Stress-testing: How testers Live in a Turbulent World of Bugs

Since 2005, I have been in QA. I have been in QA for about 5 years. I’ve worked at a variety of companies, and risen from a junior to a QA Lead. Over the years, I have been closely monitoring the mental health of my coworkers and my own team.

I created a custom style of interaction with employees: a small team format, frequent meetups with colleagues, responsibility-sharing, skill-based team recruitment, and different people with different backgrounds contributing to a single goal. I was able to identify weaknesses and provide training to eliminate them. I also developed strengths and fought for employees’ bonuses.

Innotech was the first company I worked for. I began my research on stress and QA professionals. So I am eager to share my findings and offer tips for reducing stress and tension at work.

Who is that, your stress?

Stress can disrupt human activity and cause a number of psycho-emotional disorders as well as psychosomatic illnesses. It also reduces your life expectancy.

After the pandemic, I began to think about stress. What was my stress level? Did I feel too anxious about the release of the bug? How did I feel about a missing bug? Perhaps QA wasn’t for me? This was a critical moment. My family suffered because I was always under stress. I felt unsuited for my job and out of place. It felt like I was being given low-priority tasks.

I realized that I wasn’t communicating often with QA specialists, and I was not aware of the “market environment”. I found QA communities online, and began to read their discussions. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was dealing with these issues. Many people also experience stress. I then came up with an idea to categorize stress with a particular focus on the impact it has on the QA community. This meant that stress was not viewed psychologically, but rather in a more narrow sense: what QA specialists feel and the type of stress they experience.

As a QA Lead, it was a great opportunity to have one-on-one meetings with employees and to observe them in close contact. We could discuss successes and failures as well as the perks that come with being in a particular position. I was able take a step back to evaluate the performance of both employees and their personalities. True to their words, QA Leads are among the most difficult jobs in this field. Monitoring the employees and product is a must. If you have all the Lego pieces needed to maintain Quality Assurance, it is possible.

Factors

After a time in which I interviewed employees and talked to QA specialists, I came up with a few key concepts and stress categories.

QA specialists state that the main stress factors are failure to meet release deadlines and long work hours. They also mention insufficient or excessive documentation, inadequate feedback from colleagues, insufficient unit tests, lack from developers, a lack of feedback from them, low quality hardware, a feeling of worthlessness, a lack of team spirit, a lack of prospects, being called “underdevelopers”, changing requirements, accountability for uncertainty, risks, and risk. There are many other factors that can cause stress, but almost all employees have listed the above.

These factors were broken down into different types:

  1. Fear factors
  2. financial factors;
  3. Uncertainty factors
  4. Negative outlook factors.

Fear factor refers to fear of management, lack of prospects and fear of losing control. Fear of incompetence is another fear. This category also includes a lack of team spirit.

A lack of high-tech equipment and a dissatisfaction about the salary are two examples of financial factors.

The uncertainty element refers to an inability to see “the whole picture” of product design.

The biggest and most powerful enemy is. This includes everything, from changing requirements during the development process to feeling worthless and failing to meet release deadlines from both the business and the development teams.

Stress management in QA

Let’s now discuss each stress factor individually, having defined them.

Fear factor

This stress factor is nearly the least harmful. It is easy to neutralize this stress factor by taking a moment to reflect and stop.

The absence of prospects is only in your head: The IT industry is growing at an incredible pace. There’s always a demand for developers, but also for testers. A large QA department is a must for leading companies. As a result, testers cannot be replaced by automated and AI-based tests. They must have a human vision. You will always find work and be in demand as a specialist.

Fear of management, business: Bugs have existed since inception and will continue to exist long after testing is complete (though I hope that there will be less). You need to be able to maintain a good work schedule and explain when testing is necessary or not. You will find other rewarding jobs that require your skills.

Financial factor

A poor hardware is another important stress factor. Every specialist wants to use the best equipment for their work, and testers are no exception. Your computer or laptop can be used for eight hours. You should pay attention to the hardware you choose. It is crucial to consider the specifications of your screen. This will help you avoid eye fatigue. You need to ensure sufficient performance speed. Observing lags or freezes during the workday and stressing about it is not what you want. If your manager has not provided hardware for an employee, you should contact them to inform them. Good hardware will make work more fun and help you to keep your nerves in check.

