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2 Years in Testing: Then and Now

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Last year, I wrote about my experiences after one year in testing.  I’ve decided to try and make it a bit of a tradition, so I can give people a bit of insight into my experiences and how things are changing, but mostly for myself so I can look back on my own challenges and development as I gain more experience as a professional tester.

 

Choosing a Career Path

 

My second year in testing had an odd start.  Some readers may already know that my first testing job was titled “UX Ninja” because I wasn’t only the tester in the business – I was also the product owner, business analyst, and UI mock-up making person, amongst other things.  The title was purposefully vague to encompass the variety of my responsibilities, but testing was my main focus.

 

I fell in love with testing immediately and everything else was added extras.  Unfortunately, at the start of 2017, I learned that my employer had different plans for me.  Without going into too much detail, I was essentially given the choice of developing only as a product owner, or finding another job elsewhere.  I chose the latter.

 

I’m no stranger to changing career paths; I’ve spoken before about previously being a banking advisor, IT recruiter, and international account manager.  What was different for me this time was that I didn’t want to change careers.  The longer I’m a professional tester, the more convinced I am that I’ve always been a tester.  I’m grateful to have found this career and I have no intention of changing careers again any time soon.

 

Immigrating and Working Remotely

 

Looking for a new testing job was strange and wonderful.  It was the first time I actually applied for testing jobs (having previously been promoted into the position), and I was initially quite concerned about what might be available to me, especially given the sudden and unexpected circumstances.  To my surprise, I ended up with four job offers.  This was strange to me because I didn’t quite understand how it had happened; why people wanted me to work with them.  I’ve put this down to imposter syndrome, which I discussed in the previous year’s post and will mention again later.

 

I accepted the offer from my current employer, MaibornWolff, which meant moving from the UK to Germany.  I’d never considered moving before (my CV even said “will not relocate” at the top), so this was an unexpected adventure.

 

Having to sell my house in Scotland before moving, I spent the first few months in my new job working remotely, which I’d never done before.  I’d heard good things about it, so I was interested to try it, but I actually didn’t favour it much in the beginning.  Perhaps it was the mixture of starting a new job, receiving almost all communications in a foreign language (that I’d just started learning through apps only), and not yet being assigned to a project.

 

I think the culture shift also played a part – UK employers generally don’t have much trust in their employees, so even the more “autonomous” companies pay quite close attention to their employees’ activities, in my experience.  At MaibornWolff, I was trusted to the point of feeling slightly uncomfortable, just because it was so different to what I was used to.  I was semi-convinced that people were expecting me to work on an assignment that I didn’t know about, and I was worried that someone might suddenly ask me to send them some body of work they’d been waiting for.

 

Working with Marcel Gehlen, who I knew already from the testing community, he was aware of the blogs I was writing and podcasts I was guesting on, without having to “check up” on me, since he’s so active in the testing community.  But he wasn’t the only one – everyone in the business that I thought might have cause to wonder what I’d been spending my time on just saw it as a given that I was using my time wisely and doing something valuable.  As a sceptic / realist, this made me feel suspicious and liberated at the same time.  I felt that working remotely made me feel a little more detached from my colleagues and worried about my input than I might have been if I was working on-site.  Thankfully, Marcel was very supportive when I shared this with him and we agreed to have a regular phone call to catch up, more for my own assurance than his.

 

Now that I’ve finally moved to Germany, I’ve realised that I’ve become quite accustomed to working remotely when not on-site with my client, and I like to catch up on work tasks from home on Friday afternoons.  Perhaps now that I have a client that I’m on-site with four days a week and I’ve gotten more used to the open and trusting culture here, I feel more comfortable with this set-up.  That being said, I do like being co-located, so I don’t think I’d like to work remotely all the time.

 

Sharing with Others

 

My Blog

 

A couple of months ago, I read through all my old blog posts and it was interesting to see how my writing style has changed.  I still have the same goals of learning, sharing, and trying to be accessible, but I think my writing has more of a serious tone now, whereas blogs read as more casual in the very beginning.  Perhaps this is because I’ve starting writing about topics that are particularly important to me; or perhaps it’s because my idea of writing quick blogs has turned into hours of editing for each piece.  Either way, I don’t mind, although I do want to spend more time sharing and less time editing.  I take great pride in my writing, but the editing can be a bit of a distraction sometimes and stop me from publishing or writing at all.

 

In December 2016, I’d been blogging for six months and had reached 1000 people.  As I write this in January 2017, I’ve had around 15,500 people view my blog 22,000 times.  Is my math right that that’s a 1,450% percent increase in visitors over the last year?  I feel like I must have miscalculated, but I really appreciate the support and it encourages me to keep writing and sharing.

 

Guest Blogs and Podcasts

 

In 2017, I wrote guest blogs / articles or appeared as a guest on podcasts seven times.  It’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing, and I’m thankful to those who have invited me to share my experiences and views on their platforms.

 

To those who are still waiting for something from me – I haven’t forgotten about you!  Hopefully 2018 is the year it lands in your inbox.

