Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How attitudes towards testing have changed in 20 years

I have very soon - in about 6 months - 20 years in testing and software behind me. And it all feels like yesterday. I've learned a lot, and have so much more to learn. I love the work I do.

With this idea in my head, I was checking through twitter and all the retweets about my previous post that I explained in my tweet as "developers not studying skilled testing and telling that testers are not needed", a realization hit me. From the summary of attitudes I'm now facing with agile wanting to make my profession extinct, this is not at all different from what I was struggling with 20 years back. And yet its all different.

Back in 1995, very few people would even recognise testing was a profession. There was no professional networks in Finland, most testing was still done by developers. And where testers existed, they would be deemed less valuable, less appreciated. In particular, developers would insist on not needing the testing testers were doing, that the end users feedback was "realistic" where as testers were not. And I remember many, many developers telling how testers would not be needed, if only developers did a proper job at developing - like usually the ones thought they were that kept telling this.

The attitudes on this level were very similar, but there were two differences that I find notable.

There was less of a culture and community of testers, which has proved to be invaluable in building skills that has stopped most of developers I work with from talking shit about my contributions. Immersed in the culture of testing that testers co-create, a lot of tacit learning is passed, and with practice, that learning builds my skills of delivering just the right information. It also is a great support network if I ever feel upset or down, there's always someone listening, helping, offering constructive advice on how to cope and turn things better. Constructive and testers? Yes. Testers help the other testers, just as they are there to help developers and business people. Testers have a community of support.

The other difference is that developers have found testing of their own they did not recognise 20 years ago. It is not the same testing testers talk about, but they tend to use the same term as they still - as they did not then - study skilled testing. There's a whole smart culture of unit test automation, that James Bach and Michael Bolton justifiably choose to call checking. When there's a lot of details to monitor and keep together with short cycles and fast pace, the things we know of and keeping them intact has built a developer testing culture that makes the idea of developers developing to professional quality much more likely.

After 20 years, developers have found checking as means to enable quick changes, and expect a little less contribution on reporting the simplest errors over and over again from end users. Testers are stronger, together. But we still have not managed to get to a point where we could appreciate the non-programming people's contributions to creating software so that we would look in more detail what happens there.