"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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Testing the number of years of software testing experience

I am a software testing coach. I am not the kind of software testing coach who runs through hundred of slides about how to drive a car for those aspiring to drive a car or for those who aspire to drive better. I coach by putting each one of them in drivers seat. That's how James Bach and Michael Bolton coach software testers. I believe they picked up such an approach from Jerry Weinberg.

I am young and will remain young. Some people who sit in my class have a problem with my age. Some people who sit in my class have a problem with their age. They see me as young as they were about a decade ago or half a decade ago and wonder what would I be able to teach them.

This makes my job all the more challenging. I try to crack tough nuts even before I get started off with my class. One such thing happened 2 weeks back in Pune while training for a corporate client when a Test Lead attempted to walk out of my class yelling "this is the most useless class I have ever taken".

Well, I just wondered if he ever walked out of a movie just watching the first minute and deciding the whole movie was useless?

Jerry Weinberg said "Words just carry 10% and the rest is music", which is so true.

I infer from the kind of music I heard from him and the number of white hair he had grown, the problem was not with the class but with his age and mine. Do you ever go out and say "Well, you are inexperienced to teach me?" Don't you just show that in the behavior?

That evening I was conversing about the incident with Manoj Nair and was trying to question "The number of years of experience syndrome".

How many days make an year?

365. 25 ( that's three sixty five and a quarter days )

How many hours make a day?
24 hours ( that's twenty four hours )

When you ask someone about their experience, what metric do they use?
X Number of years of experience

Is that true?

When people say I have 10 years of experience:

Are they trying to say, they worked for 365.25 x 10 = 3652.5 days
Are they trying to say, they worked for 3652.5 x 24 = 87660 hours

We all know that Saturdays and Sundays are holidays and we also have a leave/holiday package an employer gives to all its employees.

So, for those who claim 10 years of experience, ignoring Saturdays, Sundays and average leave/holiday package of 30 days per year plus sick leaves, offs, training time, office events, party - they actually work for about 220 days.

Hold on - 220 are working days.

Assuming their project manager and management goofed up metrics and made their employees work for about 12 hours a working day during those working days, it brings down the actual number of days they worked in an year to 110 days.

Does 110 days make an year?
Well, it may but I am wondering in which planet would that be.

If in one year they actually are at office for 110 days then for 10 years their stay at office is 110 x 10 = 1100 days.

Now how many years of experience does someone who claims to have 10 years of experience has = 1100 / 365.25 = 3.01 years.

Now how much time does a person stays productive out of the 12 hours we calculated?
(You figure out further questions)

Assuming someone hanged around for 5 years ( their idea of an year ) , get promoted to Test Lead and stop running tests. How much time did they actually spend running tests? About an year?

Isn't that their true software test execution experience?

That's why those people who have a problem in my class have more than a problem - with my age and with my questioning skill that makes them feel they are just 3 years of experience and not the huge number that they claim.

"Experience is not the time that has elapsed by. It is what you have done to the time that has elapsed by" - Attributed to some great soul whose name I am unable to find through Google search. This quote impacted my teenage and future thereafter.

Also, that's why people like Michael Bolton, Jerry Weinberg, James Bach, Cem Kaner, Ben Simo, Scott Barber, Jonathan Kohl, Shrini Kulkarni ... are more experienced than what some of us can ever achieve working 110 days an year.

You may continue to say your experience in number of years because it makes you feel good or talk about the things you did and let people figure out what your experience is.

After I finished the workshop and came out of my client's office, I saw someone holding a book "Effective methods of software testing" and I asked her, "Do you know of any ineffective methods to test software?" and her immediate question was: What experience do you have?

My reply : Five million four hundred and thirty six mistakes that I learnt from.

Her response: WHAT!

I definitely might have sounded stupid to her but certainly not as stupid as mentioning I have 10 years of experience although my true stay time at office was 3 years.

--
Pradeep Soundararajan - http://testertested.blogspot.com - http://www.viddler.com/explore/testertested


Question of the day: Did you read copyrights section in this blog?

16 comments:

M.V.Manoj said...

Interesting Post !!

Pradeep, whom should you blame for this situation? The individual is speaking about the experience that the Software Industry certifies him for. When one leaves a company, the company certifies that one has 3 years(say...) of experience rather than the number of years he/she spent during those 3 years in that company.

Some thoughts [assuming 1 year on earth = 365.25 days] -:
(1) The company pays you to work for 40hrs/week which makes 160 hrs./month, amounting to 1920hrs./year which comes as 80 days/year. If the company says (considering the above case) that you worked for 3 years(365.25days x 3years = 1095.75days) rather than 240days (80days x 3years), then your salary should be 4.5 times (1095.75 / 240) what the company is paying you. Won't it be Great!!

(2) It would be nice to check their age too. Do they use the same scale to measure their years of experience and their age? If Not, then why is this discrepancy?

If Age is "(number of hours you spent on this earth / 365.25 days) " THEN Experience should be "(number of hours one spent in workplace / 365.25 days)". What do you say?

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Manoj,

Pradeep, whom should you blame for this situation?


