Wednesday, March 2, 2016

From identity to skill sets

A little over a year ago, I had a discussion on twitter that I look back to realizing I've made yet another 180 degree turn on my perceptions. I had a discussion with my co-creator for the European Testing Conference, Adi Bolboaca, a software craftsman on the topic of "testers are developers too". I remember very specifically responding in twitter and in following face to face discussions that for me being a tester is my identity. It tells me where I came from. It tells me what I'm good at. And it tells me how I'm special, after all the years of hard work on learning to become better at it every day - a job that never ends though.

Then various things happened. I started reading more about mindsets and went back to listen to the brilliant talk by Linda Rising that we also invited for European Testing Conference. I started to realize that what I really want to be about is learning, not testing. I've always considered testing to be learning, and that my focus on interests has been from value and business and systems, not the details of the code.

But when you've been learning every day for 20 years, limiting your learning becomes an idea that is no longer a necessity. As a new tester, I really needed all of my energy in learning about how to model the value, how to identify bugs and how to put the best of me together for any single day to produce useful results. As a seasoned tester, some things I've practiced atrophy, but others are almost muscle memory, things I have to think hard to even explain. And I have room for new skills areas.

This all leads into a discussion with a friend on identity vs. skill sets. Think of firemen. Being a fireman could be an identity. In the past, there was a bigger demand for firemen, but things have changed. There's early detection systems, sprinkler systems and the sort. Firemen wait to do the thing they exist for. There's even firemen who say they hope that there would be more fires, so that there would be more to do. More within that specific skill set.

When your entire identity is wrapped around a certain skill set, you want the need of that skill set to exist, whether is good or bad. If you expand your skill sets and find ways to be useful in a bigger scale, you're no longer dependent on your specific skill set being in demand.

Sounds a lot like what I've been going through as a tester. From identity to expanded skill sets. I'm still a brilliant tester. I'm also accepting that I'm just as good product manager, project manager and agile coach. And becoming just as good a programmer. One day at a time, learning every day, like before.