Mental Health Strategy

I need to improve my mental and physical health. I have gained over 20kg in the last 18 months. I feel like all of the hard work that I put in when I first moved to Sydney has been undone. I often feel fat, lazy and out of control with my behaviour. I feel like my home life reflects those bad thoughts back onto me. I know these are irrational feelings, I’m hardly lazy. Lazy people don’t involved with their communities but I still feel these feelings.

Back to the strategy, I think a core part of a strategy is a purpose (it has to achieve something), a distinct measurable goal (to know when we’ve achieved something), a plan of what to do which includes tactics/approaches in how we will achieve our purpose.


Improve my mental and physical well-being


  • Not feeling like I’m having a mental breakdown during an emotional time of the month
  • No more weight gain


  • Change my home environment to encourage incidental exercise (move closer to work)
  • Get back onto a soylent diet (this should help both diet and financial as I’ll reduce my impulse food spendings)

Here is a diagram that might help communicate part of what bothers me:

Mental Health Strategy (1)

I’m starting my strategy off small, make it achievable. Then reassess and reiterate in a few weeks to see if I’m improving.

My values and goals


Experiences over things

I enjoy new experiences, this is almost to my detriment. As an example, I find it hard to walk past a new fancy cafe without walking in. I try not to be materialistic and attached to my possessions. I do not achieve this all of the time but it means I prefer to buy second hand, I’m not sentimental towards my possessions and I try to buy only what I need.

Community and culture

Adding value to others

Continuous learning and growth

Sustainable living

Now values don’t have to be perfect, they are inspirational. This is what I aspire to be. Sometimes I don’t get them right all of the time but when faced with a difficult decision, hopefully I can use my values to help guide me.


Short term (within 3 months)

  • Learn iOS app development

medium term (within 5 years)

  • build up to a sustainable social enterprise that is focused on running a robotics roadtrip around Australia
  • get the vine tattoo idea out of my head and onto my body
  • pay off credit cards
  • pay off motorbike
  • speak at international software testing conferences
  • Own land in Tasmania

long term (before turning 70)

  • Get European citizenship
  • Build a sustainable living complex
  • Own and run a cafe
  • do a 6 month road trip around the America’s
  • do a 3 month road trip around India
  • Live in Japan for a few years working as a freelancer

Free Range Testing

Co authored with Brian Osman

Often at Tyro, we’ve thrown a tester into a team with developers with little structure. The testers and their teams are encouraged to make their own process. I’m tempted to call this free range testing (hence the title of the blog), it’s like letting the tester roam free to see what happens.

We acknowledge that there are no best practices, testers use the context of their team and their risk radars to drive their testing efforts. Testers have different interests, skills and risk radars and this feeds into their unique way of testing. We also acknowledge that testing is a team effort, the tester is a positive influence in their teams testing approach/culture.

This was also stressful, my first 3 months felt like I was drowning and many testers sympathise with this feeling. There is the information overload of working in a new company, often a new industry for most new testers and there is also the stress of trying to figure out how to add value to the team/company. The lack of structure compounds the “sink or swim” feeling. Around this time, I was struggling with a nerve injury and a relapse of depression.

We’ve tried different approaches to ease that stress, some testers may spend a week or two getting familiar with the context of Tyro before being dropped into a team, we now mimic part of the Developers on boarding process too. I’ve recently been pairing for a few half day sessions with a new tester to help them get on board; to help navigate the language, tech and business context. I also get to expose this new tester to my attempts at influencing the testing approach within my team. fresh meat, mwuhahaha.

We have moved from having the test team being outside the engineering practice, isolated and a gatekeeper to being embedded within the engineering practice; where the tester is the champion of testing for their team. We couldn’t have done this change without Anne-Marie.

Champions of Testing

By definition, a champion is someone(s) who;

enthusiastically supports, defends or fights for a person, belief, right or principle.

Each tester is a champion of testing by becoming a champion for testing.  By the value of  work that is undertaken and the value added to their delivery team, a tester can very quickly increase their credibility.  As an oft-times lone tester amongst developers, the credibility card should not be underestimated nor discounted.  Increasing credibility and value can help a tester champion (that is to say enthusiastically support, defend or fight) the idea that testing is important and vital to modern software development.

When we talk about testing, we are meaning software testing which in one form is;

executing a program with the intent of finding errors” (Myers, 1976)

… a style of software testing that emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual tester to continually optimise the value of her work by treating test-related learning, test design, test execution, and test result interpretation as mutually supportive activities that run in parallel throughout the project.” (Kaner, 2006).

