Advocate With Confidence

As testers, we are the champions of bugs. However, how often than not have we had to convince developers and other project stakeholders that a bug is a bug!! There are courses, books and blogs that teach us how to write effective bug reports and tactfully convey defects to stakeholders. Bug advocacy is a persuasive exercise where we have to sell our findings, sometimes in the form of an unwelcome news or at the expense of pointing out someone else’s mistake. As professional skilled testers, we know to stick to the facts and keep it neutral. However, sometimes the challenge is in having the courage and confidence to stand by our reasoning. A lot of the time, it’s the loudest and most opinionated people that get heard even though they may not necessarily have the right or only solution. When working with dominant personalities, it can be easy to start doubting our own voice which stands in the way of it being heard.

If we arm ourselves with the confidence to trust our instincts and believe our abilities, we are better equipped at standing a firm ground and not let others sway us easily. After all, in the case of bug advocacy, we have tested the system thoroughly and we know we are one of the most knowledgeable person in that area. However, to have that firm belief in ourselves requires a deep self-awareness and being truly comfortable with who we are.

We’ve all heard of the quote, ‘fake it till you make it” which is a wise old saying advising people to exude feigned confidence until they start to become it. Unfortunately, pretending to be something that we’re not is difficult and takes up a lot of our energy. We are at risk of coming across as disingenuous as we’re not allowed be our authentic self. Building and maintaining credibility is important in bug advocacy. To have credibility, we need to first have trust, and to have trust, not only do we need to prove that we’re capable, we also need to display genuineness so that others feel confident to rely on us. So instead of putting our energy into pretending, why not shift our focus and transfer that energy into developing and growing our confidence. In this article, we’d look at three ways that will help increase our confidence, whether it’s for advocating bugs or advocating for other worthy causes.

1) Surround yourself with good people and be one of them

How we feel about ourselves should come from within. Unfortunately, that’s harder said than done and external triggers tend to have a stronger influence on the way we feel. We seek validations from people around us and the media tells us who we should be. We feel the pressure to be someone else and when we don’t meet that expectation, it can feel like we have failed, knocking away at our confidence.

We might not have much control over what the media portrays to us but fortunately, we can choose the people that have an influence over us. So be selective and smart in who you let into your inner circle. Find the right people around you that allows you to be yourself. Think about who are these people at work, in your social group, your friends and family and find support and guidance in this group of people. There is a lot of people in the world. Statistically speaking, there will always be people out there ready to criticize your every action but equally there will also be people out there wanting and willing to support you. So if you arm yourself with a strong network of supportive friends, it is harder for the other half of the population to knock you down.

Humans are reciprocal creatures and if you let go of your own judgments and start to get to know people, you’d find there’s a whole web of interesting people outside your network. Don’t limit yourself to your existing group of friends, try something different and be open to meeting new people. As you weave and welcome more diversity into your inner circle, you’d find there’s less pressure to conform and you’d feel more confident in your own skin.

2) Learn, up-skill and work on your weaknesses

This really is a no-brainer. Without a doubt competency is closely correlated to our confidence. As a person gains more experience and becomes more skilled in a particular area, their level of confidence also increases in that area. The only catch is that experience requires time and up-skilling requires a lot of effort – and there is no short-cut.

The good news is that it does get easier. Once we learn and gain expertise in an area, the next time we learn a new thing in another related area, it would require less effort. Remember your very first testing project where everything was new! The subject matter, the business processes, the testing principles and not to forget, learning the names of all the people on the project. In your second project, there would have been new learning’s but you would have learned a lot faster as many of the skills would have been transferable from your last project. This applies to everything you do and as you collect more experience and skills, you have more tools and tricks to recall upon the next time you are faced with a new learning opportunity.

So learn as much as you can and master everything that you do, be it the system you’re testing or a skill that you’re wanting to develop. Be open to opportunities that allow you to up-skill or allow you to add something new and different into your special skills tool-kit; whether it’s attending training’s and conferences, attending local meet-ups or joining a new club. Even attending your own company’s social events could help you learn new skills or open you up to new experiences – You never know when or what could be just around the corner. The internet too hosts information at your fingertips, all you have to do is look and learn.

It’s a universal truth that we’re different. When we’re all different, we also have different areas of strengths and unfortunately different areas of weaknesses. Strengths make us stronger but weaknesses breed insecurities. So ask yourself what they are and work at it. When we get better at a skill that we’re already good at, it’s easy to become arrogant. But if we master a skill that we’re not so good at, we have to put in more work. We feel a greater sense of achievement and this increases our confidence to set and meet the next un-achievable goal.

3) Say yes and don’t be afraid to own up to mistakes

We’ve established that new experiences give us the opportunity to hone new skills and make us more confident individuals. However, we often miss out on the opportunities because we feel we don’t have the right skills or think the task is insurmountable. This is tragic because we’ll never find out if we don’t try and we may lose out on developing new set of skills and meeting new people who can help us learn.

There’s a few things that we can do to help us put our hands up for new opportunities. Firstly, don’t over analyze and just do it. When we over-think, it’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing something as we start thinking about the consequences of when things go wrong. We see the possibility of failure and lose our courage to pursue the task.

Secondly, it’s important to know that nothing ever goes according to plan. More than likely, something is bound to go wrong and tell yourself that this is not a failure. It’s how we handle the unexpected that dictates how successful we are. It’s also very easy to magnify a mistake in our eyes when most of the time, it goes unnoticed.

Additionally, not being afraid to own up to our mistakes if/when things do go terribly wrong will give us the courage to embrace challenges. Next time when there is a bug that requires to be advocated, be confident and stand your ground. If the result turns out to be an error on our part, own up to it with confidence! There is no shame in making an error.

However, it doesn’t matter whether we’re testing or doing something different, confidence can dictate our actions. So pick the right people in your life that can boost your self-confidence and give you the sense of security to let your personality shine through. Continuously work on developing and up-skilling so that we always have a pool of shiny tools to pull from. Lastly, open yourself up to opportunities so that we can develop the skills and be the confident person that we want to be.

There’s a saying ‘The rich become richer’ and just like confidence, the more challenges we overcome, the more confident we become to try out new opportunities. Happy learning.

About the Author

Alice Chu graduated with a degree in Engineering and landed her first job in testing. She has found the skills she gained from her training very beneficial to her role – a desire to understand how things work and asking why. Passionate about continuous improvement, Alice is interested in all areas of testing which can help projects run better and empower testers. You can find her tweets @ecilauhc.


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