Sparks from a sparkler

What Makes a Tester Valuable?

Being in the testing world for close to two decades, I’ve noticed that some things have not changed. While software development processes and technology have rapidly transformed, I still see many testers miss important aspects of how to add value to their team.

In the old “waterfall” world, we testers were seen as outsiders in the software development process, only let in to the inner circle if absolutely necessary to complete a task or close a defect.

Some testers’ bad habits have been passed down like faulty DNA from generations of their testing ancestors. But those bad habits can be unlearned. Testers, it’s a new year! Now’ is the time to consider how you can add more value to your work and the testing profession as a whole.

Use the Two Cs

The two “Cs” are communication and collaboration. I rate these as the top traits to develop for a successful career in IT testing. At a minimum, QA organizations expect their testing staff to:

  • Talk to all levels of the team
  • Explain details of a problem in a clear, unbiased way
  • Understand business, user, and technical viewpoints
  • Discuss risks to software delivery

But you cannot get an intimate understanding of these subjects or your testing landscape from sitting at a desk. Testing is about people, technology, and risks – known or unknown. Learn the type of communication to use to understand what makes your team tick, your users curse, and keeps your manager up at night.

Be a Testing Leader

I talk to many clients across organizations as I size up testing efforts and potential project team members. An immediate turn-off for me is a tester taking orders from a manager without knowing why, or checking off a list of tasks that someone gave them but not truly understanding it. That’s not OK.

If you are a single tester on a team, you can still be a leader of quality. Where others fail to communicate, you can be the one who puts the fragments together. You can learn what is important to the user and make sure technology meets their needs. We are often asked do to this as testers when we create test plans or design QA strategies.

Gain confidence in what you know, then use it to gain trust and influence in your team to lead.

Understand ROI

Have you ever thought about the amount of money your employer pays for your time versus the quality value the company receives? If not, consider  these things as you approach your work:

  • How can I keep more bugs from leaking to production?
  • Can I spend time on things that meet multiple goals?
  • Can I build some intelligence around the defect data we gather?
  • What have been my team’s biggest risks and failures in the past and how do I help prevent them?

Large organizations are willing to spend more on quality activities,  but our testing must be measured and transformed into real dollar savings in the long term. Look at your own contribution and understand how it benefits your team, manager, and company.

Plan for Change

Although you may have worked in the same team for some time, one thing is certain: things will change. Testing challenges are much bigger now and while change is not in our job description, you need to make time for its disruption in the future. Foster your agility and willingness to keep an open mind on how to test.

I predict these trends will shake our testing world in the next few years:

  • IoT testing
  • Predictive analytics of testing data
  • Automation of testing environments
  • Accelerated speed of software delivery

Curiosity and continuous learning techniques can be your friend. Become aware of all the free webinars, social media, and educational sources to help you see how others are approaching QA for emerging technologies. I like these:

Testers bring inherent value to projects; we provide a critical function in the software development lifecycle. Take my advice and you’ll not only increase your value but widen your career prospects, too.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Mejia says:

    Thank you for your advice! I experience many of the things you mention and I agree that to be a good tester you should be able to communicate with every one in Dev, Operation and customer team.

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