For a long time I thought I had to define an impassable frontier between my professional and personal life. And if, of course, you should take care of your personal life so it does not get invade by the professional one I’m starting to understand that I went to extreme about it.
I’ll have to talk a bit about my childhood to explain my point, I’ll keep it short, promised.
My parents got divorced before I was 2 and they each had a very different conception of life. So in a way, I grew up like a chameleon, shifting my personality regarding if I was with Mum or Dad. Because Mum allowed this but Dad not at all. I learned to draw very clear lines and be a different person depending on the context and who I’m with. I did it for so long that it became something I do pretty easily and even instinctively.
Also, it was very important for my family – both sides this time -that I have an important job. Having a job would be nice but having a job that gives me a status would be much better. My grand parents, and mother in law had a vision of work as something very serious. For them, your job is what makes you more or less respectable. So at work, you have to dress a certain way, to act a certain way, and take everything seriously. This is the vision of having a job that was given to me.
And even if this is far from who I am and what I want from life, I must admit that this stuck to me for a long time. This and some experiences that reinforced it like hearing colleagues saying “we’re colleagues not friends” in some of my first ones. So I navigate through my career with the idea that work is not fun, it’s a place where you can’t be yourself, and that I have to find a company whose name or domain would give me a certain status. Like: OK, I didn’t become a doctor but maybe I can work for a pharmaceutical company instead? And the voice in my head was whispering: “Draw the line Stephanie, shift your personality when you go to work“.
Growing up and getting older has that magic where you subtly begin to understand that you have been deceived by those you trusted to guide you through life. And as this year comes to an end, I realized just that: maybe I can be myself everywhere and at anytime.
Maybe this impassable frontier between work and life should be like the European Union. A free space with some rules that I can define to suit me instead of applying the laws dictate by an old political regime!
Big bonus: I learned to know myself a bit more this past years and to respect this person. I’ve learned to respect my needs, my limitations, my strength and my weaknesses.
Knowing that allowed me to live according to who I am instead of what others expect from me or, even worse, what I think others expect from me.
I learned to say no to invitations when I’m too tired for it, to say no to job offers that didn’t fit with my expectations, to ask to reschedule a meeting when I needed it. And you know what? My life is very much lighter and happier than before.
It was hard and took some time but I found a workplace where I feel at home. Where I can express myself without the fear of being an outcast. I’m allowed to not take everything too seriously, put jokes in presentations, organize workshop with games in it, have game break with my team every sprint, etc.
I talk about my hobbies, my dog, my girlfriend, what I like to do outside of work and it’s okay!
The impulse to write this blog post came to me because I wish to read more books related to work in 2023. I was there writing this objective down, wondering how I can manage my time to do it when suddenly I realized that I have forbidden myself to read those books on my free time only to obey the sacred separation of my professional and personal life.
But I want to be a better tester. I want this to be a part of who I am. So why would I forbid myself to do what could help me build this part of me? I mean, of course I will not read this books during family diner or at my best friend wedding! But, simply put, I think it’s something I can do when I feel to and not ban it just for the sake of it.
This simple thought allowed me to see that work is a place where I build a part of me too. I don’t have to be a chameleon and shift my skin to go to work. Nobody should, but that a wish for another day.
I feel that today, I truly and fully understood that being a QA Coach/Engineer is a part of who I am, and not simply a costume I put on from Monday to Friday.
And I will be an AND, not a OR. Thanks for the talk Melissa Sassi, I think this realization have been made possible by your keynote.