Live Event Recap: A Survival Guide for Testers

Live Event Recap: A Survival Guide for Testers

In our recent community conversation about survival strategies for solo testers, Lisi Hocke and João Proença, share key strategies for helping software quality champions and teams thrive. Read our event recap for understanding your limitations as a solo tester, showing the value of your efforts through quick wins, and how to build a reputation of trust with your teams. 

Listen to the recording here

Proving quick wins to show your value 

In a recent LinkedIn U.S. Workforce Confidence Index Survey of 5,000 respondents, 40% of software quality engineers worried that their employer plans to enact layoffs and budget cuts. We all know the historical challenges of proving our value as software quality champions, and the extra pressure of an uncertain economy, especially as a solo tester, doesn’t help. But are there quick win strategies that solo testers can execute for demonstrating the value of their efforts, and especially when others do not have daily context for your work?

“You have to get creative when showcasing the impact of your testing value,” shares João, and this must include your key naysayers. Maybe you are having others question your impact on the automation suite, but have you stopped to ask team leaders about the time spent on testing manually before automation? This can be helpful for estimating the hours spent per ticket during manual testing, which you can then bring back to the team as the amount of time and resources conserved during the last quarter. With this model, notes João, anyone can understand the business impact of your work as a solo tester even if they have little context. 

Furthermore, as a solo tester, you have to be extra agile and understand shifting priorities in the team and management. As I, the author, always recommend to those I coach (and anyone that will listen) concerned about job security, you must stick to your values, but don’t be the heaviest piece of furniture in the room on a moving day. 

Understanding your limitations as a solo tester

But while proving your value and impact as a solo tester, perhaps this just means that more work is thrown your way. But Lisi asks when have you stopped and written down every task for evaluating the actual value of the task - everything else can wait!

“You want to be clear in your intentions and reasoning with the team, as priorities shift,” shares Lisi, but do not forgo clarity as an expense for expediency. You have to be clear about what you are focusing on, and sometimes that means just focusing on one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. However, your actions and reflective moments to address ways to navigate growing priorities must result in enabling the whole team. Otherwise, what’s the whole point? 

“You can't go after everything,” notes João, “but… it's not as much about talking about the activities that we are doing, but rather the impact and outcome that we are looking for with those activities.”  As solo testers, we must help others on our team understand the why of these testing activities, and reframe automation and exploratory testing activities as not just about efficiency, but also the risks that we are avoiding in these testing efforts together as a team, and as a business serving our customers. 

How to build team trust in your testing efforts 

As testers, we all know the common misconceptions about how quality works or the poor software quality that results from the lack of investment in the first place. But how do you build team trust in your testing efforts and bonus points for helping build back trust in with your teams? 

In situations where trust is the core reason for dysfunctional teams, João notes that you have to first understand the individuals that make up your teams. Start with one-on-one interviews with targeted questions, and as you connect with your developers and team leads, start looking for patterns in the feedback. Getting out of the blame game rework spiral also means addressing the summarized feedback and action plan to address the pressing issues in a team setting. But as Lisi reflects, in this discovery phase, sometimes you have to be careful what you share with others or you will erode the very trust that you were striving to build. 

And you can also inherit broken systems as a new hire, which Lisi happened in a previous situation. But by gathering feedback patterns, noting outliers, and using key insights, she was able to help her team to decide on the most valuable priorities for the team in her first month. Instead of sharing everything, she aligned with a trusted person to have a sounding board and focused on contributing hands-on as quickly as possible to show the team that she could take some of the load and build relationships.

However, when navigating the Happy Meal edition of Game of Thrones, as a solo tester, you still have to understand office politics and forge alliances to help you continue to advance the product quality. This often means getting into those project meetings that you weren’t invited to, shares Lisi, but doing it in a persuasive way. If you heard that a meeting is happening, make a request to join, and are turned away with the typical “We’ll involve testers later” line, get creative and find another way to get your foot in the door.

Sometimes this means getting access to a document and sharing insights in the comments field offline, which can be a real gift, shares Lisi, and an opportunity to demonstrate value without even being in the meeting that you should have been in. Start by identifying the risk that comes with the initiative and offer to facilitate a risk storming session to address the challenges together as a team. This isn’t just about making a seat at the table or building your own stage, but how a whole team approach to quality begins in the first place. 

As solo testers, it becomes increasingly urgent to have conversations earlier with your teams about the impact of your testing efforts, sharing strategies to help mitigate risk of poor software quality, and how to ask the right questions to help your teams produce higher quality products. Together. 

💡 If you want to join me and these incredible speakers at Agile Testing Days USA this year, make sure to use my 20% discount code Tristan_20, to be added at the last step of your registration.


About Tristan Lombard


Tristan believes in bringing value to organizations by building inclusive online communities, transforming rising engineers into software quality stars, and creating continuous opportunities for his customers to impact the product roadmap. Tristan has held past leadership experience building global community programs at Provar, Testim and Sauce Labs. Tristan graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA and a Masters at Columbia University.