Thursday, 14 January 2016

Ok. We've got a Tester. Now what?

This post could also have been titled "Ok. I got a job as a Tester. Now what?"

This is the sort of question that I seem to have been asked quite a lot recently. A number of small web agencies sprang up around Sheffield over the past year or so, and they're just getting to the size now where they realise they need an actual tester - not just a PM with a spare 5 minutes to 'have a quick look' at the latest release as it goes out the door. It's great to see a demand for Testers, and even better to see people with the right skills being hired, despite a lack of experience or qualifications.

It's not easy being the only person on your team tho. So this post is basically a link-dump of resources and places to start looking... I've cobbled these links together in various emails when I've been asked by friends and ex-colleagues so it's probably time I compiled them into a blog post for the next person who asks me about it!
So. Can anyone be a tester then?
Yes - In the same way that anyone can be a developer or designer. You can learn to test just like you can learn to write code or build an interface. But not everyone can be a good tester, designer or developer. Some people just seem to have a knack for it. So even though there aren't many formal courses or qualifications to look for when hiring testers, if you find someone with the right mix of curiosity and destructive tendencies then you're already onto a winner!
What courses, exams or certifications should a tester do then?
The whole testing certification and qualification argument has been going on for as long as I can remember and nobody really has an answer. Although I personally agree with the view that experience and aptitude are more desirable than bits of paper in most cases - but that's probably because I have more of the former than the latter. :)

eBay rocked the boat most recently with their response to ISO29119, which prompted responses from Testers around the world, including one at a certain small web agency in Sheffield... 

And there are currently 188 threads about the ISEB on the Software Testing Club website. One of which includes a response that I strongly agree with:

[...] it doesn't make you a tester. It confirms that you can memorise the material to pass a multiple choice exam.
-- Re: What if i have an ISEB certification???? by Anna Baik
Then there are the other favourite testing debates that always provide interesting topics of discussion...

The Testing vs Checking debate continues to rage on Twitter. Which often crosses over into defining the difference between Automated and "Manual" testing... Be careful with this one - some of the posts are by Automation companies so they have an agenda! Like this one entitled "Is manual QA a poor use of time?" that made me want to smash things, before I realised it was just an advert.

Twitter is invaluable as a resource. I can't recommend any specific people off the top of my head, but if you search for and tweet about the right things then they tend to find you!

Once you run out of Twitter's 140 characters, start trawling the blog-o-sphere. This very blog that you're reading right now occasionally has some useful stuff on it - if I do say so myself. Starting with another relevant post which was originally a Facebook response to one of my friends at their new #startup. And once you start building your tester twitter following, you'll see pretty much everyone has a blog full of tips and ideas.

One of the main places I go to for tools, tips, discussions and resources is the Ministry of Testing website, which is an offshoot from Software Testing Club. It's definitely worth signing up to their email newsletter - they have some good articles and do a roundup of popular blog posts and forum posts that week. I dip in and out depending on how much spare time I have and how strongly I feel about the subject.

Spotting a lack of concise informative Testing videos online, the (in)famous Richard Bradshaw has just started a youtube channel called Whiteboard Testing. Not only is Richard a smart guy who knows his stuff, but it looks like he's going to have a few guest hosts covering a wide range of testing subjects on there too. Definitely worth a click on the Subscribe button!

Two of the biggest names on the testing circuit are Michael Bolton (no - not that Michael Bolton) and James Bach. They're both brilliantly and deliberately inflammatory - to the point that I'm never quite sure if they're annoying or inspiring. My favourite James Bach video is this 70 second lesson in critical thinking and can be applied to almost any statement or situation.

James and Michael run a course called Rapid Software Testing - I haven't been on it, but I've heard very good things about it. It focusses on real life skills rather than methodologies and models. Even if you don't go on the course, the class materials are available for free online - it should serve as a good jumping off point to take to Google and look into things like Exploratory Testing, Test Coverage, Planning, Prioritisation and Heuristics.

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And finally - there's actually a group right here in Sheffield that testers can join that will help them gain new skills and knowledge by talking to other software testers in the area. Check out the Sheffield Test Gathering Meetup page for more details of upcoming meetings.

If you're a new or solo tester in a small company, there's no need for you to struggle along on your own. There's a growing community out there that can lend a hand, recommend a tool or just be there to bounce an idea off.

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