As testers, we have opted into working in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving. I knew that, and I did nothing about it for a long time. When I blog about BBST or WeekendTesting, I get a sense of déjà vu, because I learned about them several years ago but never got around to doing them. So when I write about how I enjoy them and how helpful they are, I laugh a bit thinking what took me so long to do them. It’s because I never budgeted them into my life.
The expectation that you need to be continuously learning, growing and staying at least relatively up to speed with changes and trends in the software world is not unique to developers. It applies to testers as well, and it’s not just out of a place of fear of losing your job. As testers are increasingly embedded on on cross functional teams, we are involved earlier and get a chance to exert more influence in design and technical decisions. With that access comes the responsibility to have an informed opinion.
This may tie into your 2016 resolutions and that’s great, setting goals for the year will help you grow to be a better tester. In fact if you haven’t set some goals for the year related to your craft that’s something you should probably consider.
So lets show we’re shift into action by dedicating some resources…
If you don’t dedicate time for a project it will never get done.
We don’t all have 20% Time at work where we can pursue our own interests. I bet you could carve out a one or two 25 minute windows to dedicate to a work or semi-work related task that is in line with your growth goals.
If you are wondering why they are specifically 25 minute sessions, it’s the Pomodoro Technique nd you can read more about it in my A Time To Test post. I carve out the first window in the morning and scan a few different blog collection sites for topics that look promising. I open each link in a separate tab and leave them up throughout the day. Then I use the remainder of the time to read what I can. If any podcasts links sound good I save those to listen to throughout the day.
Then later in the afternoon, for the second session I just loop back to the tabs I have left and read what I can. So far it’s been really useful.
On Your Own Time
Finding time that you can consistently and sustainable devote to your goals can be hard. After all we don’t want to have this turn out like so many well-intentioned gym memberships end up…
So you’ve found the time, what about the money… There’s no getting around it some of your goals will involve spending money.
You must spend money to make money. – Plautus
This is actually a tough one me, taking money that I earned and spending it on work related things felt a bit like taking a pay cut. What has helped me was something I read in the book Soft Skills, that suggested you think of yourself as a business. You might only have a single client (your current employer) but it frames things nicely. You hear businesses all the time “reinvesting” profit to grow, and it’s no different.
It doesn’t mean you need to fork over all the money yourself either, businesses have investors to help them grow. Consider talking to your boss about your goals, they might be happy to assist, the company may even have dedicated resources. Or they might sponsor your learning so you can share it with your team.
Your goal might be to read so many testing or development related books this year. Problem is some of those books aren’t cheap, so if you want to read 6 books a year you could be out of pocket several hundred dollars.
So many testing books are written by community members, so you get really good content and help directly support the authors creating more content. Leanpub is also really good resource, since many books have free or low cost ebook versions.
Consider the time you need to dedicate since books on a shelf won’t help you, then get a book budget so finances won’t inhibit your progress.
Classes & Training & Conferences
A certificate, degree or conference trip might be high on your list, or it may even be one of your on the job goals. Structured learning is useful since it doesn’t solely rely on your personal willpower to accomplish. Dedicated time is usually included understood when you sign up. The barrier is usually financial, this is a good place to look to your employer for corporate sponsorship. If that isn’t an option, you’ll never be able to get started if you don’t plan first. Consider breaking your goal down into a funding phase, and learning phase but at least start doing the planning and understanding what is really necessary to accomplish the task.
Stick To What You Can Afford
If it’s something you truly can’t afford either in time or money, change your goal. You need attainable goals, that allow you to build momentum towards bigger endeavors. Leaving goals that you can’t make progress on will just weigh you down.
If you need sponsorship to make progress, maybe your fist goal is to find a company that values investing in their employees and work towards being a member of that team.
Personal projects will fail just like software projects will fail if there isn’t good vision, planning and execution. Budgeting is just a part of that process. As testers we see our fair share of process problems, so approach your goals through that lense and use your insight to empower yourself.