Software Testing – “It’s just so DULL”

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I recently wrote this blog post on Why Testing is Harder Than Development. The response that I got to it wasn’t quite what I expected. I had anticipated the points in the post being contested, particularly by developers. The general consensus I got though was one of agreement, which is nice I suppose!

One comment that I got, from a talented developer friend, struck a cord with me though. Software Testing – “It’s just so DULL”. I have had similar comments from other developers over the years, who see testing as nothing more than boring and mundane.

 

What is the General Consensus of Software Testing?

It’s not just other IT professionals who see Testing as boring either. A few years ago I had the dubious pleasure of going on a stag weekend with a friend. I didn’t know him particularly well at the time, and didn’t actually know anyone else at the start of the trip.

The other guys had a variety of jobs; policeman, carpenter, decorator amongst others. No one had anything to do with computers, certainly. Perhaps it was due to the banterous nature of the trip. But when I told them I was a Software Tester, they thought it was the most boring job in the world. Maybe I just didn’t sell it properly to them. The boozing nature of the trip, with many fathers and husbands enjoying a few days of uninhibited freedom for the first time in years, probably wasn’t the best time to talk about software testing.

 

I’m not a Tester, Honest guv!!

This perception isn’t at all surprising to me though, because at the start of my career I shared it. There was a time that I used to lie about being a tester. Whenever I met someone that wasn’t in IT, I actually used to say that I was a developer. I didn’t want to be seen as boring! I feel so dirty admitting that! Please forgive my sinful ways, fellow testers!! 🙂

It’s funny to me though. I have worked the last 10 years or so as a technical tester on a huge variety of projects and systems. Dull is the last word I would use to describe the job. There are many others. Challenging, innovative, frustrating, overwhelming, exciting, intriguing… but never Dull.

Every Awkward Teenager’s Dream Job

I started out in testing as a Video Games developer  Being a video games nut, when I landed this job it was a dream come true. Play games all day and get paid. Actually it turns out this job was pretty dull. I was testing a racing game called Burnout 3 all day. Driving around the same track in single player mode for 8 hours a day got tedious, fast.

But when something becomes boring to you, its just natures way of telling you that you need to evolve. So I did, I left my “dream job” as a video games tester, and took a job doing manual testing of desktop software. This soon became boring as well, but there was more scope to alleviate the boredom now. I learned about automation testing, performance testing, and how to dig deep into the low level code of the application to find out how it has been built. Since I did that, the boredom has never come back.

What do Other Test Professionals Say?

I looked for the comments of other testers on this subject. Unsurprisingly, they have had similar experiences. Simon Tomes wrote a great write-up on Alternative Ways to Talk about Our craft.  This was a write-up from a meeting of test professionals. He highlights that who you are selling testing to is important, you need to speak their language. There are many other great tips for helping to overcome the illusion that testing is dull. I recommend checking out the post.

Quora is always a great resource when researching topics of this kind. This thread had some interesting view points. A comment that resonated with me from this post was the 3 traits of successful testers. They have a passion for breaking things. A passion for automation. And they see customers as other engineers.

It’s a bit older, but the Google Test Blog also had a post on this. My key takeaway from this was the mention of testing strategy. How as you progress with your testing efforts, it becomes important to test tactically. Decide what to test, and where to focus your efforts.

The Evolution of Software Testing is Here…

Make no mistake. Software Testing is evolving, and at a rapid pace. This tweet from Richard Bradshaw spells it out better than I ever could.

Perhaps traditional manual testing is less in demand, although it will never go away completely. But there is a huge demand for smart testers. Who have the ability to automate and test at various levels. Who have the ability to think outside the box and strategise on testing.

There is perhaps a consensus in the software world that a testers goal should ultimately be to migrate to development. John Sonmez makes a good case for it in a chapter of his latest book . It’s a reasonable and understandable path for a tester to aim for, if that’s what they want. But I honestly believe it’s never been a better time to be a Software Tester. Especially if you are excellent and truly passionate about the profession. I won’t be looking to migrate anytime soon.

 

  • Kobi Halperin

    Thanks for another interesting and clear post James,
    It’s a bit pity that out of this post it sounds as if becoming a Developer (well as you called it to Automate) is the thing that may make testing more interesting,
    While actually this it a more technical activity of converting some of our test ideas into mechanical execution.
    To me the interesting part of testing was always thinking out of the box in order to find the next level of bugs and other issues which may reduce customer satisfaction from our product.
    @halperinko – Kobi Halperin

    • http://james-willett.com James Willett

      Thanks for the comment Kobi. I suppose that this post is more about what makes testing less dull from my own personal point of view – which in my case is to automate more and to become more technical. Everyone will have their own ideas on how to make the testing profession more interesting for them, but I imagine even the most technophobic tester would want to graduate from executing the same old tests day in day out.
      Thinking outside the box is indeed a key skill to possess, and its having the interest and desire to improve these skills that distinguishes testers from developers. I just think its great if we can think like that, and then automate a testing solution as well 🙂

      James

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