Community Service at Ministry of Testing

by Rosie Sherry

A couple of weeks ago we had our first ever Ministry of Testing Retreat.  The whole team got together to go over all things MoT.  Life is ever so busy. As we grow it often feels like a bit of a hamster wheel as we try to make all the things happen without it all falling apart beneath us.

It’s exciting though, to witness the growth of our team.  We had many laughs at the retreat, but also made time to get serious on planning for 2019.

As Founder of MoT and with community in my heart, I was keen to address how we could keep the strong community feel as we grew as a team.  We knew we could do better as a team to address community growth and cohesiveness and that we should be leading more by example.

It sure was easier when MoT was mostly me leading it and just one or two TestBashes a year.  Now that we have 10 events this year, with a team of 10, it’s near impossible to keep up with it as an individual.

As we’ve grown, we’ve felt the strain of keeping that community vibe going.  As a team we are stretched, often wearing many hats.  When various different things are calling for your attention it is so easy to say ‘that person can wait’. Or that ‘Club post’ will have to happen another time.  Or that really nice and valuable TestBash idea is hard to justify without specific budget.

But the more we put those things to the side as ‘it can wait’ the more we lose that community feel that we were essentially built upon.

I’ve known for a while that this MoT beast needs to grow without relying on me. Heather and I were conscious of the community looking like the ‘Heather and Rosie’ show (especially on The Club). I was conscious of Aine not getting enough visibility or credit for all the work on social and communications that she does.  Then, more from a Founder and strategy perspective, I was concerned and focused on how to get MoT to grow without relying on me.

As a team it was great to highlight that the community has grown massively within the past year. The Club members have doubled.  Other signs of a healthy community have gone upwards too - activity, visits, awareness, #AllTheTestBashes etc.  However, alongside this comes challenges.  As we grow, how can we keep all these testers connected in a positive way?

Community Service 

At our company retreat we came up with this idea of ‘Community Service’.  It’s a term we can play on in a humorous way, we hope.

The likes of Google are well known for their 80/20 rule where staff are encourage ’20%’ of their time on other projects or self development.  We are taking that idea and applying it to ‘community service’.  

This means that every member of staff should be spending time every week to supporting the community.  We came up with a practical list of things that everyone could do to help them on their merry way.  Everyone has the freedom to choose what they want to focus on and the way they contribute will highly depend on their role in the company.

For example:

  • Richard and Mark will likely have plenty to share with the community on technical aspects and automation in testing.
  • Sarah Deery has lots of insight into education and learning.
  • Andrew has experience as a tester and dev.
  • Aine, Heather and Rosie have experience as testers and community, marketing, communication and social media.
  • Richard, Rosie and Heather now have lots of experience of creating events.
  • Graham has much experience with leading technology and managing businesses.  He also knows a thing or two about putting up with Rosie.
  • Sarah Kitchener loves the numbers and all things finance.  She doesn’t know much about testing, but she is keen to learn.
  • Thomas Harvey is like an adopted tester.  He knows us so well and communicates things so perfectly from a visual perspective.

…and so forth.  This is, of course, not a complete list.

The idea of Community Service is still very much in draft and Beta mode.  I would love to share how it progresses over time.  At the moment we have a checklist of ideas on what people can do. In our internal Slack channels I will be leading the way by example and posting what I do for Community Service every week.

As Founder, I believe it is important that the whole team is visible. I believe we should all be contributing and adding value to the community.  Sure, it takes time (which costs us money), but it is what truly makes MoT what it is today. 

Our company has a majority of employees who are or were once software testers.  We care about the testing community, we believe, more than any other organisation out there.  Our commitment is to you, a member of the community.

By spending the time with the community we will all be able to understand the testing community’s needs better.  It is not something that we can or want to measure.  When MoT has been built from the ground up with a complete focus on building community, it would be daft to lose our roots.