Many testers have chosen to make their jobs stressful by taking on more responsibilities than they should, obscuring their skills with those of others on their teams. Choosing to make your job less stressful will not only help you enjoy testing, it will also allow you to focus on testing, and improve your standing as a test leader. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years…

  • When people ask me “Did you QA Certify this for production?”, I remind them the question of when to ship is a business decision, but I can tell them much of what they need to know (e.g., how it currently works under certain conditions, what bugs exist) to make that business decision.
  • When I hear users complain about the product not working for them due to the way it was designed, I feel empathy for the users….then I remind myself that I never tell BAs/devs how to build the product or what it should do.
  • When I’m faced with really scary technical things to test, I turn to my team. I only have to look stupid to the first person I talk to, because by the time I get to the second person, at least I have what I learned from the first. As I continue to share my test ideas, they gradually change from lame to sophisticated. Soon, I realize everybody else on my team was just as confused as I was.
  • Crunch time. I expect it. I chillax at the beginning of an iteration and work harder/longer towards the end. I maintain my work/life balance by keeping my personal calendar free right before and after a production release. Working late with other team members is often just as fun as spending a quiet evening at home with my wife (don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog).
  • Too much to test! Too little time! This one still stresses me out on occasion. But when I’m thinking rationally, I pose the question to my BAs, “I have 2 days left, would you prefer I test these new features or focus on regression testing?”. It trains them to respect my schedule and understand that it is finite. It also shows that I respect their business sense and value their opinion.
  • Your product went live and the quality sucks. Okay, you can feel somewhat guilty...along with your devs and BAs. But remember, you didn’t code or design it. Quality can only be added by the programmers (e.g., if you have no code, you have no quality.). If it sucks now, just think about how much it would have sucked before those 471 bugs you caught!
What things do you do to make testing less stressful and maintain your sanity?


  1. Jesper L. Ottosen said...

    Thank you for reminding!
    I've tweeted a link to it :-)

  2. Unknown said...

    Exellent advice. I've printed your blog and pinned it up on my wall.

  3. Bob Jones said...

    I disagree. I encourage my team to take a more expansive interpretation of their roles. As agile testers, I want us all to take full ownership (along with every member of the team) during the whole project. For example, we are fully vested members of the team who do have say to shape the product. We do influence the product owners and programmers. We own the success or failure of the project.
    I get what you are saying about not letting it eat you up, but I would also not want any test team member to use the "it's not my job" mentality to excuse a failed project.

  4. Mugen said...

    This is one of the best articles I've read in the last few weeks. Thank you very much. Just reading it itself helps me ease of stress - knowing that there are others like me who get stressed out even though we are in testing.
    For the love of God someone please write more stuff like this that talks about testers getting burned out. I came to this profession because I was stressed out by the dev job.

  5. Eric Jacobson said...

    Bob, thanks for the comments. I agree with what you're saying. You're mainly talking about my first 2 and last bullets I think.

    The decision of when to ship? You would say it is up the team. I would say it should not be left to the tester. Same thing? If the tester can influence the stakeholder's decision by providing test results, then I think we agree.

  6. Henrik Andersson said...

    I read your blog and wrote a reply on my blog.

    Don't just stand there and take the shit that hits the fan. If you read my blog, you will know what I mean.

    Br Henrik

  7. Unknown said...

    Excellent advise.
    Thanks for sharing it with all of us!
    At the same time i would really appreciate if my boss understands the same thing as he has no idea whats going on with him.

    email me if you have any suggestions.

  8. Simon Ejsing said...

    I like your post a lot, but am I the only one that find your statement to be contradictory?
    "I maintain my work/life balance by keeping my personal calendar free right before and after a production release"

    To me this more or less reads, I ignore my personal life around releases. Not much of a balance?

    Author of Applied Model Based Testing:

  9. Eric Jacobson said...

    Simon, good point. I didn't explain that well. "I maintain my work/life balance by keeping my personal calendar free right before and after a production release".

    What I meant is that I don't schedule personal activities during predictable work crunch times. This allows me to relax because if I need to work extra, I know I can. One of the most stressful things is trying to rush to finish work because you have to make it to the R.E.M. show on time. I guess you're right. This is not balance. This is planned unbalance.

  10. Itaz Document said...

    I do think testing requires to have an open agenda, it helps us know and understand our product better, especially the deficiencies. It creates credibility for the customer.

  11. Dimuthu Basnayake said...

    "Working late with other team members is often just as fun as spending a quiet evening at home with my wife (don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog)"

    I disagree with this. I like to spend my free time with my family. Career is not your entire life..

  12. Steve said...

    The only problem here is that it's difficult to schedule your personal time around crunch times when release dates do and often change (especially in a non Agile world).

  13. Steve said...

    I find it hard to plan my personal life around release dates that usually change (especially in a non-Agile testing environment).

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