A few months ago, I wrote about my first 3 months at Atlassian. I’ve been doing a lot of Exploratory testing. It’s taught me about following through on my own thought process when I’m asking important testing questions. I’ve gotten better at thinking through different scenarios while using an app. I’m not a master like the co-worker with whom I test everyday (He IS a master), but I’m improving and it feels good.
I have, however, felt that I have a dirty little secret. I’ve been carrying around with me since I started working at Atlassian and learning how to improve my Exploratory Testing skills.
Taking a deep breath…
I love code! I love it! I love it! I love it! I love writing it! I love reading it! I love breaking it! Compiling it makes me so freaking happy!
After a day when I’ve had my IDE open (I don’t care which one, any will do), I leave work feeling satisfied! The days when I work on automated tests or do anything with a script are always my best days at work, even if I’m tired, even if it took me a while to get results, even if I’ve endured crazy looks from the 5 people I had to ask in order to figure out WTF I am doing. Today, I came home after working through an automation problem with our test infrastructure expert and my brain was so tired that I could barely spell my own name, yet I feel energized. I love working with test automation.
So am I still a tester?
I’ve felt so conflicted about this lately. If I’m so interested in working with code and scripts, what does that say about me as a tester? Does this mean I’m a dev in disguise? Am I a wolf in tester’s clothing?
This situation reminds me of one of my best friends from college. She came out as bi-sexual during our freshman year. She was in a phase were she had a lot of questions about herself and the world around her as it related to this new way she had of defining herself. I remember she came home with me to see my hometown (we were effectively trading, I had been to see hers) and we went to a local lesbian bookstore. She asked the sales clerk if they had any books on bi-sexuality. “We might if it existed” the clerk sniffed. Once we were outside of the store, my friend explained that even within the gay community, bi-sexuality was a somewhat controversial topic.
What my friend taught me, is that there are areas within human existence that we might try to neatly categorize, but in the end, people are too beautifully messy for labels to apply. We are labeled in many areas of our lives including our careers. So if I self-identify as a tester, does that mean that I am creating a career trajectory for myself where I’m shunted away from code because I don’t have a developer job on my resume? Will I be ostracized by some in the testing community because I tend to embrace code alongside exposing its flaws?
Here is where I think the truth lies:
- There are people who who see testing skills and coding skills as mutually exclusive as are the people who fill those jobs. I hope I never work for them.
- We’re never going to solve big problems in testing unless some of us are not just passable, but extremely good at writing and architecting code.
- Not having the word “developer” on my resume doesn’t mean I don’t know how to work with references or that I can’t recurse through a stack of calls.
- Exploratory testing skills such as observing, questioning and critical thinking are just as important as coding skills. There’s no compromise here.
- There are other testers who also self-identify as straddling the dev-test line. They are my heroes and role models. (Perhaps they deserve their own blog post, if I named them and why, this post would be quite lengthy).
I’m finished with the part of my career where I justify my identity as dev-test to myself or others. The tagline next to my name means the same thing today as it did when I put it there. I’m guessing that it will take me longer to become masterful at both sides of this equation as well as the resulting intersection, but I will not stop trying.