Today is the final day of Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness around the importance of mental health. In the aftermath of 2020 and the emergence of COVID-19, more of these important conversations are focused on mental health in the workplace. One of the most common work-related mental health issues: imposter syndrome. 

People with  imposter syndrome struggle with feelings of self-doubt, and often attribute their success to luck, coincidence, or other undeserved good fortune. First described in 1978, imposter syndrome affects people of all gender identities, ages, and professional experiences. With studies estimating that up to 82% of professionals deal with imposter syndrome, it’s one of the most common mental health issues at work. 

Imposter Syndrome in Quality Careers

Quality professionals can find themselves in unusually challenging circumstances when dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome. For one, quality professionals often work in small teams, limiting the amount of time for direct feedback from colleagues, especially for early career software testers. Two, QA professionals are navigating a rapidly transforming field that requires learning new skills and technologies to stay relevant. The demand for continuous learning can undermine the confidence of any software tester. 

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of resources to help quality folks navigate the uncertain waters of professional development and imposter syndrome. Though professional support is always recommended, there are several ways software testers can help themselves, their teams, and the overall QA community build confidence and manage imposter syndrome. 

Celebrate the Unique Skills of Quality Engineers

Quality engineers have a special set of skills that enable them to advocate for the end-user, coach the software development team on improving product quality, and work collaboratively across the enterprise. To do so, they rely on a unique skill set that encompasses technical and soft skills. But in the day-to-day race to support DevOps adoption and improve product quality, it’s too easy to forget the full value of the QA skill set, especially on a small quality team navigating different team environments. 

Whether they’re on a QA team of one or twenty, quality engineers should give themselves permission to celebrate the distinctive, valuable set of skills that set them apart in software development. In a world that tends to divide people into “left brain” or “right brain”, analytical or creative, empathy-driven or data-driven, quality professionals embrace both sides to make sure everyone has access to quality applications and websites. 

Embrace Upskilling

Few things are more empowering than mastering a new skill. When software testers expand their abilities, they can directly impact how their users experience the digital world. Learning accessibility testing, for example, builds more inclusive digital experiences for the one billion people worldwide living with different access needs. 

Upskilling can be as simple as setting aside time to read a book on quality engineering, leadership, or software development, tuning into a test automation podcast, or attending a free webinar offered by organizations like the Ministry of Testing. Learning a new skill is a proven way to build professional confidence as well as explore new career horizons: 56% of software testers learned by reading, and 44% learned from courses. When imposter syndrome begins creeping in, upskilling can help you navigate uncertainty and build your resumes. 

Join Quality Communities

Finally, the global quality community is well-connected, supportive, and welcoming to testers of all experience levels. Leaning into these spaces can help quality professionals build confidence, connect with fellow testers, and grow their careers. 

  • The Ministry of Testing offers courses, events, workshops, and discussions on all things quality. Newer quality professionals can find near-endless opportunities to learn new skills, while experienced quality engineers can expand their horizons by giving virtual and in-person talks to help others in their field. 
  • Test Guild, led by Joe Colantonio, features podcasts, articles, conferences, and courses on everything there is to know about automating testing. Quality professionals can explore open-source tools, connect with automation experts, and see the most cutting edge solutions in test automation. 
  • Local events and organizations: almost every region of the world has conferences dedicated to DevOps, quality assurance, and software testing. A few of mabl’s favorites include QA or the Highway, the Triangle Software Quality Association, and the Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference.
Connecting with fellow quality professionals can help testers find support when managing imposter syndrome. Fostering a supportive, collaborative industry culture ensures that new and established testers alike have a network that understands the stresses and successes of a quality career. 

Support Mental Health at Work

Discussing mental health, especially at work, is never easy. But holding space for these challenging conversations is critical for helping everyone navigate their professional lives in a healthy, inclusive manner. As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s important to understand how mental health stresses are connected to work, and how we can all contribute to supportive, inclusive work environments.