Inspiration ...and Burnout

Our 8th talk in the TestBash Home conference is “Inspiration …and Burnout” with the wonderful @maryam.

I remember when I first read this abstract, I thought “Is this person talking about me?” I was oddly relieved to read about another person who had such a high bar for perfection that it led them to burn out and I knew I had to hear the talk to see how this person had overcome this.

There’s a thread about “How can we help prevent burnout?” which you might find useful to explore :slight_smile:

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask Maryam in advance, why not ask it here?

We’ll be adding all unanswered questions from the talk to this thread so if we didn’t get to your question, don’t worry, we will find you an answer :grin:

Unanswered Questions

  • Laura Kopp: Did you lose the original excitement you had for Software Quality during university? How did you realize you’d lost the excitement?
  • goga: How long lasted this period of time?
  • Gitte: Do you think there is a cultural fear in the UK of telling others how you really are?
  • Benji: just thank you !!!
  • Sam: How did you found your own drive? what inspired you? any resources?
  • Dan Billing: Maryam, this story is so beautiful and genuine. What are your key techniques to working with your anxieties, and being able to keep up your energy and passion?
  • Vernon Richards: Hey Maryam :wave:t5:. You don’t have to answer this question but have you talked to your family about this? It sounds like the expectation to achieveAllTheThings started early. So I wondered if you had any advice on how to broach this sensitive topic with loved ones?
  • Varun: What did you do different as a manager that you didn’t get from your manager? I am new manager in a new company I want to be more be a great supportive leader
  • Cassandra HL: Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. Could you share any tips on how to let go of that idea of personal perfection, when part of our job as testers is to aim for perfection? Especially when you’ve essentially been raised on the idea of overachieving. Thanks!
  • Honey Chawla: There are so many in silos working with many anxiety issues inside them in the project, how to create culture where they come out of silos and be open in communication and become a team of humans and not robots?
  • Adam Stewart: Not a question, but this has been amazing. Thank you for sharing it.
  • Stephen Liu: How have you recalibrated, with the changes to the work/life changes we are all facing currently under lockdown?
  • Dave Harlowe: Do activities where we offer support others help with anxiety and feelings of helplessness?
  • Rachel Gilbert: 1. Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing this story. resist a burnout culture on your
  • Shalini: Did you ever feel judged where you are expected to be healthy and fit both physically and mentally! Not doing so is like second grade ?
  • atiqah azlan: How do you overcome the overthinking and the guilt of not finding the bugs with your team?
  • Deborah: How do you try and get others to understand?
  • Georgia Bloyce: Thank you for sharing your story, it’s been inspiring. Sounds like your new calibration is really healthy. Do you have more examples of how you apply this philosophy at work day-to-day (either managing or testing)?
  • Mike Mc: As a manager, how do you let your experience shape your managing/leading/guiding?
  • Woutske Hartholt: Wow, thank you very much for sharing your story! In the beginning of your story you said that you faced a lot of stress as you take a lot of responsibility to deliver good quality software. I recognise this as well. However, as you indicated, quality should be a team effort, not a personal effort by a single team member. Do you have any experience/advice on how we can make the responsibility a team effort?
  • Paul Marlow: I’ve done the walking away from a job that caused undue stress and anxiety before. What drives us to make this massive life change do you think?
  • Karlo Smid: Does having cats helps? If yes, how they help?
  • Ajay: Maryam , in your low time did you ever felt you selected a wrong field?
  • DefectHunter: Do you follow your hobbies now?
  • Christian Dabnor: Isn’t worrying kind of a habit that comes with our chosen career? How do you mitigate that?
  • João Proença: Thank you Maryam. Amazing talk. I too had to deal with burnout in the past and the first thing a doctor did when I reached for help was perscribe me with medication. I didn’t take it, it didn’t make sense to me. What really worked for me was therapy and it was a long process. Do you believe that in your case it was medication + therapy that made a difference or was one of the two more important?
  • Emna Ayadi: What to manage many tasks at once(work or not work related) without having burnout?
  • alt (Guna): Thank you for not ignoring your health anymore and are more careful with keeping yourself self. The journey out of the darkness takes year. How often do you reflect on the progress you are making now compared to your lowest? Have you tried to send yourself a letter of hopes for the 3/6/12 months? :slight_smile:
  • Lilla: As a manager how can you help others to prevent this in your daily work? (thanks for the talk)
  • Carolyn Newham: Do you think we became testers because we are perfectionists and so that’s how we approach our work?
  • Imma: How to give support to co-workers? (I am not asking how to ask for support)
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Oh- Self Care AND Self kindness are 2 different things. What an awesome and so important statement.