Low Salary: To eliminate stress, you must be persistent. Participate in interviews, observe the market, understand the requirements, and engage in self-development to find what you love. Many people start looking for work when they are already in dire situations and have no choice but to leave their current job. You should not only attend interviews if you are looking to leave your job, but also to learn about the market and what is available. You might be more knowledgeable than you are paid. You are no longer at the junior level, but at a higher grade.

Interviews can be a source of stress for some people. You can look at it from a different perspective. You will gain more experience the more interviews you do. After eight interviews, you’ll realize that the requirements are nearly identical everywhere and that most interviews follow a similar pattern. This will allow you to predict how the interview will end. It is important to remember that interviewers are not only you being interviewed but also the person being interviewed. You might think you can handle everything beforehand, if you get the job. You are not only looking for the position, but the employer also needs you. There is a shortage of specialists on the market. A QA specialist can make more than a developer if they are in the right job.

Uncertainty factor

It is important to realize that you cannot control all aspects of work processes.

There is no clear and transparent release cycle. can obtain a specific release schedule. With the help of your IT Lead and team leader, plan your delivery together. All members of the team should know when the product must be delivered.

We do it this way: Every Wednesday, we release from 7 to 9 PM. In the future, we plan to have a bi-weekly release cycle. Each participant in the process is informed about the version and microservices required to be supplied.

Inadequacy of documentation: Mark all your jobs on the task lists, and note all job changes. If you’re required to do a job, make sure you create a task that includes the job number. You don’t need to keep track of the tasks or know the status of your job. You won’t need to tell the whole story to transfer the job to another participant in development. Everything will be documented. Remember that not all jobs are the same. There are many Jira relationships. You can create parent relationships or indicate that the task is a problem.

Jira is our preferred tool. Jira is the most versatile and classic tool. Jira is my favorite tool.

Too much trust in memory: keep all product information. You should not keep artifacts in your head. You can create revision jobs for documentation and do revisions on your own. This will save you time and help your colleagues. Secure documentation.

Innotech analysts work closely with QA specialists to maintain the documentation and make any necessary modifications. All documentation is tracked using Confluence. This is a classic, excellent tool.

Do not ignore cutting-edge solutions. Use logging systems to visualise your processes. Do not respond to system problems by saying, “Well, I noticed an error there, now find it. No one knows where.” Ask for logs, gather data, and use amazing technologies. People who claim FinTech development is too complicated are wrong. It becomes much more perceptible when you can see it with your own eyes. Your threshold for being aware of the happenings in your world is significantly lower.

The following visualisation and logging systems are used: Apache Kafka (Kibana), Red Hat OpenShift (Red Hat OpenShift), Camunda. We also visit Oracle, PostgreSQL and other database management systems (I use them via DBeaver). API can be accessed via Swagger and Postman. These are tools and services that I use only as QA specialists.

Multitasking Prioritize tests and tasks, pick the most critical. Ask your manager to choose the most important functionality. Understand product interdependences. Testers often overcommit and only test the most important features. It is impossible to test everything. It is not worth spending 12 to 14 hours a day trying to test everything. Use test design techniques to analyse the results and draw conclusions. Use less “monkey testing” and think more. Manual QA is an invaluable resource. The amazing human brain cannot be replaced by an automated testing system.

Together with the QA Lead, analyst and team leader, we prioritize tests for QA specialists.

Negative outlook

The team’s “maturity,” in this context, is very important. QA specialists are often viewed in the development environment as fully-fledged development team members, even though they have different skills. You can perform different tasks depending on your competence and role within the team.

If you are unable to obtain developer feedback and you DM them unambiguously with no effect, it is a red flag that the employee is not a team player and will not help to ensure the feature gets deployed to production.

Modifying requirements: Any change made by a business to its requirements will require adjustments, which may include adjusting the project deadlines. These terms cannot always be agreed on with the development team. To ensure that deadlines can be met, it is important to keep track of any changes in the documentation.

QA specialists are not often involved in the evaluation of labor input for a task. Your team must understand that testers have their own vision of the product. This can often be very different from the view of developers or managers. Testing is a process that takes time. Be open about labour input and justify your time. It is not acceptable to allocate most resources to development and then give “all that remains” for testing. This is a major management error. Your Lead should discuss this. They are responsible for fighting for your time and your rights.

