10 reasons why You are NOT a Professional Tester! — Part 2

Last week I published Part 1 of this series about why do I think testers are not treated professionally in some organizations.

My take is simple and I put the bulk of the blame on us The Testers, because many times we bring this upon ourselves by not taking our jobs seriously enough and not behaving professionally in our work.

It was nice to get some encouraging comments from testers I respect, but what I’m after is additional inputs on the subject. Even if you don’t agree with me, I want to hear your feedback in order to learn from it and improve our work!

A look back at the first 5 reasons

I will not go over each of the reasons I already talked about, but it is good to list them here for reference and completeness.

I believe that at least part of the reasons why You are NOT treated as a Professional Tester in your company are:

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

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”.

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

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

and

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

Now a look at the next 5 reasons
Why You are NOT a Professional Tester!

6. You think your job is mainly about writing and running
predefined Test Case Scenarios

There is so much more than only running scripted tests:
– Providing feedback on the design of your application.
– Analyzing the Risks of your current development plan and project.
– Providing informal feedback during the development stages.
– Developing an automation framework that will help your developers maintain the stability of the product while they work on it.
– Running tests, but definitely not only those you scripted before hand.
– Analyzing the results of your tests and the rest of the information available to you, to provide insights into the status of your product.
– Providing feedback on the process.
And I could go on & on…

In short, the value of your job goes way beyond executing test-steps and setting them to pass or fail!

7. Automation (and scripting) is an Advanced Science, and a project you will work in the future – in your spare time.

STOP coming up with excuses why not to work on automation!!
This is another side of the technical shortcomings of some testers but from a different perspective.

Automation is not a magic pill or the cure to all the problems faced by testers, this is only a sales-pitch-lie from many tool vendors. But still, there are times when using scripts or tools to do part of your dirty-work will make it more efficient and save you time.

The problem is that, again here, some testers feel they are not technical enough to do this, and so they choose not to use automation or scripting to improve their testing. In a sense it is like striking stones or rubbing sticks to light a fire, and refusing to use a lighter while saying that for you it is easier this way…

8. You do most of your testing while standing high on top of you Ego

A good tester is a humble tester! We need to know how to provide feedback, and even more importantly how to receive feedback from teammates and peers.

Many testers get frustrated when team members (specially programmers) give them unrequested feedback on their testing, or when they are queried on a bug that was not found or a test that was not run. Many times there are good reasons for all these “misses” and we only need to keep calm and share this information, but lot’s of testers take these questions as personal attacks on their professional integrity and reply with loud tones or harsh words.

In the same way as you need to know how to report your bugs and provide negative feedback to your project team, you need to know how to receive constructive criticism from your peers.

No one expects you to be perfect, but they expect you to be professional about your mistakes and to learn from them as well as from the feedback you get from the team.

9. You don’t keep track of your professional skill set and the areas where you need to improve next
One of my best managers in the past used to talk about our personal “Virtual Toolbox” as the set of skills each of us carries with him and uses when needed.

professional tester– Do you know what tools you carry in your toolbox?

– What tools are in need of improvements or updating?

– Which are the tools that you keep needing, and that you may want to acquire next in order to improve the quality of your work?

Testing is without a doubt a craftsmanship, and without the proper tools (virtual and actual) you will not be able to create the required product.

10. The only idea you have about a career path involves becoming a manager or moving on to another career

Some people get into testing because they think it is a good path into programing. Others do because they don’t know what testing is about and it sounds cool to “play” with applications all day long. After all, how hard can it be, right?

Part of them can end up been good testers (at least I hope that I did!). But most of them will end up frustrated, counting the days until they can stop testing and start doing the work they really wanted to do. While others don’t appreciate the real challenges of testing, and think the only way to move forward is to start managing people.

It is true there are challenges and rewards to managing a testing team, but there are also countless disciplines to conquer that are not related to management and that may give you even more challenges and bigger rewards (and definitely a lot less headaches!)

My point is that, if all the time you are looking to do something else and not focusing on how to test better, there is no way you can do it more professionally. So think if you are in the right place, or if maybe you should simply be looking for something else…?

Want to be professional? Start by looking at testing as a profession!

Looking at these ten points from 20,000 feet I think the line connecting them is the call to change our general approach to testing.

The first step is to start considering testing as OUR Profession.

