I was swimming slowly up and down the pool at the fitness centre this morning, and reflecting on how my attitude to swimming pools has changed over the last few years, and that to gyms has changed in the last month.
Life-long – since earliest school days – “swimming pools” and “gyms” have been a source of fear, shame and avoidance; the noise, the smells, the bullying – overt and implicit – all intimidating and preventing me even stepping inside.
In the last few years I have shed my fear of swimming pools to some extent, and although a poor and slow swimmer, I do go to swim fairly regularly. Still – if people are noisy, if they shout or splash, if the water is oozing chlorine, if the lanes are crowded with strong, intent, heads down swimmers, then it takes all my mental strength to stay in the water. But, in calm water, I enjoy myself.
In November I moved to a new house-sit, in a new town. Knowing that I was in a town for the winter, knowing that I would need exercise, I joined the fitness club that had a pool. So far, so good. Then – to my horror – they offered me a PT session. All my fears of gyms, changing rooms, and equipment resurged – gut wrenchingly. But, as part of my personal and professional development in the last year, I have adopted a spirit of “try it once” so I went. It was surprising good. The PT instructor was supportive, kind, and encouraging.
One of the things we discussed was my fear of going into a gym, as I believed that other people would laugh at me, at my lack of expertise, my lack of fitness, my incompetence. The instructor helped me to see that no-one else in the gym was interested in what I was doing, and also that they fell into a number of categories none of which needed to alarm me. These were:
- the local professional rugby players. Huge, fit, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
- the body builders. Rippling muscles, serious demeanors, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
- the youngsters. Slim, beautiful, practised – cycling, running, on their phones, ears focused on their downloads – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
- middle aged and elderly people trying to get fit – oh hang on…. even if they are fitter than me, now, they’ve come from somewhere…
Guess what – I can go in there, and do the things I want to do, at my own pace. And no-one is laughing at me. Even more – if I need help – for example to adjust a machine – everyone I have asked for help has been helpful.
The machines I am using now at the gym – they are mostly on the lowest settings, the smallest weights. And I realised this week – there is a reason for those smallest weights – it is because people like me have to start somewhere. And now I have started, I can continue along an improvement path as long as want, to the level I need, regardless of what anyone else is doing. My targets are not going to be the same as the body builders, or the rugby players, or the youngsters. My target is to move from 5kg to 7.5kg, not from 5kg to 25kg. That’s all I need to do for now.
Why is this post in my consultancy blog and not in my personal blog? Because my message is to those of you who are not quality and testing experts. You might be as worried about starting on a self-improvement path around your professional practice as I was about going to the gym for the first time. My message is: try it.
Maybe you want to improve your personal practice, but you are not sure how. Perhaps you want to learn techniques, tools, approaches but are frightened that you’ll be laughed at if you ask. Perhaps you want to speak at conferences but feel you are not good enough. My message is: give it a go. Ask for help. There are many of us in the industry who are more than happy to help if we are asked. Go to a conference, or a test bash, or on a course. Talk to other people at the conference. Talk to the speakers. You’ll be surprised at how much you can already do know, and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. Your target for self improvement need not be huge, just to make a small difference. Maybe to learn one technique, maybe to try one new approach.
Try these for starters:
UKSTAR, London: https://ukstar.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/
- I’m speaking at this one so you can use a speakers discount
STAREast, Florida, USA: https://stareast.techwell.com
- This includes the free Women Who Test day on the Friday, so make sure to book for that as well.
On my personal list for 2018 is to get to Ministry of Testing event – I just need to get myself together and do it! Have a look at https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/events
And also look at the online resources those conferences support – there is a mass of useful information you can get access to.
I keep a list of conferences where I am speaking on my website: confer with Isabel