 

Speaking Out

 

In 2017, I also wrote about something very personal to me, that actually happened in 2016.  It took a year for me to feel comfortable enough to write about someone in the testing community sexually harassing me.  It was difficult but necessary; it was stressful but it showed me how much support I have in the community.  Ultimately, it was the right thing for me to do.

 

I’ve received so much positive feedback from the article, but I did initially worry that it would become what I’m known for.  I worried that I’d only be known as, “that woman who wrote that sexual harassment article”.  When people said, “I really liked your article,” I’d ask, “thanks, which one?”  Afterall, I have written several other posts and had good feedback from them too.  But of course, I knew which one people were referring to.

 

Now that I’ve had more time to process, I’ve realised that not only is it not the only thing that people know me for, but if it is the only thing that one particular person knows me for, then at least I’ve raised awareness.  What I am or am not known for is not the most important thing in this case.  People have always seemed to see me as being outspoken, and I consider that a good thing.

 

Conferences

 

Becoming a Speaker

 

In 2017, I went to six conferences or events and was a scheduled speaker at four of them, giving 99 second talks as an attendee at the others.  People have talked to me about how quickly I “burst onto the speaking scene”, and that’s something I’m both confused about and proud of.  It all seems a bit of a blur and taking a step back to take stock of it all is a bit weird.

 

As someone who feels rather ordinary, I look at the numbers and imagine that being an achievement of a friend.  Only at this point do I see what others seem to, and I’m happy to have had such great experiences.

 

Although the preparation isn’t a personal hobby, I really enjoy speaking.  One of my goals with speaking at events (and writing blogs) is to show other testers new to the industry that length of experience doesn’t matter when it comes to sharing and helping other people to learn.  And perhaps also to show testers with longer tenures not to underestimate us “newbies”.  I really hope I’ve been able to inspire someone the way people like Lisi Hocke and Angie Jones, who have both also made great strides in their speaking careers, have inspired me.

 

The “Coming Home” Feeling

 

Between meeting so many great testers at TestBash Manchester 2016 (my first testing conference), returning in 2017, and attending so many other events in the last year, I’ve been able to meet some testers for the second, third, and even fourth times.  The people really do make the events, and it’s great to see familiar faces again.  Returning to TestBash Manchester, I couldn’t believe it had already been a year since I’d seen people I now consider friends.

 

It really does feel like coming home and it’s great to have such a friendly and supportive community that I can learn from and have fun with.  In particular, I’ve really enjoyed being able to spend more time with Vera Gehlen-Baum, Mark Winteringham, and Kim Knüp, amongst others.

 

Tester Bingo

 

That being said, I like to be aware that lots of conference attendees don’t know anyone else there.  That’s how I started out in 2016.  With that in mind, I devised and played #TesterBingo at some of the conferences I attended this year.

 

It was originally designed just for myself, born out of constantly forgetting which testers were going to the same events I was, but also to push myself to keep meeting new people, despite now knowing many of the attendees.  I decided to make the TesterBingo cards available to anyone, supported by Ministry of Testing and Agile Testing Days, and I’m really glad that it was received well by others who decided to play.

 

I’m not sure if / what tool I’ll have for meeting new people this year, but it’s important to me to keep meeting new people and engaging them in our community.  It’s my way of trying to give back and share what I love and benefit from.

 

Mental Health

 

Moving Stress

 

Moving from the UK to Germany was a lot more stressful than I’d anticipated it to be, largely because of difficulties selling my house.  I knew that it might take a while, but I didn’t expect the sale to fall through three times, or to have so many other things go wrong.  In the end, it took about six or seven very long months, and I didn’t always handle the stress very well.

 

I’ve had mental health issues for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never been unable to do something because of it; I’ve always been functional.  During the move, I learned that I have a threshold for stress.  It’s a very high threshold, but it does exist.

 

I had a couple of “mini-breakdowns” while dealing with the move and I learned how important it is for me to cry.  As Freddie Prinze Jr’s character says in Friends, “crying is good, it let’s the boo-hoos out”.  For me, it also “resets” my stress level, or at least reduces it enough to allow me to cope and carry on doing what needs to be done.

 

Crying is a very important tool and coping mechanism and, despite the behaviours I learnt growing up, I’ve learnt this past year that sometimes I just need to cry.

 

Burn Out

 

I mentioned earlier that I went to six conferences in 2017, but four of those also took place within six weeks, across three countries, and I spent over 60 hours travelling during the same period.  This, coupled with several trips between Scotland Germany, means that I’ve travelled further and longer in 2017 than I have in the rest of my life put together.

 

 

It was too much for me, and I’ve suffered from it.  To be honest, when I planned my conference calendar for those six weeks, I knew that it was a bad idea, but I told myself that it would be a good experience and that I could handle it, because I wanted to attend and speak at those conferences.

 

By the time it came to the sixth conference, I was running very low on all fronts.  The house sale was still ongoing and I was also having to deal with emails from solicitors and estate agents, on top of everything else.

 

The sale finally went through just before Christmas and I was able to “properly” move.  I decided to take a complete break over the festive season, not writing blogs and not going on Twitter or Slack.  I needed it.  I still feel quite burnt out now, to be honest, but I love what I do, and so I’m trying to ease back into things.  I’m going to try very hard not to be so foolish this year, and spread things out more realistically so I can take better care of myself.

