"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.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

How Pradeep teaches software testing - Part 3

I hope you have read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series of "How Pradeep teaches software testing" and I welcome you to the Part 3. I don't yet know how many parts it is going to take for me to complete this series. I am hoping that I would write down the most important parts and keep adding whenever I need to update. In this part, I am going to focus on my journey of doing exercises and hands on stuff I do at my workshops.

Having been a guinea pig of James Bach and Michael Bolton's online coaching, I myself went through quite a few exercises that were under experimentation. I still remember James showing me a set of pens and then hiding all of them away from me but one to ask me which one was being shown to me. All of them looked identical so it was difficult to tell which pen was he showing me. I had to figure out a way to question him to help me identify the difference between those pens. This is one such exercise that didn't make it to the Rapid Software Testing class. However, I benefited from all of them.

When I started to teach my own version of Rapid Software Testing in India, I sought permission to use a few exercises from the original version. I got permitted to use the Mysterious Spherical Ball and Dice Game. Oh, the Triangle, too. I needed more and I had to create my own.

Even before that, I had to modify the exercises to suit me and the point I wanted to drive. I did that. I have a few variations of the game and exercises and at times I drive a different point from the original one. If I were to have been a parrot repeating what they taught me, I wouldn't have been able to survive or inspire people.

I tried my own exercises. I tried them out with James & Michael. It was hard to teach them back something with my exercises. That made my exercises or my ability to deal with them stronger. I then tried it out on a couple of testers here in India and it worked wonders. So, I consciously didn't take all of my exercises to James & Michael. Not that I wanted to avoid them but as their good student, I wanted to appreciate their time. I first wanted to get good at something before asking them to work on it.

I published some exercises on my blog. For instance the telephone puzzle and other brainstorming exercises helped me to experiment some of my own.

Every time I did the same exercise with new batch of testers, a new idea or an approach used to emerge that used to teach me a lot. I started to focus on what testers in India need to learn. If their fundamental is flawed then it is not good to teach them some things that appear to be Greek and Latin.

I made a list of things that I think is fundamental and started to work towards exercises for the same.

I am listing a few of them below


  • Observation
  • Questioning
  • Lateral Thinking
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Scripting
  • Investigation


  • Test coverage
  • Testability
  • Mission focus
  • Heuristics & Oracles
  • Bug Reporting

I built exercises for each category I wanted testers to get good at. As an example, I built an exercise for reverse engineering practice for testers: Finding Nemo  . Sorry to Mac folks unless they have a Windows emulator in it.

I wondered if I could really help in creating good testers with my crazy set of exercises and ideas. I was consulting for Edista Testing Institute and sought an opportunity to experiment my crazy ideas with two batches of fresh college graduates. The results were beyond imagination. I could bet on these testers against all of the ISTQB passed fresh college graduates put together. Here are excerpts of the work that they produced after a month of training from me. 

I was all the more convinced about creating my own exercises to help creating good testers in India. As an evidence of how skilled a tester could get beyond those 30 days is here - Santhosh Tuppad, my student of the fresh college graduate training is now a co-founder of Moolya Software Testing Private Limited. Not just he, other testers from those batches are top testers in the organization they are working for. There are a few in them who haven't yet made it large but if you talk to them you'd know it may happen, if not today, tomorrow.

He is the youngest testing entrepreneur to the best of my knowledge at the age of 23 and this story being created in India and me playing a small role in it makes me happy of the path I am heading towards in coaching software testers. I am specifically going to write about my students and their journey after attending my training in a part dedicated to them.

The exercises created curiosity in them to learn more. So, I didn't do the learning for them, they did it for themselves. What every training for a software tester needs to do - is to create curiosity with pointers of how they could do it. What ISTQB is doing is a super reverse of that. They damage the gene when it is being built and create business opportunities to themselves in the context of helping such genes upgrade and repair.

Some of the ISTQB trainers in India who perceive that my work has an influence on them, use some of my exercises in their workshop. I allow them to do so because that's the best hope for me that someone would then question the value of what is being taught as ISTQB and get curious to learn about testing.

My exercises teach people to test their own ideas of testing. I'd like to build thousands of them and give it away. Over the last few years, I have seen lot of action from Context Driven Testing folks on the exercises. People come up with their own exercises and share it with others. It is the safest community to be in irrespective of whether you agree to the principles or not. People like Sebi, Markus Gaertner, Matt Heusser are the ones on top of my head who contribute testing exercises to the world.

You will have fun cracking my Finding Nemo exercise. You would trick yourself to believing you have cracked it and then if you do a few more tests, you'd discover you haven't. Santhosh and I worked on something called Guess the Password - Version 1 & Version 2 . Don't go to Version 2.0 before completing Version 1.0.

This is what I am doing in India. This is how I coach testers. The future is all about such testing exercises, if it were to be a bright one. So, all of India isn't all that bad in testing as you may be imagining it to be. Note that!

In future parts of the series, I am going to be covering on aspects of my interaction with testers in the class, humor that works for me in my class, feedback and what I did with it, interacting with trainers in software testing and lots more. Stay tuned, it looks to be completely safe.


Anonymous said...

solve version 1, but not version 2. After hundreds of attempts, still couldn't solve the ans. Can you give us a solution on this version 2 guess the password? thanks!

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


I am teaching people how to fish and you are asking me to give you fish. I want to tell you that 100 attempts was good. You may need to try more.

If you crack it on your own, you grow smart, if you know the answer from me, you are happy not being smart. I do not encourage that for you.

Monirul Islam said...

Both the version 1 & 2 is simple but the second one is trickier. I am not sure how the version 1 helps a tester to increase his testing skill. It seems version 2 helps hackers more than a tester.

Pradeep Soundararajan said...


Thanks for your time and comment. Maybe it is time I remind you that hackers are also end users of products we test. Our goal is to provide information that could help our good end users work seamlessly and not-so-good users not work seamlessly.

Version 1 is simple? Try giving it to many testers around you.

Bug-wathi said...

Hi Pradeep.. When I read your articles, I am bit surprised.. How much information you got is really surprises me.. Can you please let us know what is your approach towards testing from the very beginning you started learning Testing.. It actually helps a lot to
many freshers.. like me..

Oana said...

Hi Pradeep... I'm a newbie. I think you are absolutely fabulous...I just read the excerpt of Santhosh Tuppad. You do excellent job with your students. I can't wait to read how you interact with your students in the class.


SK Srivastava said...

Awesome piece of work....just started to solve ....lets see when I get it

Jari Laakso said...

Hi Pradeep,

This was really fun! Sometimes I feel too much of my time goes on non-testing work so it was really fun cracking up both password tests in a few minutes. I'm not giving details in this comment so I don't ruin anything for other testers.

The article/blog raises up a lot of thoughts and ideas. You have a good way with words!

Best regards,

Karlo Smid said...

Hi Pradeep!

About Guess The Password 1 and 2 exercise. I think that you and your college testers are doing great job!
Those two exercise enabled my testing knowledge to be more organized and applied on problem solving. I see those two exercise as testing catas!

Best regards, Karlo!