Tester’s Credibility – The struggles of a QA during the lockdown

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While the world is going through these surreal times with the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to share some thoughts on the impact of having to start a new job and switch to a remote working environment. I will share a few tips on what helped me and perhaps might help you in coping while working remotely. One of the factors that affect the success or failure of a QA’s job is something called credibility.

So what is Credibility?

Having started a new job right at the beginning of COVID-19 lockdown in Spain, I had to experience my first time working completely remotely for the first time from Day one. The first aspect that impacted me was that the common interactions of talking face to face, the body gestures, the work and non-work related chit-chat that goes on from attending a meeting to just going to the kitchen for a coffee, have been influential to strike a good relationship with colleagues in previous workplaces. That has all gone out of the window for now. But how does that affect my credibility as a QA? Why do I feel like I need to work harder to ‘prove’ myself, to be accepted as a beneficial addition to the team?

Credibility is made out of several factors, it can be defined as the perception of others on your attention to detail, knowledge, experience, attitude and input to the team. It is not an instant factor, it has to be built over some time. Working remotely can hinder from transmitting the right message regarding these factors. Additionally, if you are experiencing a lack of self-belief, this will block you from portraying credibility even more.

Productivity helps Credibility

For a QA to reach a point of feeling productive, it is not a just a matter of taking a task and completing it. A QA needs to first lay the groundworks. This usually means obtaining a solid understanding of the business domain, about the product that needs to be tested. It also means asking heaps of questions and acquiring a deeper understanding of the team’s skills and dynamics. There is also the myriad of tools and processes that are used within the company, such as CI/CD. Subsequently, a QA can start identifying a reliable idea of a testing strategy.

Due to the nature of the work, preparing a strategy would be less straightforward than developing a business idea. If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we would have bugs in every piece of software out there. As a result of the time needed for this, testers might also be slowing the team down.

It is no easy feat to feel productive while performing these tiresome but essential initial steps, and an even harder one to diffuse credibility and demonstrate to your new team that you can be a valuable asset to them.

What can be helpful?

Every situation is different, and each tester might find his/her own coping mechanism. The following are just my experience and ideas of what helps to reach productivity, especially in a new job.

  • Pairing with team members
    Pairing with your colleagues will effectively speed up the information flow that a tester needs to get up to scratch. A successful collaboration does not rely only on the knowledge of two persons, it needs an effective working relationship, and pairing helps in getting to know your team colleagues, especially during lockdown 🙂

  • Take one step, one task at a time.
    Starting a new role, your brain will start flooding you with possible ideas and tasks that you can start working on. But you need to control yourself and prioritize what needs to be accomplished first. What I tend to do is maintain a list of possible tasks to work on at a later stage.

  • Ask, listen, communicate (and repeat)
    Don’t hold back in communicating with your peers. You might get the thought that asking questions is a sign of weakness, but it is not the case, especially when you’re the last one joining the team. Ask away, listen and grasp as much information.

  • Sync up with other QAs (within or outside the team)
    If you work in a company with multiple teams assigned to different areas of a system, or complete separate projects, it would be a good idea to ping other QAs and understand how they are doing things in their team. This gives you both an insight into how they are tackling tasks as well as giving you an introduction for when you will contribute in return.

  • Keep your team lead/manager, up-to-date with your progress
    At first, both you and your team lead/manager will have limited knowledge about each other’s way of working. So with a steady flow of communication, the sense of unknown will be mitigated, resulting in better assistance in case of getting stuck. It will also portray a sense of direction and an opportunity to be guided effectively. Team leads and managers are there to enable you to utilize and improve your skills and knowledge. Typically, they will anticipate that you will have a learning curve until you reach productivity. If not, make sure that you ask about what the initial expectations and goals should be.

  • Non-work related sessions
    Finally, but not the least important, it is healthy and beneficial to have meeting sessions with your colleagues to just discuss non-work related topics and share the struggles of the current situation, giving an insight on how each person is coping. It might be hard at first to share, especially if you are still getting to know your teammates, but being there to listen will also help that.

Stay Positive!

The feeling of uncertainty, lack of self-belief, and loneliness as well, definitely do not help in doing an efficient job. Impostor syndrome might also kick in. However, one thought that helps to keep in mind is that there is always a way for a solution. Communication is essential during this time. Outside of work hours, try to use your time wisely. Keep up to date with what is going on in the testing world. Have a look at this post for some good testing podcasts. Research ideas and solutions related to your new challenges at work. Try new tools and techniques and be open to different opinions and methodologies to ultimately decide using your best judgement. Stay positive!

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