"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Where excited testers go wrong?

Hi Reader,

Thank me for this post, not that I am sure this is going to be interesting and informative to all readers but for dropping 2 posts to write this one, as I felt this makes more sense to you.

"Pradeep, what do you mean by excited testers?, I have not heard of any such classification"

Yea, most testers you see around you are excited testers and I would want to give some valid data which may make you think "Where are excited testers going wrong?".

Before all that, why dont you people ask me "Pradeep, what is excitement?"

Excitement, according to me, is a state of mind or heart which makes a person feel guilty later for revealing information that was not supposed to. ( in the context of what I am going to explain below)

_ Where excited testers go wrong? _

Ah before I start sharing gyaan let me tell you that, I am not the first person to have thought of this but got a hint from a book Learning Software Testing by Cem Kaner, Jack Falk and Hung but I did carry forward a small research and experiments about what I you may read below.

You must have attended an interview or conducted one by now, if you are a tester working in any organization and you must have come across one question for which you answered with a lot of excitement. Can you take a guess, honestly without peeking below?

"Can you give an example of an excellent bug you found in the recent past?"

Waiting for that moment to show how good testers we are, many of us answered the question and by chance, we may would have got a job in that organization and may even be reading this post using the organizations PC.

What is wrong in answering a question in an interview?

Yes, it is wrong to answer such questions because you are revealing confidential information. If you think in a stupid way that "If by not answering such a question, What if I loose the job opportunity, time for you to read and understand this post.

Every bug you find in a product you are working is a confidential information and you must have signed an Non Disclosure Agreement which may have put you liable for revealing information about the product you are working.

Why a bug is confidential information?

Assume, you are working for a mobile phone company and you are testing Multimedia feature of a particular mobile phone. A version of a the mobile you are working has been released to the market and you happen to attend an interview from one of the competitor.

Being naive, if an interviewer asks "What is the most interesting bug the phone you have tested has and how did you find it?"

If you reveal the information and say you are not hired, it gives an edge to your competitor by marketing his product comparing it with the bug you have revealed to him/her.

Also, when you leave an organization, you are aware that your colleagues, friend or girl friend is still working in that company. You should take care to ensure they do not loose their job because of the fall of a company's reputation. Moreover, all bugs cannot be fixed due to limitations in the processor or some other limitation and hence the company you are working for is at stake if you reveal it.

"Pradeep, how do I tackle such a question and still ensure I get a job?"

If I were you, I would answer "This is an interesting question and makes me think a lot. The first thing I am able to remember is the NDA I have signed in that company, which dis allows me for revealing such an info. Can you ask a question which does not affect such parameters?"

"Moreover, if you hire me, you can be assured that the next time I am looking for a job, I would not reveal any confidential information about your company/product/technology.

This will make the person who asked the question feel guilty, correct his mistake and give another good reason to hire you.

"Thanks Pradeep, what are the other ways a tester reveals confidential information?"

That is a good question from you. They reveal confidential information by asking questions on the project/product you are working to a group/forum where there are other testers, developers... Also, word of mouth is known to spread fire and be cautios when you speak about your product to other testers you meet outside the organization.

"Pradeep, are all bugs confidential?"

Most of them, yes.

"Pradeep, does this restrict us to discuss about the product/technology we are working to someone?"

No, not always, but ensure you give them examples and not the clear picture.

For example -

Assume, I want to ask you that "I found a bug in the phone I am testing, whenever I try to give a missed call to someone, I see my phone vibrates until you power cycle the phone. Is there any other way to reproduce this bug?"

It is better to ask it in this way "Do you think a mobile phone software will get into an infinite loop and keep doing an operation which irritates the user? Can you suggest some ways of reproducing it in multiple ways taking your own example?"

Also, be smart, in answering a question about a product which you do not know, in an interview, by telling "Well, that touches the confidential info which I guess, I am not supposed to reveal" at your own risk of the job. :-P

_ End of _ Where excited testers go wrong? _

"When a tester gets excited, he reveals more than what he could reveal after boozing"


Pradeep Soundararajan

Disclaimer: The bug I have mentioned above, is my own imagination and any co incidence with your phone/company product's bug is surprizing, to me. There is no confidential information in this post pertaining to any company, I am and was associated with. I am not responsible if you loose a job opportunity for not answering such a (stupid) question asked in an interview you may attend. Catch me highly responsible, if you turn ethical after reading this post.


Tarik Sheth said...

Very Impressive article as always...I liked Phone's Example...Thanks and Keep it up Pradeep ...

Anonymous said...

hey pradeep,

wonderful posting man. this is a good point you made not to those who attend interviews but people lik me who take interviews and we should not ask questions that make us feel guilty.

I am admiring your attitude about learning.

Divya Rajan said...

Hey Prad,
Good one abt the job interview, its a common mistake many aspirants make in such interviews.
To discuss confidential information can be quite a peril.
Cool one again!
Keep up the gr8 work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pradeep,

It's a good effort again. But I don't agree that by disclosing the bug you found out in your previous company would amount to infringement of Disclosure Agreement. There is so much of information in your resume about the projects, job profile etc. Do not these disclosures in the resume amount to Disclosure Agreement infringement?
I feel there is nothing wrong in speaking only about the bug and not the Architecture, Design and the Customer Details.
To be frank, I was able to clinch a job in an MNC by satisfying the interviewers about the best bug I found and how critical it was for the company to fix it. Basically, the to-hire company likes to know about the bug and the turn-around that was made available by the tester/developer and the final solution to fix the bug. It was indeed a clincher for Testers like me and you.
Thanks & Cheers,

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

Hi Rajesh,

Thanks for your comment and I have a question to you.