Once we absorb this first step, the second one is to look at what we are missing in order to become better testers. What areas should we develop? How do we need to approach our work and the relationships with our customers and teammates? And what can we do NOW in order to increase the value of our work?

The third and last step (at least for this short approach) is to plan ahead how to improve, and to realize that as a profession we have much to learn before considering ourselves gurus or experts (if there is such a thing…)

The important thing is to realize that the change needs to come from within, and not from some God-given decree or from the title next to the name in our email’s signatures.

(*Images by Sura Nualpradid, Arvind Balaraman)

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38 Responses to 10 reasons why You are NOT a Professional Tester! — Part 2

  1. Kalistick December 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I particularly like point 4 ! Good article Joel !

  2. halperinko December 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Lovely Joel,
    But eventually, I believe there is: “Not enough learning about testing / involvement in community discussions, reading articles etc.” and way behind are all the rest.

    We should aim to fix #7 by supplying proper non-intimidating infrastructure – Normally it’s just a matter of Automation-Assisted / Semi-Manual GUI over existing automation infrastructure.

    And if I want to take some of this further, I think a discussion on the Testing “Virtual Toolbox” can be useful in order to create a check-list which might ease other testers to focus their future self-improvement plans.

    @halperinko – Kobi Halperin 

  3. Joel Montvelisky December 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Thanks Kobi!

    You know I also think we need to get more connected and learn together, but I also think that the only way this is going to happen is if we (or maybe the correct noun is they – as in the testers who don’t read or participate in the community!) really see a need for this. Whether we are behind or on top others is less relevant, mainly because I believe we need it most!

    Regarding #7 – the need to do more automation & scripting – I am already tired of lying in the shade of excuses such as needing to make tools less intimidating… We are in a technical profession, so let’s get our hands dirty and be technical about it. You know this better than I do, that once you really get around to it, it is simpler than most people think to work with scripts and some simple automation. It is only about working on it and stop making excuses!

    Lastly, I think we can work on the Virtual Toolbox concept, but remember that each tester will need different tools so we should not generalize to much on what should be in or out…

    Thanks for the feedback!

    -joel

  4. Jin Seok jun December 6, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Great post Joel!
     
    So I want to translate and post on my blog http://angel927.tistory.com  to spread your article.
    It will helpful to newbie testers in KOREA.
     
    May I get your permission?
    Please, let me take positive reply. 🙂
     
    Thanks.

  5. Anonymous December 6, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    I went over your site and it looks interesting!
    (as much as google translate could help me to understand it 🙂 )

    Please feel free to translate the article, just make sure to add a pointer to the source (as it is accustomed).

    Cheers!

    -joel

  6. Heracles December 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Reference Point 8, on my team we look forward to feedback such as that in order to help us to further improve our testing coverage.

  7. Jarhead December 7, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    word that should be written in stone .
    I think that people need to climb off the Ego tree ,
    return to basics & never forget that we need to work as a team 
    we all eventually have the same goal  to give the Customer the best service we can .

    have you considering to work as a professional writer ?
    grate post .

  8. Anonymous December 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    Thanks for the compliment, but I see myself more a professional tester than a professional writer 🙂

    I think what you call return to basics is what I see as not getting disconnected from the actual work and the ability to get your hands dirty no matter what title you have in your business card…

    Cheers!

    -joel

  9. Anonymous December 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    That’s exactly the attitude!  
    Feedback should never hurt you, only make you stronger & better.

  10. Stephen Wagener December 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I am not a software tester but I am a professional test & evaluation expert, happy to engage with you on all the issues if thats OK. Point six, pre-scripted tests are a trap for the ‘engineering’ mindset. A piece of machinery (software included) can be broken down into all its components and tested individually. This limited approach is about the world of structured and ‘complicated’ where understanding comes from the behaviour of the components (even in isolation from one-another). 

    When a ‘human is in the loop’ everything changes! – inconsistencies in operation, deviations from the designers/developers expectations of how it might be operated and even curiosity that breaks an ‘unprotected something’  designed not to be touched.  All this is ‘complexity’. 

    In the sea of complexity, context is critical! Understanding comes out of, and is dependant upon, the context. For each piece of equipment under test there is not just one context. Differences between users, create different contexts for the same item under test. Ignoring a particular (unique) context is a trap for testers. Particularly if the context you ignore is the primary user group. For equipment and software, ‘context’ is almost what makes it ‘alive’.

