Managing your biases

Looking back to the very start of my career I see a rollercoaster ride of the confidence levels of my professional knowledge: first I didn’t know anything and felt like a student, then I felt like I know a lot about the product, then I doubted if I know anything when an issue hit the fan, after learning mistakes I again thought I have enough of knowledge… and, well, now it’s slightly different than “I don’t know anything”: I am proudly admitting that despite whatever knowledge I have about the product and testing,  I can be a fool and biased, and learning how to manage my biases has helped me to learn more and more every single day.

The more experience I get in testing, the more I realize that there is always a bit of information that I may not know and this can affect my judgement. And the person whose opinion on quality I may discard can be actually helping me to expand my view on quality.

We all have different background colleagues – I do, too. They may not have the knowledge that we have, but this shouldn’t block us to hearing them out and seeing that maybe this is pointing to something important.

Some time ago a colleague of mine who we can name Lambda would a little bit annoy me coming to me with issues which didn’t seem to be worth a lot of attention. Lambda would be deeply concerned, but a lot of times even if I did investigate the issues presented – I would still hold some inner blockages towards the issues reported because I felt like we have bigger fish to fry than investigate those problems.

Once Lambda again ran to me to talk about a certain issue. This time I was certain that this issue is important, but I felt like we cannot do much about it and we cannot tell why this issue is there. Lambda insisted that we should sit down together and investigate. I was hesitating because my inner biases were telling me “we cannot do much about it, Lambda is not a tester”, but still tried to help Lambda. After some time, Lambda got a genius idea on why the issue was happening. I was dumbfounded. I did not see this person as a viable information source, I felt like I may know better and yet.. I was utterly wrong.

This little story was just one of many – with time I am learning to listen more and more. Before when I would get e-mails about issues from various people – I would be rather skeptical. Now I am intrigued. I love investigations, I try not to block the issues that other people find important – it is a great room to grow myself as a tester.

There are so many points related to this topic: the way we test, the way we make conclusions, the way we listen. I have touched only the tip of the iceberg here, however, from my mere experience in testing, advice to my younger self:

Shut up and listen to others more, dig deep to the issues reported even if you want to quickly comment that “it works this way” – you may find something that you did not expect at all. There are dark areas in your product even if you could not notice them. Communicating to people you can learn many new things and information is key in testing. Your knowledge will expand constantly.

Issue investigations have been my favorite part about testing and I must say that improving listening skills and hearing out other people has helped me big time to be better at that. I cannot give a lousy answer to a person from a different background – I have to prepare a detailed answer which doesn’t leave question marks even if person is not too technical. And, sometimes, I definitely can be a fool with my ideas about how it’s working – others may be correct even if I don’t believe it because I feel like I know better.

Managing inner biases and all the blockages that we have is quite a challenge. However, looking back, I think all the mistakes I’ve encountered/done in testing have helped me to slow down and listen. Not only in professional life, but in personal, too – give people a chance, they may actually know better than you.

 

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