Track Talk F4

Put your Mindset to Test: The One Asset you need to Shape your Testing

Barry Ehigiator

09:00-09:45 CEST Friday 10th June

The way you look at things is the most powerful force in shaping your life.” – John O’Donohue

The above quote referred to by Graham Freeburn in the call for submission, resonated strongly with me. Because, akin to the quotes’ idea is my belief that “your mindset is the most powerful asset you need to shape your testing.”

I have often been asked why I describe myself as “a software tester with a pessimistic attitude to quality”. Such inquiries are often predicated on the notion that pessimism is a negative trait. However, when I talk about pessimism, I do not refer to toxic pessimism. Rather, defensive pessimism – a strategy for harnessing doubts and anxieties as motivation for better performance, which as I argued elsewhere, has a value in software testing. I believe that a testers’ mindset is a key asset that shapes our testing and determines the contribution we make to our teams. It is established that the testers’ mindset should include among others – curiosity, attention to detail, critical thinking, communication, and I will add – humility. The question is, how do testers develop this mindset? And what conditions help nurture them?

For me, I found my answers in practicing defensive pessimism, which has helped me bridge the gap between the “testers mindset”, and the “growth mindset” – described as the new psychology of success by Carol Dweck. Moreover, it has helped me put into practice – some key testing lessons drawn from “Lessons learned in software testing”, and it continues to help shape my testing. For example:

  • I question everything, but not necessarily out loud
  • I focus on failure so my client can focus on success
  • I acknowledge I will not find all the bugs in my products
  • I understand that “it works” really means it appears to meet some requirement to some degree
  • I remember I am harder to fool if I know I am a fool


In recent roles, I have worked on projects with very complex systems. To succeed, I would often reflect on the worst-case scenarios. This drives me to ask questions that facilitate my learning process. There are several ways I have used the aforesaid practice to accomplish my test missions. And this is the story I wish to tell, as I believe my story could help other testers ‘put their mindset to test’ in ways that help shape and improve their testing.