Nicky Tests Software: Talking to Students about Testing at a Job Mentoring Programme: Mentor Sverige

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Talking to Students about Testing at a Job Mentoring Programme: Mentor Sverige

Yesterday morning I took part in Mentor Sverige's Job Mentoring Programme at Ribbyskolan.

First off, it was a lot scarier than I was anticipating. I initially thought we would stay together as a group and then go around together in each classroom telling the students about what we do (looking back, I don't know why I thought this as there definitely wouldn't have been enough time for that). But we were all split up to go into different classrooms for 20min at a time to give our presentations. I gave four 10-12min presentations to students in Grade 9, with about 5min of Q&A and then a few min to get between classrooms.

The Cultural Aspect
Up until yesterday, I had never spoken to anyone in Sweden under 25 (aside from my colleague's daughter). I also really enjoyed going to a Swedish Grundskola (like a junior high school for 12-15 year olds) as I wouldn't have been able to get that experience otherwise.

Lastly, I had an early lunch at the student cafeteria just after we all finished our presentations. Again, wouldn't have had that experience unless I did this.

The Language Barrier

All of the instructions  that we were given by Mentor Sverige, before we started the presentations, were given in Swedish. I had a general gist of what was happening and had a vague idea of what the other mentors did for work - but didn't understand everything word for word.

I gave my presentations in English as I wasn't confident enough to do it in Swedish. Although I knew most of the Swedish vocabulary for what I would need, the prospect of public speaking in Swedish was way too daunting.

I feel that about half of each class actually understood my presentation, judging by the looks on their faces (however, I'm not 100% if this estimation is at all useful). Because of this, I wouldn't do it again unless my Swedish was much better than it is now and I could do it in Swedish and answer questions in Swedish.

Telling the Students About Testing

I had planned a slideshow presentation for each class, but given the fact we had 20min slots in each class and I didn't want to waste time on set-up - I ended up just giving my presentation by memory.

I told the students the following:

  • Brief background on me
  • What is software testing and what is a tester's role in a software project?
  • How I got into testing
  • How others got into testing
  • What I like about my job
  • What I don't like about my job
  • Tasks I might do in a typical day

I first asked if anyone had heard about my role. Unsurprisingly I got the best questions from guys who are hoping to be a software developer or a web designer when they grow up - even though most of them hadn't heard of testing, they were easily able to grasp the concept of what a tester would do.

Aside from that, I am worried I wasn't able to fully explain what a software tester does. I attempted to use relatable examples such as Facebook, Google and ATMs and provided example tests of what I would do. But I'm not sure if the language barrier got in the way of that.

If I were to do this again, I'd focus more on the link between where they are at now and what a software tester does. I feel that my job still seemed too foreign to them even after I gave my presentation. Also, I would try to show them software testing instead of just talking (how I would do that in 20min slots I do not know).  I think that would help me communicate better with the students what a software tester does.