Using your product expertise wisely

In small companies especially, software testers get to perform lots of different tasks apart from testing. A software tester doesn’t just know how to use a new product, but invariably knows how to install, configure, work around issues, upgrade and back up data. Software testers will also know about minimum requirements and the applications limitations.

Not surprisingly, a good software tester starts to get a reputation of being a bit of a product expert. Someone people can come to to get product knowledge. Or someone who can setup demonstrations as well as perform them. This is very gratifying, but it can also lead to problems if it starts to impact your own work.

This can lead to stress and can often be a cause of resentment. It's best to try and manage this situations early on. I find the following approaches helpful:

1)      Learn to let go
Try not to perform tasks for people, but teach them the basics and let me go and learn it themselves. If lots of people are asking for the same thing, consider writing a short cheat sheet or posting stuff onto wiki.

2)      Learn to delegate
Always make sure someone else trains up with you. Don’t be the only person with all the knowledge. Make sure you share it by training up other team members.

3)      Learn to say no.
Sometimes its better not to take on work that is inevitably going to compromise your deadlines and deliverables. Say No, explaining why you are unable to help. You may upset people initially, but in the long term you are not doing anyone any favors by taking on too much work.  If your decision is overridden you may still have to go and do the extra work, but at least people are aware of the compromises being made.

If you are the only person who can fix things and you are overstretched, you are in fact more of a liability than an asset. Spread your knowledge and let you and your company benefit from your wealth of knowledge.