a typical testing day

“Shirley at SAA I.T provides an excellent service. Her test report was clear and detailed. I was very impressed by the advice, solutions and instructions – I was able to apply many of the devices. However, with my work commitments I decided to hand over the website and let Shirley work her magic. In much faster time than me, Shirley designed and developed it into a professional website that will be a great asset to my business.”

Nicola, Hot Tubs In France

“What is it you actually do?”

Back in the old days, when I was a test consultant in the UK, it was probably easy to describe a normal testing day. But here in France my work has changed so much, and all for the better. Instead of working for large companies, my focus is now on helping small businesses improve their online presence. So let me try and tell you, in a few words, what a typical testing day is like.

Early start

I’m not a good sleeper. My head hits the pillow and I can be asleep in a few minutes, but it’s staying asleep that’s my problem. And I wish I could blame it on something – old age my husband says. I usually wake around 4 or 5am most days, lie there for an hour and eventually I get up, as quietly as possible. I’m so practiced at these ninja-like manoeuvres I could probably serve in the S.A.S. I slide from the bed, pick up my mobile from the bedside cabinet, nip to the loo and then glide stealthily across creaking floorboards, all by the dim light of my Fitbit.

So by the time my other half wakes up at 7am, (because I always forgot to unset the alarm) I have generally logged on to my PC, had a shot of strong black coffee and checked emails in my four personal and business mailboxes. 

Next task in my typical testing day? Social Media!

 

Being sociable

Trying to produce interesting and entertaining posts for my own business pages, as well as client ones isn’t as easy as it might sound. And when you have to publish something every day then it can be a bit daunting. However, what I generally do about once a week is spend a day researching topical and trending items, that are relevant to the business pages I manage. I post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google My Business (GMB) for myself and some clients. Luckily, with Facebook and Instagram, posts can be scheduled in advance, which means I get them all done in a morning and only have to publish on LinkedIn and GMB daily. But usually I have already picked the images, ‘inspirational quotes’, and drafted the content at the start of the week.

French lessons

We moved to France in 2017 and I will make an effort to have a conversation in French with my friends and neighbours. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I know they have led such interesting and varied lives, and I want to hear their stories. So I have 2 hours of lessons on a Monday morning – which definitely helps to exercise the brain cells. Plus there is regular homework to fit into a testing day. But I’m not complaining, I just wish I could learn quicker so I could chat with the neighbours about something other than the weather! Big shout out toLaetitia Poulter my very patient French tutor.

Blogging

As you have probably noticed, it’s been a while since I wrote my own blog, but only because I’m regularly creating blogs for my clients. Blogging can take up a lot of time, especially if the client wants a specific topic covered which requires extensive research. But I enjoy writing, and I have received some great feedback from my clients and their readers, which makes everything worthwhile. 

Great website report by Shirley. Very thorough and easy to read and implement. It was essential to have a pair of expert eyes review my website and there were quite a few quick fixes that I made after Shirley’s report. The report covered loading speed, functionality, spelling, grammar amongst many other tests

Sarah Adams – Loire Valley Llamas

Website reviews

A lot of my work comes as a result of the free business website reviews that I offer. I advertise the review service on my website and social media, and in particular, on several Facebook business groups. On average I can probably get through two website review per testing day. Anyone can ask for a review and they will receive my honest and unbiased feedback. I try not to criticise people because the majority of these business owners are individual entrepreneurs like myself, and have never built their own website before. So it’s a massive achievement for anyone to do that on top of all the other day to day business tasks, and taking care of their family.

Time for a review. fear of criticism. a testing day

Be constructive

However, there are those who seem to make it their daily mission to upset or publicly belittle others. And it was finding out how demoralised one of my clients felt when this happened to her that really brought home to me how distressing negative feedback can be. So I always word my feedback reports carefully, and I highlight the good points as well as the not so good. I also make a point of telling them that, at the end of the day, it’s only my opinion but as a visitor – and potential customer – to their website. If they don’t agree with the comments they don’t have to take any action, and I don’t get upset about it. In most instances, I’m happy to say that people do accept the feedback in the way I hope it should be taken, which is as constructive, not destructive, criticism. 

So far, I have not had a bad review, but if and when I do then I will act on their comments, and respond in a positive and professional manner (whilst silently slapping myself around the head).

