How to Fight Stereotype at Work

Guest Author

I was recently thinking why am I not blogging about quality engineering, if it's my primary job at Sun on NetBeans? Well the reason is that testing and related activities are not something really exciting. You'll probably agree that there's not much fun in again and again going through a testspec like this. For the first time it's kind of fun, second time is ok, third time it gets boring and during the 50th time you feel like wanting to smash your head through the wall. But I'm not writing this to complain, rather to share how do I fight stereotype - maybe it's an issue for you as well.

What do I do to avoid stereotype?

1. Geting more work. It may sound a very stupid thing to do (why to do more if I can do less?) but it brings one big advantage. If I am doing more work it is also probable that there will be some work which I like to do. This is absolutely against what is written in book Hello Laziness which is btw a great book about surviving in corporate environment. The author chooses the way of avoiding work. This may work for someone but I find doing nothing so boring and so depressing that it completely doesn't work for me.

So I try to have different types of work, like doing a bit of marketing, a bit of communication with end-users, a bit of UI design, etc. I know I'm not an expert in these areas but it's exciting to learn something new and to be helpful also with other ways than just by my primary assignments. Of course I need to do it in such a way that even the stereotypical work gets done. The trick is that it's much easier to do something very boring if you already did something exciting during the day, it's actually a way how to get some rest.

Doing something very creative all the time takes too much energy so mixing various kinds of work is good for the balance. I think we all have days when we are full of ideas and days when we just don't want to do anything creative at all. Having the possibility to choose what to do on which day according to the actual state of beeing is a great plus.

2. Making work fun. Being serious all the time at work can be dangerous for your mental health. I've been serious for a long time in my last job and I think it was the main reason why I started to hate that job at the end. It's natural to have fun - I'm not saying it's ok to be irresponsible, but you still can have lots of fun.

In IT environment you can come up lots of geeky jokes, make the e-mails more human, drops jokes during the meetings... even bug hunting can be fun. How? Write some source code which does something like this. It won't save the world from poverty but you can have fun and squash a bug or two in meanwhile.

The other more enjoyable way for me to find bugs is by trying out new things. I could only work on my module, but that is stereotypical, so it's fun to try out a new module, play with it and find bugs there. Perhaps I can find some important bug the person who's testing the module won't find because he's sick of his module. And to have more fun, I can blog about it, to let others know what's new, what's cool, how things work or how can the new feature help them.

3. Doing useful work. This may sound obvious but there's nothing more depressive than doing useless work. So it pays of to think why am I also doing this or that... it feels good to do something really useful and then here from others how it helped. I like to write about NetBeans because it feels useful, anybody can google any of my tips or news and I can solve his problem or let him know something cool. I know this is not possible everywhere, somebody else might decide what is useful. But you can always try to fight if you feel you're doing something useless (no guarantees bundeled with this advice).

4. Working with other people. Some people really like working alone, but I think you never can get so much excitement when you can't share the results of your work or discuss any issues. I know not everybody's an extrovert but I speak from my experience, there were times when I was doing everything on myself and it's just easier to get bored. Communication can help you find new ideas, get rid of frustrations... and it feels better to achieve something in a team than alone, doesn't it?

5. Learning by doing mistakes. Some people are scared to death of making mistakes. We were punished at school everytime we did a mistake, everytime we didn't know something, etc. Our parents punished us when we did a mistake. It feels revealing if you admit yourself "I am human, I do many mistakes every day". It's not easy for some people, but by admitting this and doing the interesting mistakes you can learn a lot. If you never accept any challenges, are scared to make a decision, afraid of new things and changes, you protect yourself from interesting experiences. And that's a pity - risking can make the work enjoyable and move oneself forward.

6. Being yourself, being human. Some people try to pretend being a different person at work and at home. I don't like it, I prefer being the same person all the time. I don't trust so much people who are pretending they're someone else, maybe even someone more important or someone more intelligent. In my experience this can lead to loneliness and unhappiness, because pretending being someone else is not good for interpersonal relationships. Maybe I'm sometimes too much myself, sorry for that, but that's me :-)

As you can see, my way of doing things is different from what you can read in the famous Hello Laziness book. Is my way better? Definitely it is better for the company, but the important question - is it better for the individual? Well, I was called by one of the Americans "the happiest guy from NetBeans". If I went the lazy way, I'd be probably called "the most depressed guy from NetBeans".

Now you can say, this is all great but I'm having a job where I cannot change thing like this. All I can say is that we all have control over our lives, we're spending around half of our active time with our jobs so it's stupid to be frustrated all the time. Changing an employer is not as terrible as it may seem and maybe you'll make a good choice like I did. Or maybe you'll find power how to change the environment to be happier at your job. In my opinion you can enjoy even a very dull job if you have the right conditions to make it fun. So don't worry, be happy :-)

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