Resetting Expectations

    Over the weekend, I was following a great LinkedIn post about anxiety entering the workplace. Anxiety is often anchored in some form of fear.

    • Fear of failure
    • Fear of letting someone down
    • Fear of not measuring up

    If any of these come knocking on your brain occasionally, welcome to being human; these are the usual fears we all wrestle with. If you wake up every morning or find yourself obsessing over these fears, you may be wrestling with anxiety, which is something you need to address.

    Anxiety is so prominent in our world that you will likely encounter someone today dealing with some form of it. Did you know you can even help these individuals feel more relaxed by being authentic and caring about them simply as another person doing their best?

    I want to address one area of worry that can lead to anxiety related explicitly to Test Engineers. There is a good chance you’ll test some software or device today, which can lead to feeling the pressure that you must do it perfectly, “find all the bugs.”

    The pressure we feel is often put on by ourselves, but it can also come from those we report to or perform the work for. There are many misunderstandings of what our role is as Test Engineers. Today would be an excellent opportunity to discuss resetting those expectations.

    The reality of being a Test Engineer is that you are testing something created by another human being. While they may be exceptional at their work, they are still human, likely performing the best they can but in a myriad of distractions and meetings, still trying to get their essential job done.

    You, too, live and operate in this same world. How often have you been testing and analyzing, and have someone need you for something or a popup meeting on your schedule? While I sometimes wish there were no more meetings, they are essential for communication and a reality of work life.

    The software will have defects, even if the best individuals develop and test it. Your role is not about testing; did you know that? The work of a Quality Engineer is assessing the application you are testing and identifying risk. You use testing to perform a series of experiments to uncover risks within the software. By the way, risks exist everywhere, and that’s why we often talk about shift-left testing. Your role is to identify and make known the risks you discover. Doesn’t this already make the role of a Test engineer that much more exciting?

    One of the greatest gifts your manager can provide you is setting realistic expectations with your customers. A good QA manager will set expectations early with clients that you will use your technical talents to assess and uncover risks before your end-user experiences them. Does that relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling now? Removing unrealistic expectations from your role should empower you to improve your risk-assessing skills. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming that you enjoy your work as a Test Engineer and naturally want to become better at it.

    So take a few minutes today and ask yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious about the work you perform. Then, take a little more time to reset in your brain what you get to do in your work.

    • I assess what I test for risk I don’t want my customer or company to experience.
    • I communicate the risks I find to those who decide how to address those risks.
    • I invest in improving my skills to become better at assessing risk.
    • I share what I discover, even when the news is hard.
    • I recognize how someone’s creativity leads to making what I get the privilege to test.

    Take a deep breath and test on.