Friday, 9 March 2018

Big Four

I am writing this post as my journey continues...A friend ( Ex military) knew somebody that may have the perfect opportunity for me. I have the deepest respect for this person and they do not use the word perfect lightly, So I applied.

I then googled the company I had applied for, and realised that getting a job with this particular firm is more difficult than getting a place at harvard university ( which is less than 20%). This is not some wild accusation on my part its actually written on google. So with odds at 80:20 against I had nothing to lose. He put me touch with a friend of his that actually worked there. ( see its not what you know its who you know) . He gave me some solid advice and interview preparation.

I had to get through the filtering process and that alone was a challenge unto itself. I was rejected once, the computer decided it would submit my application whilst it was not complete, I still have no idea how it did this , but I gave that email a good ignoring,completed the application and submitted it complete. I emailed the recruiter to inform them of this email and even spoke to my friend on the inside and needless to say I got through the filtering process. 

This lead to me being offered an interview. Now everybody knows I now live in the East Riding of Yorkshire, I have just bought my own house so moving is never on the cards..( and I mean never). I was invited for an interview in London, I had prepared the most I have ever prepared for an interview, and I still felt like I needed more. With an interview at 2.30 in the afternoon, I factored in how late the trains were going to be and left at 0825 in the morning. ( OK so cost was a factor too) and I got to  London at around 11.30, and got on the tube to make my way to Chancery Lane tube station. 1

Since volunteering at the Olympics , London always kind of feels like home and being on a tube full of Londoners, and having the luxury of standing next to a suited armpit is the best!. It was almost a relief to get off and make my way above ground,but I had to change trains. There were no disruptions on the tube and I did a walk by of where the interview was and found a coffee shop nearby. I had a coffee and watched people come and go, and then thought it would be better to go over some of my notes. 

I was in the coffee shop about an hour and 20 minutes ( 2 drinks and a piece of cake ), when i decided that it would take at least 15 minutes to get thru security and navigate my way to the room in the building where the interview was taking place. I was proper nervous when I left this coffee shop, I walked back to the building , checked in and was shown upstairs . I was offered a drink, by the staff on that particular floor and I have always been taught that if you are offered a drink,always take water. If you spill it it will not stain, it if stays on your face they will not see it, it does not cause embarrassing breath issues and lets face it after the coffee I had just drank I needed something to counteract the caffeine. 

I have to say when it comes to buildings and interview locations this one was pretty special, it was light and airy and had a magnificent view of the city. I had a good look at the wall exhibits to try and glean any knowledge that may be worthwhile. ( which it was as it turns out, as there were exhibits on how this particular company had assisted the companies on the wall with business, and trying to find out who their clients were was near enough impossible. It is ironic that they asked me what I knew of their clients and why they may have engaged this companies services and this is a question I would have never have known t he answer too so it goes to show that having a look round is not a bad thing).

My Interview was to be split into two parts, a technical based section and a partner section. Technical because I am a sofware test analyst and once a software test analyst, technical tests and interviews become par of the course. The questions were all situation based,  but again I had revised the STAR technique for answering these questions , we had a laugh and for me it was odd, i was suddenly aware that I was actually relaxed and not nervous at all.( probably just the caffeine). I felt I had smashed the technical interview but the difficult bit ( thanks google ) is the partner section. It is judged to be difficult because it is questions that picked up on your previous answers and personal stuff so it not like it can be prepared for, but like i said I was relaxed. The long and short of it was the questions were mostly about salary expectations and the fact I lived in Hull and the home office would be in London. The thing is this is not a job, its a career changing move. Yes I would be away 3 or 4 nights a week, if there is somewhere i need to be , I will be there and then another sudden dawn of realisation, I may not get this because of where I live.  I had spent a considerable amount getting to this interview and I wanted to think i could be in with a chance. I didnt want them to think I was just going with the flow. I decided to put my cards on the table so to speak and I just said that I wasnt there for a job, I was here for the career opportunity, with all the mentoring , coaching and the increase in knowledge and I was here to do what ever it took to be successful( I'm not going to get another chanceso why not right?) . Well that killed the location based questioning and we moved on to career progression which got me excited. I am passionate about testing and breaking things. I am abitious, sometimes to a fault( i have some family problems at the moment, but this was more important to me ) but short term pain for long term gain. the interview lasted exactly 57 minutes.

