Testing – What to know and how do I know if i’m on Track

So we testers generally end up on this path by “accident” , there are few of us who set out looking to be a software tester, most of us end up here through a progression of roles that orbit some of the skills needed to test, and finally fall into an actual testing role. Now I’m happy to admit that i’ve met few testers, and my generalisation is almost certainly more applicable to the older generations than the youngsters of today, however I think the same things will apply.
When I fell into an actual testing role, I was largely guided by what the dev guys wanted from me, Basically a squishy computer, lots on input output checking, very dull. But i’m one of those people who can focus and get on with stuff like that, so I did.
While doing this I thought I’d better have a read around testing and find out what the techniques were, good ways of doing stuff, anything I should know, you know that handy stuff that makes doing your job easier.
So I Googled testing and kept running across this ISTQB test qualifications and syllabus stuff. So I spoke to my boss, pointed it out, and we got access to the course content, I dutifully began studying it. It was dry, dull and seemed so much like those big litigious businesses that we so hate dealing with, all their pointless paperwork. Not a great sign, I got about halfway through the course before I ended up skim-reading the rest.
Time to use some real Google-Fu, I actually have a certificate in that you know, I dug around online looking at testing info, and started to find references to context driven testing. So I read what I could find with my initial searches, and boy did it make so much more sense.
But what’s all this got to do with the knowledge base needed to test?
Well for those of you who haven’t looked into context driven testing, you should, but you’ll find a name and blog crop up quite a bit, James Bach, and his blog.
What I have found, probably coming to the realisation over the last 6 months, is real testing is something I’m crazy passionate about. why? because it offers such a world of mental engagement and complexity. I took me a few time of looking at James’s Testers Syllabus to realise quite how much all of this draws me in.
Where am I going with this? Well after discovering this other land of testing, I have read a few blogs watch a lot of conferences, perused some books and generally been absorbing the atmosphere, It’s hard to quantify where I’ve got to, and where I should concentrate next, mainly because there is so much to know, so many topics that are worth learning. So I struck on a solution, on James’s blog there is this fantastic mind map for a testers Syllabus, so I plundered it for my own uses. Not only does it give me a framework of great topics, as estimated by someone who I think has a great deal of useful things to say about testing. But I allows me to track where I have focused my attention, and where i’m a bit light in knowledge.
So I’ve copied James’s mind map, and started to recorded on it details beyond where it stops, so specific points, concepts, books, classes etc.
What has this given me?
Well a great way of seeing what i’ve been neglecting, where I have focused, and what I currently think I know something about.
I’ve done this because testing is a passion of mine, I have found a place where I can mentally fit, a job that gives equal parts engagement and challenge. It is something I plan on doing for as long as i’m working, and I will be brilliant at it, but only if I keep learning, and pushing what I know, into all the areas that will make me a better tester, this mind map gives me a way of seeing how i’m doing.
There is a long way to go but all journeys begin with one step.

Now I just need to find this fabled community to match wits with, not that i’m ready to do so, but talking about testing really helps to understand it. And I plan on really understanding it.

So that Consultant Test Manager…..

Well he’s been in for a week today, we have bombarded him with info, he’s taken a fair chunk on board, not done much questioning though, not sure why. I am sure it’s not because we have covered all angles.
I should get a chance to see his strategy doc either today or monday, from what I have gathered so far it’s going to revolve around the factory school approach. So he’s looks like he’ll be suggesting a more longer time frame, or higher resource requirement.
So hopefully in the next couple of days i’ll get the time to talk through with him about an alternative approach, he does seem open to the ideas of exploratory testing, and context driven testing, he’s just nervous about it in a project as I don’t think he’s ever taken that leap.

We’ll see how that goes.

He is thankfully highlighting the risks for the business about what we are doing, and how much work is involved, so we should be viewing those more seriously now we have a paid for opinion on the matter, more on that another time.

What have i learnt from this week so far, just because they have years of experience, doesn’t make them a better tester than someone who has a better understanding of the context.
That experience has helpful insights but it can also carry over problems from their experiences.

we’ll see how the next week goes.

