The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called "99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester". Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.
My goal for the next few weeks is to take the "99 Things" book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.
Suggestion #70: Be brave. You're possibly the only person(people) saying "Are you sure you want to release this now because...?" - Vernon Richards
Bravery, courage, taking on things that are challenging and daring, making a stand about things that matter... they all come together in important ways, and we as testers have an opportunity and an obligation to stand up and say what we mean and mean what we say.
A few years ago, I compared the ideals of testing to the ideals of the Scout Law as practiced all over the world. In the United States, one of the elements of the Scout Law is "a Scout is Brave". Below is a revision of those initial comments. The original article/post is here.
Workshop #70: Take the opportunity to show courage in a variety of situations, especially when it comes to your testing assignments. Determine areas you would not be willing to compromise your integrity or honesty, and then stick to them.
This is not something that we can just make a workshop for, and say "OK, now I'm brave, I can go on with my life". Practicing courage is situational. It's something that takes a lifetime to develop. Courage is also something we can witness, and others courage can often help us develop our own.
To be brave goes beyond just talking about taking on some aspect of the organization and standing tall. It encompasses traits that we all need to recognize that we possess, and that we all can utilize.
Bravery is one of the most misunderstood virtues, in my opinion. People get bravery confused with fool-hardiness or recklessness. They feel that charging into situations is the best way to show bravery and courage. This is actually best described as being "brash'. It's not bravery.
I dislike the word "cowardice", but the fact is that we all have a bit of it in us. Where that cowardice lies and in what capacity is something every one of us gets to discover at various times in our lives. The things that we fear are oftentimes not associated with physical challenge or threat so much as they are with emotions. The brave person is not the one that can stop being afraid and do what they need to do, but the one who does what they need to do in spite of the fear.
In testing, we often have the thankless task of having to tell people they are wrong, that they have done something wrong, or to show someone, perhaps an entire organization, that they are heading down the wrong path. Make no mistake, this can be difficult, and very trying on the person who must bear this news. While attitude and approach have a lot to do with how well these things are handled, bravery and courage is required.
It is important to stand for what we believe in, to commit to do what we say we need to do, even when it is convenient for us to cut corners. It may not be popular to take a certain position. We may get a lot of push back for the information we deliver. Just as vital in this mix is having the courage to admit when we have been mistaken or have erred in our judgment or our methods. If we have discovered we are in error, or something did not happen in a manner in which we originally said it should or would, then step up, own up and determine what we will do going forward.
Courage is far less about feeling than it is about action. We do not show or display courage by how we feel, we display courage in what we do. When it comes to dealing with people that feel fear and act, versus those who don't feel any fear, I'm less trusting of the latter than of the former. Not always, mind you; different people have different fears. Still, if someone always seems to be totally fearless and rushes in as though it is nothing, I tend to be leery of that person. Someone who has doubts and fears, but perseveres through them and accomplishes their goals anyway, that's someone I'm much more willing to put my trust in.
There is a difference between fool-hardiness and courage. Genuine bravery is usually not something you will get a lot of accolades for. It's rare to jump into a burning building to rescue people. That is appropriately, a major bravery moment. The fact is, most of us will never have that experience. What we will have are small, focused moments that will ping at our conscience, that will require us to step up and show courage in small ways. Over time, we will get to see just where we stand on the courage meter, and where we can do better.