When I left, I left knowing there was nothing else I could have said or done differently. I got the train home ( it was late, but that was ok if it had been on time I would have missed it).

10 days later  I found out I had been successful, And last friday I put in my notice here and in under 30 days I begin a new chapter and start work as a software Test consultant with Deloitte. This will not be the only part of the job though, as Deloitte are looking to relaunch a Military veterans transition and talent programme to tempt some ex military talent to the business and I cant wait to get started....

Job Hunting advice for Veterans

Today I am writing to be able to present why veterans are a good investment for business.

I am a software test analyst, in english that means I break stuff. If you use an app on your phone , it has been tested, if you online bank, that has been tested. Testing has become an important part of the software development process. The risk of failures in frontline systems in hospitals, aircraft or other items driven by a computer is too great, so testing has been introduced to reduce the risk.

The "how" I became a tester is not important, it just goes to show that I have applied new skills and adapted, but had I taken the career path I was going to take I may not of loved another job as much as I love testing.
I have been Testing about 4 years, I have done alot of technical testing ( using my own code) using SQL, Groovy, Angular JS languages. I ask myself what if and test if a product is designed to process a, does it do anything else ( process x) does interfere with anything else on the system ( process y) can it cope with foreign characters, simultaneous multiple operations, in other words can i break it?
I love software testing. It engages my brain everyday and when I discover a defect I class that a minor victory in the battle between me and Machine.

This article is not to talk about me its to talk about people like me, or veterans that thing a job in a civilian company is thing of myth. ( which probably explains why a lot of ex service personnel end up working for defence contractors) .You may be a service leave searching for help. Well this is mission critical information, your next mission is to go covert into civvie street, assimilate into their community and prove that you can do this. The weapons of choice are confidence, transference of  skillset and ability.

The truth is though it is not unobtainable. The CV is the most important thing, but it needs to be in business context. If you were a squad leader that needs to translate to supervisor, and the subordinates were your team members, the customers were the people you were assisting at the time. It is really important to be able translate military skills into a business context. Even as a heavy machine gunner operator ( I was RAF sorry, i m guessing here), the customers you were helping were the rest of the squad, there would be pressure situations, leadership , teamwork and discipline. These are the qualities that make your skills transferable to the business sector.

Recently I attended an Interview and all the way through my military resettlement courses it was more or less a "thing" that military experiences should not be discussed , largely because "civvies" would not understand. I have learnt recently this is complete Tosh.

At the interview I was asked to produce a example where I had worked well under pressure.Using the STAR response My answer was that in (Situation) 2004 I went to Basra Airport and was tasked with implementing an airside security system from scratch. ( Task). despite tight timelines and limited personnel and being under fire, I utilsed the strengths of my team.(Actions).We delivered the security system on time within 3 weeks. (Result)

Now there are alot of pressure situations I have been in, as will all ex military people, I was Air Traffic Control so multi tasking, hyper awareness are essential but each every facet of the military will have examples of their own. The point is not to get bogged down in the weeds of the military task and keep it simple, but get the point across.

The point of this, is that military training teaches you that the job still needs to get done and everything else is an afterthought. Yes we reacted to mortar fire, we dealt with the personnel shortages and we met the deadline. This told that employer that I was focussed on getting the job done and can react well to extreme pressure.

This is just one example. Ex military people are often overlooked because they have head machine gunner or other military specific roles in their CV that do not relate to business, or their CV isn't in a  business context. That doesn't mean that this shouldn't be included persay, it means those skills need to be put into a business context. How did that role effect your customers. To answer that question you first need to figure out who your customers were. You can translate some of these skills into a supervisory or leadership role, this is what you are trying to market to companies. You are trying to demonstrate the transferable skills and therefore the value you can add to their company.  The underwritten skills are teamwork, self discipline , good time management, leadership, adaptability, fast learners, ability to follow instructions and not afraid of hard work.

