Friday, 15 August 2008

Quality Testers Crisis ?

Some of the blogs I've been reading recently seem to have a common theme.
Over on SQABlogs, Peter Nairn was having trouble finding good testers.

Down under in Australia, Dean Cornish seems to be having exactly the same problem

Linda Wilkinson was also getting depressed with the resumes she was reading

Steve Rowe thought we needed a better way to test and in response James Bach thought we needed better testing bloggers ( here I am ! )

On the UK Test Management forums there was a topic posted wondering if there were enough testing resources to cope with the dark side of SOA

Last month I found another blog wondering about the state of the testing industry and thought we needed a better understanding where we came from
I provided him with a link to Lee Copelands Nine Forgettings talk - which as I pointed out in a previous blog is a talk he has been doing for at least the last 2 years

On the other hand, over in Austin there doesn't seem to be the same lack of resources and on TestingReflections Antony Marcano thinks the developer-tester-analyst roles are getting blurred and competency in all three will be required.

From my personal experience as a developer I found it hard to break into the testing industry but persistence paid off.

Interesting times to be a tester for sure

1 comment:

Michele Smith said...

I read most of the links in this blog. I also watched the Nine Forgettings video presentation by Lee Copeland. Let me say some of my thoughts on this, if I might be as honest as I can.

I got into testing by mistake. It was an accident that changed my life. I simply fell in love with something that I never knew existed. Of course when you fall in love with something you want to grow. You want to develop better skills. You want to be the best you can be. So, not knowing what to do or how to get there, you begin to ask.

First you ask your manager. He/She does not give you an answer; they suggest some things and do not even consider others. For instance, if you want to move on to learn automation testing and you are currently a black box tester who does a really good job, they will probably dissuade you or outright say NO. They need you where you are. They do not want you put time and effort into the next step. Your career path is limited if you are good at what you do, in some instances.

Second you ask others or look for answers in other tester blogs. What do you find? Well, if it is about automation testers, there is a bit more information about what people want from a tester, so the tester can continue to attempt to build skills and mastery – at least over the automation. But black box testers are generally not given suggestions or direction for building their career or their skills. You work on domain knowledge and whatever you personally think. These thoughts are not universal, but rather are what you assume your own organization wants/needs from you. So your skill set ends up defined by the company where you work.

When asked what people want from a tester, generally if a black box tester is being looked for, you see personality desires, not real down-to-earth skills listed. Black box testers are left to fend for themselves. Every organization wants something different. There is no clear view of a career path or advancement. Nor is there any set educational road for which a tester can go forward to gain, at least not for one who falls into it. If management thinks it is frustrating, how do you think the typical tester feels? It is like hit or miss in testing. Maybe this certification or that class will help me. Maybe I should learn some programming language, maybe that will help.

I think there would be less of an issue in finding a quality tester, if there was a definition. What does Quality Tester mean? What skill set should a tester have? Not the optional ones, the ones that mean the tester can move from company A to company B?
To me, the personality skills and desires should come into play, but some direction is really desired as to point number two that Lee Copeland said, “Forgetting to Grow.”
Let me put the facts straight out in regards to my own situation. I am very good at what I do. I am a black box tester per se. By saying this, I mean I do not do any automation. I love the job I have. I am used on all of the projects we have. Because I love what I do, and I do try to improve the processes I use and the skills I have. But, what if I am forced to find a new job at some point? I would like to be able to put my resume out there and take a risk working at another software company if that occurs. The trouble is I really don’t think I know what the other companies want. I do not know if I have a skill level that I can put out there. How can I, or other testers in the same boat, actually claim to have marketable skills if I do not know what the market wants.

Cookie cutter answers like: Must communicate well, must be a team player, must know how to write a test case, etc. If that is what the market really wants, fine. But if the market is having trouble finding quality testers I think the problem lies with not defining what they really want. And I think that if the skills were more accurately defined there would be a lot more testers being able to say, “I can do that and now I know it is important to say so.” Or “I can’t do that, maybe I should educate myself on that.”