At Tyro, the encouragement is for testers use their personal freedom to continually optimise the value of her work or in other words, become context driven.  The context allows the tester to optimise their approach to testing in both an individual sense (for example exploratory testing, using scripts, tools, test cases, scenarios or whatever may be useful) and in a team sense (for example test strategies, processes, developer tests, team quality and so forth).  By so doing, the Tyro tester champions testing by the valued added work that they do.

In a larger sense, a Tyro tester is also encouraged to contribute amongst the tribe(s) and Engineering as a whole.  This may be achieved by the work done in different guilds or being involved in different initiatives.  A tester may also deliver compelling tech talks which in turn help increase their standing within the engineering community.  This helps fuel a testers sphere of influence and thereby championing testing.

Sometimes though a tester may need to be more forthright in their approach with the team by advocating for quality or taking lead in different initiatives.  A example of this was the Java de-serialisation issue whereby Marina (as a member of the security cabal) and working alongside developers, took the lead in making sure that the various team areas this issue touched was tested by the appropriate tester.  In this sense, the test team championed testing together with the work by the developers and helped provide a Tyro solution.

So why would this be considered championing testing?  Unlike some places, Tyro gives people the opportunity to really use the skills that they have acquired and to be able to use them in a way helps the engineering aspects of Tyro to grow.  Most often, Tyro will turn a typical corporate blame game sessions into meaningful and value learning sessions and this, alongside, the test work performed by testers, makes for a wonderful opportunity to showcase (or in other words champion) the value a tester can bring to a Tyro world that is predominately developer focused.  Thanks to this and the guidance given at a test practice level, champions of testing is encouraged and ultimately allows a Tyro tester to produce their, valued approached to their team (aka free range testing).

In this regard, it has to be acknowledged that champions also included senior management who encouraged and led the idea that testing is absolute to helping good development to flourish.  With the drive and encouragement from the top, Tyro has a culture of advocating quality and of the tester producing the best work that they can.


Formality and Ceremony vs. Freedom and Responsibility

In most companies that I’ve worked in (well, the larger ones anyway), there has often been a marked dependency on formality and ceremony.  In one large 200+ tester shop, the formality that was determined by the development model, the high degree of separation from developers and over reliance on a large, expensive test management tool (as well as leadership from a mostly non-test, very conservative senior management group) meant that formality was the valued ‘value’ for that testing practice.  Along with the formality, the ceremony required to either elicit requirements (as in elicit the requirements NOT stated in the functional specifications or test the words that were written) or present the screeds of artifacts that had to be producedto satisfy the development model, often meant that testers were relegated to writing and template filling as opposed to actual testing.  I saw first hand the efforts put into creating documents outweighing the efforts put into actual test activity.  As one of two senior managers who had relevant testing experience, the ability to make significant changes was hampered by the culture of the environment.

When i compare this with the culture at Tyro, it is like comparing night and day.  The testing culture within Tyro lends itself the other way – towards freedom and responsibility.  Now that is not to say that its chaos – from it.   A culture of freedom and responsibility still requires guidance, process, frameworks if you will.  The greater the freedom someone has, the greater the discipline that is required.  This is essential in the current testing climate at Tyro whereby the testers have the freedom to determine the best approach to testing that will add value to their teams.  Thankfully, we are not bound by some archaic, test management tool driven process but rather by what approach will best suit.  In this regard, it was absolutely vital that the overarching culture allowed this happen otherwise great testers may not have had the opportunity to flourish.



Tyro has a culture of trust. I imagine this is one of those things that is easy to say but hard to live. There is no one asking me to justify my work. It’s up to me to create my own testing process with my team. Each tester has to come up with their own testing process. This can be stressful because it feels like no one is providing any guidelines or approach. The lack of formal structure is nerve wracking because that structure in a previous context use to be a comfort. That structure helped me to understand where I stood. I had to figure that out on my own at Tyro. We trust everyone to make their best effort with the information they had at hand, we don’t blame people when things go wrong but everyone does jump on board when trying to fix something.



Tyro is a unique environment.  It is a disruptor in the marketplace and it is an innovator on the testing front.  Whilst most banks favour, formality, and heavy weight process and artifact based testing, Tyro aims to produce the best work available through activity.  Working alongside developers, questioning the product, looking for leanness and efficiency, adding value and bringing a context driven approach to testing.  It has not been an easy road.  It has taken alot of encouragement (via coaching) to produce good testers (and in some cases, outstanding testers) with the courage to create, innovate and articulate their own methods.


