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Becoming a “Tester for Tomorrow”

By Leanne Howard | Agile Practices Consultant

INSIGHTS // Articles

11 May 2017

#Agile|#ManualTesting|#TestManagement

INSIGHTS // Articles

#Agile|#ManualTesting|#TestManagement

By Leanne Howard

11 May 2017

At the ANZTB Conference on the 5th May 2017, I threw out a challenge in my Lightning talk to all the attendees, to understand what skills they currently have and what additional ones they needed to become a “Tester for Tomorrow”, which was the theme of this year’s conference. Certification is one way that you can demonstrate a quantifiable level of knowledge in a subject.

Tester working on a PC

I wanted to combine this with one of the themes in the questions on our Q&A Wall, a new addition to the conference. There was a great deal of interest, with wide ranging topics, lots of questions and collaboration on answers. Some of the questions were related to Agile and many of the presentations included elements of agility, so I thought that in this article I would discuss some of the competencies that I believe “Agile testers for tomorrow” need to have.

The first, and I believe the most critical, is to have the Agile mindset. In my article, I outlined several characteristics that make up this mindset:

  • Positive attitude
  • Thirst for knowledge
  • Goal of team success
  • Pragmatism
  • Willingness to fail

Technology is changing the world of business so rapidly that what a tester knows today could be irrelevant tomorrow, or at least of less importance. To drive innovation and avoid becoming obsolete, companies need employees who are constantly evolving and developing new skills to stay ahead of the market. That’s why curiosity is an important quality that I look for when promoting internally or hiring.

Here are some traits of a highly curious person, aligning closely to those of an agile mindset:

1. Culture of learning

When interviewing, I always ask what learning opportunities they are taking advantage of today. If they don’t have an answer, I take that as a strong indication that they are likely to fall behind in the job market and that they are not personally invested in their career. The speed of business is changing faster than ever, and people who aren’t constantly building new skills are ripe for disruption. 

Obtaining the appropriate certification is one way to demonstrate your commitment to personal development and enhancing your skills, as well as the learning itself. You can also keep current of trends via Special Interest groups, meetups or reading testing blogs.

2. Fail fast and often

I want a team who thrives on making mistakes. This may seem to be counter-intuitive, but failing fast is the key. If you never experiment then it is unlikely that you are learning new things, thinking outside the box or innovating.

It is imperative that you take the failures and think about how you could have done better or differently so that you do not repeat the same mistakes. This will promote optimisation through efficiencies and effective ways of working, whilst also growing you as a person.

It takes courage to start on a journey knowing that you may fail. You will not always fail, but having a thorough understanding of proven practices will provide a platform from which to tailor processes and practices.

3. Know what they don’t know

The most effective testers have the courage to admit when they don’t have the answer. They also ask questions and learn as much as possible about a particular problem. “How can I make this better? What can I learn from the past? How have others dealt with the same issue?” This mindset of constant questioning cuts through the ambiguity and identifies how we could delight our customers. By studying, you also gain a wider knowledge and more questions to ask.

Remind yourself daily that you don’t know everything. Find yourself a mentor or trusted people that can support your vulnerabilities and help define your career progression.

4. Surround themselves with diverse teams

Innovation requires openness to a diversity of ideas and viewpoints. Being around people who are different from us encourages the search for unique information and divergent perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.

Ensure that you are using active listening techniques which are inclusive of others views, even if they do not agree or align with yours. Having a common glossary of terminology will allow you to start the conversations.

One of the fundamental factors that contributes to Agile teams becoming high performing teams is cross functionality. That does not mean to say that one person has to have all of the skills, but the more you have, the more flexibility you will have to choose your team and accelerate your growth by working with likeminded individuals.

Another key competency that testers need to have is a strong practical ability to apply the correct testing technique. In the fast pace of Agile, the tester has a shorter time to complete test preparation, admittedly on a smaller piece of functionality, so they need to be able to read a requirement and immediately know which technique to use in designing the right coverage of tests given the agreed risk-based approach.  Arguably, this should be a skill that all testers already have.

One of the key challenges for testers on an Agile team is the amount of regression testing. Here the tester needs to be smart and work with the rest of the team to understand where changes have been made, so that they regression test around these integrations. There is no need to run the whole regression suite each time there is a change, and in fact this will significantly slow down the feedback loops, which we want to keep as short as possible.

This means that the tester for tomorrow will need to have greater technical awareness. Automation skills are useful, although not everyone needs to have them as long as they exist on the team. It seems that automation is primarily used for regression, particularly where Agile practices are immature in an organisation. But there are other huge benefits in harnessing automation for progression testing too, particularly where there is a return on investment.

Stand out from the crowd

As technology continues to upend the way we work, the challenge is to keep yourself current by having a continuous learning mindset. Disrupt yourself and be a Tester for Tomorrow.

Stand out from the crowd and get yourself Agile certified today.

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