Software QA FYI - SQAFYI

Becoming a Testing Expert

By: James Bach

One of the paradoxes of hiring good entry-level testers is that some of the very people who are good at finding fault, find so much fault with themselves that they assume they are unqualified to be testers. We never see their resumes.

What weíre left with, a lot of times, are candidates who are overconfident in their ability to find good bugs. The same holds true for conference speakers. Iíve met dozens of interesting people at conferences who have helpful advice and interesting experiences. But when I encourage them to get up and speak or to write an article, most of them say, ďWell, Iím not an expert. I donít know the right answers. I havenít read all the books.Ē Valuable insight thus remains bottled up inside the self-skeptical minds of many excellent testers, while too many people who do speak and write could stand to put their ideas through a little more testing.

I fancy myself a good tester. I could be wrong about that. Ask me in another fifteen years. What I know as the truth is that I am working toward expertise. How do I keep myself moving along that path? A vision helps. For all of us who aspire to expert status, we need a vision of expertise that stirs our hearts and sets a high standard, yet seems achievable in one lifetime.

A Personal Vision
I can test anything, under any conditions, in any time frameÖ

This may be a nice start. The problem is that itís not achievable. For instance, if people donít like me, or have a different view of what good testing means, then I will not be able to perform well on that project. If I donít understand enough about the technology Iím testing, my test design will be weak. If I donít try very hard, I will do mediocre work. So, this vision needs a few qualifiers.

Letís add:
Öto a degree relative toÖ
* my standing in the local process culture
* my knowledge of the relevant technology
* how much I want to succeed

That goes a little way toward making the vision more realistic, but it still seems overreaching. Where is the quality standard? After all, I can do anything, as long as Iím allowed to do it badly. How could you be true to this vision, and test well, if someone asked you to test a nuclear power plant in five minutes? To deal with that problem, letís add some more specific assertions about expertise

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Becoming a Testing Expert