Are we all Accidental Testers?

Two weeks ago I was giving a presentation at StarEast.  I will write more about the content of this presentation on a later post, but I wanted to write about something that happened “on the side” of it that made me realize an interesting characteristic of most testers out there in the world.

During the introduction slides I mentioned that I was a case of being an “accidental tester”, someone who had gotten into testing more by chance than as part of a conscious and planned decision.

Accidental testerts- Stumbling

This was not an integral part of the presentation, but more of an introduction to get the audience to understand from what point of view I wanted to present my ideas.

Then, after the session was done, two different people came to share with me that they also saw themselves as accidental testers and to tell me how they had personally ended up as testers without having intended to do this in the first place.

Does anyone ever plan to become a tester?

After talking to these two “accidental testers” I kept asking people in the conference about their own personal paths into testing, and I found that everyone I talked to had stumble into testing from different sides of the working spectrum.

There were those who had started in the business side and moved into testing as a side-effect of having displayed technical interest and abilities.  There were those who had begun as tech-writers or support engineers, and moved into testing because they saw it as a more appealing job.  I also talked to some who had come from a programming background and had been asked to test in a specific project, only to understand that they enjoyed this far more than their programming tasks.

In short, I don’t think I found even a single person (although I am sure there were) that had made a conscious decision to become a tester as part of a planned and defined career path and profession.

What should we do about this?

Should the fact that most of us ended up as testers by chance bother us?

I think not, and not only that, I think that people who end up in testing as part of an evolutionary path are more prone to be better at their jobs.

Why is this?  Because they progressed into their jobs based on their natural strengths and not due to a decision that sometimes may be artificial and not in-line with their internal (intrinsic?) personal capacities.

For example the people who went to law school or to study accounting in order to please the expectations of their parents, or those who went to study management because they could not choose any other profession from the list provided by a university, or those who studied computer science because they thought it would provide them a high salary.

We are good at what we do!

We are testers because we like to test, and many of us are even pretty good at it 🙂  I don’t know many testers who endure working for long in our profession otherwise.  We should not let the fact that we did not get into our profession following a “standard path” affect our self esteem in any way.

A good tester needs to be a self-learner by nature, he won’t have a chance to survive otherwise.

We need to constantly learn our AUTs and how to test them effectively.  We need to learn how our users approach our applications and how they use them as part of their daily activities.  We need to learn how to effectively communicate with our stakeholders and peers in order to gather information and then to pass it along to all the team.  And we need to learn many additional things that are simply not taught in any formal way in any university or learning institute.

Self learning is another one of our testing tools, and maybe the fact that we are “accidental testers” is actually part of the natural selection process that helps define who will be a good tester, and who may do better by looking for another profession for him or herself.

So, the next time you feel like you ended up in testing by mistake and that maybe it was the result of a wrong turn along the way, look into this thought again.

The fact may be that you were a tester from the very beginning, but you needed to go through a self-development process in order to reach your professional maturity and fulfill your calling as an exceptional tester.

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11 Responses to Are we all Accidental Testers?

  1. Amit May 31, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Something I wonder about –
    While it’s probably true that it is good for someone to stumble into testing (for the reasons mentioned above) I wonder – is it good for the testing profession to have most of it’s practitioners to just come across it by chance? I’m a bit worried that this is part of the reason that too many around consider testing to be the easy way into hi-tech, and come to interviews with the appropriate (lack of) skills.
    I mean – if no-one (but me, apparently) has planned on becoming a tester – how can we create a theoretical and practical testing knowledge-base? Yes, there is a lot of stuff around, but when I compare this to programmers – most of them have a common path of study that gives them a shared language and assures at least a minimal set of skills. with junior testers – I just hope they are not dumb and train them on the job.

  2. Kobi Halperin June 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    While I agree we should personally embrace that fact, I disagree that we should accept that as a given when it comes to the Testing profession.
    Again it comes from the fact that “the man in the street” has no knowledge what SW Testing is all about – so it is quite unlikely that someone would even consider it as a planned professional path.

    (Well – at least apart for those who heard somewhere its a great short-cut to the Hi-Tec world, and decide to take a short course to win that lottery ticket – BTW all these do not get here by mistake – just by covenience …)

    I do think this should worry us, and we should work on communicating this profession, and verify that people will recognize it as a desireable profession, and will consider that in advance when coming to select their academic path.

    Especially as we know that it is not likely that there will be a dedicated 1st degree it Testing – but programs which put emphesis on QA & Testing during computer sciences degree do start to become more common.

    Interesting to get this link the same day is that one:

    Why Aren’t There More College-Level Courses for Software Testing?
    http://www.testuff.com/blog/why-arent-there-more-college-level-courses-for-software-testing/

    @halperinko – Kobi Halperin

  3. joelmonte June 5, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Hi Kobi,

    I agree that we should not agree to live with the fact that testing is not a University Level Degree, but on the other hand I think that the question of when and if Software Testing will be a separate degree has more to do with the industry than with the Universities or the students themselves.

    Once companies start treating testers as developers and paying them as developers, then the Universities will start creating degrees for Testers (but this is a topic that can be reviewed not in one but in many separate blog posts at a different time).

    I also think or feel that in a sense Software Testing is a profession that should evolve from Software Development degrees, just as today’s Project Managers come mainly from Industrial Engineering, Operations Research, or Management.

    My 2 cents 🙂

  4. joelmonte June 5, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Hi Amit,

    It is nice to see that some people did plan to become testers from the start 🙂

    Regarding whether it should bother us that this is the fact, I am not sure about it. I think that what bothers me seriously is when someone feels (like you said) that they can become testers as an easy way of entering the high-tech industry while not having any of the attributes or attitudes that will help them make good testers.

  5. Kobi Halperin June 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi Joel,

    NO – I do not claim that we need a degree in Testing – nor that we should even thrive for that.
    (Dedicated courses during other degrees are enough)

    BUT – what I aimed to say is: When people are unaware of this profession – there is NO chance they will select it in advance…

    And that is what we do need to change.

    ** Awareness in general population to Testing as a profession. **

    Kobi

  6. joelmonte June 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi Kobi,

    I am sorry, but WHY?

    Why do you think we need people to select it up front? I mean, what does it do to improve our profession?

  7. Kobi Halperin June 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Well Joel,
    I do hope that people who select this occupation in advance, will take the time to learn about it,
    And hopefully also to try and improve it – by discussing, writing articles and maybe even research.
    Today – we hardly see that.
    A very small part of our population takes part in community activities (In IL we have ~10 part time bloggers out of over 10, 000 testers, these are roughly the same people you will find on Twitter, and few more are active in the forums & FB…)

    I see Team Leaders who never learnt even the basics of testing, and many of them never visited neither a testing conference nor the forums.

    I do think the carelessly way which brought them to this occupation is reatined and they do not care enough to share information and learn from others.

    I consider the few of us who do – the less common phenomena which does not point on the general notion.

  8. joelmonte June 8, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    I hear what you are saying but I feel that this is the same on most jobs.

    I see developers who hardly read blogs or go to conferences (not to mention write blogs :-). I also see the same with Project Managers, Product Managers, Support Engineers, etc. This may be something related to our type of work and maybe to the fact that we are all a little sociopaths and very very very busy.

    Not sure I see this as a side-effect from people “stumbling” into testing accidentally, but do think there is much to be done on this aspect as well.

    Once again, this is a case of preaching to the choir I guess, right?

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