Like most of us, I wasn’t born a tester. Even at school, I never said I wanted to be a tester. As a child, I probably wanted to be an astronaut or maybe a professional cyclist (the Tour de France caught up with me). So I started as a land surveyor, making maps (not mental maps) and preparing land for future airports, sports buildings, roads, mainly in French Polynesia.
Then I decided to go back to school and learn computer science. My first job was as a software developer, where I built user interfaces in C++/Qt. At that time, nobody was testing what I was doing, not even reviewing the code. I’d better not check that code today, which is definitely very crappy! But apparently the product worked well. It’s magic!
First steps as a tester
After 5 years as a developer, I joined a small team of checkers. Yes, we were checkers, I don’t say testers or a quality assurance team, we were just checking. While waiting for the features to be realized, our main goal was to give a Go or a No-Go by checking if the product met the specification or not. Of course, this causes a lot of back and forth and huge problems in production because our brains were not really used (except that it was a very technical product, understanding how it worked was very demanding).
What happened next was revealing. Agile methodologies were born and came into the company and it really helps everyone to do a better job. Checkers are now starting to be testers, getting involved earlier and looking for better ways to help and test not only at the end. New tests methodologies were mandatory, new interactions were needed.
Am I the only tester in the world?
But it wasn’t enough, I felt very alone in my quest to be a better tester. I left this company for another one and I was again the only tester. I felt as if I still couldn’t really master the subject. How can I find out more about this field? Am I alone? I tried to find other testers to interact with. In France, I felt really alone. Yes, I attended the only French “Testing” conference (JFTL) but it was not a trigger event. This conference was very business oriented, some topics were interesting but I really felt like I was missing something.
What I did afterwards may seem stupid. I opened a Twitter account and decided to follow all the testers I could find in the world. And it was a huge relief, I could find a lot of people and a lot of communities, blogs, magazines talking about Testing. We were legion and we started to interact, especially through Ministry Of Testing and the different Slacks, and still on Twitter. Every topic was an opportunity to question and learn! Yippee, let’s master the subject!
Can testing be a calling?
Well, why not, but we can say that this is not the case for most of us who have many years of experience. At least in France, testing is just beginning to be taught in some universities and engineering schools. A few books exist (most of them in English) but they are nothing in the middle of development books. Training providers all now have courses on testing, but the content is not always satisfactory. Most of the time, it will contain the same things as the ISTQB courses and will offer you to pass (or not) the certification at the end of it. Knowing that the goal is certification, the content will be fully compliant with it, it’s a pity: these “testers” may not have the necessary state of mind to be a good tester, they will most of the time follow recipes and will not adapt to the context.
Fortunately, as I said before, I am not alone anymore (and probably never was, I was just biased) and most of us are now aware of this. There is a real community of dynamic testers, always ready to put themselves in danger to learn and it is clear that the profession is evolving enormously fast, which makes it exciting. And in saying this, I’m not just talking about the trend towards automation: there is still a lot of room for exploratory testing, security, performance, user, accessibility and the products being tested are becoming more and more complex and constantly evolving.
Is there a single tester who gets bored in this business? I don’t think so, and if there is, it’s probably because he is not in the right place and just need to move.
This short article is part of “Around the World with 80 Software Testers“.