Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Disrupt and shakeup your testing Career!

I read an article on linkedin by J.T. O'Donnell about career development and why we should proactively reinvent our core competency models. This led me to a comment and an amended quote about career development:

“Careers are not meant to be static," ... "In the world we live in today, you have to adapt and change. One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic professional that's happy with its success. That will wind up being your death in the end." (an amended quote from Nike CEO, Mike Parker)

J.T. O'Donnell also stated "Creatures of Career Comfort Today…Professionally Challenged Tomorrow"

This made me think of the testing role and the need to challenge what we do.

Being Static

We allow ourselves on occasions to settle into our job thinking, “I’ll just do this for a while,” which is a dangerous career move.

I’ve identified this as being Static, we do what’s needed and move from project to project not changing or adding to our core. We are at times restricted by the projects due to timescales, or rigid client processes and hence have little flexibility. We end up avoiding the need to evolve and build our skills in exchange for the immediate gratification of our current situation. This also includes our skills us testers. We end up testing only what we are asked to test. The pros of this being we prove we are competent at that role and gain support/confidence. Cons being we don’t expand our skill set at such roles and we don’t necessarily provide our customers with our full testing potential/expertise.

We at times tend to avoid being proactive in our roles because it requires additional time and effort. It is often said, “We are more likely to wait until we need the aspirin, than to be consistent in taking our vitamins.” It’s in our nature to avoid the extra work until the pain is too intense and we finally have to take action. e.g. A performance tester, identifying performance requirements, then building their standard performance test rig to test the requirements provided only.

Being Dynamic

Taking action I’ve identified as being Dynamic. Here we make a decision to disrupt our skill sets and build some new areas of expertise. We get proactive and creative when we take action and try new things on projects.

We can also read about new approaches or get new ideas from blogs or colleagues and aim to implement then in what we do. Being Dynamic would cause the same performance tester, to come up with new ideas of applying artificial intelligence to their test rig and creating something new.

Pros being new skill set is obtained and value added to the customer. Cons, more time consuming and you may not necessary have time to experiment on projects.


Both have a positive and negative side hence feel we should constantly aim to be dynamic but also identify the situations where we should be more static. Ideally we should constantly aim to switch between these per task assigned. I feel this will make us better testers are we will constantly be aiming to learn something new and applying it at every opportunity.

J.T. O’Donnell stated the following: “Anyone can be disruptive in their career/role, but nobody is going to do it for us. The longer we wait to build our skills and abilities the harder it will be to remain relevant. If you ask yourself “Why can’t I just do my job and not worry about this?”  your answer is “ Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

We can either look at disrupting our career/role as a chore, or as smart choice. “

My suggestion is to create a mental plan to constantly challenge/disrupt your role so you don’t remain constantly static or constantly dynamic and use the tools you have available.

Figure 1 - Tools we have available to us - @cartoontester

What you can do today?
I have suggested examples of things you could start doing today to start disrupting your career:
1)            Review your current skill set and ask yourself, “Will these skills be relevant in 5 years?” Also brush up on core skills and core company processes
2)            Find a book about a field or industry of interest to read or books on ideas you have. There are also several testing books if you want to broaden your knowledge. 
3)            Take an online course that can be completed at your convenience.
4)            Attend a webinar/conference in something indirectly/directly related to your current area of expertise. You could also read articles or blogs e.g.  Satisfice.com, Developsense.com, Seven Ways to Find Software Defects Before They Hit Production
5)            Identify a project you can do on your own time that isn’t directly related to your job, but has an impact on the company.eg learn an Automation tool and use it
6)            Identify a mentor or someone you look up to and set up quarterly meetings with them to share ideas, issues for them to help you with developing your skills.
7)            Start a hobby to develop a new skill set.
8)            Write an article to share your thoughts, experiences and topics you find interesting.
9)            Set a goal to meet people that are considered experts in their field that somehow overlap with your own industry and ask them questions about what they do. meet up sessions are a good start.
10)          Identify something you are doing now, that you could do differently and ask yourself, “How could I use my skills to improve things?”

Recommended reading/References

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