Last month I took part in StarEast, one of the biggest yearly testing conferences in the US.
I had the opportunity to give a presentation about professional tester development, and I went with the expectation of meeting other testers and learning about the new trends and ideas shaping and challenging our professional environment today.
Much of these conferences are pretty similar. Big rooms and long keynotes (some interesting while some less interesting), many of the biggest names in testing walking around and happily talking with anyone who wants to ask a question or share a personal experience, and obviously a number of presentations (such as mine) about testing-related stuff.
But during this particular conference I also had the fortune to connect with some cool testing peers that made me realize we are all part of a bigger testing tribe.
We all have a lot in common
During the conference I had, as I said, the chance to meet some pretty interesting testers.
It was not (only) the good times during the sponsored beers (A.K.A. cocktails) or at night, when we had fun and talked about non-testing related stuff. It was actually during the sessions and the follow-up testing conversations, understanding that even though each of us comes from different backgrounds and even more diverse organizations, we all share a lot of the same experiences, challenges and even headaches that come from being a professional software tester.
Maybe even more than anything else we share many of the same feelings.
Feelings such as the need to constantly prove the value of our work to our non-testing peers, or the difficulty in explaining to our families what is it that we do for a living (“…wait a second, I understand that you don’t write the programs. So what exactly is it that you do…?”), and even the always lingering question of what is it that we want to do when we grow up?
There are many things that a tester can only share with fellow testers to gain some support and understanding on his/hers challenges and frustrations.
Is this some sort of cheap group therapy?
Maybe we should have weekly meetings, in a room filled with chairs facing each other in a circle, and start the session by saying:
“Hello, my name is Joel and I am a software tester…”
No, seriously, maybe we should!
I don’t mean a session resembling the stereotypical AA meeting (that is incredibly valuable and does great deeds for the people who attend them). I mean having tester gatherings where we sit and share our thoughts and experiences, put forward our challenges, and gather strength simply by feeling that we are not alone.
Look for these meetings, they are already taking place around you!
In Israel, where I live, we have a testing group called JeST (the Jerusalem workshop on Software Testing), also the SoftwareTestingClub organizes sessions in many cities in Europe and America, and I am sure you can find such meetings in your city if you look for it.
Go to one of these meetings, if you don’t find one set it up yourself. You don’t need an agenda or fancy speakers, on the contrary I believe that meetings where someone comes to talk about a specific point will miss its purpose, because everything will revolve around this person’s point of view and experience, and it will not leave room for the less formal but more personal interaction between testers.
If possible, make sure these meetings are kept informal. Try to get coffee or even beers, and give everyone the chance to talk and share what’s on his or her mind, without all the formalism that comes from rank or years of experience.
Remember that you are not alone!
Most importantly, notice that as a tester you don’t need to feel alone!
It doesn’t matter how big or small your company or even your testing team is. There will be times when you feel like you are working by yourself and that no one is there to assist you, to give you ideas or even to provide you with good (and sincere) feedback.
At times like this remember that you are part of a bigger testing tribe, and that we (all the members or your extended tribe) are here to help. Many of us have overcome similar challenges and we’ll be willing to share and help.
Look for help, write in web forums and social media sites, try to talk to people.
Many times the best solution to our testing loneliness is to simply reach out blindly. Unlike good luck in Las Vegas, many times help will come your way sooner than you expect it.