I enjoy listening to the “Testing in the Pub” podcasts with Stephen Janaway and Dan Ashby (along with various guests). Though the episodes make me thirsty for a pint of cider, the casual but insightful conversations inspire me to learn and try different ideas. One recent episode was about being a valued team member. I was struck by their observation that one needs confidence to be an effective communicator. If you are confident in your skills and experience, you can go talk to anyone on the team to ask questions, to raise and investigate issues.
That was a real aha moment for me. As testers we talk a lot about learning about our software to gain confidence in what we’re going to deliver. But I hadn’t thought about the value of being confident in yourself. Janet Gregory and I have been presenting conference sessions about whether a tester needs programming skills to be to be useful. Our view is that technical awareness helps testers communicate with programmers because it gives them a shared language. But after hearing the Testing in the Pub podcast, I think that learning some technical skills also builds confidence.
Looking back on my own career, I remember that when I faced a tough challenge, such as learning a new tool, I felt confident that somehow I would succeed. I started out as a programmer/analyst, and though it’s been a long time since I spent a significant amount of my time coding, I feel confident in conversations with programmers. I’ve learned a bunch of difficult domains, so I believe I can learn any new domain quickly. That makes me confident in approaching business experts and learning from them.
Janet and I have six confidence-building practices to succeed with agile testing (see below). What are the confidence-building practices to succeed in adding value as a tester? Just off the top of my head:
- Make time to learn. Set goals, make a personal kanban board or other organizing tool so that you’ll work on them, use pomodoros or some similar technique to pace yourself.
- Public speaking is scary, but builds confidence. Helping others learn means you learn too. Volunteer to share your unique experiences at a local meetup.
- Put a bowl of chocolates on your worktop and invite teammates to come help themselves. It gives you a chance to chat informally and get to know them better.
What ideas do you have for building your own confidence as a tester and team member?