I was perusing the uTest.com blog and came across the interview “Testing the Limits with Lanette Creamer”. Lanette talks about the uncertainty of a pending lay off from her software testing role asking the questions “Who am I if I’m not a tester? Are testing skills relevant in the marketplace? Is talent at finding bugs totally obsolete?”
Earlier this year I found myself in a similar mindset after having been laid off after 12 years in a tester/test management role. Questions circled in my head as well. “Did I stay at one place too long?” “Am I stale and therefore irrelevant in my field?” “What now?”
My first reaction was to find a job, any job and quickly. I applied for just about every position that was available even if I wasn’t sure I’d be happy working for the company. It was panic mode and in hindsight it was not helpful to my mental well-being.
One thing I had going for me was networking. I had been an early adopter of LinkedIn.com and my professional network contact list was fairly large. I could find out more about the companies I was applying to before hitting the submit button by talking to my contacts and making new contacts at that very company.
The other thing that helped was that I knew that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. All those questions about my relevance as a tester needed to be answered. So I started searching for them. I search the Google Tech Talk videos and watched every video that had to do with Software Testing.
I found James Bach’s tech talk and found it very inspiring. He held many of the same beliefs about testing and who a tester is that I did. “And look he’s successful! I can be too.” So sent him an email explaining my situation and asked him for a direction to follow. There’s so much diversity in software testing that I couldn’t possibly study it all before my first job interview. James was very helpful in getting me on my own path and providing me support.
One of the first things he did for me (besides run me through a Test Challenge over Skype!) was introduce me to Matt Heusser who lived in my regional area. The next day I was talking with Matt on the phone about my situation (Matt also set up a Test Challenge for me).
Between the two of them and a bit of time the fear of uncertainty that came with the layoff subsided and I built my “way forward”. I still don’t have a full-time job, but I’ve managed to get work through crowdsourcing companies and other opportunities. I’m not making as much as I was, but I’m making enough to be happy and also to be selective with the companies posting jobs.
So to Lanette and any other software tester who may be in a similar situation I offer this advice. Know who you are. Know that your skills are relevant. Lean on your community for support and direction and make your own direction.
Who am I? I’m a software tester and I’m a damn good one.