I read a blog by James Whittaker analyzing how for him Software Testing is still stuck in the 90s while the rest of the (technological) world has evolved greatly. Today I will disagree with Mr. Whittaker since I think we as testers have not thrown all we’ve done away and we have seen real advancement in many areas of our work field.
As he writes in his post, back in 1990 I was a 16 year old high-school student, and as he says I didn’t have an email address (I will say that even in Costa Rica I did have a PC computer running Windows). To tell the truth I only started doing software testing around 1997, but I still have a clear reference point and can definitely see how the Testing Profession has evolved in these last 10-13 years.
We can talk about important methodological advances with the implementation and proliferation of testing techniques such as ET and even some more complex techniques that are still been developed and perfected such as Model Based Testing.
As a tester and a test manager I have seen how we evolved from working as an ad-hoc, unorganized and (at least in my mind) unprofessional bunch of “button-clickers”; and became professionals in the areas of risk analysis, user advocacy and both structured and heuristically testing techniques.
Not to mention what the current Agile (r)evolution is doing not only to the Development world in general, but to the testing profession in particular.
When we look back at the subject of the tools we use in testing we can see that many of the “magical-record-replay” solutions that tool makers tried to sell to us felt short from the empty promises made on demos & presentations.
But we have also seen how these same functional automation tools evolved, and how the object recognition approach they were based on became very useful technology. If you follow this area closely you can see how new approaches such as Keyword Driven Testing provide a more robust solution (still far from perfect), and how we have expanded the reach of the automated testing realm to include more and more business experts to collaborate with our day-to-day work. Additionally we can see how today we have excellent free tools such as Selenium or Watir (to name only 2!) that make this area more economically accessible to all.
Test Management has also evolved from a science based on excel-sheets and emails, to advanced QA Management Platforms that allow us to seamlessly manage teams and processes regardless if they are all located in a single room, or dispersed over the world in 3 continents and separated by 15 time-zones.
And finally we can look at the advances in load testing tools with the low level analysis that can be reached today with some of the most advanced tools out there, allowing us not only to determine bottle-necks but show the specific areas in the system where they occur. This is far from the load testing results of “500 users it works – 510 it crashes” that we were able to provide 10 years ago.
The Testing Career & Global Community
Lastly, and to cut it short since we can continue providing examples for a long time we can also talk about the career of the software tester.
What used to be a 1-2 year span before you became a real developer, product manager, or support engineer; became a legitimate career for many excellent professionals who see themselves growing and developing as testers.
Just the increasing amount of professional paths you can take within testing, each with its specialization and challenges, make testing more and more attractive for many engineers that either enter testing directly from school or get into testing after spending time doing development and looking for a more interesting and challenging career path.
Add to this the expanding online tester communities (for example the SoftwareTestingClub) that let you connect, share and learn from many great professionals around the globe and you get additional positive momentum that is already taking our profession higher and higher, day after day!
Maybe its time to turn on the lights
I have no doubt that the overall value we testers generate today is a lot more than that we did 10, 15 or 20 years ago.
So, I think that many of the people who still think we are stuck in the 90s and that most of what we’ve done has been spent and thrown away without really advancing our profession or the way we work today, are suffering from some sort of myopia or lack of perspective. Maybe a good way for them to come out of the dark ages of testing would be simply by turning on the lights and taking a good look around.
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