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Expressing Your Value as a Tester

By: Lorinda Brandon 3 Comments

The syndrome isn’t unique to software testers. Who hasn’t had a crisis of confidence at one point or another, wondering whether the people around you see your true value? Or even wondering yourself whether you actually have value? But in the murky world of software testing, we often have no concrete way to measure our contribution. A UX designer sees their ideas come to life as an application is built; a developer sees the application performing… but what does the tester see?

The Impact of Testing Metrics

The need to measure effectiveness and performance is what gave rise to testing metrics like Number of Defects Found, Find/Fix Ratios, Number of Tests Executed, etc. Over the last decade or two, metrics have become the natural language of management in defining the effectiveness of a testing organization. The problem with this is, of course, it is focused on the mechanics rather than the actual deliverable. Measuring the number of tests executed, for example, is one metric that has pushed some teams too far over the line into automation, leaving many bugs undetected because they require a human eye.

In his slideshare, Software Testing Metrics, PM Venkatesh Babu postulates that: “You cannot improve what you cannot measure, You cannot control what you cannot measure.” I would venture that many people will feel uncomfortable with those words, even if they can’t define why. To a developer, this would say that we will only judge your performance by the lines of code you write, not by their elegance or by the “feel” of the product you are creating. For the tester, this would say that we are not counting your contributions when you ask insightful questions at a requirements review meeting or point out the cliff the team is about to fall over.

In a metric-driven world, testers have been struggling. They can find a lot of defects but what is the quality of the defects they are logging? They can execute a lot of tests but what is the quality of those tests? And how do you measure what didn’t happen – the defects and usability problems that were prevented because a tester asked questions and provided input early in the cycle? This reduction of their work to metrics is often what leaves testers on the sidelines, feeling like they don’t have a true intelligent voice in the team.

A Different Way to Look at Testing

Luckily for the testing industry, there are some new viewpoints beginning to take hold. The idea that testers have to stay on the sidelines and accept metrics as the measure of their worth is beginning to fray around the edges as the opposition gets louder and more entrenched. For me, nothing captured the state of the testing world today more succinctly than this exchange on Twitter:

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Expressing Your Value as a Tester