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Tech People: Enhance Your Professional Journey with Mindfulness

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In software development, we need to focus carefully and stay focused in order to be productive. According to Emna Ayadi, especially during a lockdown people in tech are faced with stress, lack of concentration, and other mental problems that reduce their focus and motivation. To enhance tech people’s professional journey, she suggests combining testing with mindfulness.

Ayadi, a test consultant, spoke about how tech people can extend their skills and enhance their professional journey outside of working hours at ConTEST 2021. One of the ways she mentioned to do this is to use mindfulness and mediation in our daily technical work.

Mindfulness may seem evident or useless to some people, as it belongs to a completely different discipline not directly related to tech. But in reality, it offers a better way of improving focus that all of us tech people need, as Ayadi explained:

Mindfulness is about focusing only on what’s right in front of you. It allows you to get a singular focus and lack of distraction which allows learning and growth with high performance.

Ayadi explained that meditation isn’t about how long you can stay present. Meditation is about how often you can bring your attention back to the present moment.

Both words "mindfulness" and "meditation" are emerging in the 21st century and they are becoming more and more commonly used in many disciplines, Ayadi said.

To practice mindfulness in testing, Ayadi provided the following recommendations:

  • Finding a calm place to sit
  • Setting apart a small chunk of time for the activity
  • Taking a deep breath before exploring the software as a tester and following the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in
  • Being kind to your mind and always bringing yourself back to the present moment

According to Ayadi, doing meditation allows us to:

  • Gain a new perspective on stressful situations by teaching us how to relax
  • Increase imagination and creativity
  • Increase patience and tolerance
  • Deal with unhelpful, reactive emotions like anger or being frustrated
  • Clear unwanted thoughts and focus on actual experience

InfoQ interviewed Emna Ayadi about mindfulness and meditation for tech people and teams.

InfoQ: How did you find out about mindfulness?

Emna Ayadi: I knew the basics of yoga, and the term meditation. A few years ago, I discovered mindfulness when I attended the Journée Agile Conference in Liège, Belgium 2019. They opened the conference with a session including special music and a few mindfulness-related exercises to the whole audience, before even starting the keynote.

This blew my mind! It amazed me how such a small exercise and special music could provide participants with the energy and the ability to stay focused for the whole day.

InfoQ: What can mindfulness and meditation do for us?

Ayadi: Let me define the relation between both words via this quote from Ed and Deb Shapiro:

"Mindfulness and meditation are mirror-like reflections of each other: mindfulness supports and enriches meditation, while meditation nurtures and expands mindfulness. Where mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time." (Mindfulness & Meditation: What’s the Difference?)

As an example of imagination and creativity, let me share my favorite testing-related quote and explain how I see the relation with mindfulness and creativity:

Testing is the process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous, so as to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous. - James Bach

Thinking fast without taking note of the invisible isn’t that creative; it means you only verify the happy path, and there exists the risk that you won’t discover the unknown unknowns.

So, how can we respond to this definition of testing effectively to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous? I believe that thinking slowly and having that fully present and focused mind is what testers need to make an effective and creative exploration. Mindfulness can help testers and teams by boosting their creativity, which contributes to having a better tester mindset.

InfoQ: Is mindfulness something that can also be done by teams?

Ayadi: Absolutely, teams need to find ways to implement mindfulness in their daily routine work.

As a simple example, before starting your testing session, identify your testing zone, which is a special mental state that helps a tester to concentrate on the tasks. To reach this state, involved members should meditate for five minutes before beginning to perform the required testing activities.

The five-minute exercise could consist of:

  1. Finding a comfortable position
  2. Closing your eyes
  3. Inhaling and exhaling
  4. Controlling your breathing rhythm

With the help of meditation, testers will stay calm and concentrated, even if the open working space is noisy. So try to be patient and conduct software testing in a more effective way!

InfoQ: What has practicing mindfulness brought you?

Ayadi: Let me share a personal story,

Recently, I’ve been involved in many extra different things between learning, remote conferences, organizing meetups, and much more. It was not easy to manage all of this together, to the point that I felt so stressed and didn’t have time for anything, which made me nervous and dizzy; it’s as though I was blocked with no way of reaching my defined objectives.

I stopped everything and I carried out some yoga exercises guiding me to mindfulness, taking a relaxing deep breath for a moment; moments afterwards I started feeling more energized, and I experienced a fresher mind and a newer soul ready to face the challenges.

Although time management techniques can be efficient, even if you manage your time well, the results won’t be great if you are not very well focused. For this reason I recommend taking deeper care of the connection between the mind, body and spirit through meditation.

In my opinion, meditation is a good booster to time management techniques.

In an earlier interview on InfoQ about Developing Testing Skills outside of Working Hours, Ayadi explored additional ways of becoming a better tester: gamifying your way of testing, joining online testing communities of practice, and virtual traveling.

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