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Amazing talk, this really hit home with some of the things Maryam has discussed, such an inspiration

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You just helped me realise what is wrong with my health. Even my doctor didn’t tell me. Now its clear. Thank you so much. Had so many of those symptoms and they even sent someone to my home to do an ECG last week but the machine didn’t work. So started a Self-Care regime but you are right, Self-Kindness is so important.

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Awesome, really valuable and absolutely relatable session. Thank you @maryam for helping me realize a lot today.

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What things can you do to help yourself if you cannot/ do not feel safe in asking for help in the workplace, from family or friends? I see a colleague I have worked with is struggling but as a contractor not clear what support network she has in place.

I think worrying is a human condition. But I have learned recently that worrying alone isn’t enough - communicating your worries is a critical part of what testing is. It makes you feel better, and allows other to handle the problem. Or amazingly, you discover you needn’t worry about something.

I am so glad that you had an Aha moment :slight_smile: Let me know if I can help in any way!

Just go for a walk with them :). Go out for coffee/tea/ dessert. Just have a normal conversation and see if they open up.

Writing down about what’s worrying you, helps a lot. Also writing down the impact of the issue also helps clarify if the thoughts are in your head.

  • Laura Kopp: Did you lose the original excitement you had for Software Quality during university? How did you realize you’d lost the excitement?
    @laurakopp I actually did not lose the original excitement ever. I actually felt (and still feel) that I am not doing enough justice to the subject.
  • goga: How long lasted this period of time?
  • Gitte: Do you think there is a cultural fear in the UK of telling others how you really are?
    @gitteporsgaard Possibly! I overcame the idea of putting up a facade for a very long time as then I wasn’t taking my whole self to work.
  • Benji: just thank you !!!
  • Sam: How did you found your own drive? what inspired you? any resources?
    @sam I just did not want to fail. I was born with a capable brain and a capable body and I owe it to my existence to overcome this difficult time.
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  • Dan Billing: Maryam, this story is so beautiful and genuine. What are your key techniques to working with your anxieties, and being able to keep up your energy and passion?
    @danbillings Thank you Dan! When I get anxious, first thing I do is make a list of things in mind. Too many tasks overwhelm me…so i write down EVERY THING from msging specific friends, grocery, meetings, lunch break, training, gardening, etc. I find that when I finish my usual chores, I then use a 4 quadrant time management matrix to figure out what I have to tackle first and take it from there. This way I have some sense of small achievements rather than a mountain of TODOs in front of me.

  • Vernon Richards: Hey Maryam :wave:t5:. You don’t have to answer this question but have you talked to your family about this? It sounds like the expectation to achieveAllTheThings started early. So I wondered if you had any advice on how to broach this sensitive topic with loved ones?
    @testerfromleic not really. But my father finds it easy to coach me indirectly as him and I have the same personality.

  • Varun: What did you do different as a manager that you didn’t get from your manager? I am new manager in a new company I want to be more be a great supportive leader
    Always be available for your team. Be clear on your expectations from them. And always be honest and transparent with them. If you feel stressed by a certain department, share your stresses with them.

  • Cassandra HL: Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. Could you share any tips on how to let go of that idea of personal perfection, when part of our job as testers is to aim for perfection? Especially when you’ve essentially been raised on the idea of overachieving. Thanks!
    @cassandrahl Hey there! You have to remember this ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough’. Our job as testers is not really to aim for perfection; it’s more about making the whole team aware of the quality of the product so we can all work collectively to improve it. The moment you understand this, you will realise that the stress leaves you to some extent.

  • Honey Chawla: There are so many in silos working with many anxiety issues inside them in the project, how to create culture where they come out of silos and be open in communication and become a team of humans and not robots?
    Discuss risk and impact and make the discussions objective. I have also found that using the spotify health check model also works quite well in surfacing some ‘soft’ issues.

  • Adam Stewart: Not a question, but this has been amazing. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Stephen Liu: How have you recalibrated, with the changes to the work/life changes we are all facing currently under lockdown?
    @07711eskimoe I have to admit, originally I did not. And went into a dip again. I actually considered speaking to a dr to increase my medication. But then I had a coaching session and I realised that I wasn’t doing awfully for my team. I just need to give myself more oxygen. So I started working on differentiating between end of day and personal time. I also don’t work on the weekends to fill time. I picked up baking. I also stopped watching the news non-stop. I have invested in finding flour :laughing: and started baking again. And I also bought a few stationary supplies to try and create mobile whiteboards etc in the house.

