Can one blog about something that isn’t corona virus related at this time? This is affecting us all in so many ways. I’m thankful though that I have a job that makes it easy to work from home. The company I work at is also in an industry that will likely benefit from this as we enable online education which is kind of a big thing right now. So as someone who does not have to worry about their job and income and who is at an age where the impact of the virus is unlikely to be serious if I was to get it, I feel blessed.
I have always worked from home on a regular basis (usually 1 or 2 times a week), and so the transition to full time working from home hasn’t been too difficult for me. My wife and I also started homeschooling our kids just this year, so that also hasn’t been too big of an adjustment for us either. I think the biggest thing this pandemic has given me is some perspective. When everything changes you realize what things you might have been taking for granted. Full time remote work is different than going into the office to regularly have face to face contact with your coworkers. As a team we are all working on ways to stay connected and have effective communication in a world where we can’t just pop our heads over the cubicle wall and chat.
What does one do as software tester in this world? How do you work effectively in a fully remote environment? There are a few things I have been thinking about and working on at this time. One important thing (probably for all remote workers) is organization and discipline. There are different kinds of distractions when you work from home. Your family, your pets, even your housework all distract in different ways than your co-workers. You may need to have conversations with kids and your spouse about how to protect your time so that you have the ability to dive deep on your testing sometimes.
I think organization is another important factor to consider. There may be some built in accountability at work where your co-workers or boss can see what you are doing when they walk past your desk. At home you may need to watch your schedule more and make sure you aren’t spending too much time reading the latest news about the virus (it’s probably not a healthy thing to spend too much time reading about anyways).
There are also less clearly defined lines between work life and family life when you work from home, so set some boundaries for yourself that way too. You may have needed to talk to your kids about boundaries while you are working, but don’t forget to set boundaries for when you are not working too. Just because your computer is only 5 feet away in your office, doesn’t mean you need to go do some work at 8 pm. Give yourself and your family some uninterrupted time
Those items above are probably general to anyone working from home. As a tester are there any particular challenges? One thing that may be a challenge is access to your test lab or test devices. This might be the time to investigate Sauce Labs or CrossBrowserTesting or similar services as options to get access to the devices that you need. Another challenge testers may face is in communicating with developers about issues. I will often go over to a developer’s desk to discuss, debug or demonstrate an issue I’ve found. This can be more difficult when working remotely, but certainly using tools like zoom or google hangouts to do these things virtually helps a lot.
I also firmly believe that quality is a team sport. When working from home, testers need to remember that we aren’t working off on our own, finding bugs and throwing them over the wall at the developers. I think as an industry we have been making positive strides towards integrating quality into the entire development life cycle. Let’s not let this set us back to a mindset of developers develop and then give to testers who find all the bugs and give it back to developers. This kind of ping-pong approach of bouncing things back and forth over the wall between test and dev is not an effective way to create high quality software. Quality is a team sport and so in times of ‘isolation’ we need to stay connected as teams to ensure we are focused on this together.
Talk about testing and quality as a team. Meet with developers to talk about things to consider for stories they are working on. Pair up with developers to help grow quality skills throughout the team. Stay involved in design and story definition meetings. Keep working on having quality thinking permeate the entire development process. Working as teams remotely can be challenging, but stay focused on ensuring that you are indeed working as part of a team.
Take care of yourself in these crazy times in which we live, and happy testing!