10 reasons why You are NOT a Professional Tester! — Part 1

Are you a Professional Tester?
Professional Tester Chances are that if you are reading this post you are…

And I don’t mean this because I wrote this post – there are countless other testers who have better stuff to share than I do!

I mean in general, if you are reading a QA-related article in your free time in order to improve your testing skills, you fall into the small (& hopefully growing) number of engineers determined to be Professional Testers.

In search of the Perfect Excuse

Last week I saw another discussion in LinkedIn asking Why is testing not considered a profession? by many people in the Industry.

There were answers ranging from “because testing is not formally taught in Universities” and all the way to “because testing is new and people are still learning how to do it professionally“.

I searched in vane for someone to come and throw the blame back at us, the testers, saying the reason we are not considered a profession is because many of us are not professionals in the way we do our work.

But I guess people were too busy been self-pitying and unjustly-victimized in order to notice that most of the blame resided on us.

Looking for the answers in the mirror

Let’s be honest, wherever we are not treated as (testing) professionals it is because we have not made it a priority to behave like professional testers.

Based on my limited experience, everywhere I’ve seen testers taking their work seriously and striving to improve intelligently, I’ve also seen how they were treated with respect and how their work was appreciated thanks to the value it provided to the Organization.

So to the point:
What are the 10 main reasons
you are not a Professional Tester?

1. You think testing is not a technical profession, and so you don’t even try to understand the code behind your product!

Professional Tester- Laptop If you work on Software Development you should understand at least a little about software engineering.

As a tester, you need to be able to read code in order to analyze your product and understand how changes and fixes can affect it and cause additional bugs. The days of hiding behind “black box” vs. “white box” testing are over.

You can still get away without writing any code if you don’t want to, but as long as you refrain from reading the code you will be missing a very important input to your overall testing process.

2. You are not involved in the process until you are hit in the head with a build by development and told to “go and test it”

Answer yourself truthfully: When do you start getting involved in the development process?

In theory we’d like to start during the requirements gathering and analysis phase, together with the rest of the team. But in practice we hardly provide any inputs before we are “hit in the head” by the first build from our developers looking for feedback on their features.

Why does this keep happening? Most testers will say that it is because of the “viscous-circle” of been the last link in the development chain; we are always extremely busy testing when “the others” start planning.

But in truth, if you cannot spare 2 hours a day to take part of a feature design meeting it means you are a lousy time manager. It also means that the only reason you are not part of the development process earlier is because you don’t make it a priority; or in other words because you don’t want to!

3. Your only interaction with a Customers is when your Support Team asks you to reproduce a bug from the field.

Part of your job description is to test your product based on the way it will be used on the field and to catch the bugs that will be important to your users once the product is released.

In fact, your job is to be your customer’s advocate within the development team. To plan your tests and set up your environments based on their working behavior. You are also expected to provide functional feedback based on their needs and constraints.

If this is the case, then how can you simulate field work and represent your users if you don’t know them? When was the last time you visited a user to understand how he or she uses your product? Can you really relate to the work they do with your system and with the constraints of their working environment?
I guess the answer is NO.

Go and visit some of your customers! Until you know and understand your users, you will keep doing a lousy job as a tester.

4. Risk management is something you practice only in the context of
Life Insurance.

There are a small number of simple truths in testing; maybe the most trivial of them is that “no tester will ever have enough time to test everything”. This is where Basic Risk Management comes into play, helping us prioritize our work in order to know what needs to be tested (and tested first) and what can be assumed to work based on the results of other tests.

But as I said, this is only the basic side of Risk Management… The more advanced side of it, and one that provides no less value to your team is the one that is not directly related to testing at all!

Every testers knows there are areas of his product that are more risky; areas where there are always more bugs and where the work of the team is always delayed due to unscheduled and unplanned circumstances.

It is part of our job as testers to be aware of these areas and remind the team about them during all stages of our projects. This way we can choose whether to develop the features using different areas of the product, or if necessary schedule more time to stabilize the system, accounting for these “unplanned issues” that will always present themselves.

You should strive to shed light on the issues, whether existing or potential, affecting your product. Helping the team to set realistic objectives and reach your goals on time and on budget.

5. You don’t have a plan to improve the value of your testing.

The Testing Profession is in many ways uncharted territory. There are many paths that will take you into testing, and as many ways to improve professionally once you are part of the Testing World.

Most of these “testing improvements paths” are individual, and will be a mix of the individual capacities of the tester, together with the needs and constraints of his current workplace, and the information sources available to him at the present time.

In short, there is no ONE WAY to develop yourself professionally as a tester, and these improvements will not be easy or come quickly. So, unless you decide you want to seriously invest in your development process, and only after you understand how to achieve this goal, will you be able to really improve your testing skills and the value you provide to your organization.

How do you achieve this?
Start by mapping your strengths and weaknesses as a tester, then decide what areas do you want to develop (that will also be valuable to your Organization), and finally look for the means available to you to develop these skills.

