Elisabeth Hocke

Elisabeth Hocke: IT and product development are all about the people

Elisabeth Hocke is an amazing Agile Tester and she is coming to DevExperience to deliver a very nice talk about her work. She is also pasionate about voleyball, spending time with her friends or writing on her blog.
Find out more about Lisi by reading the interview with her for the third edition of DevExperience!

DevExperience: What did you want to become when you were a child?

That’s a really good question. All kids around me had concrete visions of what they wanted to become when they’re grown up. I felt I had to have those, too, so I tried to come up with some vague ideas of becoming a street artist, or a teacher, or whatever. But none of that came out of real conviction. Later in school we received career counseling, but I still faced the same problem. It was only late, after university, when I stumbled upon my real profession.

DevExperience: What is the story of your begining in this field? How did you start working in this industry?

As explained, I never knew what I wanted to become. I chose to study sinology purely out of interest, knowing I would always be a lateral entry employee but hoping that I’ll come across something worthwhile afterwards. When it came to choosing the topic for my master thesis, I wondered whether I could combine it with a hobby. I asked my professor if I could write about computer games in China – and to my surprise, he agreed! Having finished my degree, this achievement gave me the idea and the confidence to apply for jobs in the computer games industry.
I got accepted at a small startup as a game designer. They built an AI middleware for computer game developers. This was the first time I found myself as part of a software development team. I would never have thought this to be possible but I liked it a lot. One day soon after, the tester on the team quit his job. My boss approached me and said: “You know, what you’re currently doing, you’re not doing it so well after all.” My world started to collapse, as this was one of the dream places I’ve never had thought of. But then he continued: “But testing! That would be something for you.” I agreed to give it a try; and found that my boss was right about it. This is the story of how I stumbled into testing, with a more or less gently push – and found my profession.

DevExperience: How do you see the IT industry 10 years from now?

Different from now in some places, and the same in others. Different when it comes to the tools we use, the roles we take over, the needs our users have. The same when it comes to people. IT and product development are all about the people, how we collaborate, how we communicate, how we craft something of value for other people.

DevExperience: How was it for you as a woman to work in this field?

To be honest: Pretty easy. At first, I loved the fact of working together with mainly male colleagues. Many things I had observed during working student jobs, I didn’t face here; like never knowing where you stand. My male colleagues were way more straight-forward talking about the thing at hand, not about the person from behind. After switching positions and companies a few times, I realized that this was just a characteristic of the individuals on my team back then, not of their gender.

The years afterwards I had a pretty naïve notion about the whole topic. As a white woman working in Germany, I normally only encountered positive discrimination. We want you because you’re great but even better you’re also a woman! I never put too much thought into that. When starting to attend conferences during the past years, I had the chance to talk to a lot more women in the field and listened to a lot of different stories. Nowadays I realize that the problem is not solved yet. Even in such good environments as I am currently in, I now see more and more the existing discrimination, often without intention. Sometimes it’s just the language we are used to use. I have to contribute my share as well to improve things: call out bad talk and raise awareness.

DevExperience: What do you know about Iași and Romania? Don’t Google it! :)

Too late! When googling for potential flights, I found that Iași has an airport and is close to the border of Moldova. As I had many Romanian colleagues in the past, I now also learned that it is pronounced differently than I would have thought. Besides that, I’m looking forward to visit Iași and discover what the city has to offer!
Regarding Romania itself, I learned from my colleagues that I definitely should visit the country as a tourist and explore the vast beauty of nature, the great historical cities, and enjoy the amazing food together with awesome people.

DevExperience: What is your main advice for a junior who wants to develop a career in IT?

Find a place where you are valued. Not all places are alike and there are many opportunities. Not everyone has to become a developer, there are so many more roles to explore. There is so much to learn out there, continuously. And not all topics are tool-related, IT is a lot about people. Therefore, seek out the awesome communities in this industry and learn from people’s experience. Go to local meetups, get yourself to conferences; if your company doesn’t support you, many are looking for volunteers. If you make a bad experience with one event, don’t project that on others, instead try the next. Stay open and stay curious!

DevExperience: What do you do for your both personal and professional development? How does a normal day looks like for you? What about a not so normal day?

I started working on my personal and professional development when I decided to get certified in order to increase my career opportunities. To be able to cope with all things to learn, I created a habit. I decided to do something every day so that the load gets balanced. Could be as tiny as reading a blog post, just every day. That worked out wonders for me. When discovering other people’s experiences, I could relate so much to them that I developed an intrinsic desire to learn more. For everyday purpose I love Twitter. I follow many awesome people there who refer to so many great resources: blog posts, podcasts, videos, and so on. On Twitter you’ll always miss out on something, but hardly a day goes by without a gold nugget. Besides that, I read recommended books. I’m on several slack teams where I can ask for support or dive into awesome conversations. I started my own blog to reflect on things I’ve learned and share experiences. I attend a variety of local meetups. And I learned to love conferences, getting inspired by the conveyed content, but mostly by the people themselves; and many of those continued conversation afterwards.

A normal work day starts for me with commuting. As I currently go by public transport, I use this time for learning: checking Twitter or reading a book. At work I arrive just in time for our daily Scrum (I am rather a late worker). After the daily I will check for the latest messages, as well as our product’s monitoring and logging tools to see if anything unexpected came up. Afterwards I’ll dive into the current topics on our board. It could be that I explore the latest implementation of a story, that I discuss a new story idea with our product owner, that I sit with a developer and discuss test ideas for a new story, or that I answer a support request from one of our users (as the whole team does). Nowadays the whole product team collaborates strongly. I’m often pair testing together with a developer or our product owner; an awesome way to share and learn from each other as well as instantly increase the product quality. We’re also often working on the same topic together with the whole team, using the mob approach. Besides our product team, I work with our internal testing community as well as our tech chapter to tackle company-wide topics. A normal day provides lots of variety for me and is never the same.

A not so normal day? In the worst case I am stuck in meetings all day long. In good cases we host a meetup at our company, or we have hackrday to try out new innovative ideas, or I have the opportunity to attend a conference.

DevExperience: What is the greatest part of your job? What is the not so great part of it?

The greatest part of my job is that I’m constantly learning and growing, I can contribute my strengths, I am part from the beginning until the end and beyond, and last but not least the awesome people around me. It’s a lot of team work, and we’re filling each other’s gaps! The not so great part of being a tester is that it requires me to balance a lot of things at the same time. We’re often all over the place, and contribute to many topics, so that we have to switch contexts all the time. Personally, this is hard for me. I have to do my best to forget about all things waiting and focus on the task at hand. Then switch and tackle the next topic.

DevExperience: How would you explain to an old lady who knows nothing about technology what is it exactly that you do? :)

I help develop great products that people find valuable to use. Not many people would like to use a chair which looks nice but is risky to sit on it when you weight more than 50 kg. Or wobbles all the time when it is supposed to be used on uneven ground or an unsteady place like a ship. The chair should support you in whatever task you want to do with your expertise.

DevExperience: Tell us more about the main ideas of your talk at DevExperience! Why should people register and attend the event?

Come join my talk and hear the lessons I would have liked to hear 9 years ago when falling into testing. I will share my personal experience, pieces of wisdom I picked up on my way, as well as concrete tips on how to constantly reinvent yourself and the world around you. We are Groot!

Come and meet Lisi in person at DevExperience! Register here and get your ticket for the amazing ride on Earth!