How to maximize your time as a tester
Being a test engineer is not an easy task. You need to keep up with the pace of the incoming stories to test, regression tests to execute, you need to speak with the developers, write test scripts etc. A modern tester needs to maximize her/his time in order to ensure that the high quality product will be delivered on time. Here are a few tips that can help you in organizing your day better.
Have you ever been to a meeting where you wondered - what the heck am I doing here? Often we are invited to meetings where our presence is not really required. If you don't have any input to a meeting you have been invited to just press Decline, but always add a rationale why you don't believe that you need to attend. It will be difficult at first, but once people will understand you value your time they will get used to it. In the end you want to spend it as good as possible for the sake of better SW quality.
Did you ever have a situation where a member of your team approached you and asked - what did you mean by that? When writing test cases or bug reports we often forget about the fact that someone else will read it. Therefore, you need to be very specific when delivering content which affects other people. When you write a test case clearly define what you want to achieve and how you want to do it (see one of the previous blog posts How to write good test cases). When you write a bug report remember not to spare any details - include all of the logs, timestamps, repro steps, environment information etc. That will definitely help you in reducing time spent on the discussions which could have been easily avoided. Naturally, if someone will tell you "it works on my pc" you will still need to help this person out. In 90% of the cases though, you will save time and be able to focus on your daily tasks.
Distractions at work come from many places and you won't be able to control of them. If someone approaches you with a question while you are in the middle of executing your test case, then naturally you cannot say "go away". There are however things which you can influence to optimize your time at work. From the simplest activity of putting your phone on mute to not chatting for 15 minutes when taking a coffee. There is always something you can do to be more focused on your daily goals. Think of the things which distracted you in the last week, note them down and remove only one of them. You will notice the change immediately.
Many people are very well organized and always know what to do next however if you are not one of them jumping between tasks can become overwhelming. What can help you out is to create your own little private daily sit-down meeting :). Take a piece of paper and note down what are your goals for the day. Prioritize them accordingly e.g. test New Features first so that the developers can have a faster feedback loop, reply to emails. Place all of those goals on post-its or digitally on your private Kanban board in an order and follow them.
Modern SW development houses are all about collaboration. You can be the most magnificent tester in the whole world but as long as you don't work together with your team, your work won't be valued. If you have some spare time during the day ask everybody in your team if they need help. Help out whenever you can. How does it increase your time efficiency you might ask? Well, it's a two-way street. If you help out someone from your team today, someone from your team can help you out tomorrow. If you have 10 test cases in your suite left to execute and it's 5PM and all you think of is going home just ask for help. Often people are afraid to ask as they think it might be treated as a sign of weakness. That is not the case in a team. A team is as strong as all it members so if you need help just ask for it.
How many times did you have to run the same regression tests? The first 5 times were probably still OK for you, but afterwards it became a burden? Sounds familiar? We've all been there and there is only one answer to the problem - automate it. Automation is not an easy task and should not be underestimated so keep in mind you won't be successful in the beginning. The reward however will be plane awesome. Imagine that you can focus on defining the best test cases, writing the best bug reports instead of executing your manual regression tests over and over again. Keep in mind though, for you as a tester, automation is one of your tools in tool-kit and not the Holy-Grail of testing.