As soon as I started working as a tester, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my professional life. Being completely inexperienced in software development, my idea of testing was that its purpose was to find bugs. Oh and I loved finding bugs. Starting from gaps in the requirements, to functional bugs, to inaccuracies in the documentation, to missing identifiers of texts that needed to be translated, I was there, creating my bug tickets. Life was good.
But alas, my manager and senior developers thought that I could contribute more to the quality of the product by doing additional activities, beyond just finding my beloved bugs. Here is a collection of suggestions that I received, which I initially, emphatically, denied.
Provide test ideas to developers before they start coding
The architect of the project noticed that I could spot gaps in the user stories as soon as they came in the backlog. He suggested that I add my testing ideas in the story, so the developers could take care of the pitfalls before they even started coding. I was outraged! If I laid out all of my ideas, how would I find bugs? If they wrote good software, how would I ever be happy with no bug to be found? I even had the audacity of contradicting him. He smiled politely and let me sleep on it, until I came to my senses.
Share my knowledge with the rest of the team
Not only were the developers interested in having my test ideas beforehand, even worse, they wanted to know how I came to think about them. They wanted to learn how to do exploratory testing efficiently and I was supposed to be the one telling them all of the testing craft’s secrets. I was not thrilled with the idea, nevertheless I paired with them for a couple of timed sessions and we found many issues together. We also discussed how a bug ticket should look like, so that it is easy for everyone to understand its importance and resolve it in a timely fashion. Eventually they became quite good at it, leaving me with even less bugs to find. At least, I had a hidden sense of pride for my “students”.
Merge bugs and enhancements into a single list
Another outrage. My well thought of corner-case bugs in the same bucket as things like “change colour of button from #4286f4 to #2977f4”. I half-heartedly accepted and agreed to have a look at these enhancements, reported by all sorts of people, from developers to sales colleagues. What I found out was that most of them were valid points that would significantly increase the good adoption of our product, sometimes with minimum effort. That gave me another perspective of how to approach testing, going beyond finding problems and looking into ways to actually improve our service.
Talk to people from sales
Another waste of my precious time. I knew what they would tell me. More features released faster, even if they were functionally incomplete, because this was what the customers wanted. In a nutshell, I thought that my job was to ensure that the customers got software that worked and not if what they got had any value to them (I wish I had come across Alberto Savoia’s “Test is dead” presentation much earlier than I did). After the first discussions, I reluctantly started seeing the error of my ways. Even if I couldn’t make any decisions on how features were prioritized, it sure made a difference to my testing approach, understanding what things the customers found important. What their resilience to failure was and how long they allowed for a fix. What their business was like and how our product could serve it. I swallowed my pride and admitted defeat yet again.
In all of the above cases, I embarrassed myself by either loudly refusing or grumpily accepting to even consider anything that was out of my testing comfort zone. Luckily, with approaches for creating quality software like Modern Testing becoming popular, most of the ideas I resisted are becoming mainstream. Will there be more things in the future that I will resist? Sure! Have I learned anything from my mistakes? I did. Developing software, and testing as part of it, is a creative process fulfilling the people that practice it. But if you don’t share your craft with the rest of your team and don’t listen to the people that consume your work, you will inevitably be left behind by both.