You Don’t Talk About THAT at Work

Sophie Küster

Cronn, Germany

There are things you don’t talk about with your colleagues – even less so with your boss. Mental health issues are certainly a big no-no. When I first started working as an agile tester, I kept my history with mental illness secret. As a result, I couldn’t speak openly about topics that are close to my heart: mental health and self-care. In the Agile World however, we value respect, courage, and openness. How do you reconcile this with these taboos? Can you really be courageous and open if you deny a part of yourself?

When I attended my first ever testing conference, I was in awe about the openness with which psychological topics were discussed. Inspired, and with a head still spinning from the experience (and a serious lack of sleep), I came clean to my boss on the very first day upon returning. From then on, I wore my heart on my sleeve.

And my life at the office began to change: Once I had started speaking up, openness came easier with every new issue. I would suddenly talk about my experiences with sickness and therapy as well as being more comfortable with sharing my thoughts and feelings about day-to-day business and goings-on at work. Conversely, people started confiding in me, asking me for advice and talking to me in a whole new way.

In this talk, I would like to share what I have learned from breaking taboos. I will discuss how communication improved for me, which obstacles I bumped into, and why I will still not shut up about the things you don’t talk about at work.

About Me!

Sophie studied mathematics at university which did not go as planned. She finished with a diploma, nonetheless. Serendipity brought her into agile testing – and she has never looked back. She now works happily as a test automation engineer at cronn GmbH, a Bonn based IT company. After years of successfully hunting bugs, lately she’s also been working in Java backend development so she can cut out the middle person and introduce the bugs herself. In her free time, she enjoys doing ballet and SUPing (in non-lockdown times) or knitting and baking (in lockdown times). No stranger to the universe’s gut punches, she is passionate about improving awareness and communication about mental health and self-care.

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