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What advice can I give as a software testing mentor?

Both young and experienced testers should be adaptable, but what else do young testers need to know? Gerie Owen offers tips on how veterans can lead by example.

I've been a tester for 15 years and am now expected to provide leadership to junior testers. What words of wisdom...

can I give them as a software testing mentor?

You have much to teach them, but also remember that the field is changing rapidly. First, encourage them to be continuous learners. The best testers are constantly challenging themselves, whether it be by learning the user domain better, taking courses to expand their horizons or connecting with thought leaders in the field. A tester can't simply be "heads-down" on the current project and expect to have a thriving career.

Testers also have to stay on top of changes, both within the field and within their company. Pay attention to where the business is going and get involved in adding value to the business. At this stage of your career, there is more to your job than just testing. Know the bigger picture and make sure the junior testers do too.

Even if you're not a vocal person, remember that the best leadership is by example. As a software testing mentor, set a great example for them on a day-to-day basis. If you're not already, engage the leading testers in the field; they are very accessible, especially on Twitter. Champion the career development of your testers. If there is training or a conference that you think will help them, go to bat for them with management.

Last, be transparent. If you are a manager or lead, you need to communicate what you know to them. Share your experiences and share whatever information may be made available to you by your management. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it portrays you as more credible. Second, it fosters a sense of shared teamwork; everyone wants to know that what they are doing is important. Lastly, it also gives them something to look forward to in their career, to expand their portfolio and get further involved in different types of testing, as well as the company goals. You are establishing continuity for your company as well as building your reputation as a software testing mentor.

Next Steps

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This was last published in March 2016

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If your experienced self was your younger self's mentor, what advice would you give?
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"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance" ~Confucius

"I know that I know nothing" ~Socrates

"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision" ~Bertrand Russell

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" ~Charles Darwin

Young people have vast numbers of mentors but they rarely listen because they're busy getting their own experience. And nothing can replace it.
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Get in a habit of learning other new exciting fields as you will become involved as a tester. 
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First, get involved and talk to other people in the field to start expanding your knowledge and skill set early on. Second, be sure that you are willing to learn new things. That's something you'll need to do for the rest of your career.
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This is all great advice, and a new tester would be lucky to have a mentor to receive this advice from. I would also advise them that they should always be their own biggest advocate, as most of us can't expect anyone else to do that for us. No one is ever going to out for your own interests as much as you will.
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Probably, jumping 20-30 years back and assuming one's own younger body would be a better idea. People learn through experience. That wisdom won't stick around.
Mentoring is a relationship; those not seeking one won't listen to the words of wisdom.

In our Toronto Testing Meetup I'm striving to create an environment for safe experiences rather letting anyone (including myself) to preach "words of wisdom".

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