Always learning

As I touched on earlier, some of my paid work comes from the free reviews. If someone has struggled to publish their website in the first place, it can be a daunting task having to make changes to fix any layout or navigation issues that I might have found. So they ask me if I can help them out. To be honest, this works well for everyone. I learn about different website design tools, apps and search engine optimisation (SEO), they get an improved site and their customers get a better user experience. It’s a win-win situation. 

Added bonus

The biggest advantage for me in doing the website reviews is that I find out about new businesses, great products and services that I might not have noticed before. And I have even bought from a few of them! Whether I buy something or not, I will always try to ‘like and share’ their business pages and posts to give them a bit of a boost. If 2020 has taught me one thing, it is to try and support small businesses as much as possible. 

Picky or perfectionist?

I have lost a client this year because they couldn’t keep up with home and business expenses during COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve heard of so many others that have closed permanently. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I can work from home, then it could easily have been me. The support of family, good friends and loyal clients has got us through this dreadful year. Yes, we have had to claim some help from the government during the worst months, but thankfully my regular client work has kept our heads above water. I have also been fortunate enough to pick up some software testing work for a large pharmaceutical company, thanks to a recommendation from an old work colleague. But testing in any shape or form makes me happy. I love finding bugs and helping to put things right. My husband says it’s because I’m picky and I have OCD, I prefer to say it’s because I’m a perfectionist. I’m still working on getting him right – but that’s another story and a different kind of testing day, and a long-term project!

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. If you didn’t like it please let me know. And if you did like it, then can you also let me know. 

Shirley Atkinson – SAA I.T Testing

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

Contact

Need additional assistance? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

Time for a review. Overcome your fear of criticism

 

Fear of criticism

Maybe our fear of criticism goes back to our school days. Spending hours writing essays only to have them marked and returned with lots of red lines and teacher’s comments.

I’ve also been subjected to a wide variety of appraisals and work reviews in the different organisations I have worked for. Most of them provided encouraging, constructive criticism and feedback, especially in my early years in the Civil Service. And yet I still used to dread the annual Performance Appraisal Reviews and the fear of criticism. I imagine we are all the same. We think – hope! – we are doing a good job, but when there’s a review on the horizon we start to worry about getting negative feedback.

I was very lucky to be assigned to experienced managers who understood the difference between constructive and destructive criticism and how it can affect a person’s self-esteem. Their feedback encouraged my personal development and gave me the confidence to take on new challenges throughout my career and in my personal life.

Humiliation

However, there is one incident which stands out in my mind more than any other because of the way it made me feel. Little did I realise that how I felt at that moment was going to influence how I treated people I worked with in the future.

In my first contract as a freelance Test Consultant I was working for a very large corporate company. The job meant I was working away from home, with people I didn’t know and learning a new complex system. Everything was different, I was way out of my comfort zone but wanted to make a good impression because this was the career I loved. 

What I didn’t bank on was being assigned to a manager who let her personal life interfere with her professional life, to the extent that on her bad days, she publicly criticised and humiliated people. Less than a week into my new role, I was verbally attacked in a room full of people – because I had saved a file in the wrong place. She should have quietly point out the correct folder structure, but instead she shouted, finger-pointed and called me an ‘over-paid simpleton’. 

Embarrassment

I sat there open-mouthed and fighting back the tears. People were staring at me. I felt embarrassed and physically sick. I couldn’t even manage an easy escape because the door was the other side of the room. Instead I bit my lip, walked over to her desk, and I asked her quietly and apologetically if she could show me where the file should be. After correcting my mistake I walked down to the Ladies loo on the floor below and cried my eyes out. I had never felt so humiliated in all my life and convinced myself I was going to get sacked. I left work that day ready to pack my bags and even started looking for a new contract!

The next day she acted as if nothing had happened. No apology was ever forthcoming but it occurred so frequently, with different people, that eventually she was reported and moved to another area. Under a new, encouraging, more professional manager I became a team leader and stayed with that company for two years. I learnt new skills and gained knowledge and experience using new testing tools, but the most important thing I learnt was how to give feedback. 

Negative Feedback

If you have single-handedly set up your own business, set up Social Media accounts, manage the financial affairs and created your own website, hats off to you. You deserve a massive pat on the back. It doesn’t matter what line of business you are in (unless you are a web designer!) or how well you are doing. You have successfully done something a lot of people can’t or won’t do for various reasons, and one of those reasons is fear of criticism.

