A Testers imposter syndrome
Photo by maskedemann on Unsplash
Hi there, friend 👋,
Have you come across occasions where you feel like you don’t know enough about something and that people are going to catch you in your act of ignorance or find out that you are a fake or an imposter?
If you feel this way sometimes, Turns out that you are not at all alone. This is a very common phenomenon faced by humans in different industries though more common in tech and is called Imposter Syndrome
When does this happen
As a tester 🕵️♂️
As a tester, you are “supposed” to be the product expert right?. You should be knowing the in’s and out’s of the system and should be able to explain what everything in the system does instantly no?
While this is something to strive for, there are a few fundamental flaws with this expectation
- The system is rarely going to be constant and will keep on evolving with every new feature request that comes in
- It’s quite difficult to keep track of every change that might alter your understanding of the system.
- In a team, multiple people might test different parts of the system and thus leading to no one person knowing everything
- Unless you are the one who is writing the code, it’s difficult to understand each code path that can be taken while having to tackle this under the pressure of a release timeline
This can lead to testers sometimes feeling like an imposter 😲 since, in many cases wherein they might not know everything about the system that they test.
On top of this, there are many aspects of the system to test. Apart from the functionality of the apps UI, You have to consider the backend systems, Performance, Accessibility, Privacy, Security, Localization, and whatnot.
It takes probably a lifetime to be proficient in most of these areas and might make you think what you know is not much
As an automation engineer
As an automation engineer, aren’t you supposed to be the automation expert that can well, magically automate anything 🐇, It seems like almost every few months a new tool/library comes out with its own set of implementation idiosyncrasies.
This put’s even the pressures of dev domain on testers, wherein you are in the race to understand different programming languages/test tooling and good design pattern to create scalable frameworks while even understanding the internals of the application you are testing.
Product managers/engineering leads might expect you to have a clear idea of how/by when something will be tested/automated and how long would it take? This is on top of having to maintain an existing automation framework/tests/infra
Phew, 😓 so much pressure right? It might feel like an uphill task to be able to catch up with all of these internal and external expectations at the same time and might be quite natural to feel like you don’t know much.
What can you do to deal with it
You have to first understand you are a human at the end of the day and while engineers typically want to think that they are the smartest person in the room, as it turns out in most situations, that’s not the case.
Understanding and being mindful of your current limitations is a good first step towards reducing some of these expectations
It’s okay to say that you don’t know
Don’t put the unnecessary pressure of always being the expert, instead be open about when you don’t know something about the system or a new tool/framework. Treat these as opportunities to learn more and explore the system better rather than fixating on the fact that you don’t know something
It’s always okay to say that X is something you are not familiar with, “at the moment” but will learn more about, and then make goddamn sure that you follow up.
Remember: Action speaks much louder than words
Done enough no of times, you are going to start figuring out different pieces of the puzzle, and understand more about the system that you test or automate or how the automation fits together
Whenever you learn something new, make sure you document these aggressively in either your projects wiki or your notes, make a mental model of these either in a flow diagram or mind map, whatever works best for you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to revisit my notes about a system or feature to recollect stuff. Having a system like that to support you is very important.
Our brains at the end of the day are not designed to store stuff (unless you have an eidetic memory) but rather to think creatively about problems and thus building a second brain is something that’s very important. Want to know more? Check out this video by ali abdaal
A team is always 🏃🏃🏃 > 1 person 🏃
You have to realize that there is a reason humans work better in teams than individually. A team is a possibility to learn so many different things from others and probably one of the best leverages you have against imposter syndrome
Talking to others openly about this will make you realize that everyone on the team is proficient in different skills and no one knows everything. It’s a healthy balance of complementing skills that makes a great team at the end of the day
You have to ensure that there is a healthy ⚕️ culture within the team wherein everyone feels comfortable in saying I don’t know X to their leaders/managers and people can voice out their thoughts/concerns in a safe environment while having the time/space to learn and grow
You should learn to work well with others and delegate/pair on stuff with others if they are better suited for the job but ensure you learn from them so that you are not bottlenecked on someone else. This way a team stands on the shoulders of each other and can grow while still ensuring no one individual feels like a fake
Learn constantly 🧑💻
This is probably one of the best ways of dealing with this problem. If you are maintaining a healthy learning backlog and have invested in developing good habits on learning new technologies, then over time you will quite naturally develop expertise in many different areas.
Sometimes you might come across brilliant engineers who seem to know it all and things might appear to be very natural for them. These people are usually good and confident communicators, This might lead you to think that you are not good enough, but if you dig deep you might find that they would have put in the time to reach where they are, and you can too. All it takes is building good habits
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. - Theodore Roosevelt
If you are interested in understanding more about how to learn, I would highly recommend you check out Learning How to Learn | Barbara Oakley | Talks at Google
Keep track of what you have done
Sometimes we fixate so much on what we don’t know, that we easily forget what we do know. Keep track of things that you have achieved/learned. Might not hurt to create a brag document to keep track of your awesome work.
Referring to these when you are in a short term bout of self-doubt might give you a boost. However, remember to not be cocky or rest on your past laurels. Always look to the future while staying and working in the present. (Hmmm… This could even be a quote… 🤔)
I’ll admit, it is not easy to get rid of this feeling. However, if you take care of some of the points above, I think it would be much easier for you to work around this. Trust me, You got this. 😉
If you found this post useful, Do share it with a friend or colleague. Until next time. Happy testing
Also, If you want to read more about this, here are some good articles to read further