"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, May 10, 2011

A letter from the worst Agile Tester in India

Dear Blog Reader,

Greetings!

Hope you all are doing something in life and I don't care about it. I would like to introduce myself to you. I guess you don't know about my split personality disorder. My name is Pradeep Soundararajan too. No, not the guy you know but this is his split personality. The split personality is - I am the worst Agile tester from India. Yet, I am smart enough to be able to survive in this industry because the industry is structured to pose challenges to good testers and not for people like me.

What makes me qualify to be the worst tester is I don't squeeze my brain to test, don't care about the project success or what happens to my employer because I can always find another one who can hire me. Thanks to the most advanced interviewing techniques for a tester that ensures people like me get jobs.

As a matter of fact, I wasn't as confident as I am today about my survival in IT industry a couple of years ago. Ever since my management went to attend a conference where lots of people spoke about Agile, we were given a goal to ensure that even we become Agile. Thankfully, it didn't matter what Agile means or what Agile Manifesto says. What my management got about Agile is - to be calling ourselves as Agile, we need a stand up, a scrum, a sprint, some tests called as acceptance tests, developers and testers working together and oh business analysts writing bed time stories for us.

If our context demands to change the stand up to sit down, we won't because you see, we are AGILE and Agile to people like us means - don't change anything that will prevent people from recognizing that we are not Agile. Simple.

Our Agile coach and certified scrum master, in order to retain their jobs, appear to read a lot of blogs where people post their Agile experiences. Without probing if it suits our context or not they bring in best practices which are ideally ideas shared on blogs. Bloggers do a fantastic job of posting things that appears to work for them or in simpler words - pretending to work for them.

Once there was a white board added to our work place and a few sticky notes on our desks. We just thought we had to use these new tools to continue being called as Agile and we started writing down tweets (as twitter was blocked) on sticky post it notes and pasted it on the white board. It delighted our scrum master and agile coach. They even blogged about it.

Early days, the industry was wrong about making the tester sole responsibility for quality. These days they are saying quality is everybody's responsibility and that's a huge relief for people like me who are pathetic testers. All hiring that happens and the interviewing mechanisms ensure irresponsible people like me are favored for the job.

The industry will never learn that quality can never become responsibility of all irresponsible people of the project. However, by having said quality is everybody's responsibility, my burden has come down. I now share the blame well with all other people on the project even when I know my job was mediocre.

I have figured out a formula to make my life smoother than how it was earlier. I am presented with stories about the changes to the product or new additions and I need to write tests that meet the acceptance criteria. Business Analysts test for the acceptance criteria at the end of the sprint before signing off to push a build into production. So, my job is to sit with the BA's at the start of the sprint and figure out what their acceptance tests are and that's it. I mean it. That's the formula.

Do my developers care about TDD, Unit Testing their code or anything of that sort? No!  I don't bother to ask them those questions because if I ask, they would also ask questions on my work and I don't want that to happen. My organization posted millions of dollars of profit, it could have actually been billions of dollars but hey only if people like me were out of job. As an organization posts profits, the management is fooled to believe that they have the right people with them. They hardly know anything about their customers. Today's customers are so ignorant to software quality that they would figure out a work around than yelling at the company. They love the "Don't send" button.

The IT industry in India thrives on "head count" and not brain count and I am a billable "head" to my organization. As long as I am a billable head, my job is never going to be threatened. Do you think the US companies will pull out of India? No, they want cheap stuff and that's why they come to India. How does India deliver cheap stuff then? Its by hiring people like me who don't mind not doing great stuff as long as I am paid just enough to keep running my home loan, car loan and my wife's shopping expenses. If converted to dollars, that's still way short of what a US fella would get. There are some expensive folks in India but they talk a language that people in US think as not scalable.

Most Americans themselves don't appear to get Agile and asking Indians to do something good that they haven't got is super fun. They won't know how to track and we won't know how to produce and it works out as a perfect job saving combo for all of us. Unfortunately for those who have put in their money, the cost of pulling out is so much that they are stuck to indirectly beg us to do something to make things work. I once went to an Agile conference in the west and found that the leading agilists are complaining about their own countrymen for being bad Agile folks. I returned with confidence that we are just aping the major population of Agilists of the west and to an Indian, it is perfect to ape the Americans way of producing software.

