Test Mile, the testing services company I founded in 2012, is celebrating its anniversary on completion of 3 years. That’s old enough to thank God and young enough to be on your toes :-). Talent Reboot, the training company I founded in 2012, is a few months away from celebrating a similar achievement. The CMAP certifications-family, of which I am a co-creator is doing fairly well. CWAP certifications-family is on its way to be launched in the beginning of July-15.
Between these news of happiness and achievements, there have been several other ideas which died at various stages. Some of them were worth it. Some of them are sticky and refuse to leave my mind. The coming years are a test for them as well as for me.
Most of the people who know me, consider that my experiments in entrepreneurship started with Test Mile and hence in 2012. The story is older than that. Also, I come across some questions at times, with some budding entrepreneurs ( some of whom are more experienced than me in their own right ), focused on the fundamental questions of entrepreneurship – When?How?Whether? and so on. The third common thread of discussion is about my focus areas on testing which often lead to debates.
So, I thought to write this blog post, arranging random stories from my life in as little text as possible.
My Journey as a Software Tester and Developer
I consider my testing profile as a very unique one. I have switched my testing focus and hence jobs/teams to work on one focus area at a time. The switches are so often (timeline-wise), that almost every time, I was advised against it. Each time, I did it, nevertheless.
I can not separate my marginal success as an entrepreneur from my works and decisions as an employee when I worked across companies in a tester role.
(Before the IT story shared next, I worked on the shop floor of a foundry. There were lock-outs and along with the same a string of failures. I failed in quite a few written exams, before Satyam clicked)
My first job as a software tester was with Satyam to work on manual functional testing. The design was already given to us, the target was to execute 40 test cases per day. This (silly?) work continued for a few months. Then I worked on a database migration testing work from IMSDB to DB2, was nominated for H1 Visa (internally), got rejected because my degree was in mechanical engineering. About an year later, I was put into GUI automation work. Towards the last few months, I did a PoC on performance testing using SilkPerformer. Somebody else was sent to US based on my work as my H1 Visa wasn’t approved internally. Reason: Mechanical engineering degree.
But the damage was done. I became interested in performance testing. Checked for internal opportunities; in the absence of which, I switched my job to AppLabs. The company was kind enough to acknowledge my interest in the area and offered me the job despite no prior experience. The step proved to be useful. I did 17-18 projects in performance testing. That’s a lot for 1.5 years of my stay there.
(On another note, I was subjected to the worst form of politics by some smart-*** guys. My name was suggested for being fired, as being incompetent, not punctual and so on. It’s another story that such deterrents were actually responsible for my early promotion. In a period of 8 months from leaving Satyam till my promotion in AppLabs, I held 4 designations: Software Engineer Trainee -> Software Engineer – > Senior Software Engineer -> Lead )
Post Appabs, I had 3 options for performance work and 1 option (McAfee) in security space. I grabbed the latter. Within McAfee (2007-2012), I made internal switches from CLI testing to performance testing to API testing to white box testing to framework development to internal consulting, every 1 year or lesser. Security testing and Python programming were two learning areas which ran in parallel to all of this, whether that was a part of my work or not.
(During all these feel-good stories, several of my paper submissions were rejected, several of my ideas were rejected/not understood by the community, and I was rejected in an interview with Google)
All of this, before the final switch to becoming a consultant in 2012.
In my testing roles till now, I developed a lot of tools and web platforms, focused on architecture and design, multiple languages, so I consider that my skills and work demonstrate a major overlap of being a tester as well as a developer.
The mix of skills is my asset and also the cause of confusion and conflicts between what I have to say in my writings & presentations and what many of the experts say & the industry nods to. It’s another thing that I don’t acknowledge the word ‘expert’. See the conflict starting in your mind?
My Journey as an Entrepreneur
My (semi?) entrepreurship journey started as a student in 9th Standard, when I started a Video games shop during my summer vacation where kids would come, play video games on a per-10 minute basis. Later when I was in 12th standard, I started (a sort of non-profit, ngo-style, informal venture) named “Nukkkad”, through which young theater artists like me would stage street plays for social causes. This was later followed with me going to one of colleges and teaching acting for a fee, when I was in engineering college. In parallel to my first job in 2003, I started ‘Shiksha’ teaching institute to teach Physics/Chemistry/Maths to high schools students. At its peak, I had 35 students.
