Friday, June 29, 2012

(Dark) Secret of a Great Tester

I recently read a Finnish article ( from a news paper which said the “dark secret of great employees is free overtime work”. This started a chain of thoughts in my mind that I would like to open up in this blog post. In the same time, I am hoping I will clarify my thoughts while writing.

The article is referring to another article where is estimated the workers of a Finnish labor union Pro are making about 2 million free hours yearly. Specialists and managerial roles are told to be with most unpaid extra hours. Some questions that popped up my mind:
-          Are they working at their fullest through the whole day or do they take additional “breaks” (like check their Facebook messages)?
-          Is this a problem because of bad management or for example employee’s own time management skills?
-          Do these people record their hours or this is based on their gut feeling? If they record the hours, how accurately it’s done?
-          What are the reasons they work extra hours? Why they don’t get paid for them?
-          Is anyone looking after what gets done instead of how many hours are done?

When I look back at my work history, I see myself being one of those doing long days, being enthusiastic about the product we have been building/testing, having very late and early meetings/e-mails/discussions with customers, taking responsibility for doing a great job and working for the team. So, did I work extra hours? Yes, always when I saw it was needed. So, did I get appreciation from it? Yes, always when it was seen by the team/management/customer. So, did I get paid for those hours? Yes, always when I reported the hours in the ERP. Obviously, I could not be paid for hours I didn’t mark.

Do I study “on my own time”? Of course! Do I think my employer should pay for this? No, because it’s something I am doing mostly for myself. I don’t except them to compensate for what they didn’t ask me to do, but I will greatly appreciate if they do so. I don’t want to be someone who is just hanging around there and executing test cases someone else has written. I don’t want mediocrity. I want to carry kittens from burning houses. I want to throw myself over an exploding grenade. I want to become great in whatever I am going to do.

So, what’s the problem here? According to the article, this should not be the case and even a person who is not going to do all that should be considered a great member of staff.

The article does rise up also the concern of people not getting any kind of compensation for their work. I don’t see this as relevant to the “dark secret” because clearly it’s not a secret of someone who is successful. That is a person who is being abused. That is about bad management instead of greatness. Maybe this is what the journalist even meant, but in this case she should re-write the article.

I am not saying everyone has to do it (= work hard; really hard). I am saying you have to do it if you want to be great. It’s not a dark secret all great people have worked huge amounts. It’s easy to say “oh but Einstein was so intelligent” and do nothing to achieve even a bit of what he did. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. But don’t come and ask for the same recognition those get who do it.


  1. Amen to that!
    I've been preaching "work hard" the last year when presenting on agile testing and the agile tester.

    "Yes I do expect you to study on your own time, and if you don't have the passion to work as a tester... what are you doing in this job?!?"

    Giving that line to an audience of testers is often met with nodding heads... but way to often I also get scoffs and questioning eyes (are your serious...???) from testers who simple don't want to do anything more than "check in" and "check out".

    It's scary how seldom I run into testers with a real passion for what they do (except the usual twitter-suspects of course ;-) ).

    Great blog post!

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, Kristoffer!

      Considering this and what I read earlier from you, I'll add your blog in my reading list. You seem like the kind of guy who is ready to work hard for success.

      Best regards,

  2. Few years ago I had positive attitude toward overtime working, but that changed dramatically when I became father. After that I have basically put my work inside the 37,5-40 hours per week and do everything I can to keep it static.

    That doesn't mean that I don't spend time for learning outside those office hours. I do read while travelling with bus, or the spare time I have during the evenings, but the thing is that I see every extra hour at work as a hour taken from time I spent with my family. Reading a blog post or article in the evening when my son and fiancee has gone sleep is totally different compared to time being physically away.

    Overtime is fine for me if that is compensated by equal amount of hours on some other day when the heat is not on. Otherwise I aim to optimize that time I spend in work the best I can.

    Good post Jari!

    -Aleksis Tulonen

    1. Hi Aleksis,

      Thanks for the comment and compliments! It's always great to receive positive feedback from intelligent people. I can reflect your words easily on myself because I am a fresh father also (daughter is 8 weeks today).

      I am not working that much overtime nowadays either. At least not at the office. I do use quite an amount of time out of the office hours for learning, reading, writing, researching, networking etc.

      I feel that if I work (overtime), I need to get compensated on that. I also feel when I am working for someone, I need to do my best for that money. Because of this, and because overtime is usually a lot more expensive than normal hours, I do my best to optimize my time usage.

      It's hard to balance work, hobbies and family when you love all those very much. Usually it means you won't have anymore that much time with friends or hanging around in cafeterias. I can live with that because I am doing fantastic things on a daily basis.

      Best regards,

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