Episode VII: The Tester Awakens

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Abstract: A brief blog post on being an intentionally awake tester. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so be a critical thinker and avid learner to properly combat it.

It doesn’t take much to live in the dark as a tester. In fact, you simply need to exist. Abide by the rules and listen to the establishment when they ask you not to question convention. Standards, certifications and rules are in place for a reason; to sell a structure. That structure might actually cost your money, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes not so obvious. From convincing naive testers to fork over hard-earned money for completion of a multiple-choice test that somehow guarantees them a place among the stars, to third-order measurements and metrics that are an expensive waste of resources that many times don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of solving the original problem that was proclaimed. In fact, heavy metrics can be misleading and might even foster the creation of a few new problems, most likely in the social arena. Bad metrics and standards can establish a rift that winds through the company like a bad weed, choking the social atmosphere and corporate culture to a point where the fallout of losing good talent is not even shocking when it happens, unfortunately, as it has become an expected symptom of a broken galaxy. However, part of the universe that makes up the context-driven testing community as a whole, dispersed across both public and private enterprise, is less broken and contains much goodness that can be absorbed.

Now, some testers and even management that push bad metrics and practices, currently live in the dark simply because they have not been informed. These are testers that may in fact be critical thinkers but have been the subject of a bad environment and need to be “awakened”. Testers who desire the improve their skill-craft; testers who join the community and contribute valuable insight; testers who care about their professional reputation; testers who take offense when someone tries to pass off shoddy work as complete; testers who believe we are actually servants to the stakeholder and not some middle-man gateway with imaginary powers to control the product, as if they know better than product management, and the list goes on. The bottom line is this; when I hire a contractor to come over to my house to do some plumbing work and all he has in his tool belt is a hammer with a few nails, my confidence level may plummet. Are you testing with an empty tool belt? What explicit test models can you tell me you have studied and applied? What test strategy can you visually show me that will explain how you are going to move through the product as you test, exploring for value to the customer? Is it all in your head or do you have something tangible that can tell me a compelling story? If you don’t have a good answer, then I probably won’t have a lot of confidence in your filling the testing role on my software project.

Are you testing in the light or in the dark? Where do you reside? Do you seek to stay relevant in your understanding on how to be a competent tester? Are you intentionally learning through discussions with wiser folks in the community or are you on cruise control? Tap into the force, it’s all around you…the testing community! I can guarantee that the universe will have no problem continuing to expand without your approval. Newsflash: Your manager is not in charge of directing your learning; you are.

If you want to solve complex problems, you need to make yourself more complex.’ – Unknown

Aside: Yes, the Star Wars frame I used is from The Empire Strikes Back, before Luke really knew Vader was his father which I considered, and posted anyway (testing points to Timothy Western though for reiterating). I’ll assume though that the reader can allow for some creative license since they are dueling to the death while talking about testing. But seriously, if anyone in that galaxy were to push ISO standards, it’d definitely be Vader.

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