Excellence In Testing, Today More Than Ever
What is excellence?
Most places will define excellence as outstanding, being extremely good, the quality of excelling at something, or being the best at what you do.
All these are good definitions, but when I look at testing and specifically at excellence in testing, I am referring to those special attributes we see in some testers that draw them apart from the rest of the pack.
They are not the fastest testers, nor are they the most technical ones, and usually they are not the ones finding the most bugs…
They are the testers that know how to test thoroughly but accurately, reviewing the system from the important angles and asking the questions to help the team deliver the features correctly but also quickly.
They shed light on the things that matter and leave aside those that are not relevant, helping to focus the conversation and not to confuse it with irrelevant information and noise.
They get the job done, effectively and efficiently.
Do you need to be technical?
To excel at testing you don’t need to be the most technical tester, but you need to be technical enough in order to understand what you are testing.
You don’t necessarily need to know how to write complex scripts, but you will want to use technical tools to facilitate part of your tasks.
Most testers work on projects that include technical aspects, and so being technical will allow you to comprehend the system you are testing, and to understand the reasons behind the different behaviours of the systems (both the good as well as the bad behaviour).
There will also be testing projects that require advanced technical skills, and in order to excel at them, you will need to acquire these skills either before or as part of your work. You should not shy away from this opportunity, instead use it as a reason to expand your virtual toolbox of skills and knowledge.
Can I excel at testing without intimate knowledge of the user?
Being an aeroplane pilot may help you test systems that run on an aeroplane’s cockpit, and being a medical doctor may help you test tools used during brain surgeries. But you don’t need to be a pilot or a brain surgeon or to excel at testing either of these systems.
You can use a number of approaches to understand enough about the users and their interactions with the system in order to test correctly. Yes, it helps if you have previous experience in the field, but most times this is not a mandatory requirement.
You can spend time with subject matter experts, reviewing what they do and what is important to them as they do it. You can then create personas or user profiles to help both you and your team.
When you don’t have access to end-users, there is the option of interviewing people within your organization who can tell you more about them, what is important to them and how they interact with the system. For example, you can reach out to the Customer Support team, Salespeople, or Professional Services engineers.
You can also decide that for a specific project there is no substitute for real users, and choose to have phases of field testing to complement the internal testing you do as part of your testing cycles.
In short, being a real user is an advantage, but not a requirement to being an excellent tester.
Is excelling at testing different in Agile or DevOps teams?
Yes and No.
Some of the skills needed in one organization will not be the same as those needed in others, but excellent testers tend to excel in most places they work. This is because testers who excel at their work are usually flexible in their approach and focused on the value of their work – not on the methodology used to achieve this value.
The value we provide can be in a number of different aspects of the testing and quality areas of the project.
We can be focused on the actual testing efforts, spending all the time interacting with the product and critically evaluating its behaviour.
We can be more focused on leading and orchestrating the testing efforts of a number of testers. Breaking the tasks into smaller pieces, organizing them and assigning people to them. Reviewing the plans and findings of your team in order to ensure proper and successful testing, even when we are not the ones doing the actual testing efforts.
There will be times when you will find yourself coaching testing to players who are not usually testers in your team. This can happen if your organization adopts an “all team testing” approach, where you are tasked with empowering developers, POs, and other members of your group to plan and execute their tests, even when they have never done it before and sometimes they believe it is beyond them to do it properly.
Most times you find yourself doing a mix of all the above, while constantly performing risk-based reviews of your project in order to adapt your approach to the ever-changing constraints and goals of your team, forever focused on providing business value to the organization.
How do I learn all I need in order to excel at testing?
This is the most important but also the most gratifying part of excelling at testing (or at any other task for that matter), the approach that will make you stand out from the pack. It is the realization that learning is not a task or a step along the way, it is a way of life.
Those who excel at what they do, in this case, testing, are those who never stop learning and are looking for new lessons everywhere they work and from everyone they interact with.
Those who are passionate about something can never get enough of it and will seek new knowledge and experiences whenever they have a chance to find them.
There are all the theoretical testing-related sources you can and should read, but there are also more diverse skills that are no less important such as critical thinking, storytelling, observation, experimentation, and more.
Today knowledge is right in front of you, there is no real problem in finding sources, even free sources, with high-quality information for you to learn. Sometimes the problem is how to select from all the different sources to review – but this falls under my list of good problems to handle.
If you are reading these words, it means you already found an excellent source. I am writing this article on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Teatime with Testers, one of the most amazing sources of knowledge and information about real-world testing available today. Lalit and his team have gathered countless articles from many authors and testers around the world, all of them sharing their knowledge, their experience, and their passion for testing with the rest of the world.
I want to congratulate the Team on a job well done all these years, but most of all I want to thank them for their efforts and for making the testing world a better place, one edition at a time! May we all enjoy many more editions of Teatime with Testers in the years to come!!
Joel is a Co-Founder and Chief Solution Architect at PractiTest. He has been in testing and QA since 1997, working as a tester, QA Manager and Director, and a Consultant for companies in Israel, the US and the EU. Joel is also a blogger with the QA Intelligence Blog, and is constantly imparting webinars on a number of testing and Quality Related topics. Joel is also the founder and Chair of the OnlineTestConf (https:// www.onlinetestconf.com/), and he is also the cofounder of the State of Testing survey and report (https:// qablog.practitest.com/state-of-testing/). His latest project is the Testing 1on1 podcast with Rob Lambert, released earlier this year - https:// qablog.practitest.com/podcast/ Joel is also a conference speaker, presenting in various conferences and forums world wide, among them the Star Conferences, STPCon, JaSST, TestLeadership Conf, CAST, QA&Test, and more.