When things go haywire, we bring in some consultants who are so passionate about agile (notice the small "a"?) that they wouldn't know they are shifting their role from a consultant to a contractor. They would do the "just enough" needed to make our biggest release, clean some of our mess and then go away. While they are here, we will treat them well and make them feel so good that they think they have got a great client and when they go away, we don't bother about what they did till our next major release.

The sprints are so beautifully positioned and the activities are so amazingly structured that I can easily blame the sprint for not being able to learn anything new or add any skills to what I might currently possess.

Every now and then, I pick up new terms that western folks talk about just to ensure I don't get intimidated in interviews. Be it Scrumban, Lean-Kanban or Lean Scrumban. If some interview questions are too intimidating then I simply remind myself of having read Brian Marick's Artisanal Retro-Futurism crossed with Team-Scale Anarcho-Syndicalism. I don't get a head or tail of it and I don't care either as long as I can tell my interviewers that's what I do. If asked to explain, I know how to obfuscate it further.

Good testers don't get the point of life and that is - some people have money and others need to extract it from them without needing to work hard. Good testers are specialists, they only specialize in how to test well. There is a need for generalists in this world, who can learn how to make money while not testing well mixed with not knowing how to code.

My life moves on but the good testers appear to be stuck trying to explain guys like me what should be done. Note, you can't move an inch out of us and we outnumber you so much that your life is as painful as having cancer all over your brain.

I am starting a new certification program - CTBCIA.  "Certified to be certified in Agile". This is skill based. I will test how long you can stand up, how you hurry up when a sprint is about to finish,... If you are from any other country, please email me, we shall expand our certification business aping the success of ISTQB all over the world. Once we have a local chapter in your country, we can make more money through conferences and selling our training programs which are feeders to our certification program. Don't worry about marketing, leading agile consultants of the world will talk so much bad about our certification that they will attract our target customers to approach us.

If you want to be a successful Agile tester, trust me, you don't need to know anything about it. Mostly because the people running the project themselves have no clue. Learning about being agile can damage your brain cells and your career.

I really don't care whatever you choose to do because you don't care for me. Humanity and software are two opposite terms.

Regardless,

-- Pradeep Soundararajan ( The split personality guy, not the one you know)

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good joke.
I myself am a ScrumMaster in India. I can assure you there are at least a few companies who are really doing some "agile" projects.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anonymous Scrum Master,

Please list the companies so that the good agile testers could at least apply to it. Don't tell Thought Works, Yahoo... they stopped hiring testers long ago because most testers in India dont know how to code.

By the way, no single organization can be "agile" but its the team that can be. I can given an example of Rahul Verma's team in Intel is one such dream place for an agile tester.

In my opinion, at max there could be just about 50 (a cool made up number to indicate how low it could be) good teams to work with in India. That doesn't mean other teams are bad but it means that in most teams the bad people and poor decision makers outnumber the good.

Lisa said...

Wow, I didn't know you had an evil twin. Hilarious post and makes a bunch of good points too! Reminds me of Gojko Adzic's talk at last year's Agile Testing Days.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Lisa,

Thanks for your comment. We will talk more when we meet next time and I hope to present something like this in some Agile conference :)

Wish I could also catch up with Gojko.

Anonymous said...

Ok here is the thing. Agile is just a philosophy of testing and nothing more. There is no certain rule that one has to adhere to to really call it a Agile organization.

