2017 – 3 weeks in.

A little belated, but I can get away with posting ‘Happy New Year‘ as this is my first post of 2017.

So, here we are, about 3 weeks in to the year and a lot has happened already:

  • I have taken on a new role in my company as Director of Quality Engineering – essentially Director of the QA function, for a different brand to where I worked before so this has opened up some new and exciting opportunities for me within https://www.flightglobal.com.
  • I recently joined the BCS and am hoping to get involved in their mentoring scheme for new conference speakers – I’d love to give something back to our testing community!
  • An article which I worked on late last year has been published in Test Magazine http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk//launch.aspx?eid=f785b07c-90bd-42be-b7fb-832c6c6bdd86 – and they have done a cracking job of the presentation and layout (thanks 31Media). Its all about where we should focus our efforts as testers when looking at honing our skills, so I would love to hear any feedback if you do happen to read it.
  • I am speaking at Testing Showcase North in Manchester in February on the subject of Tester Training, in a similar vein to the magazine article, but of course delivered as an interactive talk. Details available here http://conferences.unicom.co.uk/testing-showcase-north/.
  • Then a week later I am joining my colleague Bhagya Perera https://bhagyagdm.wordpress.com/ in London at the inaugural UKStar event to deliver a session on ‘The Communication Bridge’, which I am very much looking forward to as well. More details here https://ukstar.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/.
  • Oh, and in May I will be speaking at the National Software Testing conference in London!

I cant believe how busy it’s been already, and that is without the workshop that I am running with my new team next Friday, and our ongoing QA Chapters that we run in-house.

But I am not complaining, I get bored easily (something that I am not proud of, as I wish I had more patience overall!), so doing a lot of things is good for me. One of my old team asked me last week how I found the time to do so many things. I do wonder myself sometimes, but my reply to her was that it comes down to having an in-built passion to do something of benefit. No-one can be forced to do anything extra – we have to want to. The secret is to find something that excites you, helps you grow as an individual, as well as in terms of job related skills. Giving something back by helping others where you can (it shouldn’t be just about personal gain), and making a difference – these are important to me, and I really hope that 2017 is even more awesome than 2016. Of course that depends on the amount of time and effort I am prepared to invest, so the incentive lies with me – but that’s what is good about it. I am in control and can do as much or as little as I feel capable of doing.

So, watch this space 🙂

Oh, one final thought – my job title is now Director, not Manager, but I think I will leave the site titled as ‘Musings of a Test Manager’, as I still think it sounds good to me. I tried thinking of alternatives, but ‘Doodles of a QA Director’ doesnt really have the same ring!

Routes into testing

I’m going to make a guess that you (as a reader of this blog entry) never dreamt of becoming a Software Tester when you were at school or college. You may have had dreams of being a doctor, lawyer, train driver, astronaut or a whole host of other things, but Software Tester was not something you would necessarily have even heard of.

For decades, anyone wanting to get into the field of IT would aspire to a Development (or Programmer) role, as these were the main roles that we heard about. Even today, whilst Computer Science graduates have heard of testing, by virtue of the fact that A levels (in the UK) and degree courses now do something akin to a nod towards the fact that software testing is actually something important, and there are people who choose not to write code but to test it for a living. As an example, Oxford university offer a course on Software Testing as part of a Software Engineering degree, which is something that didnt happen in the 1990’s or 2000’s!

There are many graduate schemes which bring people into IT, but even today primarily this is Development, Security and Operations type roles. There are Testing Services companies that will train testers as graduates, but I wonder what the ratio is of graduate testers compared to other roles in IT?

I fell into a testing role for my second job, moving from one bank to another, from a non IT role into a role that I had never heard of. There were no training courses and I learned on the job. It took me a while to understand what the role actually was, and even now there are many people with differing opinions as to what Testing actually is – but that’s not for this post!

Over the past few weeks there have been some interesting Twitter posts about whether Testing is a role that anyone can get into or not. My view is that we are all testers anyway, without realising it. We test the temperature of bath water before bathing our small children. We test the fastest route from A to B and try different ways. We test boundaries of behaviour and acceptability. We test how much we can eat in a ‘eat all you can’ buffet before we feel full. We test just how much longer we can wear our old trainers before they fall to bits! We test all the time.

It seems to me that just about anyone could in theory become a tester, no matter their career background, but not everyone would be good at it. To be a good tester requires having the right attitude as well as technical ability and the right mindset. Technical skills can be learned, how to approach testing can also be learned, but attitude and the right mindset cannot be learned.

It’s interesting therefore to look at how current Testers (at all levels) actually got into software testing as a career. A common story is where projects have required assistance from business units with User Acceptance Testing, and those who helped out became involved that way, staying in Testing and bringing their business knowledge. I’d love to hear your stories as I’m sure there must be some very unusual routes into Testing out there so please share your story and how you found the transition.

