Been at the company 4 years (1 year intern, 3 years after graduating). I used to do lots more design work but the last year or two all I ever do is test other peoples work. When I say test, I mean, pressing a button and writing the result down, that's it.

I have told management this many times but nothing changes, and this type of work is demotivating. Day in, day out, test, test, test.

What am I to do? I am becoming rusty in my actual trade because I rarely do it. All the valuable jobs are absorbed by seniors and all the rubbish they don't want to do I seem to get. I don't mind the company, they don't put much pressure on me, I'm just always bored out of my mind and never doing anything cognitive. Any ideas?

  • 13
    You clearly do mind the company if you don't like the work you do, they know, and they don't care to make any changes.
    – Erik
    Apr 12, 2021 at 9:47
  • I assume US ? In some country it could be seen at best at effective firing at worse as harassement
    – JayZ
    Apr 12, 2021 at 12:16
  • 1
  • 1
    @spuck Test Engineer is a valid job for sure, but pressing a button and writing down the results is not TE work; it's intern work. Writing code to fully automate the task would be TE work, though.
    – Annie
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:55

7 Answers 7


Since you've expressed your concerns to management and nothing has come of your conversations your best option, now, is to look for another job.

In lieu of that (and in lieu of knowing why you're in this situation) maybe one thing you could do is try to do some of the projects that you're testing in your free time. Try to do them better than and faster than the person that's assigned to them and then tell management about what you've been doing. The idea being that maybe showing initiative and quality work will reingratiate yourself with management.

  • 6
    This. Start solving problems without being asked and you will get better things to do.
    – J...
    Apr 12, 2021 at 18:22
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    This answer is highly dependent on management though. Where I am, showing initiative and solving problems without being asked would be met with scorn and accusations of inefficiency.
    – ionizing
    Apr 13, 2021 at 18:30
  • @ionizing Then don't solve other people's problems, but solve your own problems. If you can improve a process from 4 hours to 30 minutes, there's no way they will call that "inefficient".
    – Nelson
    Apr 14, 2021 at 8:25
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    @Nelson, actually there is a way they will call that "inefficient"--if it takes you 8 hrs to simplify a 4 hr process down to 30 minutes, where I work, they will say that was "inefficient" and they will reduce my bonus and rating over it (which they have)--even if it saves time for myself and 3+ other people, for years to come, because I spent 8 hrs instead of 4 hrs the first time. Short-sighted management are sometimes difficult to convince otherwise, and even when you're doing all the right things and fixing things, you're still screwed.
    – engineer
    Apr 20, 2021 at 4:01
  • I guess it depends on the task, but usually I can break the optimization down and do it in increments. If I can't, I keep doing my work until I can.
    – Nelson
    Apr 20, 2021 at 7:24

There are a couple of related solutions that don't include finding a new job.

One is to find your motivation within yourself. And ride it out until eventually you're looking at someone doing all your testing. Because this is just how it goes sometimes. Someone has to do the drudge work it's part of the learning process. And it's valuable in itself learning how to stay motivated and professional.

The second is to get involved without being told to. As an engineer I had plenty of time between my early mundane work to go hang around more senior engineers and check out their projects. Eventually I was assisting them. Then doing the same as them, a bit further down the track I was in charge of them.

You get out what you want if you put in the effort so long as you're focusing on a goal rather than swimming with the flow.

  • 5
    One way I’ve dealt with this in the past is to automate the boring work so I have more time to look for opportunities to do things a human can do better than a computer. Activating a button and recording the result is machine work.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 12, 2021 at 15:19
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    the "learning process" doesn't usually last 2 years, and doesn't usually come after already 2 years of work.
    – njzk2
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:51
  • @njzk2 it can if you allow it to, which is what my answer is attempting to address. You do both, the first makes it less frustrating and the second does something about changing it.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:52

It is an ugly scenario where you get more and more stuck with things you don't want to do, after a while it becomes hard to get other offers because:

  1. You have worked too long, so you are not a junior any more.
  2. You have to little experience in the areas you want to work with so no one wants to hire you as a senior.

Some options:

  1. Find a new job. (If it's not already too late.) Make sure to be very, very clear what you want. Otherwise someone might read your CV as "experienced tester" and you will end up doing similar stuff again.
  2. Talk to management again. Do not accept some vague "we will try to assign you some other tasks soon", instead you should insist on a detailed, documented plan, e.g. how much time should you spend on testing vs. development now, three months from now, and one year from now.
  3. Declare that from now on you refuse to spend more than 50% of your time on testing regardless of what you are told. They might fire you but then someone else will need to do 100% of the testing instead of 50%...
  4. Start automating tests, figure out how to improve testing, be proactive, become the best damn test leader in the world. But if you want to be a developer it will still suck.
  5. Become depressed. Call in sick twice a week, do a slow & crappy job, tell your manager how much you hate your tasks. This is very likely to backfire, especially if you are in a country where you can easily be fired. But I have seen a few cases where people were assigned other (better) tasks in such scenarios. (But I'm in a country where it is expensive to fire people.)
  • 1
    "if it's not already too late"???
    – njzk2
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:52

Find a new job.

