After reading this great post by Dan Ashby (@DanAshby04) about self learning it got me thinking about how I personally manage my time, in regards to doing extra learning. I feel it’s an absolutely vital part of being a tester – Everyday should be a learning day.

I don’t really have much experience of formal education, I left my senior school at 16 years old after taking my GCSEs, to join the British Army. A lot of children of that age in the UK would go on to College and then University, that wasn’t something that ever interested me. I gained nearly all of my experience in being taught a particular “thing” within the Army.

The main method of teaching within the Army is normally as follows:

  • Explain
  • Demonstrate
  • Imitate
  • Practice
  • Questions

I know that questions is at the end of this list – this is not entirely accurate, people always have questions when learning something new. It’s placed at the end of this teaching cycle to have a dedicated period of time to ask questions following a lesson (Kind of like having questions at the end of a talk or presentation). This method will be applied to almost all aspects of military teaching from learning how to take a rifle apart, how to read a map, how to shave (Yes this happens!) and so on. It’s a method that works in the Army and has been around for years. Since leaving the Forces nearly five years ago now, I find it hard to think of an occasion when I have been taught anything in this way.

How does this relate to the way in which I learn something new? It doesn’t. Just thought I’d tell you….

Self learning is a very personal and unique thing – Something that works for someone else might not work for you. Some people might have a set of topics they want to solely concentrate their efforts on or they have goals that they want to achieve by a certain time frame. In the early stages on my test learning, I wanted to read everything – so my approach was what I would call the “Shotgun” method. It wasn’t at all concentrated or focused, it was in fact all over the bloody shop!

Something had to change…

I now centralise the blog posts that catch my eye and would like to read using Pocket, if I’m flicking through Twitter and I see something of interest I send it to the application to work through later in my spare time throughout the day. I have also been more efficient in the way that I use my Evernote account, I spent the time to tidy it up and create notebooks for specific learning topics – Moving forward, by having recipes on IFTTT I’ve been able to cut the time it’s taking me to place things in the areas that I want them, this has given more time back to focus on the reason for having them there in the first place.

I have an agreed learning time in the evenings after I finish work, while my partner watches rubbish on TV. I have time to research topics, read blogs/books, look up a new word I’ve heard mentioned that day, practice techniques, basically whatever without feeling guilty about how much time I’m spending doing it. Having this time each day gives me focus and forces me not to waste a second of it.

So this is a small part of the way I learn, I’m in the very lucky position of working with folks that share the same passion for testing as me and there is always someone there to talk through a topic or technique that interests me or I can jump in on a lunchtime learning session.

I’m always interested in the way that testers manage their extra learning, what do they focus on? How do they capture this? Do they use certain applications to aid them?

Please share, I would love to hear from you!!