Bring on the Impostors

~ by Randy Wagner

Line Up the Impostors

At one point or another in life, we’ve all found ourselves in a little over our heads and doubting that we’re competent enough to justify our continued employment. For many of us, it’s a daily event thinking that—sooner or later—everyone will figure out that we don’t actually know what we’re doing and we’ll promptly be bounced out the door. It is a common phenomenon known as “Impostor Syndrome.” It turns out that this is a mindset that can work well in QA.

Impostor Syndrome is Prevalent in Many Highly Successful People

Impostor Syndrome comes in many guises. For some, it’s withholding questions out of fear that someone may doubt their intelligence or knowledge. For others, it is difficulty accepting praise for a job well done because they know, in retrospect, something could have been done just a little better. Impostor Syndrome is so prevalent that some studies indicate upwards of 70% of people feel that their success is not legitimately deserved. It is particularly common in many highly successful people.

Self-Doubt, Feelings of Inadequacy, and Fear of Failure Drive Impostors to Do Better

And that is where it turns to magic… To compensate, the “impostors” do more prep for calls, step through their plan multiple times to ensure completeness, and go back over the work to make sure the job was executed properly. The fear of being caught drives them to do better. When the effort is done and a team lead or customer calls us out for a great job,  a sense of humility keeps our egos in check. Pride goes before the fall and a constant sense of being an impostor prevents us from becoming overconfident.

In QA, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Prepare, be thorough, execute and document completely, and show the results. Constantly question whether something is lurking behind the next field or even on the prior page.

When you think about it, all of QA is an Impostor Syndrome. Otherwise, the code would push straight into Production without any testing.

Impostor Syndrome in QA Often Leads to Near Perfect Results

In a project or maintenance team, there is a realization that perfection doesn’t always happen the first time—sometimes not even the second or third time. And when we complete all of the Development stories successfully, the first thing we do is Regression testing to verify it all over again. Then we throw in UAT, End-to-End, performance, and other tests on top of that. If we are relentless in pursuing quality, then we do the necessary testing so that when the code hits Production and there’s nowhere to hide, it works as expected.

Impostor Syndrome is basically a form of insecurity but it’s exactly the kind of self-doubt that drives people to excellence. I say bring on the impostors. Those are the ones who will do the better job and pay more attention to detail. Line them up. I’ll take them all.

Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Companies. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, configuration management, and automation.