Roadtrip to Melbourne – Day 1

For the ANZAC day long weekend, I decided to ride my motorbike down to Melbourne. Why, I hear you ask? To see how hard it it would be, I reply. My partner woke me up at 5am on the Saturday because he was flying down there. He didn’t want to sit on the back of a bike for that long – fair enough, I say. For me it was about the journey and not the destination. I have more fun with corners on my own anyway. So I got up at 5, this was after staying out till 1am the previous night singing karaoke with my boss on her final day at work and after an injury on Thursday which made me think I wouldn’t be able to ride to Melbourne. Oh and I had developed a mild cold.

Sydney to Melbourne

Melbourne is nearly 900km from Sydney

I thought, “fuck it, let’s see how far I can get, I don’t have to get to Melbourne”. So by 7am I had packed my camping gear, food, clothing and winter riding gear and was on the road. My first stop was in Menangle.


I was freezing by this point and really needed to go to the toilet and I was only 40 minutes into my trip. I stopped at a rest stop and was very glad I had packed my winter gear. I pulled out the winter gear, lined my jacket and put on my thick riding gloves. Then back on the road.

With the camping gear on the back, I had to be more delicate with the way I got on my bike, I had to step on the foot rest, balance my weight and get my right leg over the luggage. I was concerned it would fall over while my leg was halfway over but it never did. Getting off was the same process but in reverse. Curbs and flat roads were my friends for this trip.

I was still getting cold from the airflow coming up from under my helmet, I didn’t have a scarf, there was much sadness until I thought I could use my spare shirt as a scarf. Genius. The only problem that was plaguing me now was an insistently runny nose. Let me tell you, you do not want to sneeze inside a helmet with the visor down. Not a pretty sight. I did not have any way to blow my nose either. The only thing I could think to use was to wipe my nose with my glove. Gross.

I ducked into a maccas along the way for breakfast, I believe now that Maccas and fuel stops are the main source of work along highways. I swear I saw a maccas every 50km and a few times I saw two facing each other off, one for each direction of traffic.

My first fuel stop was in Yass around 11 am, just north of Canberra. Yass is a quant thriving highway town, I browsed a few shops and had a coffee. I thought I was making great time and I thought I’d be in Melbourne by 6pm.

The next leg of the trip was challenging, when I was a 100km away from Albury my left hip started to cramp up around 1:30. I pulled over, walked around a bit and it seemed to go away. Got back on the bike and I thought it was ok but it started to cramp back up in 10 minutes. I tried not to move it at all but I think that made it worse. I was thinking I wouldn’t make it to Melbourne, I was thinking I should just get to Albury and find a camping spot there. I think the last 100km to Albury was the most challenging part of the Journey.

I arrived in Albury around 3:30 and I had to fill up again, as I got off and walked around, I thought, “I’ve made it this far, Melbourne is only a few extra hours away”. My new eta in Melbourne was 8pm. I had a new strategy for the cramped hip, lots of movement. I was standing on the bike, doing bike squats and bike squat butterflies. A bike squat butterfly is where you raise your bum off the bike seat a little and move your legs out and in quickly. I don’t know what else to call them. I filled up fuel again in Seymour around 6pm and actually arrived in Melbourne by 7:30 pm but it took me 20 minutes to get through the CBD to chinatown where I was meeting my partner and a friend.

Turns out, I had parked my bike almost directly outside my partners hotel room without even knowing where he was staying. We hadn’t coordinated this and it was great how it just happened. We had Yumcha and I was exhausted. It took me the better part of 12.5 hours but I had done it, I had ridden to Melbourne in a day.



My Cycle of Misery

I had a depressive episode today, thankfully it only lasted an hour or so. When my depression has been at its worst, a depressive episode could last all day and sometimes not involve a trigger. My episodes usually involve me uncontrollably breaking down into tears and I will cycle back into tears when the bad thoughts roll back in.

What triggered my episode? I went to see a weight lost specialist for an initial consultant and there was a weigh in. I now weigh as much as I did before I moved to Sydney; 125 kg (much sadness).

I didn’t break down during the appointment, I started breaking down while trying to sort out payment with the receptionist. While standing in front of the receptionist the bad thoughts were starting to cycle through my mind. I managed to get to the bathroom before breaking down completely. I felt like all of the hard work that I put in is now all undone, I can’t believe I put all of the weight back on that quickly. I felt ashamed, worthless and fat. I can tell you that some of my thoughts were harsh; too harsh for me to write down.

I managed to pull myself together enough to send an email to work saying that I’d be taking the afternoon off work, exited the building and got on a bus home. I still experienced waves of tears while sitting on the bus but it was dying down. So instead of buying a tub of icecream and wallowing in self pity, I started thinking about this blog post and my cycle of misery.