If we translate that a little bit , someone who will work hard be reliable, turn up for work early, be able to work with everybody and become a  success in any field of their choosing. The other thing that I thought about, which has prompted me to rewrite this ( well add to it precisely) is that in the military we speak a slightly different language, we have different mannerisms, a different sense of humour. You as the service leaver need to be aware of this, get some of your civvie friends to get you practice interviews, the questions are immaterial its body language, and eye contact. They can give you valuable feedback on how you sat in the chair, whether you come across as uneasy or whether they thought you were engaged. Did you fidget? do you have any unusual mannerisms or habits you are unaware of?  Once you know this information its time to revisit that CV.

Now the average recruitment agency looks at your CV for less than 20 seconds. It will probably go through a word filter too. So it is really important that all the keywords from the job description actually feature in your CV.  There is nothing wrong in copying the job description and inserting it into your CV, providing you can prove that you can give situations where this occurred. Practice in front of a mirror. Remember if you were the section leader of a machine gun patrol, you were a team supervisor, and get in to the habit of using team supervisor rather than section leader.
Trying to break into industry is like trying to learn a new language. It will take practice everyday. Know your CV so that any questions on your CV will not catch you out. This seems like common sense right?  The next thing is there is no such thing as a standard CV unless you are  applying for the same kind of job that has job description commonalities. ( even then its worth noting that if there are any differences in the new job description that you are able to give examples or demonstrate knowledge of these "new" requirements).

When you have done this we need to thresh it out and seperate the wheat from the chaff and ensure that unless stated, that the CV should be no more than 2 pages. My recent interview for Deloitte, had requested extra information which meant that my CV was actually three pages. It had alot of my military stuff ( in civilian language ) to show my supervisory, leadership and management experience.

Whilst we are talking about leadership and management, there are military courses you will have undertaken that were probably ILM accreditted. In the RAF , Junior NCOs go to Junior Management Leadership training. ( this is ILM accreditted), but this also demonstrates that you have had training in a management discipline and is worth including.

If you have done any kind of resettlement ( Training)  this will also need including. Some companies like to see a comprehensive learning history to prove that you are not an old dog that cannot learn new tricks.

So the checklist for you is ;

CV is in chronological time order?
All Military terminology is removed/ converted into civvie language?
Job description from Job being applied for is incorporated into your experience with examples given?
All qualifications listed ? including management and leadership courses? ( that could hold value for business) .
Is your name and Mobile number in the footer of every page? ( in case your CV becomes seperated?)
Your CV is not stapled together.
You have hobbies and interests on page 2 of your CV ( to prove your not an automaton?) You can use these to boost or reinforce some aspects of the job. For example if you are involved in your local Youth club, you could demonstrate organising events, running a schedule, handling money, leading a team,Mentoring young people,  all kinds of transferable skills. It will also boost your profile from within the local community. ( this is even more important for companies looking to increase their local community engagement strategy).

It seems all ex military people have problems getting adjusted to the civilian business environment, but once employed adapt and apply themselves like they used to. These problems are usually attributed to the military mindset and the advice given during the resettlement process.
It seems to me that the resettlement process mostly thinks we are only good enough to be truck drivers. This is great if you want to be a truck driver. I didnt even have a HGV licence, so it left them scratching their heads a bit. If you have no idea what it is you want to do, dont worry. I was like this.
Networking is the key here. Maybe see which hobbies you really enjoy and see if you can get a job doing that?  or ask people from the same sort of military back ground how they faired. This is where the Armed Forces Breakfast clubs come in. Everybody knows someone that knows someone. Its definately not what you know , but who you know that counts.  The more friends you make., the greater chance you have of finding that elusive opportunity.
Your next point of focus is finding local companies that have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. This means that a small percentage of their workforce is Veterans of the Military and therefore you have a better chance. Do they have a military programme?
Have you googled companies in your area or commutable distance that offer military programmes?

