I’m currently reading a book by Stephen R. Covey called “The seven habits of highly effective people”, highly recommended if you need to understand how to balance and focus your life and your work.
The book got me thinking about the fact that looking back over my career I have also noticed some habits that seem to be present in many of what I would call the most effective testers I’ve worked with.
The list does not follow any specific order…
1. Context awareness: always understand the higher objective of what you are doing
An effective tester always knows how the task she is doing helps to answer an important and relevant question for the project.
Instead of blindly running tests these testers understand the current context of the project, what areas are important and how to contribute as part of the team. They clearly understand their role within the project and look for ways to play it in the best possible way, based on the current and ever-changing state of affairs.
2. Self awareness: realize your personal advantages and limitations
A good tester knows what he’s good at and in what areas he needs help. This doesn’t mean that he will run away from a task if he has a limitation with it, but he will accept and even look for help without feeling he is being undermined or professionally hurt.
Whenever possible he will try to look for tasks in the areas where his marginal contribution is higher.
3. Hands on attitude: a need to stay connected with the concrete tasks taking place
This is more relevant for managers and team leaders, but an important habit of a good test manager is not to get disconnected from the tasks taking place in his team. Even if this means sacrificing (or better yet, delegating!) some managerial tasks in favor of some manual testing work “in the trenches”.
Not only does this help improve the moral of the team, but it gives real visibility and understanding of the application under test and the real issues affecting the project.
4. Value of communication: explain simply and correctly
An indispensable trait of an effective testers is to be understood.
Not only does she test the correct things right, but she is able to explain to everyone in the team (technical or not!) what she found and how does it affect the overall project.
5. Teamwork: collaborate to achieve synergies
There are obviously tasks that are better done alone, but whenever necessary good testers know how to reach for help or even lend a hand.
Effective testers are usually liked and respected by the whole team, and they understand that teamwork and collaboration are a key to doing things more effectively, faster and better.
6. On-Going Improvement: self & external criticism to keep-on growing
The realization that we can always make things better is a distinctive trait in many of the testers I classify as great. These people are always open to criticism and understand that (in most cases) the feedback comes from a friend who wants to help them improve.
Most importantly, these people are not only open to external criticism, but they develop tools and techniques that allow them to evaluate their own work and look for ways to improve it.
7. Urge to learn: thirst for the expansion of knowledge
Maybe linked to the on-going improvement habit is the one to keep learning and looking for new knowledge sources.
Effective testers will be the ones bringing up new technologies, tools and techniques to do things better; they will try them out, and adopt or discard them based on the results they got. They will surf the Internet, participate in all sorts of forums and communities, and read books looking for new knowledge sources that will benefit them and the team.
The fact that I came up with 7 habits is pure chance and I will be happy if other people can keep adding to this list and take it to 8, 9 or even 20 habits we should all have to be effective testers!
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