Thursday, January 13, 2011

What type of tester are you?

I was assisting homework of my 7 yr old daughter in her science assignment. The assignment was to collect pictures of living and non-living things and make a collage. I thought about how one could approach this work and have fun while doing it. Being a tester, it is hard not to see connection in a work like this. Here is what I thought….

Let us say two testers “A” and “B” are given this homework assignment of creating collage of living and non living things.

Tester A: Living and non living things? Just collect few pictures of animals, plants, humans - paste them as living things and collect pictures of cars, buildings, mountains, bridges and paste them as non-living things. Home work done. Test pass and on to next thing…

Tester B: While thinking about traditional ways of looking at living and non living things, this tester also questions his own understanding and meaning of “living” and “non living”. He looks around, reads, discusses with colleagues about these things. He, then ends up with a broader list and accompanying narration.

What is the difference between these ways of approaching a task at hand? Tester A is more focused on “completing” task with minimal mental engagement about the settings of the task. He takes “widely accepted” meanings and understanding of the things and optimizes the details of the task. Tester B, starts with questioning the premise of the task, meaning and understanding of the things required to complete the task. He seeks a broader understanding of task elements and attempts to question biases, prejudices of his own and others around. Though on the face of it, it might appear that Tester B will take longer time to complete the task (homework), through practice, he might able to finish the task nearly at the same time while understanding of broader aspects of the task and clarifying biases and assumptions.

Today’s testing industry promotes type A testing mentality. Type A testers eventually will become “commodity” (with price tag 20 Dollars per hour – can execute 30 test cases per hour etc). I am not sure that is a good thing or not. If you are a manager or someone who manages testing as business – you would probably have (or would like to have) more of Type A testers as such people are plenty. Simply, take truck load of freshers from college, run them through 15 days of training on testing vocabulary, make them memorize some domain stuff (banking, insurance, telecom etc) , teach QTP – there you go an army of (Type A) testers ready for deployment (hence billing).

If you are a tester looking at long term fulfilling career – you would want to take path B – practice to do things differently, challenging status-quo, thinking broadly about the problem and its context etc. To become “Type B” tester you need practice – practice of doing testing (weekend testing is an excellent platform or training ground). I am afraid there is no shortcut here – no 15 day testing courses to get there.

There is a catch here… Type B testers are mostly rebels and free thinkers and often want break status quo, create new paths, explore new territories. Much of our industry is not very nice with such folks. Very few can tolerate “ever questioning”, skeptical and rebellious tester in the team. In a control freak, military kind of set up where key focus of the job is to “follow instructions” or “getting job done” – Type B testers get frustrated. Some get converted into Type A or leave the organization. Sad situation but true in many cases. I hope that one day either rebel testers will learn to live harmoniously in a hostile, confirmatory environment or industry recognizes the value of these “problematic” folks and make space for them.

“Testers are like lighthouses at sea shores, headlights of an automobile” says James Bach (paraphrase). Good testers, apart from completing the task given to them, engage in parallel about “meta” things for better and deeper learning. That is a good thing (can I say for testers not for folks who manage testing as a business?).

Did someone say “Type C” tester?


Riyaj said...

Very Nice post , and had a Great time in reading it .

Akhilesh said...

I am totally agree with you for Tester B classification,good and informative post.

Inquisitive Citizen said...

Hi Srini..a very good article..we sure have lot of type A testers around...but i guess the automation folks would like to call themselves as developers and not type a /type b :-)

Kashif Ali Habib said...

Hi Shrini,

Excellent post, the way you compare different types of testers is awesome.
As James Bach said" Testing is all about questioning the product"

Keep up the good work :)

Unknown said...

Really nice article srini.
I face the same problem, my comp asks me to train resources in day or 2 days training and want them on board with big expectation...
if its is dev mgr, he always wants quality best, without considering how?
This post applies equally to Development mgrs(except few)

Lalitkumar Bhamare said...

Hi Shrini,
Thanks for yet another nice article which made me think about the situation around me.

Just to add, apart from the serious probs mentioned by you related to the Manager folks , I think they are not the only people who shall be blamed.

With my personal experience, what I have felt is even client side analysts, management is equaaly responsible for giving platform for the development of 'A' type testers.

I work in the organisation where we provide development and testing as a service. When it comes to test some new business model, most of the time ITA themselves are not so sure about the requirements and what they come up with is just some shabby BRD/FSD... when a type'B' like testers does his own analysis proactively and questions back his ITAs/ITPMs for not covering some major requirements what they are rewarded with are some answers like "Which document are you referring to? , " We do not see thing that this falls under our scope" ," Ohh, let's think about it next time, as we got to deliver this A.S.A.P. "

... what type 'B' tester concludes at the end is "If they are not bothered... why should me?? "

I guess these are certain things which need to be addressed from all sides. And all those who are responsible for this kind of discouragement shall be made understand what they are doing ultimately.

- Lalit

QA Testing said...

I believe that I am the type that tests non-living things. Being an engineer, I relate better to things, than to people or other living things.

Anonymous said...

Nice thought. However getting a tester with "DEEP DIVE" nowadays is a challenge for the managers. Few practical observations cannot be learnt in a classroom however can be learnt based on implementation.