Some time ago I was invited to talk to a group of testers at a big consultancy firm in the Netherlands. They wanted to learn more about context-driven testing. I do these kind of talks on a regular basis. During these events, I always ask the audience what they think testing is. It surprises me each time that they cannot come up with a decent definition of testing. But it gets worse when I ask them to describe testing. The stuff most people come up with is embarrassingly bad! And it is not only them, a big majority of the people who call themselves professional testers are not able to explain what testing is and how it works…
How can anybody take a tester serious who cannot explain what he is doing all day? Imagine a doctor who tells you he has to operate your knee.
Doctor: “I see there is something wrong there”
Patient: “Really? What is wrong doctor?”
Doctor: “Your knee needs surgery!”
Patient: “Damn, that is bad news. What are you going to do doctor?”
Doctor: “I am going to operate your knee! You know cut you with a scalpel and make it better on the inside!”
Patient: “Okay… but what are you going to do exactly?”
Doctor: “Euh… well… you see… I am going to fix the thingy and the whatchamacallit by doing thingumabob to the thingamajig. And if possible I will attach the doomaflodgit to the doohickey, I think. Get it?”
Patient: “Thank you, but no thanks doctor. I think I’ll pass”
But it is much worse… Many testers by profession have trouble explaining what are testing and why. Try it! Walk up to one of your tester colleagues and ask what he or she is doing and why. 9 out of 10 testers I have asked this simple question begin to stutter.
How can testers be taken seriously and how they learn a profession when they cannot explain what they do all day?
Only a few testers I know can come up with a decent story about their testing. They can name activities and come up with a sound list of real skills they use. They are able to explain what they do and why. At any given time they are able to report progress, risks and coverage. They will be happy to explain what oracles and heuristics they are using, know what the product is all about and practice deliberate continuous learning.
How about you? Can you explain your testing?