My role in the new world of testing

tweet about testing


Some tweets are like a Rorshach test and it’s much easier for people to project onto them what they want to see. This tweet is such a case. The quote can be interpreted in a few ways, all of them insulting. It really hits the tester nerve, especially for testers who take pride in their testing skills and have worked to make them better. I can see how it especially hits the nerve of testers who have worked to set themselves and the activity of testing apart from development as its own industry and job role with its own set of skills.


It makes sense that the natural reaction to this is to reach for pride and say, “I’m a tester, FUCK YEAH!!!”


What’s been missed, though, is that this tweet was part of a mini-rant. I was actually going for something more complicated that speaks to where testing is going within the broader context of the software industry and my place in that paradigm shift.


The Fun
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fun side of testing that we all know and love so well. We poke, we break, we question, we investigate, we discover. It’s fun!


The Baggage

Now, let’s examine the rest of what comes with a career in testing:

  • You will be seen as an also ran.
  • Developers (or management that doesn’t work with you day to day) will see you as not that smart or technical unless you get a chance to prove them wrong.
  • There is significantly less opportunity for promotion, especially as “testing departments” get smaller or go away completely.
  • Even if you learn how to write code, it’s assumed you will only ever work on test code and that your code will be shittier.
  • You will have far less decision power.
  • You will be paid less.


I’m sure there are people who would argue that the subset of baggage listed above doesn’t mean much in comparison to how much they loooooove testing and the pleasure they take in breaking things. If they want to stay in “testing” forever, that’s fine with me.


I disagree, however, that I should be content with less pay, a smaller set of career options and a position where I’m consistently marginalized on a team or even in tech.


Another testing tweet


It also occurs to me that the women’s restrooms at testing conferences are always crowded compared to the ghost town that is the women’s bathroom at any tech office or developer conference. There is no mystery here.


I started my rant because I had occasion to send someone I respect two of my favorite testing posts by Trish Khoo and Alan Page. When Trish and Alan suggest that testing teams are going away, that testing is an activity done by many on a software team and that testers should level up their coding skills, I see a role coming into focus where I am more empowered and more of an equal on a software team. I see a role where I’m even more in the thick of the software engineering process than I already am. I see a role that uses my testing skills and develops my problem solving skills as well. I see myself as a developer who is great at testing. One feeds the other and I am making great software as part of a team.  All of this fits particularly well in the Agile XP process which includes TDD.


I’ve been working at building my web developer skills and I’ve found a team where this type of contribution will be welcome. It hasn’t been easy and this is all still a work in progress, but I can see the tipping point fast approaching.


 No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanore Roosevelt


By the way, the short-sighted person quoted in my original tweet wasn’t a developer. It was another tester.  I am surrounded by developers who see what I’m doing and who couldn’t be more supportive.


Now that you have the full story, let’s look at my tweet again.


tweet about testing

I just want to add…watch me.

5 thoughts on “My role in the new world of testing”

  1. I’d just like to point out that some of the best testers I know are also some of the best developers I know, and many of them have gone back and forth between each job title depending on where they worked and what position appealed at the time. They’re not mutually exclusive concepts. You’re allowed to learn more than one thing at once.

    Right on, Marlena.

  2. What if I never wanted to be a developer?

    The toughest part for me is that my former test group was sold to a foreign company and most of my former teammates ended up losing their jobs as their responsibilities were moved to India.

    But, I’ve moved on to another role where I do get to test stuff, even though test isn’t in my job title.

    I also helped one of my better testers move to my new group with me less than a year before the test group was sold. I just wish the other person I tried to bring with me had come along for the ride….

  3. I would say that being a tester and being a developer is almost the same. Sure, you work on different things but to be a good tester, you need to be able to understand how software works on the inside (e.g. in order to successfully test for SQL injection, you require a fundamental understanding of how SQL works etc.). I’d also say that by knowing what could possibly go wrong, I have acquired a sense for these issues and try to avoid them whenever possible. So, couldn’t we say that development and testing jobs both require the same skillset but have their weight on slightly different tasks. I’d say that this could be much of a compromise.

    As you know, I would consider myself both a developer and a tester. Currently I do more development than testing, but that could change any time.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. @James
    I’m glad that you were able to find a new position. That must have been a painful experience.

    However, you have missed the point.

    There are a lot of smart people who hold themselves back in testing, especially women, rather than going for developer. On the one hand, the tech industry imposters anyone who wants to be a developer but who isn’t straight, white and male. On the other hand, there is a strong cadre of testers who cling to not needing to write code and who shame testers that dare to learn. This creates a lot of noise for testers who are capable of writing code and who might, one day, move on from testing and into development.

    I wrote this post for them because, aside from echoing my personal journey (this is, after all, my personal blog) they deserve to hear, from someone, that they are not crazy for wanting to learn more and maybe even move on from testing.

  5. Don’t forget that many developers feel like imposters too. Being a “developer” is primarily a function of title. While having the letters “Q” and “A” in your title may mean an immediate 15% pay cut, it is the esteem of people who value developers more than testers that says nobody would willingly take that pay cut.

    Here’s the thing though, developing software that tests other software serves a specific audience. It is still software development though. You should just think of it as a tool you use to accomplish a specific task that carries a specific value. When you understand your audience’s needs and know how to tell if you’re meeting them well, you can quiet the voices that call you an imposter.

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