CommunityBoss and Remote Work Follow Up

This blog was originally posted on Medium.

Simon Knight wrote a blog post recently about remote working and effective ways to work as a remote worker. This blog post was in response to one from Lisa Crispin about the need for feedback. Having read both and Medium kindly reminding me of my read stats on here, I realised I haven’t written a blog post about remote working and what it’s like being a CommunityBoss.

I wrote previously about my journey to becoming the CommunityBoss at Ministry of Testing so I won’t rehash what was already written. It’s time for some updates. What do I actually do? Do I enjoy doing it? What were the major stumbling blocks for me? What is remote working like?

Being a CommunityBoss

I honestly don’t know how to summarise this best. No two days are the same! I think the best approach might be some key umbrella tasks or bullet points so here goes.

The Club

This is still my labour of love. The Club has grown by over 8 THOUSAND users in the past year to 18,500 users! To say I’m happy with that is an understatement. Of course, it hasn’t been all me but it’s so nice to see the work result in this success. I try to interact on here a few times per day but I don’t always get to do that. The good side of this is that even if I don’t get to interact on here every day, there is now a very strong and continually growing community on here that do.


I don’t write articles anymore. Instead, I review them! This was a major imposter syndrome stumbler for me in the beginning. As Lisa says “listening to my inner critic. My imposter syndrome fires up big-time.”

I felt that if I didn’t know the topic, how could I review what was written. It took me quite a while to realise that 99% of the time, that type of persona is exactly who these articles are aimed at. If I don’t understand certain points, our target audience probably won’t either. What started out as my weakness, has become my strength.

The best part about this is that there are editing steps before me so it doesn’t all fall to me. That’s selfishly reassuring!


I had TestBash Belfast under my belt coming into this. I felt like I had seen the inner workings. Yes, I had seen some but there is a lot that went on behind the scenes that I hadn’t.

A lot of this behind the scenes work is now part of my role. Helping with final speaker selections, setting up the ticketing system, handling speakers and attendees queries, organising catering and videographers. It felt a little like a baptism of fire in the beginning as Brighton was the first event on my task list. The biggest conference we hold. No pressure at all!

Julie, our amazing events manager for Brighton, and Richard, the BossBoss, really helped me with this. Richard is always on hand for those questions I just don’t know how to answer. Julie helped me with how to plan the approach to an event. How to finalise logistics, get volunteer schedules set up, liasing with catering and venues. I can’t express how valuable this was to me but with 7 events in 2018, you can probably imagine.

Being In The Community

The Club is building the community, as are the articles and TestBashes. They’re growing and educating the community but I also help with this in other ways.

I keep an eye on places like Slack (I’m in a lot of Slack groups), Reddit, Quora, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Stack Overflow. When I’m on there, I’m looking for people who need help and trying to put them in touch with people who could help them or sharing resources I think they might find useful.

I’m also looking for potential new writers and speakers to encourage to submit to our call for papers, or content for our newsletters and website. Often I’ll be inspired by a blog post and think “We should have a discussion about this”. Depending on the post, I’ll either share it to Slack or the Club and open the floor for discussion. Other times I’ll see a question about a process or tool and think that we should have a course or article about that to help people with these problems. There are so many Trello boards of ideas!

Most of the time on Slack though, I am an ear for people. They’re struggling with a work problem or they’re struggling with mental health issues. These aren’t my stories to tell but I’m happy that these people have been able to face their challenges and I’ve been able to help them even a small amount along the way.

Do I Enjoy The Job?

For the most part, yes. I love that I have the freedom to follow paths I feel will make a positive difference in the community. I love interacting with the community and learning from them. As both Lisa and Simon mention in their blog posts, feedback really helps. In my experience so far, the testing community are never short of feedback :-)

I enjoy having the flexibility to work at times that suit me. I am definitely not a 9–5 office person, although I do like routine, sometimes my health and life in general just don’t allow for a “typical” work day.

I really enjoy working with the team too. It’s a supportive environment that embraces mistakes as learning opportunities rather than a rod to constantly beat the backs of people.

Is it a happy shiny place where we all agree and high 5 all of the time? Of course not. I’d be worried if it was, but we don’t have unhealthy levels of negativity or disagreement either. When we disagree, we have discussions about the disagreements rather than arguments where the loudest voice wins. Unsurprisingly, it’s a much more effective method.

Stumbling Blocks

I’ve mentioned some of the stumbling blocks above but my biggest one is time management. When I don’t work the typical 9–5 job, I can be online at 5am and still online at 10pm that night having a super unproductive day or work from 10am to 2pm and get more done then than any other day of the week. Sometimes I could get my whole planned weekly workload done in one day. It varies wildly.

Working with people in different time zones has definitely played a part in this. I eventually found the online sweet spot for them all in September!

I’ve done some life coaching to help with a lot of the stumbling blocks. It does help me to prioritize and time box better but as I’m human, there’s going to be days where I throw all of that out the window and end up being unproductive. Because of a combination of my time management issues, the past year being pretty frantic and TestBashes taking my focus, the Club does not always get my attention. I’m confident that it doesn’t always need my attention but hopeful that I will get better at this.

I also struggled with the visibility of my work. Because a lot of it is lurking in various places and keeping an eye on things, what I actually do might not be easy to see. Recently, I’ve started doing a daily bullet point wrap up of what I’ve done. I’m not the only one who does this and it’s really helpful. As Simon says, “Share your work” because “Having to ask what’s being worked on right now and how much progress has been made (or not made!) is painful for everyone”.

When you’re fully remote, not everybody knows you’ve actually done what you’re meant to do. Sharing what I’ve done helps the other team members by knowing what I’m working on but also not having to ask me. Saves time all around and we can instead get to more constructive questions about the work done so far if necessary.

What Is Remote Working Like?

In one word, amazing. I’ve been able to help my family out at various times by being able to work from their houses. I’ve been able to work from Brighton, Utrecht, Dublin, Estonia, Germany, Manchester, Australia, my own home, the car, the train, you get the idea!

I did struggle with discipline in the beginning but I’m getting there.

“Do you not find it lonely?” I get asked this a lot. And no, not really. I honestly found it lonelier being on the hour-long train journey to work and being lost in the sea of people going from there to their offices.

Our team is 100% remote. I think I’d find it lonelier if there was a section of the team co-located and having office jokes etc without me. My dog probably doesn’t appreciate the amount I speak to her in lieu of a rubber duck but….she hasn’t said anything so far.

Our team also have regular stand-ups and we meet in person at most TestBashes so there’s plenty of opportunities to be more social with the team too.

For all of the caveats people warned me about with remote working, I honestly can’t imagine working any other way now.

What Does The Future Hold?

  • More TestBashes! I think I’m finally getting the hang of these now so I’m better with allocating my time for them.
  • Attend other conferences. I think that’s as good a way as any to put myself in the persona of a conference attendees shoes but also to get to know other communities.
  • Complete mental health first aid training. This is going to be invaluable to improve my skill set and help the community.
  • Work with Richard on our Meetup support. The number of Ministry of Testing meetups has skyrocketed in 2018 so 2019 will be looking at those and how we can help them.
  • Continue to watch and nurture the software testing community.

If you want to get in touch, I’m most active on Twitter, The Club and Ministry of Testing Slack group.