Staying Motivated as a Tester

In one of my past YouTube videos, someone asked me to create a video on staying motivated as a tester. To be honest, I don’t really have the energy to create a video, but I do enjoy writing, so here are my thoughts on the topic! (Maybe I’ll create a video on this when I have a bit more energy!)

Past Struggles With Motivation

Since I started my testing career over 10 years ago, I’ve had phases where I have struggled with motivation. Sometimes, I’d be sitting at my desk thinking “what’s the point in testing this, not like they’ll listen to what I say anyway?”

I’ve also struggled because I’ve been in environments where testing or QA, as a career, has been looked down upon. Testing would be looked at as some sort of lesser activity that monkeys can do. So then here I would be thinking, why am I dedicating myself to something that apparently someone off the street can do just as easily?

The idea that “anyone can test” was something I used to find insulting.

Until I realised that the idea was incomplete:

Anyone can test, but not anyone can test well.

Motivation Ebbs and Flows

I’m not going to pretend I’m always super motivated as a tester. Some weeks I’m super interested in learning and trying to be the best tester I can be, other weeks it’s just a job.

Overall though, I think I’ve generally been a motivated tester.

Let’s go a bit into motivation shall we?

Finding Motivation - Extrinsic Motivation

One of the most obvious ways of finding motivation is through extrinsic motivation.

According to VeryWell Mind:

“Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards. These rewards can be tangible, such as money or grades, or intangible, such as praise or fame. Unlike intrinsic motivation, which arises from within the individual, extrinsic motivation is focused purely on outside rewards.”

At work, this has often come in the form of an annual performance review. Sometimes I would get feedback from my boss every now and then but for the past 7 years I’ve only had 1on1s with my boss like 2-3x a year, so I wasn’t getting that sort of feedback frequently.

I would hear from people in my team how much they appreciated my work and how much they liked working with me, but I’ve done my best to not rely too much on extrinsic motivation because I feel like I don’t really control it.

Yes, I can control whether or not I do a good job.

No, I can’t control whether or not others notice that I am doing a good job.

While I do have a degree of influence in having people notice I am doing a good job, i.e. by telling people what I’m doing, I guess it’s up to them to decide whether or not what I am doing meets their definition of “good”.

Therefore, I think it’s risky to rely on external validation to stay motivated, which leads me to…

Intrinsic Motivation is the Secret Sauce

According to Verywell Mind:

“Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within because it is naturally satisfying to you.”

For me, the best way to get to this point has been through going to conferences, in person. (While online conferences helps to an extent, I have found in-person ones to be a lot more effective in helping me find any lost motivation.)

One thing I have really appreciated about going to conferences is that they tend to attract people who are also interested in learning and want to become better testers - that attitude then rubs off on me. I may walk into a conference feeling all “oh, why am I in testing?” then I walk out all “ah yes, I just needed a reminder!”

I’m someone who gets influenced by people around me (and I doubt I’m particularly special in that regard). If I’m working with people who don’t value testing and/or testers highly, then it’s no surprise that affects motivation. Same goes with finding motivation when I’m surrounded by inspiring people at conferences.

These days though, I have no intention of relying on attending conferences in-person to stay motivated. While I do like meeting people, I don’t want to spend more nights than necessary away from my wonderful children.

Being part of the testing community online has been a great help here, through this blog, being active on Twitter etc. There are heaps of passionate people online who are keen to share their knowledge, who you can bounce ideas off.

Another aspect of intrinsic motivation that comes into play here, is that I really enjoy learning. In one of my talks, Invest in Yourself, I talk about the fact that I like the fact I am a better tester, because I invest in myself (than the tester I would be if I did not invest in myself).

It’s not always obvious in the day to day that I’m learning new things, but then I take a step back and reflect - it’s nice to think about what I can do now compared to a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

Can you relate?

If you’re reading this, and you’re struggling with motivation, I suggest you look at your environment.

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you towards your objective.

While there are some aspects of our environment you have more control of, than others, I think seeking out like-minded people can help with motivation.