"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, June 29, 2009

Why good software testers should come out of the well?

One problem that I constantly spot whenever I meet a good tester in India - they don't blog and publicly write or speak. That''s why some people continue to think about me as a good tester.

The recognition that an organization gives could be fine as long as you stay in the organization or as long as the organization is doing fine. That's why many people stick on to an organization for quite sometime because they start hating fresh water. They accept to be in a well. With growing infrastructure needs and changing economy, some wells have to be wiped out and all frogs in it have to hop to a different destination.

I was once surrounded by bad frogs who made me feel that I was a great tester. I would never want to be there again because that hampers my learning although it pleases my ego as long as I am with them. A couple of months back I interviewed a tester who had been awarded as the best among 1100 testers of his organization. He was pathetic and I think the right one in the organization didn't get the award.

A tester from Mumbai who claimed to be superior to me in knowledge and skills wrote to me and said, "You are misguiding the community by giving wrong ideas" and my reply to him is this, "Well, if you are so concerned about the community then you should write a blog and say to the world that Pradeep Soundararajan is giving wrong ideas and the reasons of why his ideas are wrong" for which he never got back to me with his blog link.

There are several testers whom I helped to start a blog and only some of them are doing fine with it. Some people started a blog and sent me a link with a note that - you inspired me. If I revisit their blogs, most of them ended up not continuing it because they realized its hard to keep blogging. The other dimension is - it is easy to blog if you are just doing a cut copy paste plagiarize, not owe credits to original authors and expose yourselves as a fool.

2 months back, I interviewed Harish, who had lost his job from a reputed organization which decided to shut down its operations in Bangalore as they faced the worst part of recession at their US office.

Harish is the kind of tester whom I'd want to work with for the way he challenged my arguments, sharp eyes that observes little things going around the screen and has good reporting skills, good communication skills, but then, my client had to postpone their recruitment plans. I couldn't get an opportunity to work with him. If you are looking for one, I'd suggest you talk to Harish.

I wish I could have linked to his blog to get you curious about him and that's what is missing. I asked him:

PS: You don't blog?
Harish: Why should I?
PS: For the world to know about a good tester.
Harish: Why should the world know about me?
PS: Consider asking yourselves as to why shouldn't the world know about you?
Harish: Let me think about it.

After a month, Harish calls up, "Hey Pradeep, I haven't found a job yet. I realize this wouldn't have happened if the world knew about my testing skills. The interviews test something different than my skills"

So here is a post on my blog for all those Harish of the world to wake up and start blogging. A blog of your own serves a core purpose that surrounds all of us - to learn - things, ways, people, testing, ideas, challenges, and more...

Myths that surround wannabe-tester-bloggers

If I should blog, I should have good writing skills: Ha! You should read Pradeep's first post and then you would realize that he was more pathetic in writing than what he is today (or what you might have been a couple of years back). However, as you peruse through the blog you would realize that I have improved a thousand leaps. It comes from practice and a blog helps you to practice writing. Two things never happen to people with this myth - better writing skills and blog.

If I should blog, I should be an expert: I must admit that I thought of myself as the world's best tester till I met James and then more people like you. My blog has helped me meet thousands of people who helped me understand that I am not the world's best tester. That's important to learn because it gives me learning opportunity to try to get as close to what I think I was. You don't need to be an expert to blog but people commenting on your posts can help you to be an expert of the field. They might surprise you with a question that you think over for the next 2 years to find answers for it and in search of an answer to that question you discover a whole new world of testing.

If I should blog, I should have thousands of readers and comments: I am my first blog reader. I primarily write to practice writing and thinking. I have been writing this post over 2 days and I test my writing. It helps me writing some good documents at work that influences decisions. If my writing can be of help to others then I am glad. I do not write to get thousands of readers or commentors. No matter the world stops reading my blog, I would continue to write for one regular and serious reader - that's me.

