In a recent discussion, the question I was confronted with was, “What happens when your tasks start to seem dull and monotonous?”
Here’s my reply, “As a person working in QA, I fortunately haven’t had to deal with that. I’m passionate about my job. However, when tasks start to seem repetitive, I try changing things around. If test execution becomes wearisome, I shift to documenting. If documenting seems uninteresting, I explore new aspects. Furthermore, setting goals and targets keeps me driven, and I always make sure to get the job done.”
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I can’t say for sure whether the interview panel was satisfied with my response or if that’s what they were seeking. Personally, I believe I could have done better with my answer. (And no, I’m still not sure whether I landed the job or not :))
My love for QA and testing is undoubting. We all have duties that require completion, much like brushing our teeth, even if they aren’t particularly fun. It’s important to mix things up to keep it interesting, so what I said previously wasn’t untrue. However, there’s definitely more to consider because let’s be honest – no matter how passionate we are or how much we strive for innovation, tasks can get repetitive.
You Will Learn:
So, how can we tackle this?
I always turn to STH for research. Here’s what I discovered:
These articles present insightful points, but they focus more on motivation. They discuss scenarios in collective teams and conventional office settings where there’s a team and some free time to attempt different things.
However, the condition I was discussing was different. How was it different?
- What if you’re the sole QA person, taking on both the lead and team roles?
- What if your colleagues have other issues to manage?
- What if the work simply needs to get done, regardless of whether you find it boring or not?
- What if activities such as reading, experimenting with new utilities, or learning a language can’t fit into your schedule?
- And most crucially, what if monotony and boredom are obstructing the progress and quality of the testing efforts?
Only when I came upon the final point did I comprehend the true essence of the interview question.
Companies are mainly concerned not about whether you’re entertained or bored in their company and team, but about whether these emotions negatively impact your work and hence their projects or progress.
Once I grasped this concept, I knew what my answer should have been.
Let me explain it to you:
How Should Testers Mitigate Boredom?
#1) After some time, the job becomes about maintaining stability and productivity.
For instance: Assume you’re an ardent teacher who educates to see the spark of discovery in your students’ eyes. That’s a great motivation. However, if you teach the same subject to the same class year after year, can you expect the same enthusiasm, excitement, and emotional engagement? After a while, it turns into a repetition of the same steps.
#2) Consistency is key for sustaining resultant outcomes
You establish a teaching methodology to maintain consistent results year after year. The primary goal remains the same. You still cherish your role as a teacher and want only the best for your pupils.
But the repetitiveness has given you a clear plan of what classes to teach, what homework to set, and how often to conduct exams.
You’re aware that every year you’ll be teaching the same subject to the same standard of students. You can ensure the quality of your teaching doesn’t decline as you no longer depend solely on your emotions, motivation levels, or incentives.
You depend on repeatable and trustworthy steps that assist you in attaining your objectives. The amalgamation of these steps is a process. Once your process is sturdy, you become detached from your feelings about your work and focus on the job at hand.
#4) How can the process be beneficial?
Assume the teacher in our example is having a bad day or is dealing with a crisis. Would it affect their teaching? Probably not, because they know precisely what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
#5) Can solely relying on process guarantee success?
In our instance, if the teacher exhibits high spirits, then the class will undoubtedly benefit. However, their emotional state is beyond the system or school’s control in which they serve. Hence, leaning on the process rather than the person ensures a minimum guarantee and a safer solution for reaching aims.
The essence: When tasks start to seem repetitive and boring, having a process in place ensures that the work gets accomplished. This fosters consistency and productivity. An extensively developed and documented process can enhance efficiency and make us immune to personal sentiments concerning the work we perform.
So the next time I am asked, “How will you handle repetitive and tedious tasks?”, I would say by creating a process that perpetually accomplishes the work. That is the correct answer.
Where can testers implement this?
Firstly, one doesn’t necessarily need to be a tester to establish and apply a process. The prior, teacher analogy, proves this clearly.
Nevertheless, since we are testers, here are three areas where we can employ this principle:
- Build Verification Test/Smoke Test/Sanity Test: If you work on an application that releases updates frequently and each release requires essential testing, create a checklist or mini-test suite to ensure consistent execution of all tests. This avoids oversights, errors, or taking tests for granted.
- For those team leads who don’t observe the value of peer reviewing test documentation, try this method. Establish a process where your teams know which types of documentation errors to search for while reviewing a test case document. For instance, I instruct my teams to lookout for the following during peer reviews:
- Scan for unique Test case IDs and Test objectives/conditions
- Ensure each step/case’s completeness, accuracy, and coverage
- Review for format, spelling, and grammatical errors
- Confirm that the test objectives and expected results align (copy and paste mistakes can lead to mismatches)
- When circulating daily status updates, make a checklist of tasks to finish before sending.
- Validate the recipient list
- Perform a spell check on the status update
- Conduct a check for attachments
- Review the subject line to ensure that it has the correct date and a standard title, etc.
In the end:
A solid process shields us from boredom, over-enthusiasm, distractions, exhaustion, and any other external factors that could hinder our work. I wish I’d thought of this before the interview and left a more lasting impression. Well, it’s better late than never!
About the author: This thoughtful advice was contributed by Swati, a member of the STH team.
Your thoughts are welcome. Do you agree with my logic or not? What techniques help you remain attentive at work?