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Overcoming Anxiety and Finding Confidence as a Graduate Test Engineer

Overcoming Anxiety and Finding Confidence as a Graduate Test Engineer

My first client-based project… everyone must start somewhere, right? Starting out as a graduate, the project presented me with a lot of firsts. My first time encountering specific technologies, team members, project structures, methodologies applied to the project to achieve the end result. And last but not least, meeting and interacting with the client—potentially one of the most terrifying aspects any graduate can imagine!

Even the idea of that gave me the same nerves I felt when starting out my career. First day nerves, not just me, right? This rang true for all the first experiences I was about to encounter on my first ever project as a Graduate Test Engineer with Apexon.

The First Step… Meeting the Delivery Team

It all started with the onboarding process. In hindsight, this helped me overcome a lot of my nerves. It began with an introduction to the delivery team, with everyone being very welcoming from the get-go. As I’m familiarising myself with the project and the team, everyone was ready to answer the many questions I fired their way.

Something that may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things happened to be the thing that quelled my nerves most. It makes me wonder whether I was nervous about the project at all, or whether it was just meeting new people. Even now I don’t know the answer!

Getting To Know the Project

With introductions out of the way, I was then briefed on the project, its end goal, the client, and offered the opportunity to ask any questions. Obviously, at this point, I’m overwhelmed and overloaded with information. But the questions would come to me in time, and there was always an opportunity to ask them. Whether I directed them at the right person or not, they would help me either get to the answer, or direct me to the correct team member to ask. I was never left wanting or needing.

Meeting The Client for the First Time

Then came one of the more challenging hurdles: meeting the client for the first time.

Even though the project was currently on-going, and I was rolling on as an additional resource, I was still going to be a new name, new face for the client. What if I made a bad first impression? All these aspects are running through my currently swelling brain. Then it was time for my first call with the client.

Each member of the team introduced themselves and the respective client team did the same. I can remember the nerves and slight feeling of dread just disappearing when I realised the clients were just people who wanted our help in achieving a digital transformation of their current platform to help their customers, making their processes simpler, more efficient etc.

I started to wonder what all the nerves were for.

Yes, professionalism is key when interacting with clients. Professionalism matters everywhere, with it all being context based. But what it boils down to in simple terminology, is people asking for help from people who perhaps have more experience than them in the field. Was I really nervous about helping someone? Yes, I was, as I needed this first experience to develop that understanding and interpretation of the work I would be carrying out with clients.

Tackling The Tech Stack

Now it was time for some of the personal challenges I knew I needed to face head-on: the tech stack. All these concepts were going to be firsts for me. In practice, I’d done my research into the theory of the practices, but now I was part of a team looking to implement them, using various technologies to achieve the end goal that the client desired.

One of the first hurdles I encountered was terminology. A lot of the time I would be trying to understand the premise of an ongoing call or conversation. Sometimes I’d get lost through the terminology. But instead of becoming overwhelmed by this, I simply took notes.

Any terminology I was unsure of, I took a note of. Then, I either did a little research myself to find out what the terminology was referring too, and pieced the puzzle together myself, or I asked one of my team members. Simple solutions; I was already working smarter.

Something I cannot reinforce enough is the support I received from the team around me. They understood that everyone has different levels of experience, everyone has different specialisations, different fields and knowledge that they understand, that others may not Rather than allow a hurdle to be built up through team members not understanding something, they took the time to explain, and work through the topic until everyone had a clear understanding.

That willingness to ensure everyone understood the work that was required was instrumental, as the first aspect to tackle was the establishment of the back-end services. So my first challenge as a tester would be… APIs.

Testing My First API

Truthfully, I did not have the faintest idea about APIs until I started my career as a Graduate Tester. Plus, this was to be my first time testing them through Postman. But it’s just, “hitting an endpoint and returning information,” right?

Yes, that’s the end goal, but is the request structured correctly? Is the response structured correctly? Are the request parameters correct? Are the request headers correct? Does it have the correct error codes and error message aligned with those error codes?!

This was one of the experiences that really opened my eyes to the level of detail a tester goes into to ensure something meets a certain standard of quality. Being my first project-related testing task, there was a huge amount of personal satisfaction when the task was classified as done, along with a sigh of relief.

Implementing Automation Tests

Another requirement posed to the team on the project was the implementation of automation tests using Cypress for handling functional and End-to-End (E2E) flows. While I had been studying cypress independently, it all felt more theoretical, whereas now, I was being asked to implement scripts to automate the web application to simulate user flows and interactions for a client!

This is where we encountered a lot of roadblocks to get Cypress up and running against the test environments. Logging in posed the greatest challenge. Everyone assumes this is the easy part due to the use of Auth0. But Cypress needed a lot of configuring, handling of cookies, authorisation tokens, login credentials, URLs for the test environments, folder structuring, and then a dedicated framework to make the scripts consistent with one another.

After some time (that felt like forever), the team pulled through and managed to get Cypress to login to the test environment. At this point we were punching the air with excitement!

Writing Script

Now the real fun could begin! It was time to write the first E2E script, using all the best practices I had studied and the agreed upon framework.

Along the way, I picked up new skills, pieces of advice, and practices that could refine the theoretical knowledge I had gained. I learned that no matter how hard one can research and study independently, working with someone else will always provide you with new ideas and approaches!

Now the Nervous Part: Waiting for Feedback

Once I had completed the first automation script and committed it to the repository, I nervously waited for a review. Would I understand the comments? Would I know how to correct the aspects raised in my scripts?

Even if I didn’t, I could always ask another member of the team to help or to point me in the right direction. Then, away I would disappear into a rabbit hole of research into different techniques to refine my own automation practices.

Truthfully, the experience I gained from this project so early in my career has been instrumental in urging me forward to be the best tester I possibly can be. There’s something so satisfying about automation scripts running and all passing. In fact, I think my new favourite colour might be green!

Reflecting On My First Day

Looking back on the project, I started as a nervous, curious newcomer, at a Graduate Level to boot. But I can see how much I changed, how much I grew, developed, learned, and experienced over the course of the project.

For any future graduates, one thing I can say with certainty is that the nerves are completely normal, and they won’t disappear overnight. But they will slowly start to be broken down as you become more comfortable with a project, with a team, and with your role. The way I managed was by diving into the challenges as they arose, rather than backing away from them.

Overall, first times are always going to bring out nerves, no matter how confident the individual. How you handle those challenges is what I think defines how the rest of your career is going to unfold. So, relax the best you can and embrace the challenge!

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