I was always a good student. Never excellent, but good enough not to get any complaints from home. Not to be misunderstood, it was not only my parents pushing me to have good grades. I liked being a good student, I would just never make any extra effort to become the best one.
My high school years are far behind me and after some time working as a software tester, I came to realize that I was approaching work the same way I was approaching school. I had a collection of techniques that, back then, I was applying unconsciously to minimize the amount of time I would need to spend studying. Here is a short overview of my arsenal of tricks and how I used them in a work context.
Names, dates, locations, numbers
The first thing that any lazy student not wanting to make an extra effort would do, was to learn the “SOS”. The term “SOS” was used to denote anything that was considered important by everybody. Dates and locations of battles, names of generals, number of soldiers in each army. They were trivial, and even though they were too obvious questions for a quiz, it would be too risky not to learn them.
As soon as I started working as a software tester, I considered it to be a good idea to first go over anything that was too obvious to fail. It was quite improbable that somebody would develop a “log in” button that could not be clicked on, but I preferred clicking on it by mouse or keyboard just to be on the safe side.
Once the specifics where out of the way, I focused my attention on the people controlling the exams, the all-powerful teachers.
Each word matters
Every teacher had favourite topics. Even if they wouldn’t say so, it could be hinted by the tone of their voice or the amount of time they spent on a subject. My lazy self would pay attention to identify the material that was close to their hearts and focus on it for the exams while only skimming over the rest of the book.
At work, I replaced the teacher with the product owner or the customer, the studying with testing and the exam with a release. The outcome was to test thoroughly what was perceived important for the stakeholders before we delivered.
My next trick was the jewel on my crown of gimmicks.
Early on I realized that once teachers believed that you were a good student, they stopped questioning you. My approach was to study a bit harder in the beginning of the year to get good grades and establish my good name among the teachers. The rest of the year they would just let me do things on my own pace and comfort.
I found myself doing the same thing when I started working on a testing project. Working hard in the beginning to prove that I was good, made it easy later to convince management of new processes and workflows. After all if our team was delivering a product in good quality, why change a running system?
Of course all good things come to an end. When the time came to take my university entry exam, I’ve realized that with my method I was good in getting good scores only within the confinements of my school environment. To get a passing grade in that exam, I had to study seriously and methodically the entire syllabus.
Nowadays, I try to keep up to date with all the latest developments in the testing world, including techniques and tools that could help me improve my work. There is an abundance of resources from books to online tutorials that can teach us almost anything technical that comes to mind. But I still wonder what other skills we need as testers to make us good at what we do? The incentive for the ones mentioned above was laziness but there must be others, prompted by more noble sentiments. And if there are, how and where do we learn and practice them?