There have been quite a few books published in the last few years that identify deliberate practice as an essential component of success. 'Outliers', 'Talent is Overrated', 'The Talent Code', and more. (Anyone got a link for that Mary Poppendieck talk on deliberate practice? That's good too.)
Deliberate practice, however, may not be straightforward to accomplish at work for many of us. (And that's assuming that you're currently working!). Even in economic good times, many companies don't value training and skills development quite as much as they should. Some testers are unlucky enough to work for companies who don't consider testing to be a skilled task at all, and others work for companies who only pay lip service to that notion. Even if you work for a great, really enlightened company who really love and cherish their testers, it can still sometimes be tough to get the feedback you need, and just playing for fun can seem like a luxury too far when there are deadlines to be met. Making mistakes is essential to learning but it can be hard to feel safe about doing that in a work environment if your mistakes may turn up on an evaluation 9 months later. Sadly there are workplaces where it's better to spend your energies in CYA than in trying to achieve your task and possibly failing in some small aspect. Dysfunctional, yes, but there's a reason Dilbert is so popular...
One of my resolutions this year is to make more time for practice (something I failed to do enough of last year, mostly due to pulling silly hours @work). One way I'll be doing that is by participating in the Weekend Tester movement. Markus Gärtner and I are starting up a European chapter of the Weekend Testers - so if you're in our timezone, and you're interested, have a look here for more information
, or follow the europetesters on Twitter
. I'll also be blogging about what we learn here on the STC.