What do structural engineers, fact-checkers, and anesthesiologists have in common?

According to researcher and author, David Zweig:

  • When people in these professions underperform, the consequences are catastrophic
  • When they do their jobs perfectly, these professionals remain invisible

In his new book, Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, Zweig defines “Invisibles” as high-performing professionals who work behind the scenes and keep the engine running (i.e. you only notice them when they make a mistake). And they share 3 characteristics that distinguish them from those in other fields:

  1. Ambivalence towards recognition
  2. Meticulous attention to detail
  3. Inherent love of responsibility

After reading the above definition, I’m inclined to add software testers to the list of “Invisibles”. Failure in our profession is easy to document and quantify. Success, however, is elusive – almost by definition.

We are unsung heroes of the IT world.

Eternal ghosts in the code.

Fortunately, lack of praise has never been a deterrent for true software testers.

What Motivates Software Testers to Do What They Do

Don’t get me wrong. As individuals, we all love recognition. The desire for acceptance and praise is hardcoded into our DNA.

But we don’t do what we do for the glory. There are so many other jobs out there that offer more of the limelight – jobs that leverage skills we already have.

No – we become software testers for other reasons. And it definitely isn’t for the money.

Motivation 1: Thrill of the Chase
We are natural problem solvers who gravitate towards challenges that scare most people off. In fact, unresolved problems often become earworms that stay stuck in our heads for days and days – until we find resolution and release.

Motivation 2: Love of Learning
Unlike doctors, lawyers, and even software developers, we shy away from extreme specialization. Our skills must constantly evolve:

  • Vertically. We dig deeper into the code and learn the who, what, when, where, and why of everything we touch.
  • Horizontally. We branch out into new languages, platforms, and environments.

In other words, there is no “comfort” zone. Even choosing exclusively between mobile vs. Web vs. desktop software testing is next to impossible in our field. We have to (or want to) become both specialists and generalists – a process that requires continuous learning.

Motivation 3: The Customers
Problem solving and learning are what motivate us in the day-to-day. They are the fuel that keeps us going.

But what ultimately drives us is the end-user – customers whom we’ll never meet in person – but whose positive experience is sacred to us. Anything that bears our mark must deliver as promised.

This is why we fight so hard to be included during the early stages of every product’s development cycle. Our inclusion increases the likelihood that the finished product keeps that promise.

Software Testers Are Invisible – But Invaluable

Our contributions aren’t always recognized. According to Zweig, they never fully will be as long as we’re doing our job.

But like many Invisibles, our contributions are invaluable. A world without structural engineers, fact-checkers, and anesthesiologists is a scary place to imagine.

Same goes for software testers.