When you’re starting out, you know a business website is an essential marketing tool, but a good web designer costs money – even bad web designers cost money! And although it’s a recognisable investment, if you can’t afford it, your only option is to go it alone.

There are lots of sites, like Wix and WordPress, which can help you create a simple, straight-forward website. Don’t let them fool you into thinking it’s an easy task. You still have to think about what pages you need, getting the right template, writing the content, uploading images, etc. Maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but if your website is going to stand out from your competitors then it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. 

So, now we’ve added a couple of plug-ins and widgets to improve the website ‘look and feel’ and it’s ready for publishing. Who are the first people we ask for feedback? Our friends and family of course. Because of our fear of criticism we can rely on them to be positive – and even if they are really honest, we know it will be in a nice, positive way. But does that mean we are already worrying too much about what other people think and, more importantly, what our customers think? 

What is Criticism?

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

Extract credit – Jim Connolly 

As a small business owner we have to learn to deal with these fears, because as soon as your business is online it’s visible and open to criticism. So to survive it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from affecting you.

Jigsaw puzzle showing the words constructive criticism - fear of criticism

To do this try to understand more about the critic than the criticism. If they are an expert in their field then, even if their comment is negative, it might be something worth taking onboard. The key difference between criticism and feedback is our perception of it.

Criticism is often taken to mean that we are being judged by another person in a condescending manner. So when people are criticised by others it can be a fairly unpleasant experience for the receiver.

Destructive criticism doesn’t help anyone. In fact it can lower a person’s self-esteem and make them feel like a failure. Constructive criticism, on the other hand can help to develop the abilities of that person, and create a positive change.

What is Feedback?

Feedback is generally understood to be information that can improve the performance or development of a product or a person. For example, a company has released a new product on the market and wants to evaluate the public’s response. There are different ways to go about this. They might hold a small event where samples of the product are given to members of the public and they have to provide feedback. The company can then understand how well the product has been received and act on this feedback. 

For people,  a manager might give feedback in a personal appraisal, or to a group of employees when they complete a new project. A lot of companies hold one-off, end of project ‘Lessons Learned’ sessions.  Key stakeholders are asked to provide feedback for the project as a whole – what went well or not so well and what can be improved. 

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned is all about understanding what you all did right and what you all could have done better. It’s not about finger pointing. It’s about learning. And this is why, when I perform my business website reviews, my feedback report isn’t all about what is wrong with the website. It’s about pointing out what works really well and what can be improved. 

I always ask for feedback and, from what I’ve received, the majority of my clients generally agree with my comments. Issues are fixed, suggestions for re-wording are applied, website layout and functionality is improved. A lot of the changes are quick, easy, inexpensive and effective. 

Very occasionally they don’t want to make any changes, which is fine. I’m not going to force my opinions on anybody. However I will point out that if one of the issues is that your website is not legally compliant, then that is not just my opinion. It’s the law! 

Be Kind

One of the reasons behind this post is a conversation I had recently with a new client. She admits she’s not technically minded but has still managed to build her own website. However, when she saw that someone on Facebook had left a rather derogatory comment, she was understandably upset and demoralised. Personally, having just started my review of the site, she has done a bloody good job and we’ll work together to make it even better! 

If you’ve never received bad feedback maybe you don’t have a fear of criticism, and you’re incredibly lucky. Your parents and teachers must have been a lot nicer than mine. But next time you leave a review or a comment, if you know it’s a small business, try and be a bit more considerate. Your criticisms can be hurtful and demoralising. I appreciate it’s not always easy, especially if you’ve had bad customer service, but imagine how you would feel if you were being publicly humiliated. 

I know how I felt and it’s not something I would even wish on my worst enemy. 

 

SAA I.T Test Consultant

 

‘Sharing is Caring’

If you like this article let me know – and let your friends know!

 

 

Location

Shirley Atkinson

SAA IT Test Consultant

79120, Sainte Soline, France

SIRET – 835 373 515 00013

©2020 SAA-IT-Test.com

Contact

Need some help? Please contact us:

saa.it.testing@gmail.com

FR: +33 (0)7 83 16 61 11

UK: +44 (0)7940 435970

Hours

Mon: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Tue: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Wed: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Thu: 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed