Straining and Healing

It was about 6 years ago on a day like this: I had sent the relevant emails off some people’s ways, and was browsing the web for a job — any job I could do at the time just to get some experience. Since moving to Canada I had not worked for anyone but myself, and after making the decision to not live off of my diminishing customer base as a web designed, I looked forward to something more plain: A desk job perhaps? Anything that could get me some experience as well as revenue.

Not long after that I stumbled into a multitude of ads for videogame companies. Montreal is a mecca of sorts when it comes to videogames, and there are plenty of QA outsourcers out there — so I applied to all of them.

It is now June 2011, and I have not yet heard anything from any place I applied to. I am getting ready for another summer of writing a few articles and making a website here and there, when I get called from two places. Both of them are offering me on-call contracts, meaning that I may only get work based on project availabilities, but only one of them offers me the option to work two different types of QA: Functionality QA (which focuses on game behavior) and Localization QA (which focuses on linguistic proof-reading — something that I can do as a native Spanish speaker). I decide to go with the company that gave me both options.

I start relatively fast in that I get called in to be trained in the first batch of that year, and am working as an FQA tester for the first time a week later. It is now mid June. I work hard, and decide to make myself available for all schedules, double shifts, and mixed tasks. Some days I do purely FQA and other days I replace people who are missing in LQA — all in all the work is entertaining and the people are nice, so I decide to stick around past summer and well into the winter season.

From here on the road becomes trickier, and I start aiming for Leadership positions — something that I never pictured myself doing as a teenager or even at that point in my life. Every wave of work comes like a hurricane — forcing me to learn everything on the go, and then giving me enough time to collect my thoughts. The waves keep coming on and on. Non-stop. Crashing hard in the rocks found in my shore, and then retreating.

It was about 6 years ago on a day like this. Today I am in a management position, which is something I learned about when my mother was my age. She used to talk about all these notions that were completely alien to me at the time — and that eventually came to make a lot of sense as they resurfaced into my own life.

Every major threshold of knowledge or experience I have gone through in my career so far was reached after two very specific stages.

  1. Straining
  2. Healing

Straining often takes place during busy periods of time: Problems surface and need to be fixed, and processes to prevent these problems have to be created. Workload increases, which leads us to adding more members to our ranks, increasing our coaching efforts. As we wade through the added load, the team itself deteriorates due to the increase in workload and mental efforts.

At this point, healing is needed. An error all too common I see in some team members in our industry is that they work without stopping all year long — burning out and still coming in — and end up becoming complacent and even stale in the fashion in which they work or the processes they are able to work with. Healing allows all the knowledge gathered until that point to be properly assimilated. Healing allows the staff to grow, be healthier, more efficient, and be ready for the challenges that have come in the past, which leaves room for the challenges that will arise in the future.

Every occasion and every instance where I sprinted through a project giving it my all was a great opportunity to learn something new and prove to myself that I could do the job. Every time I took a step back to look at what I had accomplished and what I needed to do better the next time, however, those were the moments where I grew the most.

Step back for a moment.

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