Ep 55: FOMO

Or, fear of missing out.

Quick news:

  • I’m at Liverpool Tester Gathering on Thursday 5th August. Come say hi if you’re there!
  • Next week I’m interviewing Rosie Hamilton!
  • The google form for telling me your origin story will be closed on Monday 1st August, so get going if you’ve not filled it in already!

This was not the episode I planned to record today. I couldn’t get that episode to flow properly, so instead I’m talking about FOMO. Now, this text is not as close to a transcript as normal, as I recorded this mostly on the fly, so it’s a bit rambly and not actually written down, but I’ve got the main points below.

On Tuesday, a group of us took part in the first #TuesdayNightTesting, which was a remote lean coffee evening. It was a lot of fun, and one of the questions was about getting testers in a slump into the community. And it got me thinking about the community, FOMO, and people that don’t want to be in the community. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about, and I’ve basically got a list of things I try to do to limit, control, and maximise my testing community involvement.

  1. Have a to-do list
  2. Use bulletjournal, use trello, use whatever tool you want but write or type out a to-do list. Even if you remember everything you need to do, visualising it will help you see how much space you have for new things.

  3. Find a niche
  4. I am a magpie of testing, I’ve spoken about this before; that I can find it hard to focus because everything looks so cool that I want to do it all. I think its easier for me to choose a niche for contributing, because it depends so much on what I enjoy, as opposed to what works well for my context, the problem I have, etc. But pick a contribution (blogs, twitter, podcast, speaking, code/tool development), and roll with it.

  5. Have a plan
  6. I am formulating a plan for the podcast. It has taken me a year to realise I need one, but I’m going to write down what the podcast is, what I want it to be, and how I’m going to continue it, so I know what I want to do. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but I think if you’re serious about doing something in a big way, you need a plan.

  7. Say no/Defeat FOMO
  8. Say no. You’re going to have to at some point so get used to it with small things. Or say ‘let me check’ and go check fully before saying yes or know. If seeing other people do and tweet and blog about things you’re missing out on is going to bother you, pull back a bit.

  9. Take a break
  10. Related to the above. Take a break. Self care is important, and self care whilst doing stuff and being part of tech is something I’m really interested in.

Ep 47 – Beyond Unreasonable Doubt

As I said last week, I’m going to talk about unreasonable doubt.

‘Unreasonable’ doubt (for these purposes) is when you doubt your own abilities wrongly – imposter syndrome, or under estimating your own abilities, maybe due to inexperience.

Sometimes this can be a good thing; doubt about a skillset you have can be a motivator to learn more and become better, but it can be detrimental; holding you back when you have no need to doubt your abilities.

I think you can tell the difference between the two – imposter syndrome is a lot more anxiety inducing than being inexperienced is. If I don’t feel confidence in a specific area, it feels like a weakness (even if I’m not actually deficient in that area), but a specific weakness. Imposter syndrome is a much more overwhelming anxiety, one that is much more diffuse; its not an area or two that can be pinpointed, its everything you are and do in your professional world.

I want to talk about a few different strategies for tackling these kind of doubts.

I’m going to start with being new, or inexperienced.

I read a brilliant blog post this week about being ‘a dumb girl in computer science’. It’s really good – it’s about just saying loudly ‘I don’t understand’ and people coming together to help each other out.

Asking questions is really important! And yeah, sometimes it does feel like showing weakness, but everyone’s been where you are, and a lot of us still are – the world of testing is huge (and I think this applies to all spheres of professional life), and you can’t know everything and all things.

So question things. You may get corrected, in fact, through your career you probably will get corrected. Firstly, try to step back when someone corrects you. Assuming they’re not being a cockwomble about it, they’re helping you out. Also, don’t be afraid to question their corrections. They might be wrong? Both of you could be wrong? Start a discussion, go somewhere with it.

You could try focusing. This is something I’m having issues settling on. I’m very much like a magpie in that I’ll go ‘ooh, shiny’ and go over there for a bit, then get bored and never actually sit down and focus on anything (like this podcast!). You may find, if you focus on one or two areas that interest you, and settle on those, becoming more knowledgeable, keeping upto date, you can carve a place for yourself, and feel a bit more grounded and ‘deserving’ of your place in your professional world.

While some of these may help to lessen your imposter syndrome, there are some steps you can take help tackle imposter syndrome specifically.

Talking about it is a key step (yes, it does feel like you’re fishing for compliments, but sharing experience is important). This is a thing that a lot of people suffer from, and so you’ll get a sense of solidarity and knowledge that it’s not just you. It will help.

Studying is sometimes recommended, and while professional and personal development is important, if the motivation is to combat imposter syndrome, you’re gonna get worse, because there is always a lot of stuff you don’t know, but that doesn’t make you a fraud, it just makes you human. However, if you’re aware of a deficiency in a part of your skillset, or something you want to get better at, it’s good to build on these, and it might make your foundation solid and help you find your place.

Share. Tweet, blog, vlog, podcast. Sharing has so many pros – it’s good for you, and good for others. Talking to others will help you structure your information, and will let you realise how much you do know about a thing. Share what you know, and, what you’ve discovered, what you succeeded and failed at. People will listen, and interact, and bring you into the community. Don’t want to maintain your own blog etc? Comment on other people’s’! Retweet, become a curator of awesome, because you’ll be reading this stuff anyway, you may as well share.

Comparisons will kill you slowly, they will. You have no idea what people are choosing to trade off when they do all these extra-curricular things, you just see them fly about doing talks and running events and holding down a job and they’re probably an awesome friend who sends you random texts once a week to see how you are, and has the neatest house in the world but maybe that person leaves toast sweat on their kitchen counter. They drink milk straight out of the carton. And they have a secret love for Sex in the City 2. You see the point I am making here, yes? Most importantly, they probably feel the same way as you when they think about themselves.