There seems to be three major things that; when combined create a misery cycle that is hard for me to brake out of. They are; poor mental health, poor physical health and poor financial wellbeing. I feel like I don’t have enough control to keep one in check, let alone all three. If I try to tackle all three, I get overwhelmed and disappointed when I don’t meet the goals that I’ve set myself. I stopped seeing a personal trainer because I thought I was in a good exercise routine and I felt like I should next tackle my finances, then life happened and a mild relapse of depression occurred. Life has a tendency to ruin my well thought out plans ;).

I know how to fix these issues and I know they shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s just about making the right choices, right? However, I can tell you with first hand experience that while going through depression my capacity to make good choices is greatly diminished, instead the impulsive/short term rewards part of my brain gets a bit more freedom. This part of my brain loves to eat food, spend money and not exercise. It doesn’t help that our society is geared towards high availability of food and getting us to spend money.

over eating, not exercising, spending money

I know weight loss surgery is extreme and I feel like it’s cheating. However I’m considering it because it is a control that I can put in place to help me curb my over eating and over spending. Maybe it can stop me from falling back into bad habits when life happens?

my wealth worries

I have a spending problem. I have been spending above my means for almost as long as I’ve had full time work. I hate how much my financial well-being impacts my mental well-being. Money is just so materialistic, I’d like to think that I’m above it’s impacts on me but unfortunately I’m not that zen. Most of the blame is with me but I can also blame our capitalist/consumerist society for taking advantage of the irrationality of human behaviour.

my wealth worries

My first goal to help address this issue is to audit my spendings for the month of January, I need to know where my money is going before I can make measures to save. I’m also going to use my employee assistance program benefits to book some counselling around my finances, I have access to 6 sessions a year and this should help me get some goals in place. I’m also thinking of doing a financial education “6 step money makeover” offered by 10 thousand girl in 2016. If you want to see how my audit progresses you can check out my spreadsheet here.

I’m not exactly a poor person, I have a pretty reasonable salary of $74,400 (before tax) a year. Which equates to $37.65 an hour if you prefer comparing hourly rates. This puts me in about the middle of the road in regards to the Australian demographic. *(The average full-time wage is $74,724 before tax.May 8, 2014, Source: News Limited.)

My HECS debt is around $50,000, I have a loan for my motorbike and I’m currently paying off my dental work. I want to go on a 5 week holiday to Croatia in September and I want to get weight loss surgery. I think it will take me about 2 years to pay off my credit card debt if I chip away at it every month. I also want to save up for a deposit for some land in Tasmania.

You might be curious as to why I’m being so transparent, isn’t talking about salary a taboo subject? I reason that the more I share this the more support I can get and it’s obvious that I can’t do this on my own. Also I’ve already started talking about mental health which is also a taboo subject so the more I talk about these things, the easier it is to get support. I also don’t think I’m alone with my financial struggles (cool credit card in Australia infograph, credit card debt clock).


Anyway, what can you really do with this information? Judge me? You already are doing this. The risk is that I’m opening myself up to a social engineering security attack against my identity, the potential benefit is support working through my problems and maybe helping someone else.

my mindfulness stuff

I gave a short 5 minute talk about my depression in front of my whole company 2 weeks ago. I’ll take this opportunity to share what helps me try to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy is part of my treatment. It might not necessarily work for you but I think seeking professional help is a good step.

I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day at least 3 times a week. It’s small achievable goal for me that doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed and I don’t beat myself up over it if I don’t achieve it. The beating myself over it is something that I’ve had to unlearn. During this mindfulness session I try to focus on my breathing, the sensations around my nose and lungs, I might focus on my senses or focus on other parts of body.

I try to be mindful when having my morning cup of coffee, I find short black coffees help encourage this. I can explore the flavours, move the coffee around my mouth and explore different sensations, what is the after taste like? what does the crema look like? how does it smell? What type of roast do I think the beans are? These are all things I can explore with my coffee.

I have also been wearing a spire for nearly 3 months. The spire is a piece of wearable tech that monitors my breathing and is connected via bluetooth with my phone. It tells me when I’m being calm, focused, stressed or active.

Here are some screen shots of the app and an image of the device:

More info

Have you noticed the mindful colouring books that seem to be popping up every where? I thought I would buy one and see what my spire would record while I coloured. It measured a calm streak while I coloured. The colouring book that I bought was a game of thrones themed book at least, I didn’t really like all of the over promising of the mindfulness colouring books.

I enjoyed Ruby Wax’s talk on Mindfulness

So if something might help people be more calm and mindful in their day to day life, why not give it a shot? Is there anything you try to keep mindful?