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Why Personal Visibility is Important for Software Tester Career Growth – and Ways to Improve It

Getting your work results, interests and ideas known by others can boost your career and open new, exciting opportunities. Find out how to increase your visibility.

Has it ever happened to you or one of your colleagues, that when an opportunity for promotion appears, a person with fewer of the relevant skills and less experience was selected instead? How can situations like this happen, and why so often?

Decisions on your career are usually made not by your direct manager, but by their boss. When a new opportunity appears, and your manager suggests you as a candidate, the worst thing to hear from their boss in reply can be: ‘Well, who is it?’. In this situation, it will be too hard for your manager to convince the boss that you are worth being considered for the position and their attention will most likely be switched to someone more noticeable. In short, that is how the decisions that define your career are made.

Why Personal Visibility is Important for Software Tester Career Growth - and Ways to Improve It
To avoid such scenarios in future, you need to think and act beforehand to heighten the visibility of your work and efforts. That doesn’t mean you need to shout about your every action or take the credit for someone else’s job. The fact is, a lot of people in our profession and around it are shy and modest. We find it difficult to talk about our achievements and advantages, preferring to work hard and silently in hope that the work will be noticed someday. But unfortunately (or luckily), hard work is not enough for a successful career today. You need to know how to present your skills and achievements and even, in a sense, make a brand name for yourself. Below are several simple recommendations that can help make you more noticeable within your networking environment.

Speak up in Meetings

When you are in a meeting, don’t be silent. Even if you are not one of the key members in the meeting, try to find a valuable point to add or question to ask. Make sure that if you don’t say anything, it’s not because of your shyness, but because you really have nothing important to contribute.

Share your Useful Findings and Insights with the Team

Whether you hold a regular or a senior position, you most probably have something useful to share. For example:

  • You’ve just finished a book that gave a few great insights on teamwork
  • You’ve participated in a conference or training where you’ve learned about new testing approaches
  • You’ve created a simple tool to scrape test data which can be used by your colleagues

Any of these could bring value to your team members, colleagues and/or other stakeholders. Although it’s not easy to assess the value of any information we possess, most of us used to think that the insights we’ve learned from the recently read book are obvious to everyone. If you are not sure that the information you want to share is valuable enough, a good option is to consult your direct manager. Alex Orlov, a business trainer and a former manager at Intel and Sun, tells a story that illustrates this approach.

Back in his tech career, while sitting in a plane on his way back from the business trip, he decided to use his time effectively and wrote down a list of books he’d read during the year, with a short review of each. Once done, he thought about sharing the list with the team, but wasn’t sure if it was worth attention. So, he sent it to his manager first, with a question: ‘Do you think it could be interesting for the team to share?’ and got a reply: ‘Sure, the list is great. Go ahead and send it to the managers, too’.

Imagine the personal visibility that he produced after just an hour of focused effort.

So, think right now of any interesting and useful things that you can share with your team or manager, and plan to do so within a week.

Meet regularly with your Manager to discuss your Progress and Achievements

A post I wrote on TestLodge’s blog talked about the importance and value of regular one-to-one meetings. As you probably know, communication is a skill that can (and should) be trained and developed. Sharpen your ability to present your progress and achievements in a clear and effective way and clarify your manager’s expectations towards your work and progress, then follow-up on them. Make sure you are both on the same page regarding your work and plans, and you’ll be able to avoid some unpleasant surprises during your career.

Participate in Conferences, Knowledge Sharing Sessions and Training

Attending conferences is a good way to enable you to learn new things, then share your findings with others. In addition, you can meet new acquaintances which could then grow into powerful connections. It’s even better if you can speak up at a conference, give your own master class or hold a webinar. These will help you in several areas:

  • While preparing a presentation or class, you can gain an even better and deeper understanding of the topic
  • When you receive feedback from the various segments of your audience, they can help you to self-improve further and expand your horizons
  • Your highly visible presence will make a statement about you and raise your reputation, while helping you to establish some new connections. You could be invited to another conference or be offered a job immediately because they have seen and heard you

The truth is, most of us are afraid to talk in front of an audience, even when we have something to say (and most of us really do). So, the solution is to develop presentation and public speaking skills and practice as much as you can. Start with a small group in a familiar environment where you can feel confident. For example, give a short class for a group of mentees or your peer colleagues, then you can expand your audience a bit more. If you get good feedback and feel that there is a demand for you to share your topic, you can go further and perform an external event or speak up at a conference. If not, keep practicing. Try different topics, approaches and forms of presenting information. Perceive it as an exercise – after all, you know what you are doing it for.

Enhance your Networking

At conferences, we don’t only learn new things – we communicate and make new connections. The benefits of networking are often underestimated because the quantity and quality the connections you make will define opportunities you get. So, don’t forget to exchange contacts, talk to attendees, give feedback and say a personal ‘Thank you’ to speakers and organizers. Again, you can feel a bit awkward before addressing other attendees during the coffee break, but don’t be trapped – start some small talk, ask where they are from, what they like about the event – and here you are having made your new connection!

Suggest your help. Think about what you can give or how useful you can be to a person. It can be anything – a recommendation, some advice, or even physical help. Three examples:

  1. You learn from your interlocutor that their company is looking for some rare kind of specialist, and recommend one of your acquaintances
  2. You are interested in event organizing and suggest your volunteer help to the founders of the conference
  3. Your new acquaintance is looking for advice about their career, and you tell them about a relevant book which you think might be helpful in this case.

By being outgoing and offering something to a person, you make your talk memorable and can possibly raise chances to receive more involvement from the person in return.

As well as participating in conferences and training, you could expand your connections by creating and sharing engaging content via social and professional networks (LinkedIn, Facebook), blogs, podcasts, forums and other channels. This is an easier way for those who find it too difficult to speak up in front of an audience, but has its obvious pros and cons. Your communication becomes mostly virtual instead of face-to-face, but its reach can be wider.The internet has no borders, and you have more chances to make the kinds of connections you are looking for.

Initiate Events and/or Processes that can be Useful for Others

Within your company or beyond it, if you have an idea about how to make the life of people around you better, look for ways to make it real. It may be a process improvement suggestion on your project communicated with your team leader, an idea of providing a set of utensils instead of disposable tableware in your office kitchen discussed with HR, or the initiative to create a software testing community in your city discussed with other enthusiasts.
What you should remember when you come up with an idea to your boss are the principles of constructive communication (don’t blame or complain; propose a solution). And of course, the first things you should take care of are your direct responsibilities. If your suggestion doesn’t concern your immediate work, your initiate might be taken as indolence (‘You’d better do your work properly’).

Finally

Summarizing all the above, the keys to having a high personal visibility are proactivity, openness and sharing with others, combined with continuous self-improvement. But I have to add that visibility itself is nothing if it’s not based on real experience, talent and value. Expertise plus visibility make a powerful tandem that can raise you high on a career ladder, if you are ready to take up the challenges entailed. So, go ahead, and good luck in making your success visible!

Author

Alona Benko

Experienced in manual testing and team leading. Apart from QA, her interests lie in the fields of management and psychology.

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