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Valued tester

Here comes a universal recipe that I often hear on software release projects that are planning outsourcing of functional testing responsibilities.

Take an experienced test designer to define test cases. Then take several clickers to do the execution based on those pre-defined test cases and you are done with your testing team.

A clicker is meant to be a human being, literate and having some user experience with GUI based applications. Assuming that instructions are well written, the person will click through GUI based tests reasonably well. No need for special skills. Anyone can do it, right!? Hiring staff is going to be dirty cheap. Wow, that’s just perfect!!

Or, wait a minute, it isn’t? Such argumentation probably annoys most of testers. This kind of job advertisments is still part of the reality of the testing profession in Central Europe (and people from other parts of the world would probably confirm that we are not alone). The good news is that there is plenty of highly valued tester jobs as well. Let us try to name a few attributes that make the tester’s job more appreciated.

Important product – If you test a core network component of a Telco infrastructure, that’s failure can potentially imply loss of millions of $ per hour, your job itself is going to have critical impact. The work needs matured, respected staff. Functional testing of a single feature of a free-ware desktop GUI application can probably be executed by junior testers (eventually under the leadership of experienced staff).

Complex problem – The project will look for experienced/knowledgeable people to address difficult, complex problems. E.g. if there are potentially billions of combinations to test, the project will be looking for specialists, who are able to deal with the complexity at a reasonable cost. If the goal is simple, a less experienced/knowledgeable person may be able to address it.

Unique knowledge – If the role demands, for example, some unique banking process knowledge, product knowledge or programming/scripting skills, it’s going to narrow down the choice of people, who could do the job effectively. The tester filling such a position is likely to be valued higher.

Customer  issues – Executives often don’t realize the value of good testing until problems happen. Once defective software is shipped and customers start complaining, that can turn the wheel. So, a project team with a track record of high impact quality issues may appreciate good testers more.

You can probably name a few more. Either way, the less important, the simplest the testing task is and the less unique knowledge it requires, the less it may be valued (even though there are exceptions to it, e.g. smart testers are often valued even if their actual roles are not particularly important, complex or unique, because they represent great potential for future projects).

So, are there real-world job opportunities that meet these requirements? Sure, there is plenty of them!! Are there real-world examples that don’t match any of these attributes. Sure, there is plenty of them too!! Don’t just accept a job of a clicker, unless your single objective is to make some money for a Summer vacation! Do your best to find a job that fits you, if you really want to build a career in testing. Don’t be surprised about your job not being respected, if you don’t do so!

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