Same people who should be blamed for being nude till dress was discovered or invented.

Now, this blame game takes people no where and hence I insist that if people are interested to be more meaningful they might want to consider it.

The individual is speaking about the experience that the Software Industry certifies him for. When one leaves a company, the company certifies that one has 3 years(say...) of experience rather than the number of years he/she spent during those 3 years in that company.

A common pattern that I see with many other Indians is: they use the word "company" and "organization" considering it as non living object. However its people who are referred to as "organization" and "company". So we are speaking about people.

Some people ( maybe HR ) finds it more meaningful to talk about one year of experience ( 365.25 versus 110 days ) to make them feel better.

amagazine said...

Your post makes me think of analogies from 2 different professions. One is Pilot- Experience of Pilot is calculated based on number of hours spent on air piloting the plane. Such a measure is so very correct for a profession as demanding as a pilot. After all how will a pilot develop his/her credibility without actually doing what he/she is supposed to be doing i.e. flying a plane.
Second place where i have usually seen hours of experience take prominence is the Project Management field. Even the much esteemed certification such as PMP asks for candidate's Project Management experience to be proven in hours (7,500 hours experience) even before appearing for examination.
I personally feel that in a knowledge based Industry like Software testing, ample knowledge ,the right application of knowledge along with experience and the right mix of soft skills should be the yardstick to judge the value of an individual in an organization than just the "years of experience".
Unfortunately, the present scenario seems to be giving unncessary weightage to Years of experience that it deserves. Afterall, if years' of experience was that important, the world would not see some extraordinary people achieving great things being just in their 20's.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anuj,

Your post makes me think of analogies from 2 different professions. One is Pilot- Experience of Pilot is calculated based on number of hours spent on air piloting the plane. Such a measure is so very correct for a profession as demanding as a pilot. After all how will a pilot develop his/her credibility without actually doing what he/she is supposed to be doing i.e. flying a plane.

A very good example for those who want to talk about their years of experience.

Second place where i have usually seen hours of experience take prominence is the Project Management field. Even the much esteemed certification such as PMP asks for candidate's Project Management experience to be proven in hours (7,500 hours experience) even before appearing for examination.

PMP, huh! A manager spends most of his time in meeting, does that account to work hours?

I personally feel that in a knowledge based Industry like Software testing, ample knowledge ,the right application of knowledge along with experience and the right mix of soft skills should be the yardstick to judge the value of an individual in an organization than just the "years of experience".

Anuj, we aren't in the knowledge or information technology industry - we are in number technology.

Talk to an IT professional for 5 minutes and you would hear a lot of numbers and less of what you might want to consider as information.

Afterall, if years' of experience was that important, the world would not see some extraordinary people achieving great things being just in their 20's.

It doesn't please their ego to appreciate such people.

As I said talking about "years of stay" in the industry makes most people feel better because if they were asked to talk about their contribution it might make them feel bad about themselves.

Sajjadul Hakim said...

Pradeep,

One such thing happened 2 weeks back in Pune while training for a corporate client when a Test Lead attempted to walk out of my class yelling "this is the most useless class I have ever taken".

Now that was just plain rude. He seemed to have attempted to disrupt the whole session. There will always be sessions that some participants may feel unproductive or wrong in their perspective, and they have every right to walk out silently. Another approach would be to question the instructor where the participant disagrees. It seems your corporate client forced him to sit for that class. That by itself could have placed him in an unfavorable environment.


After I finished the workshop and came out of my client's office, I saw someone holding a book "Effective methods of software testing" and I asked her, "Do you know of any ineffective methods to test software?" and her immediate question was: What experience do you have?

This corporate client of yours seem to have serious employee aggression issues. No wonder they called you to the rescue.

In testing there is always so much we can learn from freshers and experienced testers, from the questions they ask, the thoughts they express, the recommendations they make, their disagreements, or from simply observing them test. This only enriches our own experience. The proud folks just do not realize what they are missing out.

Regards,
Sajjadul Hakim
http://rapidtester.blogspot.com/

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Sajjadul,

It was interesting that you focused on the training aspect in this post because I suspected that people might get more focused on the years of experience and de focus on how this post came into existence.

In testing there is always so much we can learn from freshers and experienced testers, from the questions they ask, the thoughts they express, the recommendations they make, their disagreements, or from simply observing them test. This only enriches our own experience. The proud folks just do not realize what they are missing out.

Nothing wrong in being proud. I am proud because I learn. I am proud that I realized if I stop learning I am no longer a tester whom I want to be.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pradeep ,
I see a little contradiction about what you said .
When you claimed you have close to five and half years of experience in testing did you considered these factors ?
And when you said you have attended more than 250 interviews in these 5 years did you understand that even if you take one day per interview what that means to your claim ?
Note : I assumed that you havent spent any time preparing for those interviews :))

and to add to this

"PMP, huh! A manager spends most of his time in meeting, does that account to work hours?"

This speaks something about your understanding about managers and their tasks . Iam sorry but I will have to say I am disappointed with this post .
Regards
Vishal P

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anonymous ( Vishal P )

This speaks something about your understanding about managers and their tasks . Iam sorry but I will have to say I am disappointed with this post .

