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Why Online Testing Communities Bring Growth, Learning and Belonging

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I remember when I was stagnating in my testing career. I was bored and uninspired.

My approach to software testing was limited to what I was learning from those around me, and what I was reading in the few testing books that were available.

I’ll be honest, I was ready to leave this career behind me and find something more interesting… That was until I found the many online testing communities that were in full flow.

I couldn’t believe it. Other testers who were sharing their experiences, ideas, approaches and technology of choice. A group of people who were ready and willing to support me when I got stuck. A group of people who were all trying to make sense of the role of a tester. A group of people working out how to contribute our skills to the tech world. A group of people who were all trying to further the industry of testing.

After I found these online communities my career took off. My personal development soared. I felt like I’d found my tribe.

Being part of the community brought out the best in me. I started building good relationships. I started a blog. I started speaking at conferences. I started contributing content for others. I started to thrive 🚀

Being part of an online community is essential for career and skills development. But it offers more than that. It offers us a way to share, grow and feel connected to people facing some of the same challenges that we face.

Like any community though, it requires more than merely taking from it. It requires contribution, respect, clarity, honesty and effective communication. These are skills that I developed and nurtured whilst belonging and contributing to the growth of these communities. It also paid back ten-fold as I brought these to my world of work too.

Online communities are fabulous, but don’t overlook the need for community in our place of work too. What better way to start a workplace community, than to share your experiences of belonging to a wider International community too? 🤩

It’s hard work developing your skills alone, from the small selection of testing books and from those in your workplace. We must seed our thoughts about testing with as wide a pool of ideas as possible; online communities are where we find these seeds🌱

It can be daunting joining an online community. I worried whether people would accept me. Whether I would have anything to offer. Could I live up to the high standards of the many people contributing to these communities? I needn’t have worried.

Sure, there are emotional conversations around ideas, technology choices, and ways of working. But this is how the industry moves forward. We grow by challenging our beliefs and sowing new seeds of thought.

On first joining a community spend some time as an observer 👀

Observe, read, digesting, scope out content and find interesting people to connect with. Uncover the culture and goals of the community – they all have different ones. When you feel ready – contribute. Post a question, add your point of view to a topic and get stuck in to the conversation. Share an article, post something interesting and connect with people. Become an active member of the community.

Like all communities though, be positive, challenging, supportive and kind. Everything you do in the community is a reflection of yourself and the company you represent. Remember too, that people will always remember how you make them feel. Use your words wisely. Think about others when you’re contributing. Contemplate the effects your words may have on them, and try to add value.

Self-reflection is the key to strong personal growth. Spend time understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Study your own behavioural preferences and skills. Uncover the direction your company is moving in. Then scour the community to find articles, ideas, training and support in the areas you need help with.

The best way to learn is to find something new and try it.

We learn from the experience of implementing new ideas in our own context. When we try new technology we can see the pros and cons. New ways of working don’t always work, but we can learn by trying to adopt them. There is little point in merely consuming – we must also implement.

Find what works, what doesn’t and how you can flex it to adapt to the context you find yourself in. And then contribute this knowledge and insight back to the community. We all grow by learning from other people’s experiences of actual implementations. The mistakes, the wins, the adaption, the growth. It’s important to keep online communities fresh and relevant, and we do this by contributing back our own experiences.

Just like the culture in our workplace, the culture of an online community is nothing more than group habit; the sum of everyone’s behaviours. So, add goodness to the community, grow the culture and challenge those who are bringing it down. The best communities are those where high standards of contribution and behaviour are expected. Seek those ones out and live up to these standards.

Whether you’re starting out, or are deep into your career as a tester, there is an online testing community to support your needs. We can all learn something new, meet someone inspiring and feel connected, no matter what season of life we’re in.

It can be tempting to promote yourself, your company and your products in these communities, but think through the consequences of this. Are people interested? Will it resonate with them? Is it useful and helpful? Will people tire of the promotion (yes)?

Give more than you take. The best communities are about dialogue, not broadcasting and advertising.

There is no doubt my personal growth and career trajectory was fueled by belonging to an online testing community. I am forever thankful for the support and help of the people in these communities.

I have made new friends from these communities. When I speak at conferences, I am often able to put a face to a name. I can bring that online community relationship into the non-virtual world – and grow that relationship. These relationships have helped me build a connected, trusted and interesting life. These people have made a permanent mark on me. They have supported, nurtured and encouraged me. And I suppose the same could be said the other way around. Our contributions, ideas, support and kindness go further than we may realize. And this is why I love online communities so much. They allow us to connect with people across the world and make our Testing industry feel closer than ever 🙌

Go forth and enjoy online testing communities. Grow your skills, meet new people, contribute your ideas and learn.

And don’t forget, give more than you take – that’s the key to growing a wonderful community, a wonderful career and making wonderful friends 🌟

 

Rob Lambert

About the author

Rob Lambert

For 15+ years of testing knowledge, books and ideas head to The Social Tester.

For Rob’s current work on improving the state of management, one manager at a time, head to Cultivated Management.

And for daily wisdom and insights, Rob is very active on LinkedIn.

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