Client gives a Damn what philosophy or approach you use for testing trust me when I say that if you can pitch to the client that you can get a better quality @ lower cost he can switch to any damn approach of testing. Its just driven by 'bottom line approach' and nothing else. What makes you think companies switched from waterfall to Agile it was purely driven by BOTTOM LINE

I remember attending an interview for a certain company where in the 1st Q they asked me was explain how that Agile works in your company. Trust me when I say this the interviewer was more interested in why we r not sticking to the textbook def of AGILE and having our own 'mutilated version' of AGILE. when I said we tweaked in our process to match our goals his response was my approach was very juvenile. well he is entitled to have an opinion but he failed to understand the basic tenet of an approach of testing 'QUALITY @ COMPETITIVE COST'

Correct me if I am wrong all the testing methodology evolved to to deliver better quality to customers.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Anonymous Scrum Master,

The bottom line for me is, I don't get why people who claim to speak truth want to hide themselves? I don't trust stuff coming from Anonymous.

Also, in my opinion, from what I read from your comment, you lack experience (you may have number of years but that may all be doing the same thing or hardly any diversity).

You see, I am a bad guy, who speaks bold and you are a good guy who has to hide. That's the state.

Алексей Лупан said...

Deadly great the 'If our context demands to change the stand up to sit down, we won't because you see, we are AGILE and Agile to people like us means - don't change anything that will prevent people from recognizing that we are not Agile. Simple.' phrase!

I'm your fan!

Nandagopal said...

Laughed like anything :) Good one..

BTW, which version of PS is this twin identity? If my memory is correct, you mentioned V8 in Chennai last month :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Pradeep ,

are you practicing Agile ?
well if not its easy to start ... its a behavior change .

everyone in an agile team learns what their counterpart does. it also brings equilibrium in the team a clean sense of team work . If there is more I than WE . that's the first failure. We need to correct our thought process and our Attitude .

What is the best Agile Practice if someone was to ask ? well i would be telling them that its how well you behave in a sw lifecycle

gone are those days a developer does coding and Testers test his work and builder integrates them together .

If you want to even think your agile you need to be jack of all trades

Thanks and Regards

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@ Алексей Лупан,

Thanks a lot. How do I read your name :)

@Nandagopal,

I help people exercise their lungs no matter what version I am :)

@Anonymous,

Sorry, I continue to think you lack experience. Every comment is convincing me more. Come out of the hiding and shout at me if you are even marginally bold.

Preethi Anish said...

hmm...
so ur alter ego (the bad tester) is against agile?
in our team we follow agile (hmm dont ask me to what depth i know the agile process) but i felt it was good for the team and project.we all get to know what stage the development and testing process is at.We get and give ideas.also we rotate the modules each one of us test. i feel in this process bad testers cannot survive(hmm well u r correct bad testers still do exist cause of 'head' count :D...).
i would like to know from the alter ego (good tester) the characteristics of a good agile tester?

Preethi Anish said...

hmm...
so ur alter ego (the bad tester) is against agile?
in our team we follow agile (hmm dont ask me to what depth i know the agile process) but i felt it was good for the team and project.we all get to know what stage the development and testing process is at.We get and give ideas.also we rotate the modules each one of us test. i feel in this process bad testers cannot survive(hmm well u r correct bad testers still do exist cause of 'head' count :D...).
i would like to know from the alter ego (good tester) the characteristics of a good agile tester?

Pallavi said...

Wow even ur second half is an amazing writer.... good article... about thoughtworks hiring inidan testers... i got through thought works interview... as a tester in india who can code pradeep, and i know few indians in thought works who are doing well there... I dont believe in you saying and pin pointing IT work force of india.. a lot many good people are there... which may be out numbered by bad people... but isn't it the same in every field... 'Agile-Scrum' is an amazing process..for any kinda work and just coz few people fake it up... doesn't mean it can be demeaned.

Anonymous said...

dae i only made that last Anonymous comment .. the rest are not me ...


just for your info ;)

SS11 said...

Hey Pradeep,
Nice post about Agile. I have worked on few Agile projects and what I have learnt and liked about Agile is it more focussed on the product being delivered to market rather than people and processes.

As a tester, it gives me upfront info about what shape the product is going to take in future sprints and I can be ready for the change.

Richard Hill said...

This is a good article, I enjoyed reading it but I do feel that the inference that a project has to be agile and waterfall is not worth doing may be misguided.