If you feel better in saying something about my lack of understanding, continue to feel better.

If you are disappointed, you may discontinue to feel that way by stop reading my blog.

see a little contradiction about what you said .
When you claimed you have close to five and half years of experience in testing did you considered these factors ?
And when you said you have attended more than 250 interviews in these 5 years did you understand that even if you take one day per interview what that means to your claim ?
Note : I assumed that you havent spent any time preparing for those interviews :))


Before you read this post, had I come to you and said I have one year and 4 days of experience as a software tester, would you have understood my context?

I will give a true example of contradiction to help you understand what contradiction means: You posted as Anonymous and yet gave out a name ( Vishal P ) at the end. An Anonymous itself is to hide the identity and its contradicting to have revealed your identity.

DWiner said...

A good subject to blog about, read and print...and of course, preach. This might explode to be an unending subject of debate. But the fact is, the industry today out there calculates and accepts candidatures based on the # of years and not on the # of actual hours spent on testing. Nice topic though, you made me think for a while!

Rahul Verma said...

Hi Pradeep,

Nice post. Counting blindly on number of years is a problem our industry is facing. In hindi, there is a saying "Gadhe aur Ghode barabar karna", meaning treating donkeys and horses alike (this saying assumes a horse to be of better value than a donkey :-)). Number of years is also such a measure that does not account for the effectiveness of the experience.

I was caught into a situation in one of my previous organizations where I was awarded the best team lead award but was not given the expected benefits because of "less years of experience". I had written about this hypocritical stand of industry as Do you count on testing experience or years++?

Regards,
Rahul Verma
Testing Perspective

Mohit said...

Hi Pradeep!
Again a nice post. Thanks. Well, I just want to know - what is testing a product according to you? - is it just running the tests? what about the time when you think about the product and how to test it? Do you really forget the testing (i.e. your work) after the office. Don't you think how you can test much better? So why are you counting only time spent in running the test?

Another thing - why did you ask about "Question of the day?" - Ofcourse we have read. In what context you are asking, I am unable to find it.

Thanks
Mohit

Roshni said...

Hi Pradeep,

Really an interesting post!
This will really make everyone count their own experiences now including me[;)].

In my organization I have a colleague who is here as a tester from last 6 years. He's our Senior Tester[from number of years he's been here]. Whenever we discuss any topic about testing, he keeps on bugging me whether I had given any ISTQB or any other certification. I told him that more than that I am interested in sharpening my testing skills. He then starts telling all of us about his not-so-great certification stuff. If I try to explain him any funda about testing he gets irritated [cuz I have joined here just 6 months back & as per no.of years of experience I am too junior for him].

Also, about your post I would say that it won't go well with people who just increase there no.of years of testing experience by doing not-so-good testing. But true passionate testers will definitely like it.

Looking forward for more posts from you.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Mohit,

Hi Pradeep!
Again a nice post. Thanks. Well, I just want to know - what is testing a product according to you? - is it just running the tests? what about the time when you think about the product and how to test it? Do you really forget the testing (i.e. your work) after the office. Don't you think how you can test much better? So why are you counting only time spent in running the test?


If you went through my podcast "The word Test", I think you wouldn't have asked this question to me.

Anonymous said...

Saw your blog on Test Common - you have one of the better blogs. Thanks for your insight.

Grass is said...

Hi Pradeep, Not to sound to cynical, but I guess all testers are a little cynical, you do mention the year as 365.25 days but you mention a day as 24hrs. Sorry to break this to you that 24hrs is also a rounded figure typically a day is 23hrs and 58mins... as a true tester ignoring 2 mins is a big flaw !!!

Neeways back to the topic..
Who says "Experience" as a Tester refers to the duration, it refers to the process which made a person from a Novice to an Expert Tester. It refers to the Transformation process which took number of years. Years themseleves mean nothing, they are just a dimension, its the travel which one did during that elapsed time is the true experience. Its the wierd problems/defects/mistakes/success that compose of experience, 10years only refers to the duration, it means nothing.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Grass,

Hi Pradeep, Not to sound to cynical, but I guess all testers are a little cynical, you do mention the year as 365.25 days but you mention a day as 24hrs. Sorry to break this to you that 24hrs is also a rounded figure typically a day is 23hrs and 58mins... as a true tester ignoring 2 mins is a big flaw !!!

I wish I could have considered the 2 minutes but I thought of giving a better number to those who claim their experience in number of years.

Who says "Experience" as a Tester refers to the duration, it refers to the process which made a person from a Novice to an Expert Tester. It refers to the Transformation process which took number of years. Years themseleves mean nothing, they are just a dimension, its the travel which one did during that elapsed time is the true experience. Its the wierd problems/defects/mistakes/success that compose of experience, 10years only refers to the duration, it means nothing.

Oh, does it say as much as you said. So, if they have lived as a tester for 10 years, did they do something else? So, there are many 10 years in one set of 10 years.

I could have 10 years of testing experience, and 10 years of eating experience and 10 years of sleeping experience and more within the same duration of 10 years.