Working long hours is a problem for management or personal issues. People who procrastinate when they work remotely and complete everything at the last moment, failing to deliver their product on time, are common. Respect for the team is important. Not leaving your desk at night and putting off a task for tomorrow is not a wise decision. To receive “benefits”, you should establish priorities and ask for a response when you are required to work long hours. This is clearly a management error. Overtime becomes the norm and not an exception. While the tasks and requirements they are assigned grow day by day, the number of QA team members can stay stable for months or even years. You might suggest that your QA Lead or manager recruit another employee to ensure proper time distribution.

It is important to assess your capabilities and situation when you are a trainee. You may have the same requirements as a regular employee. It is important to realize that you may only show a third of your true performance during your education period due to your insufficient knowledge of processes. Do not let this make you feel depressed. Your team and you must both understand that this time your value is increasing, which is good for your company’s human resources and for your employees. It is important to note that company-sponsored training is frequently mentioned in recruitment. This is not a trite statement. It is important to analyze and make the most of your offer. The employer should state this in the job description. They should also be able to provide such services and fully appreciate your desire and need for training.

I have seen companies delay providing code for testing.You need to meet with the team and the developer, determine the time needed for testing, and then provide it. You should also leave enough space for the developer so that they can take appropriate action.

Notifying your manager ahead of time if you are unsure if you can complete the tasks in the given timeframe is a good idea.

Keep your focus on routine and manual tasks. Automate as much as you can. Do not dive into tons of checks. All team members should be involved in automating your tasks. Unit tests are preferred for your product.

Our QA team uses an automated testing system: Java on Spring Boot basis to test backend requests and Vue.js to test frontend requests. We have system improvement tasks that we set and keep a backlog, which analysts use to prioritize. Our proprietary utilities are also used to reconcile product strategy.

Remember to keep in mind that not everything has to stay the same. Learn how to make arrangements, change processes and defend your views.

General tips

After addressing specific tips for stress prevention, let’s move onto general ones that are applicable to both QA and other specialists.

Enjoy good sleep and a healthy lifestyle

Take breaks. Walk, play sports, and move your body. Innotech offers compensation for activities that you do in the cafeteria plan. The company will reimburse you if you buy a bicycle, for example.

Employees can also get traditional voluntary health insurance, including dental services. You can access psychological support without restrictions. It was a trial for me, and I have continued to attend since. I feel much more confident now.

You don’t have to be a sportsperson. It’s possible to get so tired that neither jogging nor gym will do the trick. All they want is to relax. This is where hobbies such as reading, art, or gaming come in. Some hobbies that are meditative include knitting, calligraphy and collecting puzzles or Lego. Many people still collect Lego even though they are forty.

You can make friends and cope with stress by reading a book. Art is always there to help: you can write poetry or get a canvas and paints to create a painting. Why not?

You can also experience art by visiting a museum, a theater, or a concert. Check out which exhibits are currently open in your area. Maybe there’s a new play at the theatre. Perhaps a club has a concert on the weekend.

It can be very beneficial to combat stress by playing games. Board games, for example, are becoming increasingly popular. Monopoly is a great game to play with family, friends and colleagues. You will learn a lot about yourself, and your team will be closer. You can also discuss work issues during the game. The discussion will be easier and more efficient this way than on a Friday night Zoom call.

You can work from home, which is a great reason to get a pet, or find your soulmate. Maybe fish? There are also cats and dogs that you can choose from. Some people even get goats!

A dog is an excellent choice. You can organize your day by having a dog. Take the dog for a walk, feed it and then go to bed. You can train, go to dog festivals, or SUP-surf.

Value your time

When your brain is ready to handle large workloads and when you are most focused, start work early. All people have the same biological rhythms or circadian rhythms.

Keep track of how much time you waste on travel and calls that are not necessary to document your trip. You could use it for something more lucrative.

Innotech allows you to work remotely from anywhere in Russia. Although my team is spread across different cities, it doesn’t stop us from working together when we need. It is very easy for me to work at 9 a.m.

Lift your head and take a look at what you are doing

QA specialists are constantly inundated by bugs. Look a little higher. You are creating an amazing product. You are contributing to the process slowly but surely. Everything is possible as long as you are willing to work hard. You might release less, but you’ll still achieve everything with time.

Take a look around. Your life is a product that you are working on. Identify, classify, and describe them. Then, set your priorities. This will help you to see what is hindering your work and life.

Let me conclude.

Every job has stress. It is important to minimize stress whenever you can. Many of these stress factors can be eliminated by you or your manager, as well as your colleagues. You create your living and work environments. Don’t be afraid to make it comfortable and convenient.

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