Interview with Rosie Sherry
Rosie is founder of Ministry of Testing (www.ministryoftesting.com) and an unschooling mother to 4 amazing children. She use to be a software tester, but now runs the growing Ministry of Testing whilst also unschooling her kids.You can find her on personally on @rosiesherry, RosieLand (www.rosiesherry.com) and UnschoolMe (www.unschool.me).
I read that you started with creating the STC forum and now Ministry of Testing has become a bit of an empire. You’ve got STC, TestBash conferences and the Dojo (among other things) - when did you realise that what you were doing could impact a lot of people and have a massive reach?
It’s been almost 10 years since I started Software Testing Club, and 6 years for Ministry of Testing and the TestBashes. Part of me thinks that deep in my heart I knew I could always make an impact, I just never knew how much. I really knew that the testing community needed more and we as a whole were generally not doing enough. Something inside me said that if I kept going then something good would come of it, I didn’t know what though! This seems to be becoming true.
But honestly, it’s only been the past couple of years where things have gained ‘big’ traction. It’s the whole snowball effect - the foundations are hard and slow to build, but once it gets going it gets bigger and bigger, super fast! These days I feel a bit overwhelmed with the support and all the things happening. The truth is that I honestly think things are just getting started. This frightens me as much as it excites me!
I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me 5 years ago that I would be helping run multiple conferences across Europe and in the US by 2017. I’m really not great at compliments, I just like to get on with doing good things every day. I credit our growth to the community, they have embraced the work I do with such great support.
Has there been a specific feedback from something you helped create (e.g. TestBash, Dojo, STC, The Testing Planet) that moved you or stayed with you? If so, how and why?
Usually it is what is perceived as the little things that we do that mean a lot to me. Giving scholarships and support to people, for example, have really changed people’s lives. Emma Keavney is probably the most well known example.
I sometimes get people saying that my work has kept them in testing or re-ignited their passion. I know how important that is as I’ve experienced the same lack of interest and passion issues.
Or sometimes we help people get published or give them their first shot at public speaking. That’s always awesome to experience and watch people grow.
Equally as important is the simplicity of spreading what we do. Seeing people wear our tshirts. Stickers on laptops. The knowledge that people have benefited somehow because of us. Well, that’s kind of awesome in all kinds of non-measurable ways.
These kind of things are so important. One on their own is not a big deal. All of them combined, and spread out over time is what keeps me going. I’m just someone called Rosie who struggles along too. I often question myself, my ability and my role. People don’t know this, but often I just want to pack it all in. The overwhelm these days is massive. Combine that with managing day to day family stuff, health issues a new and very attached baby, it almost sent me over the edge last year. The positiveness from the community and taking things one day at a time is really what keeps me going, especially through the tougher times.
I keep plodding along though. And people in time will increasingly see that everything I do with my work is with the heart of the community in mind. Every time I need to make a decision, I ask myself - ‘will this be good for the community?’
In your blog, you write that you’ve achieved everything with the support of your husband (and he made his achievements with your support when your career took a backseat at the time). Is there any advice you would like to give to couples who ‘takes turns" making sacrifices in their career?
I think I can only speak from my experience and the kind of person I am.
For us I think the key has been to encourage each other to seek opportunities. Sure, some may see that I often didn’t have a full time job as a sacrifice, I didn’t necessarily see it that way, but it also didn’t stop me looking for opportunities. That is how STC was born - I wasn’t working full time as a tester, but I was still looking for ways to stay connected in the testing world. I blogged and I started STC, it hardly seems like a sacrifice now :)
I like to think that the world is changing and that more and more people are not so quick to judge people for not having some magical and perfect CV that fits together like an immaculate jigsaw puzzle. People look at CVs and often look for flaws, when I look at people I look for the brightness, the gaps, the little hints of genius and the really humanity in them.
I’m grateful I had the time to figure out how to turn Ministry of Testing into a business, my husband’s previous work allowed me to do that. Luckily my husband has awesome business and tech skills, he’s been pretty key to helping things fit together to help us grow whilst giving him the flexibility to be with the kids and do other things that a normal job wouldn’t normally accept.
I don’t think my husband sees what he is doing now as a sacrifice, in fact I know he really appreciates and needs the flexibility we now have.
Overall - what has been key is that we’ve both kept active and up to date with our skills. We’re always learning. Trying to move forward personally, health and career/business wise. We believe this gives us the best chance to give each other the flexibility as and when is needed - health issues and pregnancy have been big ones for us to adapt to recently.
I remember going to TestBash Brighton 2016 and being blown away by the atmosphere and how warm and friendly everyone was. You created an amazing environment there. When it comes to a TestBash conference, what makes you feel like it’s been successful?
I know the talks are super important, TestBash wouldn’t be a great event without them. But one of the biggest things that make it work are that people want to be there. We pre-empt people to expect warm, fuzzy and friendly behaviour.
We tell them on stage that no one should be left on their own and that it is everyone’s responsibility to reach out to a tester standing on their own. I go with my guts on many things - and I believe that if we become friends and have some trust between each other, then as a result further along the line good things will happen within the testing world.
A successful conference is a majority of good talks combined with testers having a good time and making new friends. I would feel really sad if people came away from TestBash without making new connections. And even more sad if people didn’t show up for the meetups!
I believe learning starts at TestBash. The social connections, the inspiration, the opening up to new ideas is what makes it so interconnected. The effects of TestBash happen all year round.