Setting stretch goals

In addition to your everyday project related work, it’s a good idea to work on something “extra”.  If your “extra” work benefits you, as well as the organization you work for, it’s a “win-win”.  Depending on your manager you could do this work during the work day or after work.  If you feel you are short of time, you can try to have a working lunch.  There
were some great suggestions on finding time in a busy schedule on the Software Testing Club forum.

When creating goals, it is critical to try to find subjects which really interest you.  This is the most important factor which determines how well you achieve your goal.  A lower priority is to find topics which will help your career (Ideally this matches your previous objective).  As I mentioned, if the topics you choose have synergy with your work, that is a bonus.  (It’s important for you to think through these three dimensions – your interests, your career and the goals of the organization you work for.)  I knew an engineer who was interested in magic.  I shared some resources which show the similarities between magic and software testing.  Another engineer was interested in sales.  I suggested that he understand some of our competitors and spend time improving presentation skills.

It’s a good idea to write your goals and discuss them with your manager.  You are not looking for ‘brownie points’.  What you are looking for is feedback on the goals.  Your manager can also make sure the timelines are realistic.  He can periodically check if you are on track and help you balance the “extra” with your project work.  (If you are a test manager you could incorporate these goals in a quarterly/annual planning.)

If creating such goals is not part of your company culture, feel free to talk to your manager and tell him you are looking for his support.

Here is an example of a stretch goal for a tester with around five years experience.  This is for a very technical tester, who is good at programming.

  • Identify the thought leaders in mobile testing (January 20)
  • Identify papers/presentations/videos which provide insight into mobile testing (ongoing)
  • Teach the rest of the team the basics of a mobile app.  Do this by using IBM’s tutorials on Worklight and getting the team to create an app on their own and deploy it on a mobile phone.  Introduce them to the core technologies for creating mobile apps. (January 30)
  • Identify tools that can be used for automation and performance testing. (January 30)
  • Identify tools/technologies which can be used for quick scripting on mobile apps (January 30)
  • Present some of the key failure points for mobile apps and allow the team to provide feedback. (January 30)
  • Refine the list of failure points. (March 1)
  • Depending on your interest you can choose one of the following to focus on in the long term:
    • helping the team understand the technologies/tools used to create apps
    • test automation
    • performance testing
    • defect catalogs

Note that this includes activities which will benefit other team members.  In addition to helping others, this is also a good opportunity for improving skills in presenting, communication and communicating your ideas to others.

Most organizations would be more than happy if their testers set goals like this.  I don’t think any manager would be reluctant to allow their testers set some time aside to work on such goals.

Setting such goals allow you to stand out and be recognized.  At the same time, they help you progress in your career.

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