Episode 111 – Keep an Open-Mind and Learn to Communicate Empathetically and Effectively with Katrina Clokie
Katrina Clokie is Phil’s guest on today’s podcast. Like so many IT professionals, she started her career as a developer. After several years filling various roles she moved into the field of testing. Katrina is the co-founder of WeTest, a New Zealand testing community. She regularly speaks at conferences and is the founder of the Testing Trapeze magazine and the author of “A Practical Guide to Testing in DevOps”.
(1.01) – So, Katrina, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Katrina started her career after completing a computing and mathematical science degree. She majored in software engineering and started her full-time IT career, 10 years ago, by working in development. But, for a while she moved from sector to sector, finally, settling on testing as her field. Katrina is currently moving more into coaching and management within the testing domain.
(2.04) – What made you switch from development to testing? Katrina explains that she found developing to be quite an isolated role. A way of working that she does not really enjoy. So, she switched to being a solution delivery engineer. The job gave her the chance to travel and work closely with others, something that appealed to her, at the time. She worked across Central and Latin America and Asia carrying out Telco network installs. Katrina had to test the installs as well as physically put them in place. She found the detective work involved in tracking down the root cause of any issues to be interesting, so decided that testing would be her new focus.
(4.38) – Phil asks Katrina for a unique IT career tip. Katrina’s tip relates to finding new opportunities within IT. She points out that there is no need to pigeonhole yourself, something that most people tend to do. It is easier than you think to move into new disciplines within the IT industry.
(6.13) – Phil agrees, but wonders if Katrina has any more tips to help people to identify where the opportunities lie. Katrina’s advice is to be constantly on the lookout for new opportunities within the organization you work for. When you see something a little different, that interests you, go and speak to some of the people who are currently filling that role or working in a similar field. If possible also talk to the person who is doing the recruiting, before, you edit your CV and apply for it. Taking this approach will give you a much deeper understanding of the types of roles that are available. If your application fails, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. This will help you to improve your approach for your next application.
(7.30) – Katrina is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. She explained that happened when she was working for a mobile service provider, in Uruguay. They had a big problem. People were double-dipping on their mobile top up codes. Basically, one person was buying $20 worth of credit, entering that code into their phone, and then sharing it with their friends. Their friends were then also getting $20 worth of calls, but without paying anything. Naturally, the company wanted the development team to solve the problem quickly. For Katrina, as a new team member, working under so much pressure was particularly difficult. But it was a situation that she learned a lot from. In particular, she saw how effective distributed communication could be when senior people conducted themselves in the proper way. It taught Katrina the importance of effective communication. A skill set that Katrina noted is, sadly, not taught as part of a computer science degree.
(10.49) – Phil asks Katrina what her best career moment was. Katrina said that setting up and seeing WeTest succeed has been her career highlight, to date. She set this software testing community up with Aaron Hodder, in 2012. Just 6 years later they have been able to reach 500 testers and now run conferences in both Wellington and Auckland. The conferences have already attracted international speakers. WeTest has grown fast and is now influencing the conversations happening throughout the testing community in New Zealand.
(11.54) – Phil asks what excites Katrina about the future of the IT industry. Katrina says the technology is exciting, as is the way the community is tooling and developing systems using it. It is clear that this new wave of technology is going to have a drastic impact on society, this is also exciting. But, Katrina is also very interested in the ethics, social science and philosophy of this exciting state of affairs. She is pleased to see the development community becoming more mindful of the impact their work is going to have on the way people earn their income and live day-to-day.
(14.00) – Phil says that, in June, he had April Wensel on the podcast. She spoke about her compassionate coding philosophy and the work she was doing to spread this way of thinking and working. He went on to state that the movement is definitely gaining momentum, right now.
(14.33) – What drew you to a career in IT? Katrina said that, initially, it was the money that attracted her. She saw an advert in a local newspaper for a web developer and was stunned to learn that they earned six figures. So, she cut that advert out and put it on the desk she used while studying for High School. Her aim was to land a job like that. To get there, she initially enrolled for an E-Commerce degree, but soon switched to pure computer science because she found that to be so interesting.
(15.42) – What is the best career advice you were given? One of Katrina’s mentors is a CEO of a shipping company. She explained to Katrina how to present her skills in a way that management, who are usually non-technical, could understand. With her help, Katrina learned how to effectively demonstrate what she could contribute and help them to understand the true value she could bring to the company.
(16.38) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? Katrina said she would probably still end up taking the developer route into IT. She commented that is still what most students still do despite the fact they could be training for so many other IT disciplines and roles.
(17.22) – Phil asks Katrina what career objectives she is currently focusing on. Katrina explained that she is planning another lateral movement to make sure that her role continues to be varied and interesting. She has just picked up a product owner role. This is allowing her to develop new skills in terms of product management thinking and tooling. She is also creating and leading a new delivery team. This is enabling her to learn more about communicating with business stakeholders from a product perspective rather than a technical one.
(18.25) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Katrina feels that developing clear and empathetic communication skills has really helped her career progression. Using this type of communication creates an environment where everyone works together in a more harmonious way.
(19.05) – Phil asks Katrina to share a parting piece of career advice. Katrina says that when you get started, landing that first role can be difficult. So, you have to learn to “keep going.” Don’t be demotivated by rejection. Instead, try to seek feedback and alter your approach when applying for the next role.
(7.16) KATRINA – “ I think more people should look broadly and also do a little bit of research, I guess about what those broader options are because we pigeonhole ourselves. But it’s, it’s largely us who do that.”
(10.15) KATRINA – “Communication isn’t something that’s really emphasized when you do a computer science degree. Yet it’s something that’s so important.”
(16.20) KATRINA – “She gave me some really good tips around presenting my skills in a way that management could relate to and understand.”
(16.48) KATRINA – “I still think it’s quite hard for students to see a route into IT, that’s not through development.”
CONTACT KATRINA CLOKIE: