Community call to action – Where are all the testers?

As many of you are aware, I currently work at Red Gate software as a Test Engineer. I have a strong interest in both code and test side and happy to discuss either at length. I joined Red Gate as a tester because I strongly believe Red Gate are doing something amazing, producing great useable software and I felt I could make a difference (for the better) as a tester. However, after six months of being a tester I have to ask the question – in the community, where are all of the testers? Developers are easy to find, they have massive conferences (PDC, TechEd) down to small user groups (NxtGenUG), I have been a member of NxtGenUG for almost 2 years since they first started in Coventry and I attended TechEd Europe but where are the testers at these types of events? Or am I just missing something?

I know recruiters have been asking this question for a while, but from a community point of view – where are all the testers? Where are the conversations happening? There must be a conversation happening about how we can improve software testing, how testers fit into the project structure and take advantage of new development technologies. Alt.Net has really promoted thinking differently about software development, but how many testers are involved in that kind of discussion? People such as Roy Osherove provides his experience and is very passionate about unit testing, but who is leading the way when it comes to functionalacceptanceintegration testing? Where are people discussing how we can take advantage of “design for testability” from the testers point of view – not just developers?

Visual Studio 10 (Rosario) is apparently very focused on testers and how the visual studio ecosystem (VSTS) can support testers equally as well as software developers, but without a good public conversation happening how is it going to happen and not just let it fall by the waste side leaving them to focus on other existing parts. In November 2005, The Register wrote about Microsoft wanting to turn testers into ‘Rock Stars’, but since then nothing has happened.  A Microsoft Tester Centre opened on MSDN in November 2007 (two years after The Register article) but its extremely light on content!  It’s not even a feature developer centre? In fact, the link is under “Servers and Enterprise Development” within the Developers Centre! How can Microsoft expect to make a major stand and push testing if they don’t even have the testing centre under the right category?

Internally, Microsoft seem to have a really good setup with Software Design Engineer in Test (SDET) who I would class as ‘Test Developers’, but at heart still testers (also in terms of this post), while some of those such as Steve Rowe are blogging and talking about testing the reach externally still doesn’t seem to be enough.

This is my call to action, If there are any testers (or Test Developers) reading this, we should talk!! Especially those in the UK, I would love to hear from you! We should have a chat about the testing community and testing in general.

Please either leave a comment or email Blog {at} BenHall {dot} me {dot} uk. On the other side – developers – what do you think?

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0 thoughts on “Community call to action – Where are all the testers?”

  1. Hi Richard,

    I totally agree with your post. I think this is an industry problem – we have a conflict of terms, processes and generally everyone’s viewpoint.

    The role ‘tester’ covers lots of different roles – from test developers, manual testers, QA guys. It makes it difficult when applying for jobs and recruiting as I feel many people, especially graduates, see testing as 100% manual. Sadly, this is true at many companies (those who even have testers), but in reality as you mentioned it can be much more!

    There is also a problem that many developers are in the role of a test developer, writing a lot of the automation side and test code. This also clouds the term tester.

    But what can actually be done?

  2. I personally like the TDD approach where testing is a fundamental part of any development. I agree that there needs to be much more open conversation around testing tools and techniques.

    Even in the Python community (where testing is very popular and we have hundreds of different testing related projects) there are not *many* people doing TDD and the Testing in Python mailing list is generally quite.

    If you do setup a .NET testing mailing list, blog about it and I’ll be there.

  3. I did think about that, and maybe a list would be a good start. But does the world need another mailing list?

    For .Net testers I think the answer could be yes…

    Ben

  4. If you’re a tester, you should definitely be reading Software Test & Performance Magazine (http://www.stpmag.com/).

    I’m a senior developer, software architect, and project manager for my company and a lot of what I get bogged down in must certainly be termed ‘acceptance testing issues’.

    Even as a non-formal tester, I find this resource to be extremely useful to me; I strongly recommend this to developers as well so as to understand what happens to your code after you write it :)

  5. I see SDETs as developers who develop software that tests applications. This means that they’re no different from any other developer; it’s just they are working in a different domain.

  6. A tester has to be as good a software developer as anyone else on the team. For my money, any good developer with *significant* experience with alt.net stuff can be a tester.

    Most testers in the mainstream don’t have enough skills to do the work of software developers. It’s because of this that mainstream testers and testing is mostly a secondary or ancillary part of the work.

  7. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for your comments. I think it really depends on what the testers main role is. A successful team, should have testers who are equally as good software developers in terms of coding, architecture, technical knowledge.

    However, successful testers can have weaker knowledge of writing automated tests and code but still be able to successfully test the application as they may view the application differently from ‘Test Developers’ and ‘Developers’.

    If one is better than the other – not sure, ideally a team would have the best of both enabling them to focus on what they are good at.

    You have highlighted my main point, if the leading testers should be equally as good as a software developers, then where are they gaining new skills, learning new approaches? If this isn’t happening and we aren’t constantly improving then how is the sector moving forward?

    Or are we just making the same old mistakes and as such, will always continue to be secondary while waiting for developers to innovate new ideas for us?

  8. I’d also like to say that if you have specific ideas of what you’d like to see on the Microsof ttester centre (content / article ideas or other), let me know and I’ll do what I can to make it happen.

    alan-dot-page-at-microsoft-dot-com

  9. “However, successful testers can have weaker knowledge of writing automated tests and code but still be able to successfully test the application as they may view the application differently from ‘Test Developers’ and ‘Developers’.”

    That’s true of a team that hasn’t synchronized it’s test and dev efforts on a feature, and where there is no collective code ownership across testers and developers.

    Traditional development is predicated on an assumption that testing work has to be queued up and done in batches after the dev work is done. When we replace the team shape and process with something like Lean Production where greater synchronicity isn’t dismissed out of hand, those assumptions no longer hold.

    Testers and developers need to be equally good coders when the effort is shaped to enable Lean.

  10. Hi Scott,

    I agree “collective code ownership across testers and developers” is something a team should aim and I can see real benefit as a result. Everyone would be responsible for the quality and would have a indication through the project – not just when its released and bugs start coming in.

    I imagine that maintaining high quality and customer focus could be more difficult without having a tester focusing on this. Having said that, functionality and acceptance go hand-in-hand and it would encourage more focus as everyone is responsible, resulting in better software.

    The problem is actually getting a team to agree to CCO. I think this goes back to the problem of testing considered secondary and developers not trusting testers with production code.

    Do you know any teams actually doing this?

    Maybe it is all about educating developers and testers to think differently and that we should take a long hard look at how both sides work together.

  11. Ben, have you attended the BCS SIGIST events? They run one-day seminars once a quarter. I presented there just last week (as a developer…) with a call to action of my own. A lot of people present. Lots of agile content relative to the number of sessions.

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