Software testers, sharpen your saw

How would you list the day in the life of a software tester ? Get in to work and test software ? I realize this is an over-simplification, but i am sure most lists would place testing as the task that would take up most or all of a tester's time. After all isn't that why testers are paid? Software testers are normally expected to test and utilize their time optimally to find defects in the software. Test all day and find issues. We live in a society that values busyness and activity. It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of running tests and trying to find issues. Before you think that i am trying to advocate testers to not do testing, let me clarify - testers must test ! that is their primary job responsibility. However, testing isn't all that a tester must do if he/she must remain relevant and valuable in the future.
At this point i would like to digress a bit to touch upon a concept that is mentioned in Stephen Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is called "Sharpen the Saw". What this means is to preserve and enhance the greatest asset you have, which is … you

The book talks about having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four dimensions of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual. Self-renewal enables you to create growth and change in your life. Sharpening the saw keeps you fresh so you can increase your capacity to produce and handle challenges. The book goes on to say that without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish. 

This concept of sharpen the saw finds expression in another oft repeated tale about two wood-cutters who get down to cutting trees using their saws. One wood-cutter goes to work and relentlessly keeps at cutting wood. He spends a lot of time and effort to continuously cut wood. 

The other wood-cutter cuts some wood and then takes a little time off from cutting wood, to sharpen his saw. He then goes back to his task of cutting wood. He does this repeatedly. At the end of the day, it is observed that the second wood-cutter has cut more wood (increased productivity), is more relaxed (less stressed) and has both himself and his tools in good shape to handle another day's tasks. 

The saw of the first wood-cutter gradually grew blunt with increased use. The reaction of this wood-cutter was to increase his own effort at cutting wood hoping that the increased effort on his part would compensate for the reducing sharpness. Needless to state the obvious, the first wood-cutter ended up feeling burned-out and tired and probably surprised that all his efforts resulted in less  than optimal results. He did have a lot of busy-time but results did not match his level of activity.

Whats all this got to do with Software Testing ?  I am sure most of you would have figured out the connection and where we are heading. It is true that testers must test, but that isn't all that a tester should do. The best testers realize the principle of sharpening the saw. They must take the time to continually develop their skills and work on their creativity and thinking. These testers strive to constantly be abreast of developments in their area. Self-development need not be limited to areas that are directly connected to testing; do not hesitate to look at those areas that may not seem in any way related to testing. You never know where you might find ideas that can be implemented in your work.
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