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Caught on the back foot by Adam Brown

  • 17/09/2010
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

I was recently caught napping in a meeting. Not literally caught napping, but I was asked a question that I was totally unprepared for.

One of the users who was part of the teleconference asked “How’s testing going?”. I thought this was quite rare in itself as users don’t usually ask how testing is going. Why would they care how testing was going? All they care about that that a developer has coded it, there’s a product there and there’s this weird phase that’s taking up valuable time and stopping their software from being shipped, right?

My reply was a rather embarrassing “Yeah, it’s going alright. I’ve found a few defects, but yeah it’s going alright” It was one of those answers where everyone in the room looks at you like they’re expecting you to keep talking and there’s that awkward silence where they’re not quite sure what to do or say next.

It was rather embarrassing. Trust me, in my mind I was slow hand clapping myself. People are going to write Country music about how bad it was.

After the meeting I started to dwell on it a little. What should I have said instead? What should my response have been given the ideal circumstance? Why would they even care how testing is going? Why would they care if a text box is slightly off centre or that a slightly different font was used on a prompt? Now, my mind works in a strange way, and I came up with the idea that software testing is a lot like a Hospital. The software is the patient. The user’s requirements are the patient’s DNA and the developers are the patient’s parents. The Testers in this example are the Doctors (Not that I’m bias or anything). In this example, when the patient goes in surgery, would the family care how surgery was going? You betcha!

Of course they would care how surgery/testing was going. Their product, their baby if you will, is in your hands. Wouldn’t you be a little miffed if you had a relative in surgery and you asked the surgeon how it was going and got the response “Alright…”? I would be.

What should my response have been? Something, anything, more reassuring than “Alright”, like “Yeah the software’s looking pretty good. We’ve found a couple of issues, all minor, that we’re ironing out, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the progress we’re all making. I think we’re well on track to meet the deadline.”

One thing I’ve learned from this is that I was asked a question, and I wouldn’t have been asked that question by that person unless they obviously cared about the response I would give them. We’re there to ensure that the software, or patient if you will, is of a certain level of quality and we owe it to our users to prove that we’re able to provide that service.

Please feel free to laugh at me in the comments section below.

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