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Testers’ illusions

Testers often debate about testers’ place in the world of software engineering and the world’scircle perception of testers. Both well known names ([1], [2]) and the broader community ([5], [6]) contribute. We (testers) often get frustrated, deffensive, when non-testers say that testing doesn’t need thinking, that it is only about pressing buttons, that experience or qualification are not imporant. Basically that anyone could do it. In a response, we try to define ourselves ([3], [6]), suggest ways to deal with non-testers ([4]), educate them ([1]) or trying to challenge ourselves ([5]). The more I talk to peers and the more I read about the issue, the more I think that we are running in circles and that discovering new ways to continue the debate could help.

There isn’t a universally understood and accepted definition of who a tester is in terms of competency. Sure, there are opinions, some common definitions promoted by testing communities and it is common sense that the role of tester is to provide valuable information about the state of qualities of the product. The role is, however, defined differently at different projects, different testing areas and perceived differently by different stakeholders. So naturally, some tester jobs may be appreciated  more than others.

Just as a matter of clearing the distinction between the more and less (important, respected or paid), I suggest a bit of negative brainstorming. I’m sure, each of us can name a couple of tasks or responsibilities that we own at our jobs and that we could delegate to or share with non-testers (unqualified, un-experienceed staff, who is eventually not interested in testing as a profession) or know about situations, where we would even engage non-testers in testing. Here is mine. I would assign the Test Manager role to the Development Manager (or perhaps even eliminate it) in a small company of 3 mobile application developers, whose objective is to produce new simple features fast (so their community can play with them), rather than producing complex features slowly in enterprise quality. Can you add yours?

So, besides emphasizing our own importance and suggesting how to deal with our non-testing counterparts, let’s double-click on the general concern and match it against specific real-life examples. Let’s just accept that not all testing jobs need high qualifications or years of experience (neither do all programmer jobs). Don’t be afraid of saying that anyone with a bit of intuitive thinking could do testing, as that may be true in a given context. Overselling our role and responsibility doesn’t help. Instead, try distinghusing, what testing tasks need special knowledge and experience and what not.

Seeing this distinction could help understanding better, where we bring unique value in our respective jobs and where we don’t. Consequently, it could help us explaining and selling our value better. An opinion about highly valued testing jobs is to follow in a future article.


[1] Geoff Thompson, Smarter Testing Solutions: http://www.experimentus.com/newosletters/articles/GT_smarter.htm

[2] James Bach, Yaron Sinai Says Stop Thinking, Stupid Tester: http://www.satisfice.com/blog/archives/243

[3] James Bach, Sapient Processes: http://www.satisfice.com/blog/archives/99

[4] James Bach, Explaining Testing to Them: http://www.satisfice.com/articles/explaining.shtml

[5] Andrew Hammond, Anyone can be a tester:  http://softwarecausality.blogspot.com/2011/01/anyone-can-be-tester.html

[6] Steve ???, Can Anyone Test?:  http://www.theagiletester.co.uk/2010/04/can-anyone-test.html

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