tell your boss at your 1-on-1. Write it down and then share a link the next time it comes up.

If you were to do a retro on yourself, what would you want it to be?

Karen advocated for giving back to the community, and challenged the gentleman who pointed out this was not strictly part of the job description. "That's just who I am." The senior roles at my current company are often differentiated not by technical prowess, but by building others up. Sharing to a big audience trips people up, but the steady radiating of information in writing, pairing with people to solve problems, and being the go-to person for questions serves to enrich and scale a company more effectively.

Where's the gap between what you're doing now and what you want to do?

This is something I'm able to concretely address within my company, when I know how the departments are structured and how the job descriptions fit into the org chart. I've made a list (or tasked my colleagues to do this for themselves) comparing their current job description to the one they're aiming for. Next to each item, list what you're already doing to fill that gap, or at least one thing you could be doing in that direction. Sometimes it's a matter of recognizing for yourself how much you already do.

Your boss may never be your mentor

These talks from Marianne Duijst and Martin Hynie dive into this deeper, but find help where you can get it.

In five years you might specialize in something that doesn't exist today

I feel a bit silly asking people in 2021 where they see themselves in the future, or even what they want for themselves. Don't feel bad if you don't have it all planned out.

How to get promoted

Be reliable, dependable, the one to be counted on, and willing to take on more. Who wouldn't want someone like that around all the time?

Karen says during the talk that she doesn't know what mark she will leave on the testing community. I certainly appreciate this bit of her wisdom.