Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The last temptation of Pekka Marjamaki …

First off, this is all a bit of fun – so don't take too seriously (or consider me a Satan worshipper) ...

Last night Pekka Marjamaki was on Twitter talking about a Tarot reading he'd had done, and if anyone could interpret for him, so we caught up on Skype to discuss it.

I'm a follower of Jungian psychology, and I believe that inside of us is a subconscious that is trying to guide us as best as possible, and sometimes warn us. Unlike our conscious, our subconscious mind cannot talk to us in words, it lurks below our babbling thoughts and can only make itself aware to our conscious mind through dreams and feelings. Sometimes the subconscious should be followed, sometimes rejected – but as often as possible it needs to be understood.

For me, Tarot is one method I'll use to try and check my subconscious, it's part of my toolbox. I don't believe Tarot predicts the future – but I do feel it allows me to read minds, more specifically my own. This isn't magic, this is psychology. But it's still useful.

To me it works like this – a Tarot card is loaded pictorially with very rich and often complex symbolism. When you look at a card within the context of a reading, there will be an initial reaction to it, that reaction is the whole point. It reveals something to you, if you listen to your own mind.

And so when Pekka told me about the cards, I looked up a picture of each card on Google images, and stuck with the reaction I got from that image. Hence when I say this is Pekka's reading, in truth it's more accurately a reading of myself than Pekka.

Pekka explained that he'd asked for a reading about his software testing career, and three cards had been chosen – past, present and future (which provide the context). Put the cards together with my reactions and intuition and it tells a story … this is what we pieced together …

Past – The Priestess

To me, this card really triggers the ideas of learning and being mentored. The Priestess is an enlightened soul, but she's also a keeper of ritual. If you look, she's following instructions from a “Holy Book”. The book guides and enlightens if read with wisdom. But it also can enslave and control withing a prison of conformity we're not allowed to challenge.

This to be really talks volumes about many of our pasts in testing. We learn the secrets of testing, but testing can become an instruction manual – you know, just follow the script in the Holy Book.  For a good few testers, this is all it becomes, slavish routine.

Present – The Magician

Whereas the Priestess follows the book of instruction, the Magician in this picture feels different. This feels like an individual who is in tune with the nature of things. The scroll in his hand is not something he's slavishly followed. It's knowledge he's gained with his own insight, it belongs to him, but he rules that piece of paper and its contents, not the other way around.

This does feel, especially in the context of it's position in the present like someone who has evolved. They have listened to the Holy Book as a Priestess, and they've taken the next step. They don't need the book anymore, they've taken that knowledge, and become attuned to the nature of testing. It is this enlightenment from within and from their observations which now guides them.

In many ways they have become a thought leader.

Future – The Devil

This is a complex one, but as you'd expect, The Devil denotes temptation.

If you look back to the present where The Magician denotes a thought leader, this denotes all the ways we can fall from the path. Perhaps its a desire to in some way “sell out” about testing - not because we want to, but because either there's something to gain, or perhaps because championing testing can feel too hard at times.  We might know how testing works, but go along with following a test strategy as outlined by someone else, even though we know it won't work.

Elisabeth Hendrickson's article Why I Won't Go Back was very much in my mind with this card (not surprising, I'd read it earlier that day). And in it she talked about how sometimes under pressure as testers we'll go along with Cover-Your-Ass activities on projects, which we know won't help the project, and deliver little real value. But we do them out of fear or because we feel it's expected, and somehow we feel our performance and contribution will be seen better if we follow what non-testers expect.  The one that came to mind for both myself and Pekka was “following an ISTQB policy, when we see little real value in it”.

Both me and Pekka, found it an interesting conversation, and these themes (unsurprisingly) really resonated with both our experiences in testing. For me the card about the future really reinforces the responsibility we have when we become enlightened testers not to sell testing short, because it damages the whole community when we do.

Notice in the picture above - once we give into the Devil, it makes slaves of us all!

* For the record, no animals were sacrificed during this consultation.  However when I look at Pekka's current profile picture on Twitter, I do wonder what he's doing to that chicken ...


  1. Wow. You took pseudo-scientific nonsense and turned it into something truly useful and inspirational. That is, honestly, beautiful. Thank you for this, I could do with more of this sort of reflection in my work to give me enough perspective to escape temptation!

  2. If I was to wonder what's happening in the picture, I would be wondering what the chicken is doing to me! Just to get the record straight: "No animals were harmed in any way during the consultation OR preceding it OR in taking that picture."

    I really enjoyed the post and the consultation. I do however think that higher powers were playing with me and the deck. I still can't understand the 4th card that we had to discard...

    - Peksi


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