Therapy and drugs. I’ve spoken before about my clinical anxiety, and it may be that you need some professional help. Imposter Syndrome could be a symptom of some larger issues. Get help, reach out, if you need to. People will help you, and needing help is not something to be ashamed of. A therapist is a great impartial ear, and nothing deflates your jerk brain like having to justify it out loud. Practice kindness to yourself and others.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide to overcoming doubt. This shit is hard, and it’s hard to maintain, and some of it won’t work. I’ve taken a fairly lighthearted approach to this, but don’t mistake that for me making light of this. I know it’s hard, and I deal with it on a regular basis. If you need to talk, reach out, whether it’s to me, or to the community, or a loved one, or a professional. (Incidentally, would people find an episode on how to respond if people reach out to you useful?)

Further Reading:

Ep 43 – Under the (Brighton) Dome

Testbassssh was last week and although Brighton apparently hates me (I suffered some minor mishaps), I had the best time!

I’ve never actually been to a conference that only has one track of talks but the talks were so wonderfully curated that I’m glad there wasn’t the choice paralysis that occasionally occurs at multiple track conferences; and I genuinely wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of the talks I saw.

The venue was great, Brighton is gorgeous and the atmosphere in the big theatre room that the talks were in was genuinely wonderful (especially when the raving started!)

I was bricking it, and spent the registration period pointedly not talking to anyone, but that soon abated after the first few talks. I got talking to people easily, both with me inserting myself next to people, and people coming up and talking to me, everyone was really friendly!

The talks were all filmed, so they will be out and available for watching but the highlights for me were: Michael Wansley (Wanz! From Thrift Shop!) talking about his work as a gatekeeper working on Vista and MS camera scanner wizard. Katrina’s great intro to test pairing, and Nicola Sedgwick’s fantastic talk on tester’s being human.

But, as always, my favourite bits were the bits in between – the people I met, the energy I found after the conference. That’s why it was particularly gutting that I had a migraine from hell hit on Friday afternoon, so I missed the last talks and the afterparty. As it was, I had a couple of breaks and lunch to meet people, and share some information. I met Mark Tomlinson, finally, who has consistently been an encouraging voice during this podcast; I met people who wanted to know more about podcasting, and my podcast in particular. I met Leigh, who I’d seen a video of a talk he’d done for the Manchester meet up, and encouraged him to go start his own podcast because podcasts are great.

And the effects linger, even from only a short time there – I’ve written this episode, I wrote the skeleton of a talk for testbash Manchester and submitted my proposal on Saturday. I have no idea whether I’ll get in or not; to be honest I’m trying to put it from my mind otherwise I’ll drive myself up the wall second guessing myself. If I don’t get it, I still have an idea I think I can develop further.

The energy I’m currently feeling is amazing, and that’s why I love going to events like this. I can’t wait til testbash comes to Manchester!

Ep 25: A Year In The Life Of

Listeners, first, an apology. I have not, would not, could not abandon this podcast. Turned out I just needed a break. But I am back! Stronger than ever, and I’ve got a couple of podcasts recorded, so I can get ahead of the game again.

This Tuesday marked my year anniversary at my current job. This is my first job where I’ve felt fully like a tester – not also first line support, which took up more of my time – but mostly a tester.

I’ve learned a lot – mostly how much I need to learn. I started this podcast in order to learn, to force myself out of my comfort zone a bit, and I think it’s succeeded. I met some amazing people and realised how many amazing people I’ve yet to meet.

Its also taught me a lot about myself.

When testing a product you’re testing your own biases. The edge cases you miss that others pick up are really interesting, once you get over the feeling of failing being wrong. You can see what you missed and why. That’s why UAT is always an interesting time to me. It shows me the priorities of the client, how they interact with the system, things like that. And then you can look back over the project and see what factor may have affected you missing the bug:

  • Time/workload issue
  • Time constraints like work was finished later than expected for whatever reason
  • Lots of projects competing for time
  • Not fully engaging with testing the bug/feature

(All of the above applies to AC as well)

  • Misunderstanding of the feature by the tester or the developer

I have missed things; things that I probably should have caught. It was demoralising at first, but then I realised that it was something to learn from. My pre-tech job was a dispensing assistant in a pharmacy, and so the pressure (our timelines were measured in minutes, from script hitting the dispensary to meds in the patient’s hands, not sprints spread over weeks) and mistakes were different (I was in the position of having my work checked by a pharmacist, but the pharmacist, much like testers, should be sanity checking more than just checking for mistakes). And that took some getting used to, the idea that I could spend some time on each test without it blowing our figures and still hitting the deadline.

Another thing I’ve learned since becoming a tester is the community is excellent. Endlessly passionate and willing to help out. Not one to mince words, but I’ve never seen any outright meanness.

I’ve been encouraged by people I’ve never met to do this podcast, to keep on doing what I’m doing, and that’s amazing. I don’t always have the time to contribute as I’d like but I learn a lot from just reading the slack messages, the forums, and the blogs and comments.

I can make some new year in testing employment resolutions, right?

I need to get to a meet up, so I can get more involved. I am trying for November’s NWTG; I think this is the third I’ve tried to get to, and something’s come up? But I’m hopeful I can make this one.

I also really really need to get to a conference. I’m aiming for TestBash in Brighton next year.

I want to carry on doing this, I’m halfway to 50 now, so I may as well get there, right?

As always, if there is anything you want me to talk about, any feedback, suggestions, criticisms, if you want to collaborate, please get in touch!