Eliga’s Jon Hall is back, advocating for testing, not just in tech but also in education and popular imagination.
‘So, what made you get into software testing?’ This is one of the first questions I ask candidates whilst interviewing for testing roles.
Two of the most common answers I hear are:
- ‘I used to be a developer.’
- ‘It was a complete fluke.’
The answer is never, ‘It’s what I wanted to do from a young age.’
You’ll rarely hear, ‘It’s always been my ambition to get into software testing.’
I’d like to see this change, which is why I’m calling for people to rethink the topic. Yes, I am biased. It’s what I do for a living. However, I believe testing is taken for granted on many levels.
Testing is not taught at school or university
It starts with education. Typically, if you want to get into testing, you might take a class or two in your software engineering course, computer science or related degree. According to Neotys, software testing methodologies and practices are taught online with certificate programmes or by industry associations. However, traditional degree programmes are virtually non-existent.
Of course, you need to make sure your website works before you hand it in for grading, right?
Testing should be discussed more in education. Why not give IT a broader scope so we can all learn the importance of it?
Bugs are one of the greatest threats to development
It’s well known that the cost of fixing a defect drastically increases over time. These defects can be measured by time, cost and consequences. According to the Consortium for Information & Software Quality’s 2020 report, it ‘determined the total Cost of Poor Software Quality (CPSQ) in the US is $2.08 trillion (T).
Many testers might ask what value they are giving to stakeholders. The answer is simple, the reduction in the amounts of defects that go to production. Testing helps reduce costs and significantly improves a user’s experience, which impacts a company’s growth and market position.
How many times have you found a website that doesn’t work?
So frustrating when it happens to you as a user, isn’t it?
Here are some examples:
- Try to book tickets for Ed Sheeran’s tour – Bad habits, I know.
- Book a holiday (now that we are allowed to) – Get me back to the US and remember your NHS Covid Pass.
- Doing your online shopping to find some items you added to your basket have been removed at checkout – You didn’t do it. So, who did?
- Pre-booking your cinema tickets for Thor: Love and Thunder – Is anyone else as excited as me?
- Buying a season ticket now that Mike Ashley has left Newcastle United – Yeah, good luck with that.
Some of the defects in the scenarios above are usually one-offs. For example, the system crashes due to extreme load, a server goes down/offline or essential maintenance is being carried out. It’s very rare a fundamental defect will impact a live website due to lack of testing. If it does, I would argue testing hasn’t been performed properly.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, just ‘putting it live’ is the priority
Imagine if those scenarios hadn’t been tested along with the other main functions of those websites. Would you accept that as the website owner or manager? Of course, you wouldn’t. You would expect every requirement to be functionally tested by an independent tester.
Think about any purchase you make, whether it be for a car, a computer game or a phone. These websites go through thorough quality checks before they’re deemed useable for a customer. This is the importance of testing. However, it’s not broadcasted enough. We assume that ‘things will just work’.
Testing is also taken for granted in popular imagination
Now, let’s discuss some famous films and TV series where development, programming, and coding are the main plot: The Social Network, Die Hard 4.0, and Silicon Valley.
Sadly, these films and shows focus so much on development and coding, but not on testing. Yet, none of the characters’ achievements would have happened without testing. I am not saying replace the concept or the plot, by any means. It would have been cool or even different to have someone testing their work. Did Mark Zuckerberg really put Facebook live without internal testing? I highly doubt it. So, why not have that in the movie? It gives the impression ‘It’ll work. Just put it live.’ As testers, we know this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Anyone can be a tester.
A seemingly innocuous statement, but it negates the value of testing. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find similar language. It’s an attitude, which prevails despite the real and demonstrable value of testing.
Some IT teams do their own testing when they have time. Here are some common phrases you’ll hear in those teams:
- Do a quick check, will you?
- That looks canny (Geordie for good).
- Unit testing covers that….
Then the ironic responses when things don’t work with zero testing controls:
- That worked fine in dev (an absolute classic).
- It worked before, I’m sure…
- That’s an easy fix!
- It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
We take testing for granted in these scenarios. Testing is just not celebrated in the same way as development. Although, I am the first to say ‘hats off’ to Developers as their skills are vital. I also want to remind people that the skills of testers are equally valuable.
What makes a good tester?
Here are some skills I look for in a tester when I interview:
- Attention to detail
- Well organised
If you have the right personality and mindset, come and arrange a chat with me. I have recruited many Junior Testers in my time with no experience. After all, that’s how I started…
It is hard these days to know what you want to do for a career and testing is an excellent way to get into the IT industry. Some of the Junior Testers I have worked with and/or hired in the past have gone on to fantastic achievements. You know who you are if you are reading this.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Whilst you’re at it, check out my other article here.
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