In one month, I’ll have been with my present company for two years as a software tester. Every year around this time I like to look back and see whether or not I’m on track in relation to my five-year plan. Having a five-year plan is important, not only do managers ask you this during your interview, but it’s a good thing to have to make sure you’re progressing towards a goal rather than just droning on day to day surviving the daily grind. For me, my five-year plan has always involved positioning myself such that I’m on the right path to getting into management.
In my first year at the company, my focus was mainly on proving my worth to my manager, lead, and the people who worked with me. In that regards I believe I was successful in accomplishing that. Not only did my manager recognize my hard work and dedication, but my colleagues also noticed my passion and drive to make sure things are done correctly. I built strong bonds with the people I work with daily and ultimately grew a lot in that first year. The project at the end of that first year carried shortly into my second year, as well as many new challenges.
My goal for year two was to be more involved and hopefully be recognized officially for my merit. This second year, I delivered my primary project, delivered a short flow project with a two month timeline, oversaw the stabilization of a program on fire, assisted in a high priority delivery, and was involved in two components of new development for my primary customer. During review season, I thought surely this increased workload, successful track record, and how hot the programs were would give me a good shot at receiving a promotion based on merit. Unfortunately, things don’t always happen the way we think they will. To be fair, my manager gave me a pretty solid review and I was recognized twice this year for performance, but not receiving what I felt I deserved stung a bit. I’m not going to compare myself to other people in the company because I don’t know their full contributions or what the other managers factored in, but I was left questioning what else they wanted to see out of me. All I got from my manager when I asked him what more I could have done was him saying to keep doing what I was doing and we’ll come back to this again next year.
So at the end of year two, I’m still stuck at level one. I’m a level one that spends half my day correcting and guiding level twos, threes, fours, and fives with them wondering who the hell this level one is and why is he telling me what to do. I’m a level one with the passion that is lost on those above me. Ultimately I’m a level one wondering if maybe I should have been more vocal or demonstrative about my contributions to the company. At the end of the day, I’m the level one who isn’t going to give up due to a temporary road block.
How does this play into my five-year plan? I’m not the type to jump ship when something doesn’t go my way. Ultimately in this third year, my focus will be getting the other managers, not just in my department, to recognize what I have to offer as a leader. Luckily for me, I was tasked to be a subject matter expert for a part of our system. I’ve used that opportunity with the fact that our customer generally always buys the latest features we have to offer to show what I can do with new knowledge. With this title, I’m in charge of helping my colleagues when they have issues and teach them if they haven’t dabbled in this part of our system before. I’ve also started documentation to give them a reference point to use as a jump-start to understand the system rather than have to learn by fire, one of the biggest challenges of black box testing. Outside of my responsibilities, I’ve been organizing priorities for the developers in terms of which programs are hot, a task they were doing over word of mouth rather than via a calendar. I’ve been synchronizing the communications between project managers of various programs and engineering so that everyone is on the same page and less time is wasted with repetitive questions to the developers and testers who need to focus on what they’re doing.
Who knows? Maybe this year I’ll open more eyes and cement a path leading to a management position. Personally, I think I have a lot to contribute given the opportunity. My biggest obstacles right now are probably my youth, the company culture, and my impatience.