Tuesday, March 28, 2017

World-changing incrementalism

As many exploratory testers do, I keep going back to thinking about the role of programming in the field of testing. At this point of my career, I identify both as a tester and a developer and while I love exploratory testing, maintainable code comes close. I'm fascinated by collaboration and skills, and how we build these skills, realizing there are many paths to greatness.

I recognize that in my personal skills and professional growth path there have been things that really make me more proficient but also things that keep me engaged and committed. Pushing me to do things I don't self-opt-in is a great way of not keeping me engaged and committed, and I realize, in hindsight that code for a long time had that status for me.

Here's still an idea I believe in: it is good to specialize in the first five years, and generalize later on. And whether it is good or not, it is the reality of how people cope with learning things, taking a few at a time, practicing and getting better, having a foundation that sticks around when building more on it.

If it is true that we are in a profession that doubles in size every five years, it means that in a balanced group half of us have less than five years of experience. Instead of giving the same advice on career to everyone, I like to split my ideas of advice on how to grow to these two halfs: the ones coming in and getting started vs. the ones continuing to grow in contribution.

I'm also old enough to remember the times when I could not get to testing the code as it was created, but had to wait months before what we knew as a testing phase. And I know you don't need to be old at all to experience those projects, there's still plenty of those to go around. Thinking about it, I feel that some part of my strong feelings of choosing tester vs. developer early path clearly come from the fact that in that world of phases, it was even more impossible to survive without the specialization. Especially as a tester, with phases it was hard to time box a bit of manual and a bit of automation, as every change we were testing was something big.

Incremental development has changed my world a lot. For a small change, I can explore that change and its implications from a context of having years of history with that product. I can also add test automation around that change (unit, integration or system level, which ever suits best) and add to years of history with that product. I don't need a choice of either or, I can have both. Incremental gives me the possibility, that is greatly enhanced with the idea of me not being alone. Whatever testing I contribute in us realizing we need to do, there's the whole team to do it.

I can't go back and try doing things differently. So my advice for those who seek any is this: you can choose whatever you feel like choosing, the right path isn't obvious. We need teams that are complete in their perspectives, not individuals that are complete. Pick a slice, get great, improve. And pick more slices. Any slices. Never stop learning.

That's what matters. Learning.