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March 26-29, 2012, Software Test Professionals Conference, New Orleans
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

How do we see ourselves?

And actual post to a forum I saw yesterday:

Hi
I am new to software testing and want help with learning QTP. I am based in (city) and looking for mentor.

Thanks
(name)


Now, I'm not trying to insult anyone. But imagine, for a moment, this appeared on a Carpentry forum:


Hi
I am new to carpentry and want help with learning The Hammer. I am based in Detroit and looking for mentor.

Thanks
Bob The Builder


Or perhaps plumbing:

Hi
I am new to plumbing and want help with learning The Wrench. I am based in Chicago and am looking mentor.

Thanks
Joe the Plumber


Now, I can forgive the poor English. The author probably doesn't write English as a first language, and is actually working hard to translate each word. I have to respect that.

But will learning QTP teach you to test?

Why are we so reluctant to say, as a community, that we want to get good at testing, that we want to understand and predict failure modes, that we want to get good at risk analysis and triage?

Is it because recruiters scan for buzzwords? Because 'testing' alone doesn't get us in the door, we 'need' to know Quick Test Pro, or Java, or SQL, or C#, or Fitnesse?

Don't get me wrong. Tools are important, but they are secondary. We need to change the debate.

I'm open to new and interesting ideas on how to change the debate. What do you think?

15 comments:

Justin Rohrman said...

I completely agree, this seems to be one of the overriding misconceptions in testing right now. No, unfortunately owning a wrench does not make you a mechanic.

Rob Lambert said...

The problem over here in the UK is that some employers don't fully understand testing and assume that automating it all using QTP is the solution.

Therefore recruiters get an easy life and testers new to the field believe that QTP yada yada is how to test. It also happens over here that automation testers get paid more so it's seen as something worthwhile getting in to.

I'm with you. Peel away the knowledge of QTP and you are left with someone who doesn't know the basics of testing in some cases. This undermines the whole value the employer is thinking they are adding.

Sad state of affairs really. I once saw an advert for a manual tester with QTP skills and management skills and agile skills and the salary was fairly low.

It's actually insulting to the testing industry. That's my opinion anyway.

Rob..

Markus Gärtner said...

A while back I volunteered in a help channel on irc. There seemed to be a pattern of people behavior based on the location they were from. There were a lot of guys asking annoying question from country1, and a lot of helpful people from country2 and a lot of drolly people from country3. There were also buzzwords used from the annoying country1 guys, that made some people directly reply, others don't. This experiecne was funny to watch.

More content related:
From my perspective, we need to either
1) properly define the word "testing", so that everyone everywhere has the same understanding of it
2) find another word or phrase that describes properly, what "just testing" is

I tend to 2). Here is a list of suggestions:
- "critical investigation"
- Miagi-Do
- exploratory thinking crossed with critical information
- exploring critical information
- risk mitigation
- ...

Matthew said...

Thank you Markus. Good points. I wonder if it would help if we said something like:

"Actually, as a member of the context-driven school of software testing (or, perhaps, as a student of Miagi-Do testing) when I say test I mean ..."

The problem is how to do this without being lectur-y and losing your audience ...

Matthew said...

I should say "the" audience or "our" audience. Perhaps you can do this well. Honestly, I struggle a bit.

Most of my arguments are not about how it should be done, but the assumptions about how the world works that lead us to those conclusions.

(I'm pretty sure Wittgenstein said that first.)

Calkelpdiver said...

I think we (all of us who are "QA" and "Test") need to fess up and admit that we are all just 'testers' first. If all you do is test software, then you are just a 'tester'. Period.

In order to be called "QA" you need to also be involved in other areas of the software world. Quality Assurance is so much more than testing alone. It involves Software Configuration Management (SCM) & Build Management, Audit, Metrics, Project Management, Risk Management, Reviews & Walkthroughs, Standards & Procedures, etc. To name a few, along with Testing. Testing is a key piece, granted.

The problem is that within our own ranks and outside of it is the misconception of what Testing really is and what it does, along with what Quality Assurance is and does. Fix ourselves first and then we can get on to the other people.

By the way... just a fun poke at our line of work (http://www.sqablogs.com/jimhazen/2386/)

- Jim

Matthew said...

Agreed, Calkelpdiver.

From what I can tell, in Silicon Valley at least, QA was a title given to testers mostly as a form of resume inflation. After all, "QA engineer" sounds better than "tester" to someone on the street.

