Thinking back to that time, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I did not know that falling for testing was like falling in love.
So I ended up testing Microsoft Access, the database-ish extension to the Office family - in Greek language. As new testers, we were handed out test cases used across multiple languages, and I think my office had four languages to test, Finnish being one of them. Looking back, I went to work whenever I had promised, did whatever was assigned for me, and probably did a decent job in following orders including tracking the work and diligently comparing the English and the Greek versions to identify if there were functional differences to log as bugs. I remember the fear of "QA" which back then meant that some of the senior testers at Microsoft would sample some of our test cases and see if they found problems we missed.
I had a very nice test manager, and as I was generally interested in how programs work, I was allowed to do something called "exploratory testing". I had absolutely no guidance on how to do it. I was just told how many hours I could use on doing whatever I wanted with the application.
Thinking back, I found myself stuck a lot. I had no strategies of how to approach it. I had a database project in mind, so I was basically implementing that stuff, creating some screens. I wasn't particularly diligent in my comparisons to the English version here like with the test cases. I had no ideas of how to think around coverage. With the information I have today, I know I did a bad job. I found no problems. I was handed a blank check and for all I know, I could have used that for just sitting at the coffee table drinking something other than coffee I never learned to enjoy.
Nowadays, if I'm handed a blank check like that (and I regularly am), I pay attention to value that investment provides. I create coverage outlines helping me make sense of what I have covered and realized I could cover. When I feel stuck, I decide on something I will do. I often find myself starting with tutorials or technical help documentation. I select something and figure it out. All of these are things no one told me to do back then.
The pivotal moment between then and now is the time I first time entered a project that had no test cases unless I created some. The change from a passive user of test cases to an active explorer is what sealed the love I still feel for testing.
The book I'm working on (https://leanpub.com/exploratorytesting/) hopes to capture some of the things I wish someone would have taught me when I was new. It builds on the basics to take people closer to testing I do now. That's the vision. Writing it down felt urgent enough to get up in the middle of the night.
Testing is the thing, not testers.