I Wish I Knew More About…


As a tester, I sometimes feel bombarded with the sheer amount of stuff I’m “supposed” to have mastered. In one article I read recently, at least 15 different technologies, toolsets, areas of tech etc. were mentioned that testers “need to know”. Whilst to some that probably seemed like a great challenge, to me it just felt completely overwhelming.

Its important to keep reminding yourself that you can’t know it all, and ultimately what is more important is having a growth mindset.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

A few years back, I watched an amazing Ted talk by Carol Dweck called “the power of believing you can improve”. Whilst it was aimed at children in education, I believe it translates well into those upskilling in the world of software testing. If you believe you can learn something, but you’re just not there yet, you will be a lot more likely to practice it and master it than if you think you’ll never get there.

Image of Carol Dweck at TED – “the power of believing you can improve”

I still have to battle the instinct all the time which tells me “you’re not a proper coder” / “you don’t have a CS degree” / “you’ll never be as good as that guy” – because you’re actually only competing with yourself there. What is more important to recognise is that everyone is learning new stuff, all the time actually, and if you keep chipping away at it it does get easier.

Peter Simons did a great talk a few years back about learning automation, and this was his first slide:-

“There’s nothing to be afraid of” Slide 1 from Peter Simons talk on test automation

The message is clear – don’t be put off starting anything because you don’t know everything. Begin with small steps, accept it doesn’t have to be perfect, and learn one thing at a time. Refactor and iterate.

Thank you to the Bloggers Club at the Ministry of Testing for inspiring me to write this. I’d encourage anyone of thinking about blogging to take a look at bloggers club if you need a nudge.

4 thoughts on “I Wish I Knew More About…

  1. I can vouch for this. I don’t have a tech background; I trained, many years ago, to be a librarian (remember those?); then I went through a number of different jobs. I spent 30 years in the UK Civil Service, first as a cog in a big clerical machine but then in equally cog-like roles in smaller governmental machines that gave me a better insight into How Things Work. (This was where I first came into contact with concepts of ‘quality assurance’ which morphed over time into my involvement with testing, of a sort).

    Then I changed directions; wrote a book, won some international photography competitions, and then took up testing again as a contractor to keep a roof over my head. Eventually, at the age of 57, that led to me taking up permanent employment again and relocating. Eventually, circumstance led me to my present role, where I came into contact with really talented and passionate testers, who introduced me to the testing community and taught me more about testing in the four years I’ve been in that role than I ever learnt in the previous twenty!

    Yes, I wish I knew more about: systems architecture, network management, coding, testing tools, technologies, toolsets. But I was recruited because my tester’s toolset had something different to the other guys’ toolsets who were already in the company – breadth of experience. The rest, I can learn. I know much more now than I did four years ago about the things I’ve listed. Ok, it’s nowhere near what my colleagues know, and from time to time they still have to point me at stuff and lead me just sufficiently far for me to say “I know where I am and what I’m doing now, thanks”.

    The big problem with learning is deciding just what to learn. When I was looking for work, I’d see all sorts of adverts for roles which said “Must have 2 years’ experience in…”, followed by some cryptically-named application, tool or language. And just when I thought I’d identified which the key tools were that I ought to know about, suddenly all the adverts would start talking about some other technology (Ruby on Rails, Python, Postman, Fromage, Wombat…) (OK, I made those last two up, but I hope you see what I mean.) One potential employer wanted me to learn C# because they’d want me to not only program test instrumentation but actually build the hardware to do that – and despite my telling them regularly that this wasn’t my primary skill, they insisted they were still interested in me – up to the point where they weren’t. I have no idea why they persisted in encouraging me, and equally no idea why their interest waned just as suddenly. But I suspect it may have been some corporate change completely unconnected with my merits for the role that changed the terms of the deal; otherwise I could have found myself carrying on and learning a whole new technology stack.

    So yes, the trick is to have a mindset that embraces the possibility of growth, or learning, or change, or whatever you want to call it. What form that growth will take is unknowable. But you have to be open to it and seize it when it comes along.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou Robert, this is really nice to hear! Especially loved:

      “Yes, I wish I knew more about: systems architecture, network management, coding, testing tools, technologies, toolsets. But I was recruited because my tester’s toolset had something different to the other guys’ toolsets who were already in the company – breadth of experience. The rest, I can learn.”

      This x 💯


  2. This is so encouraging! I remember when I first got hired as a tester and being suddenly overwhelmed by the “technical” side of the job. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.


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