The Testing Community is special in many ways. Two characteristics that lead me to write this article are the various different backgrounds of software testers and the community they shape that supports everyone aspiring to become a (better) tester. Are you trying to get started or become a better tester? Don’t replicate the mistakes I did – follow these three tips instead.
Your coworkers > the internet
Before you type your questions and problems into search engines on the internet, take a minute to ask your coworkers. This tip could be given in any work related context but there are reasons why I can’t stress this point enough when it comes to testing.
Every company has its own approach to testing. Some companies stick to the very same tool and best practice model for years, others like to experiment with different tools. There is no right or wrong but either way there is a reason why they choose to work the way they do and you will only find out if you talk to your coworkers. Every question you have was on your coworkers mind already and they probably discussed it multiple times. Fire these questions at your coworkers right from the start: Why do we use this exact tool? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this tool? How do you maintain certain frameworks and what are some best practices?
Of course you can find these information on the internet but your coworkers can give you context for every decision they made. The internet doesn’t know your use case, your resources or the abilities and expertise of your test department – your team does know all that. In team sports, strategies vary depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Every member of a team has a role and it’s the very same thing in testing.
Some testers have a lot of experience in one specific tool, but don’t know anything about others. Some testers are passionate about one approach but overlook others. Ask them out about their opinions.
Finding the community
The software testing community is huge and the resources they put on the internet converge to infinity. Looking back I could’ve saved countless hours of Google searches, YouTube videos, blog articles and tutorials if I just knew where the solution to my problem was. Think of the testing community as a library with 10 floors. Of course you can just stroll through all the information hoping to eventually find the answer to your question and admittedly you will learn some really interesting stuff on your way. However you will save a lot of time if you search on the right “floor”.
Let’s start with some social media channels. The three most popular social media sites for testers are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – in this exact order. Look for groups like “Software Testing & Automation” or “QA Testing” and you’ll find groups that have up to 250.000 members. Honestly, you can type in pretty much any buzzword that is related to testing and you will find a fitting group.
LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly popular among developers and testers. If you have any questions you can post them to the groups and you’ll get an answer right away.
If you want to stay up to date with the latest news there are two communities every tester should subscribe to: The Ministry of Testing and Test Guild. Here you’ll get your daily dose of testing news, videos, podcasts, guides and much more. Also you’ll get a good overview of the community’s most popular experts and voices, follow them to stay updated with their work too.
Reflect everything you do
Constantly reflect on your work, your methods and your results. Even your intentions aren’t static. I’ll give you a few examples of perceptions that can change over time.
It all starts with the reasoning behind your work. As a tester you want to find all bugs and bottlenecks in a software application or webpage. This seems reasonable right? It’s actually really tricky because you can never have full certainty of having a bug-free product – testing can detect the presence of errors and not the absence of errors. Reflect your perception of quality, do you really need to go live with a perfect (as in bug-free) product, or is a good product already worth going live? Personally, my understanding of quality has changed over time and I consider myself as part of the “average user” group: I don’t mind occasional little bugs, as long as I can do what I intended. Some bugs are actually features and may even be desired behaviours.
Another perception that changed over time is my perception of testers that preserve and guarantee a high quality product. Testing is a key process in maintaining high quality standards, but they are just one part of quality assurance. Sticking to the earlier sports analogy, testers are analysts who show what’s wrong with the system, it’s the whole team’s job to take care of that problem.
Last but not least, reflect how you get the most productivity out of your work. I like to mention Nicola Lindgren’s example of the “agile buzzword” – many teams just rename their meetings without actually adapting towards agile spirit. Nicola describes projects where she felt like the agile dogma was preventing the team from some valuable development time: “while there is definitely some value in running daily stand-ups to make sure that everyone is on the same page, I’ve found it can be hard to focus when the daily stand-up can run up to 30-45 minutes long”. Make sure to find your comfort zone when working on projects or you are going to lose a lot of time, your daily should be less than 15 minutes. Use the weekly retro to address and self-optimise your team’s workflow to become more productive.
- Ask your coworkers for explanations before you head to search engines
- Stay up to date with testing news and other members of the community
- Reflect your methods, results and workflows every once in a while