How You Measure Success In Testing?

Very early in my testing career I understood that this will be tricky: it is hard to say when you are successful as a tester. Even worse,  it is hard to be proud of anything in testing.

There was time that it was cool to write many as possible test cases or to find many as possible bugs. That was success. But now those times are gone. Now testers question stuff and support teams.

I raised 10 questions yesterday, today I asked 12 – yeay, I am pretty good at this!

OK. Let’s assume for the moment this is how you measure quality of a tester. If asking more questions shows success, then we will want to ask more questions to be more successful. 15. 20! 35? And suddenly questions becomes a noise and distraction for a development team.

My current answer how to measure quality of a tester is following:

Testing is a service. If tester brings value to the development team with what s/he does than s/he is a good tester.

Food for thought – what kind of testing team would you call successful?

 

My personal success

I wanted to answer the question for myself – am I successful?

For a long time I thought I wasn’t. I am an autodidact in testing. I even cannot say that I learned on the job, all learning happened in my free time. There was no manager or senior colleague at any point of my testing career who would guide me through the subject. Google was my friend. Developers around me did not like testing, managers around me always wanted me to do manual checking. It took time and mental strength to understand that there is more. From that moment on I started to practice selling and explaining testing. I had very different results. I started to doubt myself. I looked up to big names in testing, compared myself to them and though I paled in comparison. I was sure that on my self-education way I missed the turn and miss some existential  information. I felt like a fraud…

But then something happened. I attended an open space, run a session and apparently my statements annoyed one of the biggest names in testing. He got angry, we started to argue and then he asked me whether I knew what a state chart was. I said no, causing him to raise his voice and to ask me in front of the group how I dare to call myself a tester. That was it! Somebody was calling me a fraud, but instead of being ashamed, running away and hiding, I answered him with confidence: Yes, I am a tester!

Suddenly I understood that I am very special kind of tester. There is only one of me. My experienced shapes how I test software and how I communicate with people. It will not work for every team or every manager and that is OK. There is no one universal answer to a question. BTW, I looked up immediately after our dialog what “state chart” is. I realised that I knew it, but only in Latvian.

If I do consulting and my client wants me to automate UI tests in two weeks and then leave, I could do a few things:

  1. I could start to explain what testing is, how it works and what you can do with testing. And I will crash and burn, because the client will be frustrated and overwhelmed with this information, which will turn around everything they know and how they work. How do I know it? I experienced it.
  2. Or I could “shut up and simply do the job” (greetings to Mark ;) ) that I was contracted to do.
  3. Lately I choose to combine both. I do the job, but I involve other people to whom I explain what I am doing and why, so that after I am gone they could carry it out by themselves.

Is this the only possible solution? No. It is my current one. Next year it will probably look completely different, because I am continuously learning and improving my methods.

Now, when I look back to when I thought I was a fraud, I can not understand why I felt that way. I always had a job offers and I got mostly good feedback from the teams I worked with. Why I did not recognise this as success? I have a page on this site for speaking engagements.  Average only two appointments per year. To some it could look very empty. But for me it is OK. I have a day job, I have a family, I have hobbies and I am member of several local groups. Two to three talks a year is what I am comfortable with.

As I get older, I find the strength not to compare myself to others. I compare me with me. If I read one of my old blog posts and feel ashamed – this is good thing, because it means I learned something in-between.