And then there was a long gap. Looks like I lost my courage and or I was boggled with fitting into the IT world, being a mechanical engineer. The only saving grace has been that I started and wrote Testing Perspective (www.testingperspective.com) for a period spanning 8 years (2007-2015). This website essentially replaced Testing Perspective in March-15. It wouldn’t be an overkill to say that Testing Perspective was the most important thing to happen to me in terms of shaping my career as an entrepreneur.
Nevertheless, in the year 2012, with encouragement from some of my professional friends, and ignoring those who found it a silly idea, I left my excellently rewarding job at McAfee and became a consultant.
Since then, the story is about Test Mile, starting in June 2012, as a sole proprietorship, followed with Talent Reboot, setup as a sole proprietorship in beginning of 2013. Test Mile later went on to become a PVt Ltd company in 2013 and has 30+ employees as of June 2015, completing its 3 years journey. Talent Reboot, as a training company, became my face as a presenter and teacher and via the platform, I have undertaken 30+ workshops across the Indian IT hubs.
Somewhere in 2013, I became a co-creator of the CMAP family of certifications and this year (2015), CWAP family of certifications would be launched.
With these ventures as my learning, these days I juggle with various entrepreneurial ideas that range from testing products to food joints, from NGOs to fine arts, from recruitment to (…wait, let me see what :-)). In other words, my nomadic instincts are showing the signs.
My Journey as a Presenter & Teacher
My journey as a presenter and a teacher goes back to my theater days, which started as early as 1991, when I was in 6th standard. I was a back-up actor, who got the role by chance for the play “Janata Paagal Ho Gayi Hai” in my school, the role of a mad person. Dialogues were few and scattered, but somehow the role clicked and I got the Punjab state award that year for Best Actor. This was followed with a string of experiments and awards not just in acting, but later in poetry, debates, stage compering and so on. This continued till high school where I was awarded the University’s Role of Honor, the first in its history for a high school student.
In the IT world, my first presentation was “Be The Best of Whatever You Are” as a part of induction programme assignment in Satyam in the year 2003. It was my first formal presentation which was in English and was received very well. It played its role in rejuvenating the school/college time charm of being on stage. It was a very important step in making me realize that I can fulfill my yearning for stage while being in IT industry as well.
Years passed, during which I mostly confined myself to undertaking presentations within the companies where I was working. With constant encouragement from the way my presentations were received, I presented my first conference talk ‘User Behavior and Performance Perception Analysis’ in the beginning of 2007 at STeP-IN Summit, Bangalore. It changed everything. Since then, I have presented in almost all Indian Testing conferences, as well as at CONQUEST, Germany.
My first extended workshop also started as an internal event organized directly by me at McAfee. It was a 12-hour workshop on Python programming which I undertook for participants across the McAfee India teams. I had no notion at the time that in future I would make a business out of the same. It was followed by various presentations and tutorials as a part of various initiatives in the company.
My first external paid workshop happened some time in the year 2010.By the end of year 2011, I announced my first public workshop on Web Security. In 2012, I launched my various workshops as public and corporate programmes. Later, it would be formalized as a company of its own – Talent Reboot.
With my focus on technical trainings for software testers and architects, and uniqueness of the focus and contents, the response has been great. In many of the teaching areas, if not all, I am one of the few if not the only one teacher conducting multi-day workshops. The contents have improved over time based on feedback and my own experience. What has helped is that I am still a hands-on software tester and developer and I undertake not more than 10 workshops a year. I plan to retain this mix for the coming years.
I wish there was a solid, meaningful conclusion to write. Such stories are like ear-marked pages in a book. They remind you how you became what you have become. The relevance of them to others, in this case, you is questionable. Stories must be heard like stories.
One key message though is that breadth-wise career exploration can work. It worked for me. Despite all the wisdom of people advising against it, it worked. The important point is that I believed in it. I didn’t choose things because someone said something. I felt happier with my own decisions. In the end, that’s what matters to me: Am I happy?