Friday, September 12, 2014

The Software Tester's Greatest Asset

I interact with thousands of testers each year. In some cases, it's in a classroom setting, in others, it may be over a cup of coffee. Sometimes, people dialog with me through this blog, my website or my Facebook page.

The thing I sense most from testers that are "stuck" in their career or just in their ability to solve problems is that they have closed minds to other ways of doing things. Perhaps they have bought into a certain philosophy of testing, or learned testing from someone who really wasn't that good at testing.

In my observation, the current testing field is fragmented into a variety of camps, such as those that like structure, or those that reject any form of structure. There are those that insist their way is the only way to perform testing. That's unfortunate - not the debate, but the ideology.

The reality is there are many ways to perform testing. It's also easy to use the wrong approach on a particular project or task. It's the old Maslow "law of the instrument" that says, "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

Let me digress for a moment...

I enjoy working on cars, even though it can be a very time-consuming, dirty and frustrating experience. I've been working on my own cars for over 40 years now. I've learned little tricks along the way to remove rusted and frozen bolts. I have a lot of tools - wrenches, sockets, hammers...you name it. The most helpful tool I own is a 2-foot piece of pipe. No, I don't hit the car with it! I use it for leverage. (I can also use it for self defense, but that's another story.) It cost me five dollars, but has saved me many hours of time. Yeah, a lowly piece of pipe slipped over the end of a wrench can do wonders.

The funny thing is that I worked on cars for many years without knowing that old mechanic's trick. It makes me wonder how many other things I don't know.

Here's the challenge...

Are you open to other ways of doing things, even if you personally don't like it?

For example, if you needed to follow a testing standard, would that make you storm out of the room in a huff?

Or, if you had to do exploratory testing, would that cause you to break out in hives?

Or, if your employer mandated that the entire test team (including you) get a certification, would you quit?

I'm not suggesting you abandon your principles or beliefs about testing. I am suggesting that in the things we reject out of hand, there could be just the solution you are looking for.

The best thing a tester does is to look at things objectively, with an open mind. When we jump to conclusions too soon, we may very well find ourselves in a position where we have lost our objectivity.

As a tester, your greatest asset is an open mind. Look at the problem from various angles. Consider the pros and cons of things, realizing that even your list of pros and cons can be skewed. Then, you can work in many contexts and also enjoy the journey.


7 comments:

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein said...

Randy, your insights are great for everyone, not just the testers. We all get set in our ways and forget to challenge our assumptions periodically. Thanks for prodding us.

Dan Ryland said...

After all, testing in ALL it's forms is exploratory, isn't it?

Randall Rice said...

Thanks, Rebecca!

Randall Rice said...

Dan, I agree we should explore more, but some people get too "heads down" in the test cases and test scripts. Some people I know hate exploratory testing and don't see the value in it. I think it's an essential part of testing. Thanks for your comment!

Vladimir S said...

Hi Randy, it is great to have an open mind, but I recently was told that I am too narrow minded when I said it is not going to be a decent quality product if the work of 35 developers will be tested by 4 testers with no heavy automation. I said, toy need at least 8 and a full time lead to run the shop...

Randall Rice said...

Hi Vladimir, that's a good point. There comes a time when the "facts are the facts" and testers need to make a forceful case. Of course, you can only do what is within your control. In that case, I say do what you can, document the issues and risks and let management take ownership of the quality.

Vladimir S said...

It was actually interview situation, so I didn't have to fight - simply said thank you and left.