Testers as Disciplinarians
While trying to explain to my daughter about my profession in software testing, I asked her what she thinks testing is. She responded that it is checking if something is right or wrong. Pretty good answer for an eight-year-old, I thought.
Then she asked me if my husband (who works in the engineering division at Microsoft) writes the code and I test it. When I affirmed, she added, “Then you are the teacher and Papa is the student.”
While I found it funny and spontaneous at that moment, I sat down to think through the deeper meaning of this analogy she gave me.
As testers, are we disciplinarians? In one sense, yes, especially with how the technology landscape is evolving. But even so, we should not fall into the trap of becoming quality police. We should be true facilitators of quality, enabling the product team to own quality in their own right at every stage. Isn’t this what teachers do, too, in the learning process?
We continue to see paradigm shifts in the kinds of products that are envisioned, researched, prototyped, and released in market. With the advancements that are enabled by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the other latest technologies, software testers are discipline facilitators by getting involved from the early stages. We have the responsibility to ask tough questions from a quality standpoint, help draw streamlined requirements from a large, random pool of ideas, and continue to think big on what problems these solutions would solve, if they are developed well.
On the internal process side as well, testers are the ones who understand the processes from end to end. By actively finding bugs that are relevant to the key result areas of the product, the tester is silently yet strongly advocating for product, process, and quality discipline.
Testers can be disciplinarians by promoting tight collaboration among the entire team, from a holistic dashboard setup to reporting the health of the overall product to defining processes in the ALM tool. They also can encourage developers to take more on their plates besides just unit testing on the quality front. For instance, we had clients recently who have asked their developers to pitch in with API automation once we have the test framework implemented.
James Bach wrote a blog post a few years ago about the seven kinds of testers, one of which is an administrative tester, who is very methodical. I strongly believe a good tester has this innate quality that, over time, becomes infectious to the rest of the team.
As both facilitators of quality and disciplinarians who inspire the team, testers have a large role to play.