Times are changing and more companies are realizing the potential and value that ex military personnel bring to business. This is your most important mission yet, Good luck...

When attitudes change or as mary poppins would say the wind has changed direction...

Here we again twice in as many days.... This blog is testing specific so is very technical, I have tried dear reader to keep it simple so please bear with me. This post is a bit of a ramble but hang in there.

I was chatting to a colleague from another area of the business today ,and we were discussing my role, and my intention to leave.

My intentions to leave were based on several factors, not least that when I was interviewed, I felt that the business was ready to have testing incorporated into the processes, but didn't know how. I knew how and I am a tester to boot , so the challenge did not scare me.

The manager changed about 6 months in and processes began to change but my role did not change adversely, I was testing a different project. I had implemented documentation to enable testing to take place and identified that requirements documents were required to be produced, in order for development and testing to take place.

We released the project I was working on , on September 19th. Part of my role was to be able to declare this product fit for release. It was not. I told them. It was released anyway.

Testing work on products and projects has been very light since then, and as I am an active person, so decided to overhaul my automated test suites to bring them up to date. There have been the odd jobs, but nothing really test intensive. The irony of this is that the business was releasing a product per month ( every two sprints), it would be released as I started testing it, I would find a tonne of bugs ( no defect resolution meeting) the more serious bugs would be fixed and that was that. The custoemrs may encounter a few days of difficulties and then all of a sudden it will be fixed.

I get Newsfeeds from testing professionals and one I read made me  think hard about what it was I was doing. So the question was where will you be in 2 years time? The answer to that having been employed here 16 months was doing exactly the same thing , on the same money and getting more frustrated as the workload lightened even further.  The amount of testing work that needs to take place is actually increasing but I am prevented from testing it and so it gets released to the customers defects and all. The only way to get big defects resolved is to identify a different area of the buiness that the defect will effect and then go and demonstrate the defect to them. This gets raised and will get fixed, because the "business" has assigned a prioirity. ( unlike ther tester that they give a good ignoring).

I was initially approached by a recruitment agency before christmas and they asked me some probing questions which made me ask myself , how long can i flog a dead horse?  I have an appointment with the CEO on Wednesday, hopefully the next person can make the changes required. ( part of me thinks they actually wont replace me as they think they don't need a tester).

So this time next week  I will have 2 and 3/4 hours left to work. Do I regret this job? No, I have learnt alot. ( mostly self taught) I have learnt Protractor from scratch ( which is javascript test tool), am I looking forward to starting my new job? Hell yes!  I am nervously excited. The company I am going to, really believe in their people and I am hoping that once in the test team and environment that their agile process and sprint meetings are more structured ( like my previous job, not like this one) and it is everything I hope for and more.

I guess jobs are like dating, ( you have to kiss alot of frogs to find a princess) , this job wasnt a
frog , it was a toad and it has left a nasty taste in my mouth lol. So Spit Spot, the wind has changed and its my turn to move on. ( to another business that needs me and will actually use me properly).

The project manager in me says what lessons have we identified with this experience. Well I was recruited to do a job that only materialized for 6 months, and despite realizing my positive impact on products and services , and recognizing it when it came to the end of the financial year, decided somewhere along the line that the risk of defects at the customer end, was less than a tester finding 20 defects per product and spending the time producing a better quality product than  the reputation of the business with its customers.
I have also identified tte fact I miss working in collaboration with other testers in order to grow.  I collaberated with some friends in regards to my protractor product and this moved me on massively, enabling me to make it more consistent. ( even with server latency). There was no one to fight testing s corner as I was more focussed on delivery rather than implementation.  Its the old adage, everyone thought they knew my job, but when i was not there no-one did it. I suppose I dont feel like my job is valued, and my ability is constantly questioned despite having proven myself repeatedly an efficient tester.
The QA process here is now non existent, good luck with that....