If I should blog, I should write in a way that fetches appreciation: Saurav Ganguly, a cricket player from India was axed out of the team for poor performance a couple of years ago. The internet in India was full of jokes about his poor performance but then he made a great comeback to the worldcup squad. He was interviewed in NDTV for his comeback and a journalist asked him, "How did you make this great comeback when most parts of India, including Kolkata, your hometown was against your performance?" to which he replied, "I didn't spend time bothering things that are not under my control ( people making fun and jokes about his performance) and focussed on spending more time for things that are under my control ( practice, improving performance, consistent results in league matches) and I think that's what helped me". I took this as a great lesson to myself and focussed on doing things under my control and not bothering things that are not under my control.

If I should blog, I should have more time than what I have: Actually, we spend time on lot of useless things everyday. If you cut that out of one day in a week that provides you time to blog. I usually laugh at people who say they have no time to blog. I woke up a little early today to complete this post. I think I wouldn't die if I get up early. As James Bach said on Twitter: "I don't teach my son the value of discipline and hard work, because that *can't* be taught-- only learned."

If I should blog, I should be a good tester: A real good tester would want to get tested to see if he is really good and would be glad to know he is not good since that helps in improving him. A blog is probably one of the ways in which you get to know about the holes in your education as a tester. Once you know that, start plugging them. You could aim to be a good tester and start blogging than wait for you to become a good tester and then start blogging.

There are number of other ways you can demonstrate to the world about your testing skills and I think you should do that. Ah! No, not by saying you are proud to be ISTQB certified, that would drive away people.

PhilK recently interviewed many tester bloggers and I was one of them. Read my interview here and do not forget to read other interviews as well.

If you are good, the world should know about you. If you are hesitant to let the world know about you - you aren't good enough, maybe. Good tester doesn't mean you offer advice to the world, it means you present your work and be open to learning from others if they happen to argue. You may be a good tester and choose not to write a blog, I still respect that but I think you can get better by writing one.

So, time for you to get back to your work, ignoring all things in this post and continue to say, "If I should blog,". If you are already doing it get more people to be like you or do more with that.

Update: There is a test challenge at Test Republic that might be of your interest

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Attractive professions and software testing

When I was a child I never dreamed to be a software tester and always wanted to be a fighter pilot, a naval commander, a cricket player, an astronaut, a doctor, aeronautical engineer, an actor, an army commando, a scientist.

Why didn't I think of being a software tester? Ah! Maybe because there wasn't anything I heard about software in 1980's but what about children today? They still say, "I want to be a pilot, a naval commander, a ramp model, a cricket player, a tennis player, an actor, a Formula1 driver, a Software Programmer, a Scientist"

I was investigating the history of how certain professions and sport are more popular and aspiring to many young people and discovered a few things about it.

Visibility: The idea of what a human does in a specific profession must be visible or made visible to a larger group of people who might not be in that field. For instance, my brother decided he'd want to be in army after he watched a movie "Border" and wanted to fight for the nation. In 1990, I watched "E.T." ( no, not Exploratory Testing but Extra Terrestrial ) and wanted to be an astronaut to be able to talk to aliens. A friend of mine watched Jurrasic Park and wanted to be a software programmer and a hacker. In parallel, I watched Kapil Dev's cricketing skills and wanted to be like him. Today my favorite sport is Table Tennis. Table Tennis has undergone a huge change in last few years to make the game more visible to the general public. Can you believe the ball size has been increased?

If you look at the Bolywood, you would see that one person inspired another to get into acting, music or direction. It was finally a movie ( Edison - The Man ) that changed my whole life downside up where I witnessed Thomas Edison's invention, hardship, work, experiments, challenges. I wanted to be an inventor and so am I, today, an inventor of tests.

Money & Richness: As a child, I didn't know the money behind each of these profession that I wanted to be in. When I discovered that cricketers are some of the richest people in India, I did dream a little bit about it and then the dream changed to movies, and then to something else that interested me at that time - complex electronic circuits. So, I did my Bachelors in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering to help myself earn money being an Electronics Engineer. I am so close to electronics always, you see. When I am typing this, I realize a thin slice of key board separates me from a complex circuit. Being an independent consultant in software testing in India, I must admit I make more money than 98% of testers of my age or years of experience. Forget money, I feel, I am rich with testing knowledge and skills. I admit I am greedy to be more rich this way.

