The ROI of Learning for Software Testers

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Thinking Skills
My passion is working together with a team to deliver the best-possible-quality software product. I’m not a team lead or manager. I’m “just” a tester. Nevertheless, I feel all of us can and should be leaders in our own way. I recently participated in a Problem-Solving Leadership course led by Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman, and Jerry Weinberg. I took this course on my own time, using my vacation time from work. It’s an investment in both my personal and professional growth. The experience has given me more confidence that I can collaborate with the rest of my team to experiment with more ways to “bake quality” into our product.

Though I depend on my more “formal” learning—attending conferences and classes, reading magazines and blog posts—to keep my skills relevant, it’s also important to take time for reflection and introspection. Just as our teams inspect and adapt our process, I try to look at my own practices to understand what has worked well and not so well.

I’ve realized that good relationships with teammates are key to my enjoyment of my work. This may sound like a small thing, but it isn’t. I’ve always brought my lunch to work and eaten at my desk to save time so I can go home earlier. But, that means that I’ve missed out on going to lunch with my teammates. Those lunches out may not be the healthiest thing for one’s body, but getting to know one’s coworkers is priceless. Besides that, when you work intensely all day—especially if you pair—it’s really helpful to get away from the office for a bit each day. So, now, I keep my ears tuned to “lunch talk” and join a group lunch at least a couple of days each week.

I enjoy writing, and I have had plenty of practice at it! Learning new things at a new job means taking boatloads of notes. In my experience, the person who can best teach a new team member is the previous “new person,” who has most recently learned all the same stuff. I’m putting my communication and organizational skills to work, enhancing existing documentation and writing additional notes that may be helpful to others. My teammates and I are experimenting with using a wiki to host a knowledge base instead of the existing documentation system.

I started my software career in a programmer trainee position where I had to learn on the job. I’ve seen the return of similar investments that I’ve made over the years, culminating in my latest rewarding job. I bet that you, as a reader of this website, are making similar investments. How have they paid off for you? How will you invest in your own future learning?

About the author

Lisa Crispin's picture Lisa Crispin

Lisa Crispin is the co-author, with Janet Gregory, of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams (Addison-Wesley, 2009), co-author with Tip House of Extreme Testing (Addison-Wesley, 2002) and a contributor to Beautiful Testing (O’Reilly, 2009) and Experiences of Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster (Addison-Wesley, 2011). She has worked as a tester on agile teamssince 2000, and enjoys sharing her experiences via writing, presenting, teaching and participating in agile testing communities around the world. Lisa was named one of the 13 Women of Influence in testing by Software Test & Performance magazine in 2009. For more about Lisa’s work, visit www.lisacrispin.com.

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