OP said (emphasis added):

I have told management this many times but nothing changes, and this type of work is demotivating. Day in, day out, test, test, test.

What am I to do? I am becoming rusty in my actual trade because I rarely do it. All the valuable jobs are absorbed by seniors and all the rubbish they don't want to do I seem to get. I don't mind the company, they don't put much pressure on me, I'm just always bored out of my mind and never doing anything cognitive. Any ideas?

This described my situation 6 yrs ago pretty perfectly. Here's what I did:

  1. I brought a personal laptop to work, found a private place to eat lunch, set up a wifi hotspot from my cell phone, and began doing personal projects for 1 hr each day over lunch. I developed and got better at my actual trade during this time.

    I don't mind the company, they don't put much pressure on me

    If this is true, you might actually consider increasing those lunch breaks to 1.5 hrs, OR leaving work 1.5 hrs early, OR coming in 1.5 hrs late to work on personal projects during that extra time too. Don't make this permanent, though--the goal is to leave when ready, not stay there working reduced hours and harming your employer by doing so.

  2. I spent every spare second of my evenings, weekends, and holidays developing my skills and doing design projects I really cared about.

  3. I looked for other jobs, left, and got hired at a top tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm still in this process of developing skills and finding my right fit, but I'm on the right path.

I recommend you do the same: get skills, go interview, get out and move on. Keep in mind each interview is an opportunity to get skills and identify weaknesses too. If you fail an interview, identify why, study like crazy, and have that hole filled prior to the next one. Eventually, you will have filled enough holes you will land a job where you are the DOER, not the TESTER.

The idea of "putting in your time" is nonsense. You don't have to "put in your time" doing something you don't want to do for years. Rather, find a way to do what you really want to do. So long as you are or can become good at it, and can make money at it, go follow your dreams to get a job you are passionate about.


Some ideas, other than quitting.

  • If it is possible, automate the testing, or come up with tools to at least reduce the effort
  • slow down, complain that you need help, get an intern or apprentice, train them to do it better than you
  • find fewer defects, point out a cost savings by changing internal requirements so that less testing needs to be done. [Note- This is a very mean thing to do, takes advantage of the worst instincts of a modern business. A last resort in an corp culture where good faith is already completely absent].
  • work extra for a little while just to show that you can do something else (combine with item below)
  • rather than asking management, ask coworkers to include you in other work. start by doing "undesirable" parts of something that is not testing, then try to move up within that work area.

(these can be combined, other than the first two)

  • 5
    Points 2 and 3 are fairly unethical and I'm surprised they were even suggested. Apr 12, 2021 at 17:59
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    Item 2 does less damage than quitting, which seems to be the default answer. Item 3 is certainly playing a bit rough, but hardly the worst I've seen. Definitely a judgment call in terms of how far to take it.
    – Pete W
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:00

From your description i see 2 options

  1. Look for another job that promises development - not recommended
  2. Get a hobby / freelance project in the field you want to refresh your skills - best IMHO

Steady job gives you paycheck and extracurricular activities will help you advance your skills and knowledge in the field you want

Little caveat thou:

Balance your work and watch out for burnout :)

  • 6
    why is "finding a job that better matches your professional aspirations" "not recommended"?
    – njzk2
    Apr 12, 2021 at 20:50
  • @njzk2 No guarantee that next jobs will not deteriorate to testing only. OP need to get his skills current in order to land a job that is not only testing
    – Strader
    Apr 13, 2021 at 15:49

You can't change anything about this situation now. You should have pushed back the first time you were told to work as a tester.

One possible way out: Work slower. Try to reduce the amount of testing work you get by being less productive. At the same time, actively look for the kind of work you like.

  • @JoeStrazzere: He gets assigned less testing work in the future, obviously. Apr 12, 2021 at 11:14
  • @JoeStrazzere: too bad. I guess he should just quit, that is the prefered method here? Then he will do 0 hours of testing. Apr 12, 2021 at 11:21
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    Problem: Bored out of my mind. Proposed solution: perform boring task even slower. Doesn't sound quite right. Apr 12, 2021 at 17:52
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    @PeteW, Deliberately slowing their work will create an incentive for the company to give them more interesting work? I would think it would only give the company incentive to show them the door.
    – Annie
    Apr 12, 2021 at 21:01
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    @Annie, yes, provided the company believes they are competent at some other task. As for the non-zero risk being shown the door, to reiterate, that is the default outcome, and is even being actively suggested by many of the other answers and comments. Unfortunately this is an ugly answer to an ugly question: how to escape an unprofitable task to which one has been assigned? And to be clear, this it is among the last-resort options.
    – Pete W
    Apr 12, 2021 at 23:04

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