Why “Question Everything” Is Part of the QA Mindset

Adopting a QA mindset means you never stop questioning what’s before you. Still, dealing with test cases might be easier than dealing with people and sometimes QA engineers will struggle with questioning others.

From time to time, we all find ourselves in one of those situations where we don’t agree with something another person said but decide just to ignore it. Maybe we lack the courage or the experience to speak our minds even though it might help resolve the issue, speed up the process, or change something for the better.

As a software tester, questioning others may be difficult or even look like you’re about to offend someone, especially if you are a junior QA engineer or have less experience than your colleagues. However, to truly adopt a QA mindset, you need to get past the initial discomfort. After all, challenging the status quo is literally in your job description.

In this article, we examine the concept of questioning others, try to understand why it’s not easy, and why we should do it anyway. To see how the QA mindset works in practice, we’ve also asked our team of 40+ Quality Assurance experts to share their experiences about questioning others.

Asking questions doesn’t come naturally after the age of four

People are more complicated than test cases – they often get shy about asking questions in general, and that is perfectly normal. Maybe they are afraid to challenge their superiors and more experienced colleagues or don’t want to risk looking ridiculous in front of others if they are wrong.

Have you ever heard of the so-called imposter syndrome? If you’ve ever felt like you do not belong, doubted your skills, and thought someone would see you as a fraud at the workplace because you don’t know something, you’ve experienced it.

The impostor syndrome is very common and not at all helpful when it comes to asking questions, let alone questioning your project teammates.

To get over this and embrace the QA mindset, you must first understand that it is okay not to know something. It’s also okay to ask questions to find out what you don’t know, even if you think you should’ve already known that. 

Be free to ask for help from more experienced colleagues, read about the project you are working on, and make notes. With time, you will overcome these issues, and asking questions will become easier.

To build a QA mindset, build your understanding first

Questioning someone without fully understanding the context, knowing the basics, or being familiar with the product being built is not very efficient. This will mostly happen to junior software testers or someone new to the project or company. However, even that type of questioning doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing because it’s still a learning opportunity.

However, in order to adopt a QA mindset and question things with confidence and authority, it is best to come prepared. Listen in meetings, ask questions, read the documentation, and explore the application you’ll be working on. It is the only way to build your understanding and with it, confidence. When you know what you’re talking about, you can question others more efficiently.

Why question things at all?

Embracing the QA mindset, you realize that everybody makes mistakes. That’s a simple fact that applies regardless of a person’s knowledge, experience, or title. Sometimes, the only way to realize a mistake has been made is to question a person’s decision and discuss it. 

Questioning something you feel is off can help you and everyone on the project team because they might realize there’s a better way.

If you’re worried about sounding insulting when you question someone, it doesn’t have to be that way when you’re mindful of your phrasing. For example, your team lead tells you to test an app in some particular way. You can be casual about it and ask something like, “Okay, sure, but can you just explain to me why I need to do that in this particular way and not another one?” You are asking for a simple explanation. Sometimes you’ll get a straightforward answer that will clarify things for you, and sometimes your team lead or another team member might employ their own QA mindset and realize you’ve got something there.

We’ve asked our QA team some questions about questioning

To see what questioning others looks like in practice and what results it brings about, we’ve performed a mini-survey within our 42-member Quality Assurance team. The results pretty much confirmed our expectations. 

One of the questions we’ve asked was, have they ever found themselves in a situation where someone from the project team asked them to disregard a certain recommended process in favor of their method, and if yes, what did they do. 

A couple of respondents said they didn’t question the person asking this from them and just went along with it because they were new to the company. 

“As a newcomer to the field, you are sometimes struggling with impostor syndrome, thinking that you don’t know enough to question something or propose something different as a process or solution,” said one member of our Quality Assurance team. 

However, most people did decide to question this change in course. They would say their arguments for following the recommended process or just ask for an explanation of why they should do differently on that particular occasion. 

The QA engineers who decided to question the change received a better outcome – either the testing process was modified to address their input, or they got an explanation of why it wouldn’t be modified.

Even in the latter case, they’ve learned something, which wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t dare speak up. 

In another question, we asked our Quality Assurance team if they have ever wanted to question someone but ended up not going through with it, and if it caused any issues on the project.

In this case, most of the respondents said that they were in a situation like this and chose not to question someone because they were new to the company, new to the project, or just in a junior role. This indeed caused issues on the project in some cases, but luckily for the rest, it all ended well.

“At the moment I was new to the project, so I wasn’t sure of myself. Luckily, other colleagues raised the point, so there was no bad outcome.” said one member of our QA team.

Embrace the QA mindset and question everything – in the right way

Questioning people, decisions, or processes in line with a true QA mindset can be a real issue for many people, especially if they’re at the beginning of their careers or new to the team. It’s hard to break the ice, but it gets easier with time, and the key is – communication. 

Before questioning anything, it helps to prepare by simply asking questions. When you talk to your team and listen, you gain more experience and feel more comfortable and relaxed in your communication. It is also important that superiors or more experienced colleagues proactively discuss this with new colleagues and share some of their experiences.

A quote from one of the members of our Quality Assurance team sums it up perfectly: “The most important thing is that people talk to each other and try to share their viewpoints and knowledge to get the most positive outcome. At Infinum, what we do is always a team effort. One person can’t know everything all of the time. Collaboration and listening to others is the key.”