Bizarre christmas present

Hello readers,

I hope you had a great christmas, we enjoyed being with family, but this year I havent got what i asked for. I asked Santa for a job...We were away for christmas, so when we got back there was a present under the tree....Santa had brought us a present....well more of an unwanted gift really...Santa had given us a live mouse for christmas, no cage, food or anything just the mouse....

After much screaming, it did whats its predecessors did and ran for it and disappeared. We thought it had returned to its predecessors haunts so having calmed down a bit, we had a drink and settled in front of the telly, It came out to watch Downton Abbey , and disappeared and wasnt seen again.

Yesterday we didn't see it all, in fact new years day was lovely. Right up until we went to bed, Jenny went to the toilet and was greeted by the mouse doing a runner into the bathroom upstairs. More screaming and I went to investigate. I moved everything out of the bathroom and it ran out of the bathroom on to the landing right where jenny was stood. <queue more screaming> and eventually it ran into our box room. ( well there are plenty of boxes in there).

Today we visited the new Tesco of awesomeness  in St Stephens in Hull, they do mouse sweeties, so we bought a box. we are going to try our own mouse control and see if we can have any luck. If not we will be ringing the landlord on monday ( again) and hopefully they will actually get here this time...

Happy New Year

Thursday, 8 March 2018

6 days to go

Well Its the week, that everyone loves and hates in equal measure. The last week at an employer.
I have had a couple of reasons for not blogging recently and mostly they are down to health, mine and other peoples.
I have had a persistent stomach ache for the last 5 days, which to be fair, was not pleasant at all. Like a stitch but with more pain. The doctors still think its a muscle twinge but its not getting any better, although I am able to cough now without tears forming in my eyes with pain, so it must be getting better I guess.
We also had a death in the family. We were actually present at that moment they passed away, it was horrible.

But away from personal reality for just a second, I'm at work I have 6 days left at my current employer, which is the reason for this blog. The last time i saw morale this bad was in the RAF after the  first set of redundancies in 1994. It seems that whilst I was away there were some choice words amongst the team, which has not done anything except assist a lot of the team to make a decision that its time to get off this train.In fact the more people I speak to , the more want to leave and this has more than justified my own decision to leave. There are other factors but I cannot legally disclose them yet.

I read a blog this morning, about dream jobs and following dreams .Chasing dreams is like climbing a mountain, the feeling when you get to the top is like nothing else. Some will stay at the top and enjoy the view, but unless you can see the next mountain to climb, the only way is down.

 It occurred to me that after achieving what I set out to do in the RAF, I had achieved the goal I had set, I had reached the summit of my mountain. But now I had got to where I had set myself I didn't know what to do. I was just floating ( enjoying the view), and this indecision effectively made me lose 2 years of life, I may have lost more but I had nothing to aim for and didn't set myself realistic goals, which probably was a sign that I would leave at my 22 year point.

This article made me realise that I was back pursuing my dreams with goals. The other thing that struck me is that at the interview stage with my new employer, we were already discussing career progression but with time frames attached , so I now have goals with my new employer. It motivated me because now I know there is progression available and a new shiny mountain has appeared. It has pitfalls , and probably lots of traps , but there is a path, that has been trodden before. Hopefully those people can give me guidance on how best to navigate this path to help me get to the top of my next mountain.

If you ask any members of my family why I chose to apply for this job they will not get it, especially my wife ( she doesnt like heights). I would say I am pursuing short term pain for long term gain. Yes OK I will be away 3 or 4 nights a week potentially, but within 2 years I could be working in Leeds and could commute.

When I researched my future employer and their interview process on the internet, it said that more people get into Harvard university than are successful getting through this process.(i did mention this in my previous blog, sorry)m but I have done that,I got through. So the message of the day , do not give up, have faith in yourself, confidence in your ability and ensure it shines through at interview.

The other thing to learn is that once you have achieved a goal dont enjoy the success too long, its time to look up at the next mountain.