November 2020 MOT Bloggers Club topic

Most embarrassing test fails

When I first seen this topic posted over in the club, my brain took the opportunity to unleash not just the fails of my career, but of my whole life. It’s taken a bit of time to sift through all of them, and focus on this particular writing challenge. I’ve picked some that have really stuck in my mind as shameful, a bit funny, and things that have taught me something.

Reviewing Documentation

In one of my earliest roles, I was working with a team reviewing and updating lots of documentation at the start of a project. I was asked by one of the more senior people in the room to look at something and see if things made sense or not. So far pretty standard…

What I couldn’t get my head around was how much red text and lines where scrawled all over it. I was shocked and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and thought “this isn’t fit to be sent to anyone”. As it turns out, I was not fit to review things as I failed to grasp the “Review” section of MS Word, and how it worked.

MS Word document with review comments Fig.1 Image of review comments in a MS Word document.

Thankfully my error was pointed out to me in good spirits, but I really felt like a n00b, and wanted to hide in dark hole… We ended up going to a shooting range overseas months later, so my sins were forgiven.

The lessons

  • Learn how to use the tools properly

  • If something seems bizarre, you’re possible missing something “obvious”

  • If you must look like an idiot, best to do it with a peer, and to as few people as possible

Turn stuff on properly

Not setting stuff up fully / correctly has been the cause of many hours of hardship. Which is something I think we have all done. Lots of facepalms, and calling myself an idiot.

The lessons

  • Double or triple check you’ve actually turned it on

  • If you can’t figure out why “it won’t work even though it’s all setup” … probably worth checking that assumption

  • Hey is this golden throne thing on? Possibly …

Live demo / training fails

I deliver lots of training, and generally support people in my job. While I’m usually well prepared, and like to get into a good headspace to do whatever it is I’m doing, I sometimes (we all do right?) roll straight into a demo off the back of another meeting. It’s fair to say that those aren’t always the slickest sessions, and I really should protect some prep time. If I’m being fair, I’m not terrible at it, and have presented some material so often that its muscle memory.

Anyway! I digress.

If making silly mistakes in front of one person is bad. Making really silly mistakes in front of many people who are there to learn something is an even more ridiculous situation. Talking about the problem out loud, and why I’m trying things has generally gone down well from the attendees. Too bad it’s not a deliberate teaching moment, and more that I forgot how to do something.

The lessons

  • Preparation is key

  • But winging it is pretty liberating once you’re comfortable with your subject matter

  • Some funny typos and having a laugh at yourself can break the silence of a video call. e.g. when I mistyped docker as something slightly rude

  • Stuff will go wrong, but talk through it. Your process for resolving it, is probably more valuable than whatever you were talking about.