Every year there’s that time when there’s no wind at all. Not even something you could attempt sailing with. Very frustrating for the skipper, but also for the crew, and all those who want to sail, learn more and enjoy the sea and the sailing itself. Every morning it is the same forecast on all of the wind forecast apps and websites. Suddenly they all agree…

While not what one would wish for, it is still a time that can be efficiently used. Mostly for the many things that there’s never time for, like boat upgrades and fixing, cleaning and renovation. But not only. The skipper can take advantage of this time to learn more, to improve their theoretical knowledge and expertise: navigation, ropes (knots), engine and other machinery on boat, etc.

Same goes for the crew – there are yacht crew members courses these days (really), perhaps it’s good timing to take one, or just learn more from the skipper, books and guides.

There’s always something to get better at, that will be handy soon, on the next windy day.

The same goes for software testing. While there’s not days with “no wind” (meaning no testing) for testers, or an “off-season”, there are still times between projects or at least a “quiet testing time” for any testing group. It can sometimes be for a specific tester, that has a few days with no testing assigned to them.

So what can we do with this time?

Making the most of your free time

We suggested time off, with some specific recommendations for fun activities and a resting time. Sadly or not, that will usually won’t be the case though. We, as testers, should be best using this time for further improvements, taking additional steps to get more professional.

Professional Development

As supporters of continued learning we strongly recommend:

  • Training: Write code, talk with developers, meet with other testers that have expertise in a specific topic (testing methodology, practices, project story they can share, etc.).
  • Studying:
    • Take a course (offline or online). There are so many options out there, for beginners or experts, on any software testing area you wish to learn more about.
    • Automation – if you’re a manual tester, it’s a good time to expand your horizon with automation testing. Take advantage of your time and get yourself familiar with automation tools, languages, and how to incorporate automation in your projects.
    • Learn from your colleagues. Each of them, testers and developers, can teach you something. Don’t be shy to ask – people love to share their knowledge and experience.
    • Have no clue about coding? A great opportunity to learn a language and train yourself with writing code. You’ll be a much better tester afterward.
    • Review the guides by Google, Microsoft and AWS.
  • Reading:
    • There are many great books about software and software testing in particular. Find those that will enrich your testing world. It’s easy to search for them by level (for beginners, experts), by topic (regression testing, verification testing), by testing methodology (Agile, Waterfall) and even by the writer if you happen to know of someone whom you would like to learn from.
    • Online reading: Follow expert blogs, who share their ideas and experience. Register on testing forums to read (and participate) how other testers face – and solve – the same issues you are probably facing in your daily work.

These activities are a must for any professional in any line of work. For some strange reason, many testers still do not see themselves as software testing professionals, and unlike others in software projects (developers, designers, engineers of all kinds) don’t see a clear relationship between their career path and their personal development in the field. Testers should be busy with learning and education as in any other profession.

Get Out Of The Box

Becoming a true professional, in any field of work, requires a lot of work. Many hours spent learning, staying on top of new ideas that are developing in the industry, following expert blogs and forums, discussing various aspects of our work, ever debating new challenges and facing similar problems.

And it can go further. Think out of the box.
For example:

  1. If you are an experienced tester, with some code lines in your bag, consider taking one more step. There are other groups in your software project, not only developers and testers. You can get familiar with how marketing works, product managers and customer account managers. It is them where things start, where requirements are created. If you understand better how they work, the challenges they have and the reasons for the approach taken for the product’s requirements – you are bound to be a better tester, a true professional.
  2. A good tester is thorough and consistent, probably detailed oriented. But a great tester must also be creative. Why not learn it? True some are just naturally so, but it is something that can be learned and practiced. How to think differently, how to come up with solutions from new angles, and how/where to better test.

2020 Suggestion

And one extra option, thinking about years to come: focus on AI, and anything with it related to software testing (and there’s a lot). Don’t be confused with testing automation as these are not the same. Being a testing AI expert will most probably prove to be a very good decision, as AI will change the way we test, the tools we use for testing and further down the road will change the whole concept of software testing – what is it and how it’s done.

Share with us the things you do at work when there’s nothing, or at least little, to do.