रहिमन पानी राखिये, बिन पानी सब सून।
पानी गये न ऊबरे, मोती, मानुष, चून॥
~ Rahim (1556-1627)

(O Rahim! Preserve your dignity
How worthless they would be:
A pearl without its shine,
Flour without water,
And a man without dignity.)

He walks in and sits in front of me. “Why do you want to be a software tester?..”, I ask, “Don’t you have anything good left to do in your life?”.

Notwithstanding my humour, he says what he had prepared to say all along – “Because I am passionate about software testing.”, while he looks me straight in the eye. I can read his eyes. He is confident that he has said what I wanted to hear. After all, that’s how interviews work in India. They are more about the interviewer than the candidate and his potential.
I smile. I have grown from getting angry at blatant lies to being more empathetic. He most likely comes from one of those majority of engineering degree colleges, where software testing is a chapter in one of the 35-40 subjects they are taught. He most likely wanted to be a software developer. His peers, friends and family would have advised him accordingly. He has probably failed at all these attempts. He is probably looking now at software testing as an option with the idea that he is told – If you can not do anything else, you can definitely do software testing. He is most likely looking at it as an entry point, a stepping stone or in the worst case – an acknowledgement of defeat. That’s an extremely strange and sad definition of the word ‘passion’. What’s worse is that if ‘cracks’ this interview, he is going to live this lie forever.

I can not penalise him for what he has said. It is not his fault. I understand that now. So, I explain to him that it does not matter why he is in the room. What is important is to understand what happens next? Has he thought this through? One thing which I always end up talking about with fresh graduates is – Dignity.

I am sure you too have gone through similar experiences on either side of the table.

Is there really something wrong with the software testing profession? I was put into software testing, after being hired as a fresher, after going through a generic induction programme for all. To tell the truth, I was very angry and disappointed. It was because that’s how my peers wanted me to react – disappointed, as if my whole career just went down the drain. It wasn’t because I knew software testing is a bad profession, it was because I knew nothing about software testing. For that matter, I knew nothing about development as well. However, that’s how I decided to value my job in software testing. It was as if I let the world define and design my own dignity as well as the dignity of my career.

What do we do when we don’t respect our own profession; when we don’t find it dignified enough; when we ourselves treat it as a second rate career option; when we have started our career based on a sense of defeat? Can we expect others to respect us, our work, our profession when we ourselves don’t?

Discovering and acknowledging the dignity of one’s profession is the basis of true passion. It’s a very personal journey. It took me years to find meaning in what I do. And then some years to discover that I can spend my whole life and would still not be able to cover it all. It took a lot of risks and sacrifices to finally see the love for what I do, unfold in front of me. Work does not look like work any more. I don’t seek work-life balance. It sounds like a silly thought to me. We are not dead when we are working. That’s only if we are happy.

I have found my answer. I hope some of you have found it too. And some of you are still in the chaotic stage of confusion.

This is what I’ve discovered for myself – I am the answer. No profession is good or bad by itself. We make it good or bad for ourselves.

I choose to be unconditionally dignified. And I am.

I guess I have said what I wanted to say for the purpose of this article. So, I’d conclude with another couplet. This one is by Giridhar Kavirai:

कह ‘गिरिधर कविराय, बडेन की याही बानी।
चलिये चाल सुचाल, राखिये अपनो पानी॥
~ Giridhar (19th century)

(Giridhar Kavirai says,
The wise men advocate
That you make your deeds good deeds
And that you preserve your dignity)


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April 25th, 2007

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