The good news about working as the lone tester is the variety of experience you can gain as opposed to working on a large team where work may be segregated among the testers leaving you to feel like an expert in some areas and under-developed in other aspects. One of the difficult aspects of being the only tester is not hearing other ideas and not having someone else to share insights with and being able to collaborate. When you work as the lone tester, you need to find ways to continue to grow on your own. And if you are alone, find ways to share and exchange with other people.
You can find other testers in an array of online choices like Skype, Twitter, Facebook, the Software Testing community, and of course, SearchSoftwareQuality.com. So when you feel alone and want to gather ideas from other testers, try an online approach to reach out. Software testing conferences can be a good way to meet other testers in person and then stay connected online.
If you want to gain experience with different types of hands-on testing and cannot find it within your company, consider testing open source projects on your own time and then sharing those results with the project. Another option is to join a growing group of testers worldwide in events known as weekend testing.
More obviously, you can keep learning on your own by reading and researching on a variety of topics – including testing books as well as learning about specific technologies. Also owning and using different technologies helps deepen your knowledge based on your personal experiences.
When I change employment or am working contractually, I often intentionally seek work that will provide me with variety. If you're staying at the same company, it might be possible to work on another project or with another product. You can assess how likely making a change might be within your company and ask if it's appropriate.
In the world of software testing, there is a community of people with an interest in helping other testers so even if you work as a lone tester, it doesn't mean you have to be alone.
This was first published in September 2010