Attendees at the 2017 PNSQC Conference are in for a dubious treat–they’ll get to share the journey of self-doubt and skepticism that Zeger Van Hese endured. But don’t worry, the invited speaker and founder of Z-Sharp survived his ordeal and came through it more determined than ever that he’d made the right professional choice.
Zeger’s presentation–The Power of Doubt – Becoming a Software Skeptic–draws on his experiment with self-examination. It is his second major presentation at PNSQC. In 2015, he had his audience clinging to every word during his talk, Testing in the Age of Distraction. That discussion focused on how we can easily become fixated on the wrong objects during testing. This year, he’ll talk about a different fixation: His obsession with exploring self-doubt.
As noted in the description of his talk, Van Hese found himself becoming increasingly uncertain about his abilities and beliefs around testing and quality assurance. Instead of burying his doubts, he confronted them.
“I wanted to get to the bottom of this and, for a year, decided to submerge myself in all things skeptic in hope of finding clues to help me with my testing and my struggles with doubt. It was a fascinating journey that brought me to both sides of the spectrum, ranging from philosophy, critical thinking and science to pseudo-science and the paranormal. The latter proved to be a portal into the world of the odd, the awkward and the downright bizarre,” he says.
We asked Zeger to give us further insights into his quest. He was happy to share his thoughts, in part because he believes more professionals should take the time to examine any doubts they may have about their work.
Were there specific incidents or causes that triggered your doubts about your profession? Can you share with us what led you to your “path of skepticism” approach to exploring your personal and professional concerns?
Van Hese: There were no specific incidents that triggered it, rather a feeling that had been lingering for a number of years already and that was only getting stronger. The more experienced I got, the more I realized how much I didn’t know, how I was only scratching the surface. People around me seemed so convinced and sure of themselves, while I was full of doubt about my knowledge, my capacities and best routes to take. I had learned over the years that software teams are complex entities in which things are usually not black or white but mostly gray. Where I was able to state things with conviction and certainty in the past, experience seemed to make me doubt more than it helped me move ahead. In an area where ‘providing assurance’ is often part of the job description, this is an awkward position to be in.
Did you at any point consider retiring from the QA field during your period of examination? What else would you have pursued professionally?
Van Hese: Quitting software testing was never an option for me. I always kept in the back of my mind that I was on a mission, that I was doing this to become a better tester. Although I rolled into testing by accident, I discovered that testing was even more in my DNA than I thought, which makes it a natural career choice for me.
Would you recommend your approach to self-discovery to others? What are the risks and rewards of your journey?
Van Hese: It was quite the ride, I learned lots about myself and others. The journey was actually the most fun part, the end goal gave me a kind of structure and focus that I normally struggle to achieve. The hardest part was dealing with conference presentation deadlines which forced me to start reflecting on my experiences and transforming it into a lesson for others.
Would I recommend it? For sure! II think it never hurts to take a break from the daily routine to get some learning in. The main risk in these kinds of exercises for me is that I want to keep on researching and gathering data rather than converging and synthesizing. The biggest reward for me is seeing it all fall into place, realizing that there are some universal lessons in there for everyone.