How can software testers ask for help?

This kind of goes off the back of Heathers recent post on saying ‘I don’t know

If a tester doesn’t know something, what are some practical and effective things they can do to ask for help?

A couple of ideas to get things flowing:

Request a pairing session with someone: it could be another tester, but of course it could be anyone within the team. Be specific about what you want to explore and ask lots of questions along the way.

Share ideas openly along the way: however your team prefers to communicate, how can you share your ideas and progress along the way? Via a chat channel? Set up a group meet or learning focused session on something you are struggling with?

Try explaining / teaching about the thing you are working on: often this can naturally help you clarify your thinking about things, whilst also getting feedback or questions back.


Do we know what we need to ask for help for?

Before we can try the above, we need to know we don’t know. … The orders of ignorance can help group what we don’t know (we don’t know):

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Some other ideas to add into the mix.

  • Not asking for help can be a sign of ignorance
  • not asking for help can be a sign that someone is lost and doesn’t know it
  • Asking good questions doesn’t show incompetence, asking no questions does.

Challenges you may encounter:

  • I don’t even know what to ask for help with
  • I’m supposed to be the expert, not the one asking for help
  • I don’t need help…I got this
  • The wrong belief that old dogs can’t be taught new tricks.

What to do:

  • Present your work or testing progress, whether you’re ready or not
  • Explain your testing to someone outside your design team
  • Under-promise, over-deliver (to give you time to think through things properly)

FWIW - these aren’t really my ideas. I’ve taken them from this blog post and adapted them to testing -

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I think asking questions is valuable and obviously too many can reduce one’s credibility but frankly a lot of new products present many unknown risks and not asking questions is much more dangerous than asking too many questions. Provided those many questions are seeking to build understanding between product owners and engineers. While we may want the idea that someone has all the answers to our issue the more likely scenario is we are all discovering a new path and have different perspectives on this journey. The role is to remove the veil of certainty and question assumptions as they arise.

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