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Evolution of a Tester

  • 13/07/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR
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My talk at EuroSTAR this year, entitled “An Evolution into Specification by Example”, discusses the progress of the development team at my organisation as an evolutionary process. It is a fitting title in more ways than one, as presenting the talk marks a stage in my evolution as a software tester as well, being the first time that I have presented at such a high profile event.

A Niche Environment

A software tester’s career carries a lot of parallels with an evolutionary process. The skills and knowledge that we develop through our testing lives are highly dependent upon the nature of the environment in which we exist. Just as certain attributes may furnish one species an advantage within one ecosystem, so key abilities and skills may allow an individual to thrive in a certain organisation or market. Those same abilities, however, may not apply in another situation, just as certain species lose their advantage outside of their niche environment. For example, skills in web testing are highly prized in some organisations, whereas in my company database skills are more directly relevant. The nature of our work leads us to develop context specific skills and knowledge that will heavily influence the direction of our subsequent careers and the opportunities available to us.

The changing world

In addition to the immediate environment, there are also constant advances and discussions in the field of testing software development and in general that will impact on us as we evolve through our testing journey. Some of the skills that we have developed can stand us in good stead in more traditionally structured organisations yet fall away in relevance with changing environments such as the use of agile development styles and Specification by Example/ATDD/BDD approaches.

Skills for survival

While not quite survival of the fittest, the testing job market is a competitive environment and adaptability is a key differentiator of the successful. One key difference between the evolution of an individual and that of a species is the fact that we have the control over the speed and manner that we adapt ourselves. Limiting our understanding to our immediate roles and organisations, and relying on job changes to provide new skills, is a flawed strategy as it inhibits our environmental knowledge and therefore our scope for adaption. In order to give us the best advantage towards succeeding in our changing environment we must work to understand it.

This is where conferences such as EuroSTAR really come into their own, in addition to discussion groups, User Groups and tester blogs. Keeping in touch with the changes in the testing community allow us to adapt ourselves and improve the work that we do in our current roles. Even if the understanding that allows us to assess the merits of ideas such as Exploratory Testing, Model Based Testing and Certification does not directly impact our day to day work, it will certainly help to inform valuable decisions on career direction at the most critical times. To me testing as a career is getting more challenging, more demanding, more rewarding and more fun. Being part of a wider community helps to drive my evolution and will hopefully help to ensure my continued enjoyment of a rewarding testing career in a constantly changing environment.

Adam Knight currently works for RainStor and writes an independent blog at http://a-sisyphean-task.blogspot.com

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