Mental Health as a Tester

RTC (Toscanini)

In early 2003 I started my career as a gifted, but cocky young tester with steady career progression and a love of learning. I was confident with the skills I had developed but my “I know all the things!” attitude quickly disappeared as I started to realize how broad a tester’s skill set could be, and how much I could still improve. I attended the “Rapid Software Testing” course, taught by James Bach, and read all the books and blogs I could find, improving my testing skills further still. The sky was the limit. Then, 6 years later in early 2009 everything stalled and went into year after year of flat-line, culminating in my career, family, passion and confidence as a tester being decimated. Coming to a crashing halt 5 years later, I went deep into depression and was affected by a stress-related autoimmune issue, requiring a physical operation to correct. From that point I simply couldn’t see a way to get back into the driving seat, and decided I would quit my career for good. I resigned from my role with no job to go to, and no plans to continue my testing career, or in fact any type of technology role. I was burned-out. This story is about the stages of my testing career, issues I encountered in those stages, and how others can learn from the mistakes I’ve made, so that they can avoid having to go through them in the first place. I was fortunate to have the support of my amazing family and friends to help me out of that terrible situation, and persuade me to take one last chance on my testing career. Through hard work and encouragement from the testing community, I managed to claw my way back from that precipice and I now feel like my passion, my drive, and my career are at an all time high. I’m hopeful that my story will encourage others to look after their mental well-being, and to seek help when needed in order to be the best version of themselves.

Key takeaways

  • My thoughts on setting long term goals, breaking them down into short term goals, and evaluating progress toward those goals.
  • Applying regular health checks for your career (using the Spotify Health Check model to evaluate your job).
  • Ideas on making tacit thoughts and feelings explicit to begin self-improvement conversations.
  • Tricks for identifying when it may be time to move on to the next challenge.
  • Final thoughts on mental health in testing and seeking help when needed.


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