    Here’s the thing… In engineering every system can be pulled apart, then reconstructed and it still works! Everything is the sum of its parts: 1+1=2. 

    In the sea of complexity, results unfold over time and may not be the same for consecutive events. Occasionally something new emerges. 1+1= ???….. Well it all depends…. 0.5 or even three. A complex system cannot be described as the sum of it parts. The hard reality for engineering-style testing is that human complexity defies traditional engineering analysis, break it down into its component parts and it dies! 

    enough for now catch up soon

  11. Dave Sparkes December 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Joel, just to add to your point number 10, many developers look down on testing as a “graveyard” where they will end up themselves if they can’t maintain their career in development at any stage. We’ve all heard developers bleat about defects, saying “it worked on my machine!”  This just demonstrates the attitudes that must be challenged amongst our peers.

  12. Dave Sparkes December 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Good points Stephen, and one of the reasons why I am always very cynical of purely requirements led testing for end-to-end systems acceptance testing. Such an approach tends to lead solely to the creation of artificial scenarios to demonstrate compliance, but in reality what is needed is some form of “soak testing” of the integrated system over a period (with requirement compliance either cross referenced within that test exercise, or satisfied by additional tests where necessary).  Where that exercise involves human operation, whether in IT or on machinery, then it needs to be done for real, not just simulated in some way. When I’ve put this to colleagues in the past, they often say “Well that’s obvious”, but how often does it happen in the real world with testing often the first casualty of replanning due to overruns?

  13. David December 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Very good Joel, reading your blog I consider myself a professional test engineer. When I did my initial ISEB training it was emphasised that Software Testing is a profession and has a career structure. 

  14. Darren Ryan December 9, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    good blog and an very interesting article, I find there are a lot of testers out there who were made so by just grabbing business users to do UAT. They do that for a few years and then proclaim to be testers.
    I find a lot of testers out there do little to improve their knowledge. It seems that training in testing has now become grab the ISTQB and then nothing. I think to be a professional you need to be reading blogs/articles and attending user groups and even presenting. You should be training every year, it could be the cost of a new book but it should be done.

  15. Jitendra December 9, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    First of all i really appreciate the topic and it very well written. Here some thoughts by me…To become a good tester is to challenge ourselves with something new… I am mean lets be frank it does get a bit boring doing same task again and again so it is really really important to explore new ways to test be it a new process or automation or build a new tool …. So challenge yourself everyday to be testing in a better way

  16. Jmhon08 December 9, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Omg I love this blog. I can relate to every point here. I can’t wait to read all 22 pages of posts!!!

  17. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Hi Stephen and thanks for your inputs!

    You hit the nail in the head by defining context as one of the most critical things when approaching testing tasks, and this is one thing that many starting testers (and an even larger number of non-testers) tend to mis completely.

    Context need to be sought and understood in an almost religiously manner by good testers.

    -joel

  18. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    Good point Dave, sometimes what you are referring is so “obvious” that is left out of the planning stages, and so when you want to start doing this type of extensive / integration / real-life testing you are left with little or no time to get the appropriate results.

    Other times people look at you as if you were only trying to delay the process and try to find bugs in a “less-professional” matter.

    I usually work on educating the team on the importance of these “trivial advanced stage tests”.  Not everyone understands them at first but as soon as the interesting bugs start flowing you see the expression on their faces change…

  19. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    I agree and so I think we should never accept “developers who are downgraded” into our teams.  I’ve heard of great testers who once were developers, I even talked to Lisa Crisping about this last week, but I think this is a minority.

    One of the things I am doing to change this approach is to involve testers in the process sooner, when they can contribute a lot more than simply bugs into the design and architecture of the system.  Once they do this they manage to demonstrate to the rest of the team that their understanding level is not second to theirs…

  20. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Thanks David!

    I think ISEB and ISTQB can provide you with some foundation to do your work right, but the truth is that the career structure professed in their syllabi is not really applied in the real-world.For better or worst the Testing World is changing and so is the definition of our work. We are needed as professionals providing value into the process, and this is what I think should be main task of every Test Engineer, to find how can he or she provide the highest possible value to his team.

  21. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Totally agree!

