This should be a huge wakeup to financial and other companies that think testing is nothing but necessary evil, an expense to be minimised and moved offshore.
The act of changing jobs is interesting. It makes you stop and think what, at it’s core, your career is all about.
I thought that my career was all about testing.
It is, but it is about something more profound than that as well.
It’s about change. Working as a testing consultant, it was pretty obvious that you were performing one of two roles. Putting a bum on a seat, and filling a headcount that was required to do a task, or you are there to effect change.
Now nobody calls it that, they call it process improvement, or implementing a methodology, but the type of work that I have done in the past is all about implementing change.
- Changing the way that people report on their testing.
- Changing developers minds so that they understand that letting testers review EVERY check in actually makes life EASIER.
- Changing the start of a project from a waste of time creating plans are never used or followed to something that adds value.
- Changing customers minds about fixing a really trivial bug so that they can actually hit their ship date.
- Changing young pliable minds so they understand that there IS a career in software testing in Australia, and it is full of great like minded people.
So as I see it, there are two things that can change. Either YOU can change to follow the way a company operates, or you can act as an agent of change to improve the way that things are done to produce better outcomes.
You don’t need expensive tools. You don’t need management approval. You don’t need some complex testing process.
All it takes is some knowledge, chutzpa and passion for your craft.
Are YOU ready, to be an agent of change?
Testing in Australia has a problem. The Australian IT industry still views testing as a job that anyone can perform with minimal technical skills. A quick search on a leading recruitment site has a number of advertisements for Testers with requirements similar to the following:
- At least 3 years experience in a Tester or Test Analyst role with demonstrated experience in planning and executing functional, systems and regression tests.
- Excellent written and verbal communications skills will be a must for this role – the right candidates must be able to develop clear and concise test cases and test scripts
- Some previous experience using Test Director or Quality Center – any exposure to automated test tools (particularly QTP) would be a benefit
- Experience of various software testing approaches and SQL in oder to extract data for tests.
- A methodical nature and high levels of attention to detail.
(Extra points to those of you who noticed the spelling error in the advertisement = “oder” instead of “order”.)
This ad is typical of those here in Australia for testing positions. No programming skills required, no industry specific knowledge, just X number of years in testing, good communication skills and some experience with a particular test tool vendor’s product.
I’m a big fan of analogies so let’s imagine for a second that a car company uses non technical testers to evaluate new cars under development. I can imagine a dialogue between a test driver and an engineer going something like this:
“The new car feels a bit funny at the front”
“What do you mean by funny?”
“Well I turn the round thinngy in the there …”
“oh you mean the steering wheel”
“yeah, the steering feel. I turn the steering feel to this way, but the car doesn’t turn as much as I thought it would.”
“It’s a wheel, not a feel.”
“oh sorry, wheel”
“Anyway, so let me see if I understand you. When you turn the wheel, and the front of the car doesn’t turn as much as you expect it to.”
By comparison, a test driver that understands how a car works can have a much more meaningful conversation with the engineer:
“It has mid-corner understeer, after turn in.”
“Ok we can solve that by increasing camber slightly or adjusting the rear springs.”
“Let’s try the spring adjustment, as changing camber will also effect tire wear.”
The technical tester is much more effective than the non technical equivalent as they have similar, equivalent or superior knowledge to the engineer but simply a different focus and specialist skills. Whilst my example is fictional, the exact same difference in conversation should be expected between a “Tester” and a SDE/T. What is an SDE/T? An SDE/T is one of the common, technical testing roles at Microsoft. Their testing careers page has the following description:
Software Design Engineer in Test
Tests and critiques software components and interfaces in more technical depth, writes test programs to assure quality, and develops test tools to increase effectiveness.
At Devtest, this is what we do as well using, the same tools, knowledge and experience, as all the other “developers” on the project. The key difference, however is we have a different focus, live in different .Net namespaces (lately System.windows.Automation) and have different goals. However we aren’t any less capable at writing code that the “developers” on the project.
What we constantly have to battle is a prejudice that if you have test somewhere in your job title we are somehow lesser beings, and are not valued or required on most projects. We are seen by people starting out in the industry as un-cool and very few people would consider testing as a career, this is just crazy, we use C#, visual studio, TFS and other cool tools, just like everyone else, we just have a different focus. The “tester is dead” long live the SDE/T.