July 2012, now a little over ten years ago I started as a Software Test Engineer at Citrix Systems, in the model village of Cambourne in Cambridgeshire, UK.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of testing a lot of great software, covering a huge range of technologies and business domains.
This summer, I invited you to ask me anything, and you did!
I didn’t answer those questions at the time, and then I asked you to AMA again, and that time I answered directly on Twitter.
So, finally, after months of delay, here are my responses to your original questions.
Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/questions-answers-signage-208494/
Question: Have you ever felt the urge to move out of testing?
Answer: Yes. I’ve been tempted a few times to focus on a more hands-on developer role, or a more product focused Product Owner type role. Fun fact, I also once applied for a role as a Scrum Master, but didn’t even get an interview.
The main reason for considering these alternative roles, in both directions, is to be able to more directly influence positive outcomes for users, while still supporting and promoting testing and quality.
For now, I can satisfy both of these desires by pushing the boundaries of my role as a Quality Engineer.
Question: Do you think you’ll still be testing in 10 years from now?
Will I still be testing software? Yes, 100%. Will my role still be “Software Tester”? I doubt it, and in some ways it never has, but always will be.
See my post When is a Tester not a Tester?
Question: What’s been your biggest “high” in testing in your 10 year career so far?
Winner a “Make it happen” award for my work on Customer Empathy at Citrix was a pretty huge high! Putting engineers in front of real customers was a thrill.
A major highlight of that journey was supporting a customer who I had brought into the office, to do a presentation at a Citrix user group reflecting back their experience, and encouraging others to get involved.
Question: What did you do before being a tester, and how has it helped you in testing?
Directly before being a Tester, I completed a degree at University in “Forensic and Security Technologies”. There are so many things from my time at university that help me in Testing.
A 3 highlights include:
- My year as an elected officer in the students union, that taught me about advocacy and representation
- My modules on Business Analysis and Design, where I learned about gathering and analysing requirements
- Principles of forensic computing, where I learned about the concept of documenting things in a way that another competent person can reproduce my work
Going way back to college, when I was interning in the IT Department, one very big lesson that has helped me in my whole career in technology, especially testing, is this one thing:
“Computers don’t have problems, people have problems. When solving a problem, remember to think about the person before you think about the computer.” - L. Coxall
Question: What piece of advice would have saved you the most heartache, had you known it earlier in your career?
Answer: I am technical, and when developers called me non-technical, what they might really meant was “I don’t want to be challenged about this bit, because I’m not confident about it myself”.
Question: Most significant perspective change.
Answer: My perspective on why I should test software has changed from:
Then: “to find defects, before the customers do”,
Now: “to discover information, to support better choices and build a better product”
Question: Stuff you did that you wouldn’t do again
Answer: OK, I think this calls for a list, no particular order:
- Write BDD Given, When, Then style test cases, that are only ever executed by a human
- Manage a team of testers, while also still having full-time duty as a tester
- Spend 6 months modelling and writing tests, before I got my hands on the feature
- Work in the Betting and Gambling space, I want to focus on domains with positive outcomes for users
- Wait until I’m angry and frustrated for a prolonged period of time before I start looking for another job
Question: Most useful defaults based on your experience
Answer: Another list:
- Test in public, by this I mean tell the team what I’m testing and when, and share my notes openly
- Favor pairing and group working, over doing it myself and working in isolation
Question: Why you stayed in testing
- Interesting, challenging, and varied work
- The Testing Community give me a lot of energy
- I’m still learning new things, ten years in
- I strongly believe in making software better for people
Question: What advice would you give your 10 years younger self?
Answer: You don’t need to put in extra hours at work to impress your manager to progress your career. Instead, make the most of the time you spend at work and look at ways to avoid waste.
Replying to @FullSnackTester
Question: What has changed / improved in the industry during that period?
Answer: Two complementary things, the raise of good automation tools and frameworks that are easy to pick up and use, and the rise of the Exploratory Testing movement, where investigative testing is valued as complementary to automation.
How have you improved your testing craft?
Answer: In 10 years? I’ve learned everything I know! Most recently, this year, I’ve focused on growing how I do Exploratory Testing, and how I collaborate and pair with others to do testing together.
Question: Where do you feel you’ve added the most value to companies & yourself ?
Answer: To companies, I like to think that my value can be measured in both better outcomes for users, and increased enthusiasm for testing in the teams I’ve worked with.
Value for myself? I’ve become much more confident, technically and in my communication with others. I’ve grown a real love for the craft of testing, and gained a huge online community that I value deeply.
Question: Top 2 mental health challenges you’ve overcome/still deal with, testing related?
- I want to change the world, by doing all the things and making colossal impact. And I constantly have to fight my urge to do all the things, otherwise I lose myself to hours of extra work, mostly in my own time, investing in projects I’ll never finish. And then I carry the mental load of that unfinished work with me. I need to give myself a break more often, and learn to disconnect.
- I bring my work frustration and stress back into my family life, and my family suffer for it. This puts strain on my relationship, yes there is a theme here!
Replying to @FullSnackTester
Question: Did you ever have to deal with imposter syndrome? If yes, how do you handle that?
Answer: A few times, I’ve found myself working with (at work, or in the community) absolute legends from the testing world. And I’ve sometimes fallen into the trap of comparing myself to others, instead of the me from yesterday. And this has on occasion knocked my confidence and distracted me.
I’ve thankfully never suffered as badly with imposter syndrome as I know some others have, nor can I pinpoint one thing I’ve done to track and handle it. While I would like to think I handled it by being kind to myself, and appreciating how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished, in reality I probably rather pushed myself to try and emulate the success of others, sometimes more successfully than others.