Your bad tester persona reminded me of an excellent post by Jakub Holy which outlines social issues which influence peoples belief that agile is not suitable for government projects.

https://theholyjava.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/discussion-agile-not-suitable-for-governmental-it/


There is a mismatch in social capital culture between government and the conditions under which Agile is designed to work.
Agile supports tend to over promise its benefits which leave them exposed in a blame culture.
Trust is needed between dev team and customers maming it better suited for inhouse projects.
Paralyzed decision-making process – nobody but the top decision makers really dares to make a decision and they are not available and/or too far away from the problem beeing solved to be able to decide properly and timely.
Requirement of upfront fixed price, time and scope.

The article is quite interesting in that reflects real world experience accurately and still recommends agile but requires breaking projects into small, few-months ones or perhaps by using a hybrid agile approach.

Anony_mous said...

Hi Pradeep,

First of all nice words on the agile and i do agree with you. In my company people use to call it Co-agile. LOL!!! I never get what the hell this Co-agile is? and most probably even management don't know it thus they always fail to explain it.

Ross Hall said...

Very amusing and with more than a grain of truth.

Just to flip it round though -

- forget Agile, Waterfall etc, testing has become a lazy-person's game. Through my recent projects I've seen so many basic errors made because coders thought testers would pick it up, testers didn't think they had to test it.

Frankly I think it comes down to sheer laziness throughout the project - and perhaps a belief that "Agile" means "make it up as you go along."

We know better!

Lakshminarasimha said...

Super :) Enjoyed reading the post.

'The IT industry in India thrives on "head count" and not brain count' is so TRUE. They dont really worry about the skills it only matters how many on billing. :P

Regards,
LN

Perze said...

i need an oracle in oder to find out which pradeep i'm talking to. since pradeep #2 can easily fake pradeep #1.

Great post as always.

Suhas said...

Hi Pradeep,

I understand your pain of improving the world with a broom in hand but standing in front of a locked gate :( we need the certification for sure.. but more than this we need a community in each city where testers live ..

please suggest

sunjeet81 said...

Nice humor there. I believe your article touches upon several ills plaguing the Indian IT industry and my experience says this is a problem in general also
and I personally agree with you,infact I have been fighting with similar situations(at the cost of huge personal stress and frustration),especially around convincing people that "exploratory" testing is a special skill.

However,I do not agree with you singling out Agile as a culprit.

I think what needs scrutiny and critical analysis, is the way people apply/follow Agile or any other process .
I have been in two large scale projects both implementing Agile and given the nature of problems being solved in each,the way Agile was implemented,the culture in the team etc. one was a success and the the other an utter failure. And seemingly both followed Agile!

thanks

Sada said...

Enjoyed.. ;-)

I loved the way you admitted yourself as a worst agile tester keeping in mind the many testers who does this typical job !! ;-)

Sada said...

I liked your these lines the most !!

"So, my job is to sit with the BA's at the start of the sprint and figure out what their acceptance tests are and that's it. I mean it. That's the formula."

Round of applause ;-)

haryaniashish said...

HI PS!

Awesome content! I agree on your thought that no company in India follows 'AGILE' exactly.. everyone tweaks processes to suit their comfort level.. and call it customized Agile..

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Haryaniashish,

I don't find a problem with tweaking (in fact its good) but the problem arises when they tweak in such a way to fool themselves and their client that they are agile.

Raju Krish said...

Hi Pradeep Nice article!!!

As a tester my view is Agile made me to realize that what to test, why to test, when to start or end testing and how to test(manual or automation(specially for regression testing)).

It helped me lot on all my project testing and managing it properly.

We use Team foundation server application to log a bug and list out requirements which we call PBI's(Product backlog items)


Sprint Planning made me to understand the project requirements and allowed me to plan or give suggestion to team.

Scrum meeting makes lot of sense to know where we are in the current project and what all things need to do.

all together its fantastic

Thanks and regards,
Raju Krish

Wendy said...

I have just found this website and find it very enlightening. Pradeep i really enjoy reading your blogs they sure do spark a great debate and are awesome to read :-)

Pradeep Soundararajan said...

@Wendy,

Many thanks. I am glad you like it and hope many others will if I continue to do well.