So, while I do a fair amount of actual 'process' work at Socialtext, I describe myself as a tester, test lead, or, more often, member of the technical staff. (MTS)

Noah said...

I think part of this has to do with a belief by some that Software Testing is less technical than development, and therefore inferior as a discipline. So, unless you have those skills that link you with development (i.e. automation tools knowledge) I believe more often than not you are going to be thought of as pedestrian by recruiters.

I completely agree that the debate has to change here - and I think you are doing a key piece by publishing your ideas in your blog.

One thing that I've tried to do has been to change the conversation I have with recruiters. The first question that seems to be asked is "What tools skill sets does your team require". As you said, tools are important - but I've been steering the conversation more towards "I need someone who knows how to think critically", "who knows how to observe", "who can determine high risks by truly _understanding_ what they are testing", and who can generally "figure things out".

Keep up the good work - you are doing a great service to our field.

Zach Fisher said...

The first question I ever asked of James Bach was regarding the efficient use of test automation (you can imagine how many directions THAT conversation went). No one was training me to do my job, so I took advantage of available resources.

Now, three years later, my questions are not about test automation execution tools. They are about the appropriate level of documentation, test strategy, risk analysis, gaining domain expertise - all within the context of my current project. But it all started with a question based on my interpretation of what was needed at the time.

The role of teachable student has been filled by the one asking the "QTP" question. What is missing is the willing mentor.

So...did you answer his/her question?

Matthew said...

"The role of teachable student has been filled by the one asking the 'QTP' question."

--> Has it? I assumed the student wanted to learn QTP, presumably to get a job that required QTP skills, and I'm not the guy for that.

I do a fair amount of formal test mentoring, for free, under the Miagi-Do school - but I am very selective with my time. Candidates are expected to take a challenge and invest their own time and energy. It's am amazing weeder.

I made an offer to talk about test strategy and tactics. We'll see if I get a reply.

Mehul Parekh said...

I think anyone can learn a tool. Its the methodology, the technique, the mind-set of testing that needs to be on the forefront, not the tool.

Farid Vaswani said...

Hi, I think I don't completely agree with your analogy. Please checkout my comments here: http://geek4eva.logicx.co.nz/blog/2009/09/03/a-tester-in-need/

TestyRedhead said...

I think you can help by clearing up some basics for the person and asking questions.

1. What are you trying to achieve with QTP?

2. In software testing you don't seek a mentor. You earn a mentor. The way that you earn a mentor is by taking the initiative to learn as much as possible and then engaging in interesting discussions with others. It's usually a mutually beneficial relationship and you don't get a mentor for free without proving you are worth investing in. So, ask yourself, how do you intend to earn a mentor?

3. What experience do you have in the field of software testing? In order to be a proficient user of QTP you need a foundation in the basics of software testing itself. I can recommend some books and online reading for you to get you started if you tell me your current experience.

Now, most likely you will not hear back, but you will have really gone out of your way to try to help a person.

I have this part time job where I try to help people for the last 3 years in terms of other people dealing with health problems. I no longer help people with a victim attitude more than one time, and I don't waste my time on those who don't give anything back to prove they are worth the investment. All of that time goes to the people who are trying. Letting go of the 10% really helps my mood and makes sharing my experience sustainable. I think the same is true when dealing with all people seeking help, guidance, and mentors.

Gaurav said...

Hi

I have been performing Software Testing for the last 12 years. I have worked across various techniques on software testing. However most of my experience has been around Manual testing. Due to the recent slowdown, I am looking at ways by which I can increase my scope in the industry.

As per my discussion with other testers I was informed that automation testing is a must have skill. I was also explained that QTP is a leading tool. If a candidate with QTP knowledge is sometimes given preference.

I am not sure on how to learn QTP. I am looking for a good training institute who would be able to teach me how to get started with QTP. Any suggestions?

-----

Would we not want to read the newbies comments in a similiar fashion?

My point is that the person wants to learn QTP and wants to know where to learn? What difference does it make if the newbie has put in some "not descriptive" words!

TestyRedhead said...

Gustav, the forum posting newbie said they were new to software testing. It wasn't an assumption on Matthew's part, so I'd say assuming experience when the post states otherwise makes no logical sense.

In fact, after reading your comment I went back and read his blog post wondering if he made assumptions and was unfairly trashing a newbie. It seems to me he used only the information at hand when referring to that particular person and then went on to comment about perceptions in the industry in general with pretty impressive accuracy and no attack.