    Grab a book, read some blogs, subscribe to twitter and read stuff under the hash-tags #QA and #SoftwareTesting, you are right!It is less important how you get into testing, I myself thought it would be a good way to earn some money during college.  It matters how you approach your job and what do you do actively in order to keep improving.I talk to a lot of Jr. & Senior testers, and all the time I hear how they complain that their bosses do not invest in their testing education. In part it is true, they are not sent to conferences or courses, but on the other hand there are tons of materials they can learn for FREE from the Internet that they refuse to use.Funny thing is that once they start improving their skills for free and their managers see how advanced they’ve become, as they don’t have a problem paying for additional training or for them to attend conferences and speak about how good a job they do at the work.

  22. Anonymous December 9, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    For some people getting bored is the trigger to find the way to automate or simply improve what they are doing.  

    The interesting question is what do you when the wheels are in motion and after you made your first improvement…  How do you go on?

  23. Cokolwiek December 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    1. Stop it, there is no time. Do some testing.
    2. We have no resources, go away.
    3. If you want any feedback, come to me, not to other colleagues. There are PROCEDURES!
    4. Yes, yes, of course. What were you talking about?
    5. NOT NOW!!!

    And I was just trying to improve some technical issues. Without touchning ugly process, because as a child of our TL it is untouchable 🙂

    Not everything is black and white.

  24. Anonymous December 12, 2011 at 6:21 am #

    WOW, sounds like a Job I had once when I was just starting to work as a Tester.
    It took me about 2 months to realize it was not the right place for me and move forward to a better place.

    Not everything is black and white, but many times we have a lot more choices than what we realize. Maybe you should think if it is not the right time to just exercise one of those choices yourself…

    Good Luck!

    -joel

  25. Asia December 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Now working on automatition at home, the only thing I can do now. It is true that with my experience I can easily find new job. But my company has a PLUS which I’d like to use for next several years and I decided wait a little.

    What I wanted to say as well is that so much depends on management, that sometimes Just A Tester has a very limited field for improvement. It doesn’t mean, that people can not do sth by themselves 🙂

    Other funny thing is that my team looks very professional from outside. What a sarcastic situation 😉

    Good luck with doing good job!

    Asia

  26. Anonymous December 13, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Question is for how long will they / your team continue to look professional from the outside…? 

    Cheers!

    -joel

  27. Panna December 19, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    A very good article indeed.
    I would like to add that not just Testing but any profession, requires us to be Proactive than being a person who needs a push.

    Many would agree that when a product is accepted well by the consumers, Developers are praised. But if a product has lot of bugs, Testers are blamed.

    This is what makes our job more challenging.

  28. Petteri Lyytinen December 25, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    “The third and last step (at least for this short approach) is to plan
    ahead how to improve, and to realize that as a profession we have much
    to learn before considering ourselves gurus or experts (if there is such
    a thing…)”

    Related to your point about being humble, it would seem to me to be a good idea to avoid becoming a self-proclaimed “guru” or “expert” – it is not for you to say whether or not you are one. That call is for other people to make, based on your performance in their eyes.

    In my experience, the self-proclaimed “gurus” are only that in their own mind or, at the very least, those calling themselves “gurus” or “experts” seem to become more difficult to deal with as their ego is blocking the view to the person him/herself. If I’m talking about testing with someone, I’m not there to deal with an inflated ego (founded or unfounded, makes no difference to me), I want to deal with the person behind it.

  29. Greg T December 29, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    I agree with some of the blog yet I disagree with other
    parts. What you are trying to saying is that the testers need to respect
    themselves before the industry will respect the testers. (correct me if I am
    wrong) I strongly disagree.  I think the
    industry as well as the testers themselves need to grow that respect together
    not one first then the other.  I agree we
    need to raise ideas, improve ourselves, point out issues and risks, but realistically
    how many times have those fallen to deaf ears?  Do they implement what you ask for?  Do they listen that there are potential risks
    if we do not delay the release?    Who
    are these “they” you ask?  I am talking
    about upper level managers, programmers, product managers, VPs of engineering.  Everyone talks the talk when they say quality
    is important but at the end of the day, no one will walk the walk to do
    something about it and when the customer raises hell, the blame falls squarely
    on the shoulders of the testers/QA dept despite the warnings and red flags
    raised earlier. Once the product is release it is much like the home team wins,
    fans like to take ownership by saying “we won” but when the home team loses,
    fans disavows the ownership by saying “they lost” or “they screwed up”.  And once it is proven that QA isn’t the sole
    group to be blamed, it becomes not much of a big deal and let’s figure it out
    together  let’s be friends type of
    atmosphere.  And guess what? We start the
    same viscous cycle all over again ignoring what we learned or we partially
    implement something hoping things will not happen again. And there lies the
    root of why there is a high turnover in QA/testers: frustration and disillusion.
     