 

Imposter Syndrome

 

Looking at the numbers, I’ve achieved a lot this past year, through blogging, speaking, and also my Twitter stats.  In September, I’d just reached 700 followers and Marcel teased me that I’d have 1000 by the end of the year.  I told him that would be nice, but I wasn’t so sure.  At the time of writing, I have 1,539, so I guess he was right!

 

I generally don’t pay a lot of attention to these numbers, as they’re quantitative rather than qualitative, and they don’t define anything.  It’s also not what I do any of this for.  However, I do appreciate them as some kind of measurement or indicator.

 

Still, it feels strange to me.  The success I have in numbers doesn’t reflect how I feel about myself – both because I’m still so new to testing, and also because I have the mental picture of myself as being young, and therefore automatically the junior and the one with the least knowledge.  I know those things aren’t necessarily true and that there’s no real correlation between any of them, but I’m struggling to see myself in the same way I know I’d see someone else in my shoes, even though I consciously blog and speak to prove to others that those things aren’t true.  Somehow, although I know those things myself, I don’t feel them about myself.  I’ve learned to thank people for compliments but inside, I’m still worried that I’ve misrepresented myself somehow and that people could find out at any moment.

 

On the flip-side, I’ve if I’m having a good day and feeling happy about my achievements, I worry that I’ve moved from imposter syndrome to the Dunning-Kruger effect.  I think it’s something I might just have to accept and get used to.

 

The Future

 

I normally like to look ahead to the future and think about what I’d like to achieve in the next year but, in all honesty, I’m feeling a little tired.  I could force myself to think of something right now or hold off from publishing until I have time to come back to this, but I think that would just put unnecessary pressure on me.

 

One thing I know I want to do is take better care of myself, so I think I’ll start right now and leave it there. 🙂

 

 

If you have any thoughts on anything in this post, or something of your own to share, let me know in the comments.  Read 1 Year in Testing: Then and Now.

10 thoughts on “2 Years in Testing: Then and Now

  1. Hi Cassandra!

    First of all, thanks for sharing your personal experience with us! Much appreciated!
    And welcome to Germany! I hope you´ll settle in soon, so that you can relax a bit more and the stress level is going to be much lower than during your conference marathon! And all the best for your career at MaibornWolff, their recruiting statements sound very appealing to me!

    Different topic, you´re talking about the imposter syndrome. Do you have an idea why you´re feeling this way sometimes? I´m asking, because I know a very talented (female) colleague, who somehow says the same: she is feeling like she´s not deserving the current (somehow techie) position she´s in. From my point of view, that´s not the case. She´s just new to the tasks given to her, but that has nothing to do with the ability to get them done. Additionally to telling her how I see her (good) work, I´m trying to leverage her reputation by inviting her to meetings and projects where she can be the person speaking and being in charge of the success.
    I hope I can help her that way, because a more diverse team is such a great opportunity for all people to learn more, better, faster and more comprehensively. Any thoughts on that?

    On twitter, you talked about how (male) conference organizers don´t get it right to create a “female friendly conference invitation culture” Not your words, but my try to rephrase your intention of the tweet: https://twitter.com/Tweet_Cassandra/status/953312276781719552 I would really appreciate a blog post about this topic, if possible.

    All the best,
    Tobias

    1. Hi Tobias,

      Thanks for the welcome. I’m guessing you’re also based in Germany and am now wondering if we’ve crossed paths before, since there is no last name left on your comments?

      It’s funny that you should ask about the reason behind feeling the symptoms of imposter syndrome, as I’ve been thinking about this myself and wondering if we (as a society) foster this somehow. Again, it might be an upcoming blog post!

      It seems like you’re making an effort to support your colleague, which is really great. Definitely keep doing that if you can – even if it seems like it’s not making a positive difference straight away, these things take time, and I hope that she and others will eventually be able to see in her what you do. A lot of us need that kind of support, and you’re totally right about diversity being a good thing!

      Thanks,

      Cassandra

    2. Hi Cassandra!

      Yes, I´m based in Germany, but I don´t think we ever crossed paths before. I´m more into software development and architecture (around North-Rhine-Westfalia) and not focused on testing as you do it. So I´ve never attended any testing related conference so far :-). But if you´re curious you can visit my blog https://sjmp.de/

      Your thoughts about the society fostering something like the imposter syndrome is interesting. Not thought deeply about it, but it might be a factor that influences such things. Would be great to discuss that further in an related article of yours (or via any other channel you prefer).

      Thanks for your kind words, I´ll try to do my best. We´ll see!

      All the best
      Tobias

  2. Great job! Your honesty and compassion are amazing! I’m glad to count you among folks I know and have met in the industry. Look forward to seeing you speak in the future and meeting you again. Philly was a blast and I am so glad to have finally met you in person! Best of luck to you as your year starts!

  3. Thank you for this – a lovely overview of a year of such significant change. You are far from ordinary, and the success you have – you deserve it, you are worth it. Well done! Keeping moving forward, keep looking after yourself.

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