BBST Foundations a.k.a my testing bass line

I have just finished the BBST Foundation course from AST and it has been such a powerful motivational booster that I have to tell the whole world (read “testing community”) about it.
I have been a tester for almost ten years now and I’ve always considered myself one of the few that are still very much enthusiastic about testing. But this course has been like a wake-up call. It felt like an “intervention” coming from well-intentioned friends, meant to remind me that sometimes you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you forget how to do it well. It basically blew my mind.
Let me try to explain.
There are very few things that have been constantly present in my life in the last decade. One of them is testing, the other one is music. I’ve changed countries, cities, jobs, partners, diets, friends – but testing and music have always been there. I’ve been playing guitar for quite a few years, and while I’m not at all good at it, I love playing because it gives me a different way to enjoy music. A few months ago, a friend suggested I should try playing a few bass lines and taught me some basic things. At first, I thought: “Ok, let’s give it a try” and learned a couple of songs. And then, one day, I realized that everything had changed. Music had changed for me. I could no longer listen to a song without noticing the bass line. I could no longer understand what it had been like before, when I wasn’t paying attention to it. All the old songs I used to love were all of a sudden completely different, and there were so many new songs to like. My music world had been turned upside-down by something as basic as the bass line.
The BBST course did the same thing to my testing world and the knowledge I gained from it will be my “testing bass line” from now on.
The main objective of the course is to help testers understand key testing challenges. It covers testing objectives and the testing mission, oracles, test coverage and measurement, and at the same time it teaches students about the importance of clear communication.
If you’ve been a tester for some time, you might think this is nothing new. That was my first thought as well – there wasn’t anything on the course objectives that I hadn’t heard of before. But then, going back to my music parallel, it’s not like I hadn’t heard millions of bass lines before either. The trick is to actually understand them and pay attention to them – that’s when everything changes.
I started the course with the typical enthusiasm I have every time I start something new. I expected it to fade a few days afterward, like it always does. But two weeks into the course, I was still hooked, even though it was so much work. There were quizzes, group assignments, videos, readings, slides, discussion forums, debates… all of them just perfect to feed my tester nerdiness.
I don’t want to go into too many details about the assignments because, since I plan to recommend this to every tester I know, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But here are a few points:
What I absolutely loved about BBST:
    • There are no “Best Practices”

      This is made clear from the very first lecture. Nothing that you learn during the course feels like it’s being imposed on you. You learn about practices that have proven to work within a certain context. You can agree or disagree, or come up with an approach that works better in your situation.

    • Group assignments
      There are various group assignments during the course, where you need to work with your colleagues to come up with a group solution/strategy for a certain problem. You get to work with people from all over the world that have different schedules and are in different time zones. It feels real. It feels like the real work you do every day, where you have teams all over the globe and you have to deal with it.
    • Working on the exam questions before the exam
      For the final exam, you have to answer a set of questions that are chosen from a pool of questions that are available to you from the beginning of the course. You not only get (and are supposed) to prepare your answers in advance, you also get to discuss them with the other students – which helps you learn so much more. You get to see different points of view, discuss your own and challenge the others’ and understand what you might have missed or misunderstood. On some level, the whole course feels like one big group assignment and I’m happy I got the chance to be in the same class with such interesting and smart students.
    • Feeling significant
      I realize this might sound very silly, but just being part of this made me feel important. You not only have access to excellent material, you also get first hand feedback from people like Cem KanerBecky Fiedler and Doug Hoffman. There’s something about that that made me feel amazingly good. I’m sure you’d understand 🙂

What I wish I could have done differently:
    • I wish I had better English skills. For a non-native speaker who hasn’t lived in an English speaking country for more than a year, I think I’m doing pretty well, but sometimes I do feel self-conscious about my ability to express myself in a professional way. I was in the same class with people like Catherine Powell, to give just one example, and while it was a pleasure to read her witty and very well structured answers, it made me wish I could write at least half as well as she does. But the best thing I can do is practice, so please bear with me 🙂
    • I wish I had more time. I did spend more time on this that I had initially planned, but I still wish I could have been more involved. A month after the course has ended, I still go back to the e-learning platform every now and then, when I have a spare moment, to go through what I haven’t had time to read during the 4 weeks.
What I will do next (and this is a promise!):
  • The Bug Advocacy course – I just need to catch my breath first
  • Skype coaching with James Bach – as soon as I work up the courage 🙂
  • The BBST Instructors Course – as soon as I figure out how it works
  • Write a blog post about all of the above
But first I want to spread the word. This was an amazing experience and I’m confident any tester would love it. We will promote it within our team of testers at Altom and I encourage other software testing companies to do the same.

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6 responses to “BBST Foundations a.k.a my testing bass line

  1. Good for you, it seems like it has not only taught you a few new tricks but also inspired you to better yourself.

    I’m hoping to do BBST at some point this year, posts like this just make me want to do it even more.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree with Justin. This experience report about BBST classes is one of the best we’ve seen! Maybe I’m biased, though. I used to be a music teacher so I love the bass line analogy. We have a couple of exciting things coming up in the next month or so. I recommend you join the AST Education SIG at so you can be one of the first to hear about them.

    A couple of hints:

    We’ll offer the first ever fully-online BBST Instructors’ Course at the end of June and we’ll announce when registration opens on the EdSIG mailing list.

    Cem is working on the slides for the Test Design course and he’ll send the next draft of the slides to the EdSIG mailing list for comments.

  3. What a fantastic testimonial to the value of the BBST Foundations course. I’m one of the “teachers” of this course, and I’ll let you in on a little secret… you learn just as much as a teacher as you do as a student, and sometimes even more so.

    I think with my own participation and with my teaching, I’ve gone through Foundations five times now, and I learn something new and unique each and every time. Why? Because of the fact that the content and the context changes with every student that participates.

    The material is important, yes, but it’s designed so that the individual students own experience help inform the class and the projects.

    I encourage you to forge ahead into Bug Advocacy and like you I am enthusiastically waiting for the test design class to be completed. if you join the education SIG, you may get a chance to preview and help review the material before it goes live :).

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