Parents: are a huge influencing factor. My father always talked about science to me. I used to ask him questions about science and engineering and he kept encouraging me in many ways by getting books on science or taking me to a science fiction movie. My mother was interested in Biology but I wasn't. I think my parents helped in fostering my curiosity. For a birthday gift at my age of 11, I got an Electronics - Make it Yourself kit from my parents that I assume as another key factor. So, testing suits me since it demands curiosity. In many countries, I do see the influence of parents on their children. The Bach Brothers ( James & Jon ) despite being software testers are also writers, like their father Richard Bach.

Community Respect & Relatives:
plays an influential role for some people. I have heard during my relatives marriage and other social meeting about people boasting that their son or daugther got a job in IBM as a software programmer or a job with Microsoft at Redmond. So, hearing such words inspire other people to think of it so that they could boast about a similar thing later. They go back home and ask their children to aim for being a software programmer in IBM or Microsoft. Today my parents communicate proudly to their friends, "My son is a tester who is quite reputed for his work around the world." ( Ah! They do know about some of you who hate me and would not agree to that statement. )

Friends: often influence each other by introducing them to new professions that one might not have heard about. I still remember, a friend of mine who influenced me to be more serious about Electronics by showing a pocket radio that he had assembled. I wanted to do something like that and maybe even more. I quenched the thirst during my 3rd year at college by making the first telephone controlled gas stove knob with a circuit a size of Nokia Pocket communicator.

Mentors: During my first year at work, I worked with a tester who was trying to get on to the development team of the same project as he didnt like running test cases. I was influenced by him to learn programming and try my hands on programming. Although the organization who had hired me as a tester didn't want to take me as a programmer because they felt I was being useful to them as a tester, it helped me learn some bit of useful programming. I tried learning programming with the help of a System Architect and a Senior Programmer of the team, they helped me learn how equally challenging was testing activity by testing every program I wrote.

Professional Gurus: Oh! You know this. James Bach and Michael Bolton are my gurus. I have witnessed their testing online and have been constantly tested by them. They helped me clear the darkness I used to see in software testing and become a constant learner and practitioner.

Challenges & Fun: are something that everyone look forward to in any profession they want to be in. What most of the testers and people kept hearing about testing so far is - There is a process, we simply follow it. There is a test case, we simply follow it. There are those two things, we simply follow it. There is a tool we record and play everyday. There ain't any fun there ain't any challenge in following and merely recording and playing.

Exploratory Testing and Rapid Testing is gaining huge ground in places like India, ( ask me how many people are booked for my upcoming Exploratory Testing workshop and from where all they are coming and who are they ) software testing is becoming more fun, more challenging, and testers are constantly exploring lots of new things and discovering and inventing and more...

My analysis of Why Software Testing hasn't been that much of an attractive field so far?

  • It lacked (past tense) visibility
  • It lacked information about testers making money
  • It lacked community respect
  • It lacked parents awareness of the profession
  • It lacked friends awareness of the profession
  • It lacked good mentors
  • It lacked enough professional gurus
  • It lacked enough freedom being given to testers and hence wasnt challenging
My strong conviction of why the situation would drastically change:

Videos like this one which aids more visibility into our profession

and like this one which aids the curiosity of existing testers

and like this one that demonstrates the financial gain

and like this one that demonstrates the fun in being a /thinking/ tester as opposed to being a certified tester

And like this one that demonstrates the challenges

And like this one that demonstrates the exploration of new ideas to find bugs

While you are reading this, a child somewhere in the world might have opened Youtube and searched for E.T and hit this video and might be dreaming of becoming a software tester. I bet this is happening. I realize we haven't seen a father son tester combination but we have heard of Bach brothers.

Today is the foundation for tomorrow. What are we doing today?