Overcoming imposter syndrome as a software tester

Electricity, as we know it today, is something many of us often take for granted with little consideration of the process that went into understanding, and harnessing this essential and powerful commodity. The history of electricity is fascinating in its own right, and if you are interested, I highly recommended researching the topic.

But the point is, we didn’t really start consuming electricity as we know it today (as in using it at home). Until about a hundred years ago (sockets were only introduced in the late 1800s). Which, in historical terms, is not only recent but the fact that we have wireless chargers available today. Is something that would make your great-grandparents astonished.

On a similar notion, the world-wide-web only really started gaining traction in the late 90s. With every website looking like a carbon copy of the previous, including the flashing word art and solid colour text. Gradients were too fancy back then, apparently.

If you weren’t around back then and want to get a idea of how websites looked. A fun little tool to check out is this website. The MIDI music reminds me of the website I made for my A level ICT class.

Today websites and applications are popping up every day. Each serving their own purpose, targeted towards specific audiences and each with their own unique features that differentiate them from their nearest competitor. Many of these would be unrecognizable to an early web adopter, with AI chatbots and fancy JavaScript features now commonplace. It just goes to show how far the web has progressed in a few short years.

Software advancements aren’t just limited to web applications

Much has also changed in the humble desktop computer over the years, and whether it’s the many versions of Windows, or our constant need to do things that are better than before with faster and with more efficient tools. Or changes within the wider industry (do you remember when CD’s were the only way to get new software?). The take-away is that nothing is safe from evolving as time goes on.

This not only makes involvement in computer technology an exciting place to be. But for software testers, the scope for career opportunities is blown wide open and the opportunity to move onto a new project with new software to apply our testing minds to is forever present to us.

This isn’t the rule of course, and it’s perfectly fine to stay with one project for multiple years. But if you make the leap and move onto a new testing project, it can not only be an exciting time and an opportunity to learn and grow further within a new team. But it can also be something that brings feelings of self-doubt that often leads to us questioning your our own abilities, something often referred to as imposter syndrome.

Obtaining better context

The thing to know about imposter syndrome is that most, if not everyone, is susceptible and it’s something that we have to deal with if we are to perform our best on a new project. Or atleast appear as experienced as we know that we are. I’ve often asked myself if I’m really the right person for a particular job and even tried to predict how long it will be before someone finds out that I don’t know as much as my CV says I do.

The realisation that I’ve come to is that imposter syndrome is just our mind’s way of trying to find an easy way out of a new situation that we find ourselves in. And instead of giving in to feelings of self-doubt, we instead should see this as an opportunity to expand our knowledge and transfer into a mode of learning to enable us to better integrate into our new surroundings.

Often when we join a new project, the key thing we are missing is context. How does the software work, how does it solve the customer problem, what should the software do, and how can I best test it? Not having this context makes us feel lost and can be the trigger for imposter syndrome to set in.

How can we gain context?

Luckily, gaining context is a relatively simple thing to achieve. We just need to know the right actions to take to build up our knowledge of a new software product. I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much reading of software requirements that you can do before your eyes glaze over and the information is no longer being retained.

Software requirements have their place and are invaluable documents for planning test activities. But when you are learning and gaining knowledge. Requirements are most useful to new testers as reference material when combined with taking the time to explore an application to discover how it works and and develop our own personal knowledge base.

Another critical thing to do is to take lots of notes. Someone else might already have written it down somewhere that you can easily reference when needed. But it has been shown that the act of putting things into our own words as something that we can understand and explain to others. Not only increases our own mental models, but it also has additional benefits such as enabling us to be better learners and teachers to others. This is something that I have made into a habit of doing whenever someone explains something important to me. If I can’t explain it, then I probably don’t understand it.

And finally, talk to people. Ask questions and don’t be afraid of being the dumbest person in the room. Because if you’re not the dumbest person in the room. You’re probably in the wrong room.

I hope this post is useful to you. Please post any tips you have for gaining context, or any challenges you have overcome to get past imposter syndrome in the comments below. Alternatively, connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or contact me via my contact form.

Posted by Kevin Tuck

Kevin Tuck is an ISTQB qualified software tester with nearly a decade of professional experience. Well versed in creating versatile and effective testing strategies. He offers a variety of collaborative software testing services. From managing your testing strategy, creating valuable automation assets, or serving as an additional resource.

One Reply to “Overcoming imposter syndrome as a software tester”

  1. This article has helped me figure out that I am not the only one with this same feeling of being an imposter haha Thank you for your writing


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