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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I just want to add…watch me.