Reinventing yourself – Remain useful

There are some jobs in the world that have routines that do not change much (they involve repetitive steps without much modification) and some jobs that require frequent new approaches and more thought (changes to what is done on a daily basis). Unfortunately, a lot of people/companies place testing into the first category and not into the second category – where it belongs.

Some jobs that do not require much changing your actions are: assembly line workers, grocery store cashiers, gas station attendants, and TSA guards. Yes, every one of these jobs would involve some thought and modifications to routine in some situations (e.g.: TSA guards and cashiers need to react to unruly customers) but for the most part these jobs continue, day after day, without too much modification to their routine. It is also important to note that these jobs involve a lot of “checking” by following set procedures (scripts) and not too much “thinking” about what is happening in the surrounding environment.

Good stand-up comics are continuously developing new material to keep their audiences laughing and coming back. How boring would it be to always hear the same jokes each time you heard a particular comedian? Would that comedian serve his purpose of entertaining you?

Why do many testers continuously use the same tests over and over and over again? Sure, those tests (checks) may have found important bugs once. Sometimes they still manage to stumble across some issues but mostly those tests (checks) are washed up. That does not necessarily mean that those checks need to be executed every release and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean that new tests are not required. Some tests (checks) are important enough to warrant being executed each release, but those checks will not find new bugs in the existing code.

As a group, testers need to work towards moving the profession of software testing into the category of jobs that require thought. We need to be advocates for creating new tests to supplement/replace the old ones. We need to  make our jobs more interesting and engaging by creating a situation where a higher level of thinking is required and where mindless testing is frowned upon.

Testers also need to work on frequent self-improvement to be able to develop new ideas and new approaches to their testing challenges. Attending conferences, peer workshops, reading blogs and articles are all wonderful ways to become a better thinking tester.

If more software testers push toward better testing, then the big ship might slowly start to turn away from bad testing. In general, tester will gain more respect, be more useful to their projects and be able to enjoy their jobs a lot more.

Instructor of Rapid Software Testing courses. Context-driven software testing consultant. 17+ years of experience in software testing

4 comments on “Reinventing yourself – Remain useful
  1. Simon Berner says:

    Thanks for this post. I will remember from now on each time I write/rewrite a test and explore a system 😉


  2. Jari Laakso says:

    Thanks for the post, Paul!

    I am a big fan of getting testers self-educating themselves. This asks for a change in the management, too. I am not sure which should follow which, but with my own actions I can at least try to assist testers and talk with the managers. One thing I’ve done, that I see many posts on this topic are missing, to getting testers (everyone is of course invented, but I focus on testers) think creatively and logically is with different kinds of puzzles. Small competitions can be really fun too. Even better if testers and programmers can have a friendly competition.

    I like the comparison to (stand-up) comedians because I’ve done it too and so have many others. 🙂 In my experiences, there are a lot of aspiring comedians in the group of great testers. Many have the same old stories, but jokes at least evolve. *evil grin*

    What I would like to slightly disagree from your post is using “cashier” as an example of a job that doesn’t have much change. This might apply to some cashiers, but if we include also non-retail cashiers ( we have people who are on the second group of jobs you mentioned. As the world evolves, those cashiers are not so often called anymore cashiers, but comptrollers, so let’s say it’s not a direct hit, but something I wanted to point out.

    Very nice post. Please, keep these coming!

    Best regards,

    • Paul Holland says:

      I agree that a comptroller position falls into the thinking category of jobs. I was referring to a retail cashier when I wrote the blog – in my mind I was actually thinking of a cashier at a grocery store.
      There are retail jobs where “cashier” is part of the job description but they also perform other tasks like salesperson at a clothing store. Those positions would require more thinking and less repetitive tasks as well.
      I will update the post and specify the exact “cashier” that I was referring to. This will also make your comment appear strange to people reading it after I update the blog. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment

  3. Allen J. Scott says:

    In my extensive career experience in Context Driven Testing (2 weeks of training by Paul that concludes this evening) I can provide testimony from one who has spent half his life on the treadmill, or in the groove of the record (Joke Paul. lol). See, I knew nothing about software testing as a career nor did I know about Paul Holland or James Bach. What I did know was that I was trapped in a systematic way of thinking that was in conflict with my true self and it bothered me to no end. I had actually spent years of my life dummying down instead of smartening up to get by. I was l Lucian in Rise of the Lycons. A beast with a collar around his neck possessing infinite power but suppressing it. If you know the movie then you know what happened when he unlocked the collar. I decided to do something that would not be comfortable and surround me with smart people. Put myself in an environment that would force me to LEARN, THINK, have a VOICE and be CREATIVE. To see the world as I once did; to Rise up, to DEFOCUS. DEFOCUS. DEFOCUS. One can never reinvent themselves if they dismiss the FACT they need reinventing. I have much to do. Thanks Paul.

    Allen J. Scott- the first STeP class in Bronx, NY 2013

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Reinventing yourself – Remain useful"
  1. […] Reinventing yourself – Remain useful Written by: Paul Holland […]

  2. […] time around.  Without retreading an existing post by my host, I would expand a bit on Paul’s Reinventing Yourself, to say don’t just look at reinventing your tests, or how you approach things.  Don’t […]

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