Doug

Dog Training and Testing

So my partner is big into dog training, and she spends quite a considerable amount of time learning good techniques and putting them into practice with our little puppy. Most recently she been teaching the dog to bring items to her hand and given them to her.

A complex string of behaviour for a dog, first they have to pick up the item, then hold it, then carry it to her, then release it to her waiting hand.
What’s the got to do with testing, you ask. Well the way our dog is learning this reminded me of exploratory testing, it’s a technique called shaping, your dog does something you like, so you mark it and reward, and reinforce as they continue to do this. However you raise the reward criteria as they get a better understanding of what you are looking for. So as the dog nudges the pick up toy, you reward, they put teeth on it, reward, and so on, until they are holding it, and moving it, and on it goes until finally the dog has worked out what you want.

It struck me that this is so like ET, you come across the edges of a issue, and get that endorphin release that you are on the right track, who doesn’t enjoy finding bugs, and you keep testing around it until you understand more about the issue, and you keep at it, honing in on what’s going on, until finally you get the complete picture.
I speculated that this would probably mean that much like shaping, the more a dog is trained using this the faster they get at working out what gets the the rewards, the offer all sorts of crazy combos of previously learnt behaviours just to see what results in a reward, it’s awesome to watch by the way. Then ET is almost certainly the same, the more you practice ET the better you get, the more techniques you’ve learnt, that you can try out in crazy combos until you run across that issue you’ve been hunting for.
I’m new to ET, but this gives me a good deal of reassurance that its a solid path to learning good skills through your run of the mill practice makes, well not perfect, but definitely better.

That was my thought for the day. Hope you enjoyed it.

Doug

New project

Well I get to move on to a massive new project in the next few weeks, really excited about it, I’m nominally named as the test lead, not like there will be many people to lead though, we do have a new tester starting in november, taking to total number of dedicated testers to two, I know good isnt it. I should have some project resources for testing as well though.
Why am I so excited though? Well its my opportunity to demonstrate that exploratory testing is a worth while thing to be doing, that gives tangible results, and  works on the largest of projects, this is the biggest thing we are going to be doing any time soon.
The downside, I get this wrong and they won’t support ET any time soon, that and it could cost me my job, but hey I’m willing to take the risk, as I believe it will work and that we will show them that test case counting is pointless and a waste of valuable resources, and you never know i might get a new job out of it if I can play my cards right.
We are going to be installing a new ERP over the coming months, I suspect longer than they currently think, but that’s definitely for another time, and I will be responsible for providing updates on testing, bug tracking, test management and resource coordination, currently. We are getting a consultant in to help produce a strategy, and give realistic time frames and resource requirements for testing a project of this size, how much we agree is something that I will find out when they get this guy in. I might even post about it if it goes well.
I plan on ET with session based management to ease the company into the realms of real testing. that I will most definitely post about as I go along. It all starts in around 4 weeks for me. Here’s to it going well, lots of hard work but I am looking forward to it.

Doug

So what’s this all about?

I work at a smallish company, we don’t do software ourselves, but we do use a lot of it in house, and we have a tendency to change and modify it, so we have a good IT team, recently I joined them as a dedicated tester. Well about 3 years go now, but I’ve been with the company in a variety of  roles for many years before that. My job in IT, test the major changes/ software additions we make to ensure no negative impact on the business.
So, testing, turns out its a bit controversial, side to it and everything, me, totally (so far) self taught. luckily I like reading obscure manuals and texts. I searched around the internet for stuff about testing, in my early days, kept seeing references to this ISTQB stuff, so i read some textbooks pertaining to it, boy were they heavy going, so much demand for paperwork, and documents. I didn’t understand how you’d have time for all that, we sure didn’t. So I kept looking about, found some fascinating stuff on contextual testing, now that made much more sense. Then finally, well so far, I came across James Bach’s blog, now that was a eye opener. it has lead me to find other resources on ET that have been invaluable in helping me get a much better grasp on what I need to be doing to be a good tester, long way to go that’s for sure, but I’m now at a stage where I want to share what I’m learning, sure it’s nothing new, but each voice shouting out about how to test better has got to help those new to the craft find better ways to test for themselves as well.

Doug