Another great day at work!

Ok, I am a few days late, as the day was actually Tuesday 13th September, but I haven’t had time until today to get blogging.

Back in May, I blogged about taking TestBash to work – well we did it again this week! With my colleage Bhagya  we ran our second ‘Building Quality with Distributed teams’ workshop for over 20 people from four different teams within our organisation.

We had learned a lot from the first workshop, namely to have a timekeeper as well as two observers, which really helped, plus we extended the timings of the tasks a little to see how that worked.

We managed to keep it to 3 hours, and with 100% positive feedback from participants that they all found it useful, but almost unanimously suggesting that we add a little more time as it felt rushed as we wrapped up. So, our next one will be 3 1/2 hours long! Each time we will try to take on board feedback and make improvements, so as to maximise the benefits that the participants gain from the time invested – and it looks like we are in demand. Our parent organisation has asked us to perhaps run a session as a pilot to see how that works, and we may we asked to run externally as well.

All of this arose from attending a workshop at a conference, and proactively taking it from there and implementing it ourselves. So thanks again to Lisa Crispin and Abby Bangser  for sharing the resources and supporting us with this. They could so easily have kept it to themselves, but that isn’t what we as testers do. We share our expertise and knowledge with others for the benefit of everyone in the industry, and that’s what I love about the testing community, so long may it continue.

Here’s a challenge. What have you read about, seen at a conference or experienced that you could share with others?

Good testing – luck or judgement?

I get to talk to a lot of testers, not just those in my team, but other teams in my organisation, testers at conferences and those I interview, and it struck me the other day that there is no real way to tell from a person’s background whether they are going to be a good tester or not. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply a formula – it would make life so much simpler, but I don’t believe it comes down to training or background – it’s either in-built or not. What I mean by that is that in my opinion, good testing cannot be just left to luck (although it can be I suppose if you just happen to find that critical bug without looking for it!), for me it is all about attitude and mindset. Technical ability and the focus on automation seems to be the overriding requirements for many testing roles, and whilst they are important, they are not the ‘be all and end all’.

If we define a good tester as someone who can write automated tests, then we are essentially defining a developer. So why do we need a tester to focus on writing code if developers can do that?

Good testing comes from understanding the application, understanding the requirements (usually from a User Story if we are following Agile), and determining whether the requirement is testable, whether there are any omissions, clashes with other stories, potential impacts on other applications, and what types of testing are needed in order to prove to the Business Owner that the team have delivered what was requested. Good testing is found in how a tester approaches their job, and I know I have mentioned this before, but it is where a tester adds value to a team. Having another individual who can just automate the acceptance criteria that a Business Analyst wrote adds no additional value – and the team have employed a developer essentially.

A good tester needs to think about the application, and consider it as an end user, ask the questions that no-one else thinks of and be inquisitive. A good tester has to exercise good judgement in determining what to test and how to test it, and whilst this can be learned (to a degree), much of this will come from a person’s character.

If you are a good tester, then luck will play second fiddle to judgement, every time.

Certification – is it worth it?

Another topic that has been on my mind is certification for testers.

It’s a tricky one, as there are different qualifications that a tester can get – there are the formal ISTQB or Certified Agile Tester (CAT) courses which will provide some sort of certification, specific qualifications that cover tools such as QTP, or a specialism of some sort such as Security testing.

A number of people have asked the same question, namely ‘is it worth getting a formal qualification?’.

My experience of taking ISEB (as it was then) after being a tester for 15 years was that I learned what I needed to pass the exam, ignoring what I do in my day job. I passed, and then ignored most of what we had learned as it wasn’t relevant when I went back to my day job!. The theory was great – but out of date – it hadn’t moved with the times.

There probably is value in testers taking the exam with some test experience, as opposed to just going straight in with no practical experience – you do need that to help you work out how to apply what you learn, but I do not see the relevance if you have been testing for a long time, as you have to ‘unlearn’ what you do, in order to learn what the examiner wants you to write down. That does not make any sense.

Unfortunately many employers are blind to this, and insist on a qualification, believing that it means that the person is a good tester – but it is not the case at all. I have interviewed people with ISTQB Foundation for example who have no idea how to approach testing when I give them a User Story as a practical test and ask them to outline their approach and give me some example tests. If they have a qualification (whatever it is), then surely they should know this!

The idea of having a standard industry certification is great, however unless that certification actually meets the needs of testers in the industry and reflects how organisations work, it has no practical value, and therein lies the problem. We are left in the position where employers (who often are not testers themselves) do not know how else to measure if a tester is any good or not so insist on what they perceive to be the standard.

We need a standard certification that is recognised and respected worldwide. We need it to be relevant to how the IT industry actually works. We need it to be kept up to date with new trends. We need it to be useful to employers.

We have an opportunity to make something of real practical value. That’s the challenge to the governing bodies, if they choose to accept it.