As I’ve mentioned before, testing has an image problem. There are many reasons for this and in some cases I feel that we, as testers, have ourselves to blame. But before I do that, let me blame everyone else. Organisational management tends to have an obsession for cutting costs in the testing department. Project management often look towards crunching testing when a project runs over schedule? How often is testing recruitment a process of migrating users from business lines or service desk operatives into the testing team? How often is the testing team used as a way to allow coders and business analysts to get up to speed with the system? It’s unacceptable.
My first paid IT job (I did some charity IT work when I was younger) was as a Business Analyst. That was what I applied for. On my first day I was placed into the Testing team to learn the ropes. I ended up staying in the Testing Team. Turns out I was pretty good at testing. Seriously though, it is scary to think that organisations are putting the quality control checkpoints in the hands of people whom they hired for a completely different skill set.
If you don’t count the jobs where I had to apply for the position I was already working in, I have only ever been interviewed by a tester once. In all other scenarios the interviewing panel has been made up of business analysts and developers.
We can’t always blame everyone else
Testing is also to blame for its poor image. We seem to have the unhealthy obsession with over documenting, excessive directionless regression testing and either a reliance on vendor specific automation tools or no automation of all. Far too often I hear the phrase “we are moving to automation”. You don’t move to automation, you include it in your arsenal of testing tools.
When we are not following environmentally unfriendly “best practices” we are trying to dilute our own profession through the creation of certifications. Testing certifications are an expensive glossary. They don’t teach you testing. Read this post from James Bach for a few reasons why. I generally agree with him.
For those who came in late…
Testers have a skill set and a series of techniques. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the software product has been thoroughly examined for any kind of defect. The range and types of techniques a tester has at her disposal is an indication of their experience and ability. Not only that, but a good tester will use the correct techniques at the right time. A good tester will start testing the moment the software becomes a twinkle in someone’s eye.
Testers help make sure we build the right system, that the right system is correct and that the system is usable. Testers help ensure that the system goes beyond the now and that each infrastructure component integrates correctly in good weather and in bad.
This kind of testing can’t be taught via a five day course and testing isn’t learnt simply by using the system. Testers learn to test by doing, by exercising their testing ability, by testing new systems, by talking to their peers and by talking to the analysts and the coders.
In the words of Tyler Durdin: Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
So how do we make testing sexier?
To be honest, we don’t really need to. We just need to start giving testing mutual respect. We can do this by not using testing as the entry level position into the coding teams or business analysts. We can do this by not recruiting testers from call centres.
Testers can help by continually looking at the way they work to become more efficient, to work smarter, to increase their skill set, to ensure that their education extends beyond the ability to read a script written by someone else.
When testing becomes a respected component of the software development life cycle, not just a phase that gets crunched because analysis or development took much time, testing will become sexier. People may even start to want to choose careers in testing.
|Ryan Boucher is a Software Inquisitor and is passionate about it. You can find a whole raft of articles and anecdotes about software testing and other topics he gets excited about.|