Tester Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome, something we’ve heard about a lot on LinkedIn when related to work. It’s that feeling that you’re not good enough in your role and that you’re going to be found out for being a fraud.

As a tester there’s a number of stresses that can come from our career that can lead to feelings of being an imposter. These can be made worse when working remotely and not being able to talk about them.

  • Feeling not technical enough. The industry is moving fast, there’s always more to learn to keep up with teams and having to constantly learn can be hard work. The fear of falling back and being left behind can be hard to manage.
  • Having to show value. Testers on a team aren’t obviously creating something like code, so it can feel like we have to push to show our value. This additional ask to manage the perception of us, and what we’re bringing, can be a drain.
  • Task switching. The breadth of testing can mean having to switch between multiple streams of thought / work across a day. The shifting of topics is mentally taxing and draining and can leave you feeling exhausted and like you’re not on top of things.
  • Breadth of topics. In order to meaningfully think up risks for a system, we have to know about a LOT of things (technologies, business needs, non functional elements, architecture, code, designs , psychology, domain knowledge, different styles of testing, who people are…) going wide with your knowledge can mean not feeling like an expert ever.
  • An unstandardised career path. Who even knows what a testing job title means or how it relates to how good you are? They differ per company and person… this means that you can be really experienced and have the same title as someone more junior than you. It’s hard to know (or show) your own growth or where you stand in the industry.
  • Being highly skilled at risk identification. You know what us testers are great at? Seeing problems! This means we’re hyper vigilant to our own abilities and skills and can critique where our short falls are.
A picture of an asian short clawed otter with their paw in their mouth. The otter's expression is thoughtful or pensive.
Fig 1. Ramone the Testing Otter contemplating his own insecurities.

How can we deal with Tester Imposter Syndrome? 

  • Acknowledge how you feel! It’s okay to feel imposter syndrome and acknowledging that puts you in charge of your feelings. You’re able to acknowledge how you’re feeling and then review to see if those feelings are grounded in reality.
  • When not feeling technical, focus on the facts. We tend to focus on the things we don’t know, but look at what you do know! There are many technical testing skills out there and by reviewing what you do know, you can show that you’re technical.
  • Talk to other testers! When you’re on your own as the sole tester on a project it’s hard to validate how well you’re doing. Meet other testers (or get on to the Ministry of Testing) so you can talk to them about how you’re feeling. Perhaps also ask for a mentor in testing that you can talk things through with.
  • When feeling that you have to prove yourself, take a moment to see if it’s worth the effort. Some managers / team members just aren’t going to by swayed into being a testing ally, maybe focus on those people who already believe in you. Focus your energies where it can help.
  • Toot your own horn!!! Write posts or blogs about what you do know. Share cool bugs that you’ve found or maybe a testing narrative to show the testing you’ve done. That’ll help you to think about all the awesome things that you do know (and allow others to see it too).

Imposter syndrome is a normal thing that many people throughout tech feel. don’t let it overpower you – remember to be kind to yourself!

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