The Testing Mantra – OQI

I posted a tweet today about what I considered to be the Testing Mantra – Observe, Question, Inform (OQI). Everything we do falls into these 3 categories in one way or another.

The other day, a friend of a friend asked me what I did for a living. I said I was a software tester. He asked me, ‘So what does that really mean and what do you really do?’ As he was not in the IT field, I asked him what he thought it meant. He said, ‘Oh, I guess you try and find bugs and try and break things right?’

This is a common misconception that many make when they hear that you are a software tester. This viewpoint is one of the common reasons other job titles have been spawned like ‘QA Engineer’, ‘Quality Assurance Analyst’, and ‘Test Engineer’, to try and professionalize the job. Finding bugs and breaking software, are causal effects of portions of testing, not the objective of testing.

I responded to him that what I really do is: ‘Observe products, systems, components, code and documentation, question what I find, and inform stakeholders and interested parties of my findings.’

Without getting into technical terms regarding tools, technology or process, I think I summarized it well what I do.

I think part of the challenge of professionalizing testing, is not to try and come up with bogus certifications and training, but in educating people on what it really means to be a tester!

Spread the mantra – OQI!

How to gain credibility as a tester

Sometimes testers have an identity crisis. Occasionally we are an afterthought, we are not consulted, not invited to meetings and kept segregated from decision making. Instead of complaining about it… prove your worth!

Here are some hints to gaining credibility:

1. Become the product expert! There is no excuse for not knowing the product inside and out. No one should know your product better than you. Product Managers may know how the product is supposed to work, but you should know how it ‘really works’!

2. Become the expert in integrations! There are many people that know how a certain product behaves. But, there are not many who know how well all products integrate with one another. Integration testing is a very valuable technique and one that should be leveraged.

3. Find what is missing on your team or project! We all have our standard work that needs done: writing tests, documentation, validating requirements, automating, etc. But the one thing you need to utilize is your brain! Find what is missing. Every project has gaps. Maybe the requirements are lacking detail, the design is incomplete, product is buggy, product estimates are off, staffing requirements are not adequate, testcases, plans or charters reveal inconsistencies, etc. Find the gaps!

4. Develop relationships! Shed the ‘introvertedness’. Get to know your teammates. People will respect you, and will consult you, when they see you care, are involved and show that you are an integral part of the team. Hang out together outside of work or at lunch.

5. Learn! Kind of a general comment but it was meant to be. Study your product, learn more about the domain you are working in, learn new technologies, read blogs and articles, take courses, read books, play (ok that was for @vds4). Self improvement is invaluable and is in your hands!

Most of these topics may be obvious but can be handy as a refresher. Anyone in any position can be irrelevant or out of touch.

Make sure you are not one!