One thing is certain, it will be completely impossible to improve if you leave it to chance, or to another tester to tow you along during his personal development process.

To be continued in the next post…

I made myself a promise not to write posts that are too long. So I will cut this one here and write a follow-up post later this week (or at the beginning of the next week) with the additional 5 reasons why you are not a Testing Professional.

Since I don’t want to leave you hanging, the next 5 reasons are around your career path as a tester, working mainly with scripted testing, not using automation as a tool, and general skill-set management.

Feel free to provide your feedback on these reason, or even provide additional reasons why you think we are not treated as Professional Testers by our peers. I am sure each of us has something good and insightful to contribute on this subject!

(*Images by ddpavumba, Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot, and screationzs)

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18 Responses to 10 reasons why You are NOT a Professional Tester! — Part 1

  1. Scott Barber November 28, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Brilliant – can hardly wait for part 2!

  2. Phil Kirkham November 28, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    Good post – I could improve on a couple of those areas so thanks for the reminder. Looking forward to reading about the details of the remaining 5

  3. Anonymous November 28, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Thanks Scott,  already started working on Part 2 🙂

  4. Anonymous November 28, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks Phil!
    Interesting thing is that I also made a couple of notes to improve myself 🙂

  5. Simon Knight November 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Ditto the above two comments. Like Phil there are certainly a couple of areas in which I could improve, and having them so explicitly identified caused almost physical pain! Way to go! I’ll almost certainly be referring to these again in the future and look forward to your conclusion!

  6. Anonymous November 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Following up on your Tweet…

    The truth may hurt you, but ignorance may get you killed (or at least get you fired!)
    🙂

  7. Mobile App Testing November 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Great post Joel. I especially liked reason #2.

  8. Anonymous November 29, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks!

    As I wrote the post (and as I am writing part 2) I keep asking myself to what points do people relate to and what is more common in the Industry.

    Do you care to share why you think the timing of the “start of testing” is your favorite?  What about the other ones, do you think they are less relevant?

  9. Varuna Gunasekara November 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Good Article Joel!
    Can’t wait for part2!

  10. Neal Madlani December 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    Nice article, brings the reader back to the basics.

  11. Robert L Barnard December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Thank you for pointing out what we can do to become more engaged.

    Regarding “Why is testing not considered a profession?“, I think for many people getting started in software development testing/qa is a stepping stone, a way to work in the industry and peruse the scene whilst they plan their next move. 

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. But I’m told 50-70% of attendees of software QA conferences have been in software test for 1 year or less, while 25% have been in the role for many years. This could suggest there is a high amount of turnover, or the industry is growing substantially, or both.

    This this sort of cultural erosion it’s difficult to maintain a culture of knowledge and integrity; it becomes a bit like the Wild West with few respected establishments. It seems that those in the software QA industry have no knowledge of those who came before them, or at least, don’t give credit.

    Some 35 years ago Glenford Myers wrote “The Art of Software Testing” while he was at the IBM Systems Research Institute. Mr. Myers was not a “software tester” per se, but was a researcher and developer who was interested in processes to develop quality products. His illustrious career now includes founding two very successful tech firms as well as publishing many important papers and books. In 2004 his book “The Art of Software Testing” entered its 2nd edition.

  12. Anonymous December 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    Excellent point Robert!  Thanks for bringing it up.

    I am no stranger to this fact and in the past I worked on a couple of places where as a rule we enrolled young developers “fresh out of college” to do testing for a couple of years, knowing up front most of them (I believe more than 3/4) would leave the team after that time.  We also had a hard-core of Test Leads who were Professional Testers training and leading them, and making sure the knowledge and advances these guys made did not leave with them.

    But again, I do not refer to these young programmers as professional testers.  I think they are what they are, and we can also take advantage of them, as long as you know how to do it properly.

    Does this mean we need to live this way always?  I hope not!
    I really hope we can make testing a career where people see the depth and are willing to go into it knowingly…  Not falling into it by chance (that is what happened to me, btw).

    I think the road is long and hard, but I also think we have started making progress along the way.

    Regarding “The Art of Software Testing”  I remember another person referencing once, and I guess it is time I buy it and read it.  Thanks for the recommendation. 

  13. Samandaras Fotis December 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    so true…….excellent article!!congrats

  14. Joel Montvelisky December 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Thanks!
    🙂

  15. Bill Schlesinger January 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I have had these thoughts for years but did not have the ability to put them into words.
    Thanks Joel, Great job. I have forwarded your link to my bosses. I ma retired now after 36 years of testing at Motorola

  16. Ajay Balamurugadas January 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    A must read for every tester 🙂

  17. SG November 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    There is only 1 reason to consider when deciding if you are a professional. Is what you do regulated by a formal body or society? If it is NOT then you are not considered a professional. However, I feel that you can be “professional” in your attitude towards your vocation and therefore consider yourself thus.

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