The world of Testing from Lisa & Laveena’s point of view
Tester origin stories
I was never into IT or nothing in the tech world ever excited me as a child. I remember having my first ever computer at the age of 8/9. I got overly excited when I got introduced to Microsoft Paint. I would draw things on a daily basis and print them out in colour! When making a choice on further studies I decided to go for a degree in business management as I have seen my family in businesses and thought I’d be a good fit there too. However I don’t know what happened, but maybe my planets aligned and 1 week before I flew out to the UK to start university I rang the university and thought I would like to do computer science instead! In my head I said to myself IT will keep evolving, IT is the next big thing!
My degree showed me a whole new world of possibilities out there and many doors which I could try. I luckily landed on my first ever role as a test analyst. As excited as I was, I had zero clue what testing was about! I learnt everything on the job.
My first job in tech was as a programmer trainee at the University of Texas at Austin Data Processing Division. We had a wonderful education program, which has sparked my interest in helping people learn ever since.
I later joined a tech support team for a big software vendor. This was back in the days where we released new versions of our products by shipping tapes to customers. It was so embarrassing to have a customer call and complain, “How could you have missed this huge bug in the new release?” We asked our dev teams if they could possibly ship the release tapes to us so we could check out the new versions before the customers received them. That way, we could at least respond, “We know about that bug, we’re working on a patch and we will get it to you next week”. Our managers looked at us and thought, hmm, maybe we need a testing and release department. I put my hand up and that was a huge turning point for me!
What changes have we seen in our careers?
I have seen a massive shift of what I saw back in 2013 till now 2022! I saw the traditional quality model back then and now enjoy the shift left way of testing.
I would like to share some core skills I learnt during my early years within testing versus that qualities I enhanced recently:
The traditional quality model:
- Understanding how a project delivers in a waterfall manner
- Learning how testing is delivered
- High % of manual testing
- Be involved as a tester at the very start — Shift left
- The Quality mindset is part of all teams
- Working with agility
- Good mix of manual exploratory testing and automation testing
I have experienced great transformations throughout my career for sure. When I started as a tester, most of the work I did for the first three years was more around manual testing. I heard the word “automated tests” in my second role and felt a little uneasy at first as it required coding. I was a bit shocked when I heard the word Java for the first time at university. It was clearly not coffee beans but a coding language! I think the more I kept thinking I don’t want to code, the more it kept coming towards me!
I think the automation skills were a great transformation I witnessed and feel good to have learnt new languages. I can also say there is nothing to feel uncomfortable about coding. When I have some spare time, I try to do some courses and keep my practice ongoing.
Another thing I would like to mention is the move from waterfall methodology to agile methodologies was a big change. Certainly, a positive one as I could do more testing when a new feature was being implemented and not wait till the end once the product is ready to be tested, even do some test-driven development!
My tech career covers 40 years, including 30 as a tester, so it’s hard to sum up those experiences! I was lucky to work mostly on higher-performing teams with a healthy, safe culture. I have always been able to collaborate with programmers, database experts, operations specialists, product folks, designers and others. I was fortunate to work on waterfall teams where we embraced “modern” practices long before agile popularized them — continuous integration, automated deployments, close to 100% test coverage by programmers at the unit level (not TDD, but they did write up the unit test plan before coding), and having people from all teams collaborate in all phases of the waterfall.
In the late 90s, I was lucky to join my first web startup. We were still following a waterfall process. No matter how hard we tried to build in quality, we always got our new features out too late — the competition was ahead of us. In 2000, some developers I worked with started a new consulting company and said they would practice eXtreme Programming. They gave me a copy of Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming Explained. My professional life was changed! It was all about quality, testing, people, close collaboration with the business stakeholders, delivering small increments of value frequently. I knew I had to do this, so I talked my friends into hiring me — even though the XP publications at that time made no mention of testers!
My team and I learned how to fit testing into iterative and incremental development by trial and error, and by getting with other practitioners on email lists and in meetup groups. I wanted to share what we learned with others, so that everyone could know ways to solve common problems, and move on to the next problems to solve. I co-wrote my first book, Testing XP, with Tip House, with Janet as our reviewer and tester.
As I continued to work with high-performing teams learning how to succeed with continuous delivery and quality, I kept sharing what we learned, teaming up with Janet to do training, talks and more books. It’s been gratifying to see our “whole team” approach to quality and testing spread across the software world.
What’s ahead for testing and testers?
I personally think the world of testing has a very positive future. The first thing that comes to mind is that when I started my career in the technology world, I saw very few women in my teams. I used to be the only female and felt like we could do with more women. But I am so happy now, I see more women getting involved in tech, whether that’s speaking in public, blogging, podcasts or even supporting other women in tech. Testing is becoming so evolved as the days go by too as there are so many new tools, ways of testing, great testing eminence via communities. I admire how I am involved so much within the community and how we all help each other out with so many testing related queries or even hiring!
I would like to give some tips on how to succeed within testing and paint the canvas as you like because testing is one role in which you can design the way you want to test products.
- Be open to new opportunities within testing, challenges are full of surprises
- Pair as much possible with testers, developers, designers, etc
- Make sure to keep knowledge open for all, avoid silos
- Nurture and coach for a quality mindset
- Be part of communities ( conferences, webinars, read blogs, podcasts, etc)
- Advocate testing practises ( shift left where possible)
Always remember there are so many testing opportunities out there and there will always be a role for you that best fits your abilities. Think of it as a puzzle, keep trying till you find the best fit. Make sure to follow your aspirations and continue to be a successful tester!
I started as a programmer back when programming was a low-status, low-paid job, so my teams had many women (think nursing and libraries). As software development was seen as more important, and salaries went up, fewer women were hired. By the late 90s, my teams were quite male-dominated. Testing is often seen as lower status, and salaries are lower overall than for programmers, so testing has always had a lot of women practitioners. Like many industries, software development has been really tough for women. I’ve heard so many horror stories of abuse and harassment.
I think this trend is turning around, though the ideas and experiences of women practitioners still do not get amplified as much as those of men. Our software products are getting more and more complex, with microservice architecture and the cloud infrastructure. We need diversity in order to keep up with innovative ways to build quality into our products. Testers need to get involved on the right side of that DevOps loop and help teams learn from production usage, identify problems quickly, and fix them right away.
My colleague Janet Gregory has recently developed a Holistic Testing model. In my opinion, this will guide the future of software quality and testing.
Copyright 2022, Janet Gregory