    I hear what you are saying: being humble, learn new things,
    learn automation, improving self, etc. Sure the testers need to rise up to the
    occasion but it is the industry on the whole that has to change as well. Yes,
    some organizations do regard their testers with respect, but honestly has any
    organization regard testers the same level to the programmers? Testers are not
    paid as the same as programmers.  Testing
    is outsourced first before development gets outsourced.   Testers are laid off first when an
    organization has to downsize and last to hire when an organization grows.  I do not mean to sound like a disgruntled
    tester but time after time I have seen, I have heard, and I have experienced
    this.  To get responses like these: There
    is no budget to send you get more education.  Automation is more of programmer’s job not a
    tester. Where’s the incentive to improve? Where’s the incentive to learn QA
    automation?  Testers are treated like a red-headed
    stepchild. And if you complain too loudly, you are branded as not being a team
    player and promptly dismissed where they can outsource or hire brand new
    college graduate at a lower pay.

  30. Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Hey Greg,

    I have worked on places that sound like the one you described above, but as soon as I realized this was the “respect, appreciation, and understanding” of my job for them I started looking for a new place to work.  I am sure there are testers who will be happy enough to work on a place like this, but I am certainly not one of them.

    I don’t think this is the majority of the places, btw, since I keep meeting people and working with companies where they DO UNDERSTAND the place and the value of the QA team.

    With regards to the vicious circle of who needs to respect who…?  Anyone can start, but it will be easier and wiser if we start ourselves.  I cannot force you to see my point of view, but my experience is that it works.  You need to invest a lot of efforts but it is worth it.

    My questions is if you believe you can make the change and show the value?  If you can’t then I guess this is the place to start looking for issues.

    In any case, thanks for the different point of view.  It helps to show the different ways in which we can see the same issue.

    -joel

  31. Anonymous December 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Nice point!

    I certainly agree.

  32. Breno Ribeiro February 26, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    It sounds good. Thank you very much.

    Now, I know that this kind of problem is not only in Brazil.

  33. disqus_To44QRTPA0 May 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    “In the same way as you need to know how to report your bugs and provide negative feedback to your project team, you need to know how to receive constructive criticism from your peers.”

    Loved all the article, but this one I like the most. Know you and receive feedback, I think it’s the best way to be able to improve your skills.

  34. A.R Das June 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    It is scientifically proven that humans use 7% of their brain through out their life spam so my point is try to learn every time whether you have having 10+ years of experience. I can give you one more best example: Once I asked my colleague that “what is client side scripting and server side scripting?” and cunningly answered “I’M NOT A TECHNICAL PERSON to KNOW THIS”, I think this is the best excuse to slip away rather than learning, here the problem is with him is “EGO”. He came from Wipro Technologies Chennai and I came from a small company. TRY TO LEARN & LISTEN WHETHER A JUNIOR OR SENIOR STROLLING ITS KNOWLEDGE.

  35. Beware of Logical Fallacies April 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    incorrect! you are merely repeating a myth about how much humans use their brain. You use 100% everyday … if you didn’t it would show large-scale degeneration. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_percent_of_the_brain_myth
    (and many other sites that debunk the myth)

    you are correct otherwise in suggesting, if you aren’t learning something everyday then you are going backwards.

  36. Zinedine Zaiddin March 2, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    For point #6, I tried to give feedbacks, formally or informally after testing my parts towards developers, but I keep getting same answer from them “but that is what they stated in the requirements” from time to time.

    As someone who testing it with thought as if I am the end user, to keep getting such responses after giving my feedback (in which I thought it could help user navigate and use the system better), tbh it is quite demoralizing.

    And sorry for commenting this post after few years it was posted. I am too bored at office, and thinking to improve myself to be a better tester…so here I came.

  37. joelmonte March 2, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    You are not alone, and many times programmers (especially those who are not very good at understanding their jobs!) will tell you this.

    When this happens you can usually do a number of things, such as go to the Product Manager or Product Owner and bring to his/her attention this problem, you can also bring this up with more people on the team and ask to treat this as a bug in the requirement, and you can simply ask the developer to use common sense before developing something he/she knows is not correct.

    In any case, you are doing the right thing by bringing this to the attention of the team, and overall trying to deliver a better product.

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