The Five Hour Tester

I ran a series of testing skills workshops at work that Joep Schuurkes and Helena Jeret-Mäe developed. I used both their teaching materials (available at and the schedule Joep followed when he ran them at the office (splitting the exercises up into five hours) to run the series again. The five topics are:

  1. interpretation
  2. modelling
  3. test design
  4. note taking
  5. bug reporting


This was what got me enthusiastic about giving these workshops: the material. It was topics, concepts, blog posts, and books that I'd been studying since I discovered the wider community of testers about ten years ago. Sharing the oldies but goodies like the "Mary had a little lamb" heuristic and the Test Heuristics Cheat Sheet with a new set of people makes me excited about what they'll discover about their software with these tools in their toolbelt.


The company had grown enough in the years since Joep gave the workshops that there was demand for the series again. Testers are embedded on teams by themselves and reporting to developers. The workshops offered an opportunity for testers to grow (and affirm) their skills while building relationships with the testing-minded outside their teams.


I posted an invitation to the workshops in the Slack channel for the R&D department, and was surprised to see interest in attending from elsewhere in the company. Attendance ranged from about 20 participants in the first session to a low of 5 during the school vacation week. (An learning intiative launched by the People & Culture department would streamline registration if/when I offer the workshops again.)


The sessions were in the hour right after lunch time on Monday on five consecutive weeks. That slot didn't require me to move or miss important recurring meetings. Recording the sessions made it possible to catch-up on the ones people missed.


I hosted the sessions remotely, which allowed for audio-visual parity for everyone participating in a way that hybrid sessions would not have. I recorded them so people could also watch them afterwards.


Each hour started with a short "lecture", the part where we'd name and notice the skill. Next came an exercise, giving participants hands-on practice in drawing attention to the testing skill. This part took about half of the hour. The other half of the hour was the individual reflection and debrief.

I wasn't sure if people could stay or actively participate for the whole hour, so I had people debrief individually and with the whole group instead of in pairs or small groups. Our conversations strayed from the testing skill into the natural things you'd expect during an experiential workshop: talking about the exercise itself, or talking about how this fits in with your work. It was delightful to see people making the connection from one lesson to another and reflecting on what they'd want to change in their day-to-day.

The feedback I collected from the participants indicates that everyone got something different out of it. Each lesson resonated with somebody, which felt like a success to me.

Now I'm curious: what testing skills do you teach to a wide audience at your company? What materials do you use?

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash