New Testers and Awe of “Experts”

I have been doing a lot of interviews in the last year for permanent and consultant testers and one question I always ask is who they follow in blogs or who they have read to learn about and improve their skills as testers. On the rare occasion that the interviewee actually gives me a name or source, I will ask them more about what they have learned from that person. Often, it comes up that I may have met the person at a conference or peer workshop. That’s when things get interesting, because how they react to the idea of actually talking to an “expert” in testing tells me a lot about how they think about themselves as testers and the probability of them becoming a major contributor to the team or an expert themselves.

Some interviewees get the “deer in the headlights” look and become very nervous about talking to someone who has actually TALKED to someone famous. My reaction is usually “This person will need a lot of help to build their confidence before they can become a solid self learner.”

Others keep talking, but then shake their head in amazement or make comments like “the fact that you even know that X doesn’t drink is astounding”. My reaction here is “If I keep exposing them to great resources and talk about them as normal people, perhaps they will reach the point where they start participating in the field and learning on their own.”

When I have talked to some of those “famous” people about this awe, I get a pretty consistent response from them: “I am just a normal person. I don’t want people to be all “OMG” about the fact that I write a /blog/book/present at conferences/.”

So to all of those testers who can’t imagine meeting someone they admire in the field, I’m passing this along not just from my opinion, but from those people. Go to a peer conference, sign up for CAST, or just post responses to their blogs. Let go of your fear and start a conversation. You never know where things will go and you will learn more than you imagine.

3 comments on “New Testers and Awe of “Experts”

  1. I’ve doing this for 2cayears and learn new things all the time. I am still in awe of the’legends’. When I met James Bach at Starwest 2010, I was giddy like a school girl meeting Bruno Mars. But that doesn’t keep me from learning. I spent yesterday learning how to set up a cucumber-jvm / selenium project with maven (where the entire thing was not In one Java file).

    Everybody with a computer can learn these things.

  2. A very valid and excellent blog post.

    Also, very true. They’re just testers like myself and you, I believe that everyone can learn something off of another tester regardless of their experience or standing in the community.

    Finally, twitter is a great tool for communicating with people from any level and for starting up conversations as and when.

  3. When Simon Knight and me did an interview on leadership with James Bach and Michael Bolton, then Michael said something that should take the tension off testers in awe (and I did ask if I could quote him, he didn’t object): “We’re as full of sh*t as anybody.” He said it with reference to Simon (and also me) being anxious about doing the interview, so he reminded us that as testers we’re put into all sorts of intimidating situations, so it’s worth remembering that James and him are human beings.
    There you have it.

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