Did you, after joining the MNC, go and ask the interview panel, "Did you hire me only for me telling about the fantastic bug I found?"

A decision on a candidate is taken, not by just one sentence or statement made by the candidate.

I strongly reccomend you to go through - http://kaner.com/pdfs/SMjobs.pdf and then come back again.

I am no expert like Cem Kaner, yet, I am trying hard and making efforts to be one such.

I also meant, it is wrong on the interviewers part to ask such questions.

I give you a small exercise now. Please tell your manager that in the next interview you are going, you would let the interviewers know the bugs/architecture/design of the product you are working on and see the reaction on his face.

Also, if you start your own company tomorrow, would you be comfortable of one of your employee, going out, saying the bugs your product has?

Anonymous said...

Hi pradeep,
Very Intersting,I could see the passion in u to become an expert tester.The interview part is really worth.The way framed the test cases r really nice.This attitude I think is ticking.
Best of luck

Shrini Kulkarni said...

I don't agree with your notion that explaining about a bug will make some one to reveal information about your company and work ...

Give me any example of a bug with confidential information - I can, in 95% cases, come up with the a description that does not identify the product/company. It is an art.
I have tried very hard to acquire it.

When explaining about interesting bugs - always concentrate on explaining the problem finding "alogirithm" not the specifics or the data around the data.

You can *always* report about problem without getting into specifics. just like press conferences and press releases of CID, CBI, CIA and other investigative agencies - they just say "we have found this - all rest is confidential and can not be revelead"

what do you think - Interviewers will be looking in a candidate when ask that question -- "whether he/she reveals some confidential information about current employer?" I bet it is Not. They only look for nature of problems and route taken to reach them - nothing more.


Shrini Kulkarni said...

Pradeep - I have an excercise for you -- report as many as bugs in this "blogger - post a comment' browser window. Write about it in a seperate blog. I can see several - can mine and yours match


Pradeep Soundararajan said...


I don't agree with your notion that explaining about a bug will make some one to reveal information about your company and work ...
It is an art.I have tried very hard to acquire it.

You disagree, I agree your disagreement with me but thanks for indicating that you worked very hard to acquire the skill of hiding the confidential information of a bug in an interview. So it means, it is not an easily acquirable skill. Am not sure how many are as smart as you of not to reveal the confidential information of the bug.

Give me any example of a bug with confidential information - I can, in 95% cases, come up with the a description that does not identify the product/company.

Ok, I am no expert but let me bet, you cant.

Assume I am working for a mobile phone company X and I am coming for an interview to company Y. I am being asked such a question and I mention the interesting bug I have found. How much time will it take for the company Y to find out which phone in market has that bug, if its still not fixed?

You need not explain the product/market segment for the bug you have found. It's well understood through the company you are coming from for the interview.

This is my own beautiful way of thinking, I still welcome you to contradict it, as always.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Shrini again,

Pradeep - I have an excercise for you -- report as many as bugs in this "blogger - post a comment' browser window. Write about it in a seperate blog. I can see several - can mine and yours match

What is the need of this exercise and why do you want to do it with me?

I would love to let you know that; I am not the tester who believes that finding the most number of bugs make a good tester.

Shrini Kulkarni said...

>>>>>Ok, I am no expert but let me bet, you cant.

Pradeep -- it is not about expert or no expert. It is only a skill that a testers needs to have. Note that I am claiming to be an expert here.

I still think I can explain a bug by masking the actual details. Give a try by sending a bug to me I will explain it in at least 3 different ways.

At the outset -- these days of internet and open source culture spreading - NO bug remains within the corridors of a company. Be it google search engine or Yahoo messanger or CISCO router. Bugs are all there for every one to see.
with respect to specific example given by you about mobile phone - mobile phones bugs are open secrets and a company is not likely to bind a tester not talk about the bugs in explicit way.

Yes, I can think of a situation where one should be catious about information that you reveal - if you are working defense projects (in say ISRO or DRDO) and you are testing new neclear thing that is being developed and tested.

>>> What is the need of this exercise and why do you want to do it with me?
There is no special need for doing excercise and you need not do it after all. As James whittaker mentions - bug finding excercises are like "regular gym excercises" for testers - skilled testers do this everywhere and almost on everything that they see and have an opinion about. I thought that would make an interesteing blog post idea for you and you can explain the art of logging good bugs and in way that does not reveal confidential information..
You want to do it or not it is upto you.

>>>>> I am not the tester who believes that finding the most number of bugs make a good tester.

Niether I am. I seem to have misunderstood my sentence of '... report as many as bugs" as "maximum'. Noter that there is a difference between "maximum" and "as much as you can". What made you believe that this excercise is meant if some one is a good tester. Some who is from context driven school of testing - can never make such assertion. I belong to context driven school of testing - I assume you too..

I would like to see a blog on this from you