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G(r)ood testing 17 – Beyond the T-shape, what specialisms do you develop

  • 22/09/2015
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  • Posted by Derk-Jan de Grood

In last months column – G(r)ood testing 16 – I discussed the competences that are associated with good testing. I stated that testing is a versatile profession and to be a good tester, we need to master many skills and competences. I got quite some reaction on my statement that Collaboration is the most important of them all. Communication is needed for collaboration and therefore more important, a reader proclaimed. Other stated that it was to bold to put one competence on a pedestal. And of course they are right. Testing is a multidiscipline activity. Good testers do not excel in one skill, but manage to combine different competences.

Rob Lambert, Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory worked on a great model called the T-shaped tester. The T-shape tester combines general knowledge with advanced test skills. As Rob states in his column: “The vertical part of the T represents the core skill or expertise. In testing I would naturally suggest this is the core skill of testing. The horizontal part of the T represents the persons ability to work across multiple disciplines and bring in skills and expertise outside of the core skills.”  From these discussions we can once more conclude that testers often combine different skill sets in order to add value to their organization. Most testers probably performed other activities like project management, business analysis or served as a SCRUM master (I just picked some random examples).

But even when acting as a hard-core tester, testers experience that the profession itself is diverging. There is an increased use of automation in ICT-projects, cloud and mobile solutions require new approaches that are often applied in outsourced context. In multi functional teams we have different roles. Testing needs to be faster and includes non-functional aspects like security, usability and stability.  Where the vertical in the T describes the core skill, we all know that in fact testing comprises many core skills and expertise. Therefore its time to go beyond the T-shape. Lets us introduce the π-shaped tester.

The π-shaped tester has global knowledge on different fields (e.g. development, project management, agile), has deep knowledge of testing and has deep knowledge on something else like security, test automation or requirements. The big question is what expertise you develop to survive as a tester and be in demand for the following years. The answer to this question is a personal one, and will depend on personal preference, the track record you already have, and what seems to be in demand within your work environment. Maybe you believe there is need for testers with knowledge of data management or big data. If it interests you, invest in the required skills and knowledge. Maybe you like automation, but believe you are not good at it, well don’t go for that option, but find yourself another profile that puts you on the bill.

The EuroSTAR conference might be a good opportunity to explore and think about what extra expertise you should develop. Go to talks that your normally would not select and see what its al about, you might be surprised. I also like to invite you to join the tutorial that Jan Jaap Cannegieter and I will give (see the video below).  In this workshop you’ll learn what tomorrows demands are for testers.  Become aware of the career choices you can make, and what is required to develop yourself in the direction you desire. This workshop is a wisdom of the crowd session, the attendees will determine the outcome, and you’ll hear from others how they plan for the future.  Either way I hope to meet you in Maastricht.

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Derk-Jan de Grood

Derk-Jan de Grood works for Valori as senior test manager and Agile Transition Coach. His drive is to improve the visibility of testing in both agile and traditional organizations, by sharing his knowledge and experience by means of training, presentations, workshops and publications. He is a regular speaker at conferences like EuroSTAR, wrote several successful books on software testing and publishes articles for the major testing magazines. In 2014 he won the EuroSTAR Testing Excellence Award.

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