  • Dave Harlowe: Do activities where we offer support others help with anxiety and feelings of helplessness?
    @daveha to some extent yes. But anxiety is constant and doesn’t disappear. Takes time to go away. Just give people the space to overcome it and ask them if reprioritising of tasks will help them. Only offer support if they ask. Sometimes all we want to do is be on our own and just breathe normally.

  • Rachel Gilbert: 1. Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing this story. resist a burnout culture on your

  • Shalini: Did you ever feel judged where you are expected to be healthy and fit both physically and mentally! Not doing so is like second grade ?
    Actually no. I wanted to be healthy. And I went through a yo-yo journey of being health mentally or physically but never both.

  • atiqah azlan: How do you overcome the overthinking and the guilt of not finding the bugs with your team?
    I see it as an opportunity to improve. And if I see a blame culture developing, you really don’t want to be in that team or organisation.

  • Deborah: How do you try and get others to understand?
    By being honest. It goes a long way. And also, if you are positive, you will always attract positive energy.

  • Georgia Bloyce: Thank you for sharing your story, it’s been inspiring. Sounds like your new calibration is really healthy. Do you have more examples of how you apply this philosophy at work day-to-day (either managing or testing)?

  • Mike Mc: As a manager, how do you let your experience shape your managing/leading/guiding?
    @mikemcapple I actually rely on my intuition and my learnings from my mentors shape my decisions a lot.

  • Woutske Hartholt: Wow, thank you very much for sharing your story! In the beginning of your story you said that you faced a lot of stress as you take a lot of responsibility to deliver good quality software. I recognise this as well. However, as you indicated, quality should be a team effort, not a personal effort by a single team member. Do you have any experience/advice on how we can make the responsibility a team effort?
    Hi there and thank you very much! I work on creating quality gates in the process of engineering. E.g. quality of acceptance criteria, planning methodologies, doing good code reviews, etc.

  • Paul Marlow: I’ve done the walking away from a job that caused undue stress and anxiety before. What drives us to make this massive life change do you think?
    @casper168 Our bodies saying NO :slight_smile:

  • Karlo Smid: Does having cats helps? If yes, how they help?
    @karlo.smid It’s been a great distraction. As they are alive and kicking and their well being is far more important than a test report not having the right sections :wink:

  • Ajay: Maryam , in your low time did you ever felt you selected a wrong field?

  • DefectHunter: Do you follow your hobbies now?

  • Christian Dabnor: Isn’t worrying kind of a habit that comes with our chosen career? How do you mitigate that?
    I don’t think so. For me, it’s always been a part of my personality.

  • João Proença: Thank you Maryam. Amazing talk. I too had to deal with burnout in the past and the first thing a doctor did when I reached for help was perscribe me with medication. I didn’t take it, it didn’t make sense to me. What really worked for me was therapy and it was a long process. Do you believe that in your case it was medication + therapy that made a difference or was one of the two more important?
    @jrosaproenca Thank you so much! For me, it was the life coaching and medication which has helped me in the end. The therapy wasn’t person-led so I did not find it impactful.

  • Emna Ayadi: What to manage many tasks at once(work or not work related) without having burnout?
    @emna_ayadi I make to do lists and use the 4 quadrant time management matrix to assist. This helps me prioritise and achieve tasks at a good pace.

  • alt (Guna): Thank you for not ignoring your health anymore and are more careful with keeping yourself self. The journey out of the darkness takes year. How often do you reflect on the progress you are making now compared to your lowest? Have you tried to send yourself a letter of hopes for the 3/6/12 months? :slight_smile:
    Thank you! I actually have a personal blog which I use for venting. :slight_smile:

  • Lilla: As a manager how can you help others to prevent this in your daily work? (thanks for the talk)
    You are welcome :slight_smile: I talk about it extensively, especially when we have high impact releases. We also worked together to create a safe space to talk about burnout.

  • Carolyn Newham: Do you think we became testers because we are perfectionists and so that’s how we approach our work?
    I think it’s possible. But then I have also seen and worked with some terrible testers. I think passionate testers are the ones who want to achieve perfection and improve everything they work on.

  • Imma: How to give support to co-workers? (I am not asking how to ask for support)
    Give them options. Therapy, training, coaching. Provide them access to an external network if you can. Like the one at MoT :slight_smile:

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