Linda Wilkinson (Link no longer valid) in a recent post called on ‘Experts’ to come down off their ivory towers, and get back in touch with the rest of the ‘hoi polloi’.
It got me thinking about how in one way or another, we all have an Ivory Tower in testing which we can brag about. Your Ivory Tower (if its anything like mine!) is a nice place to be in.
We can sit back and feel comfortable there, we know what we are doing and people treat us with certain level of respect. No-one decided in advance to build these towers, but over the years, as we have specialised, it has become an area we have decided to call our own.
Some Ivory Towers I’ve come across in software testing are:
The Methodology Tower
Over the years one process or methodology dominates and closes our minds to new approaches such as Agile or Exploratory Testing. Or, we are so won over by Agile, that we fail to explore other avenues that may be of benefit.
The Trainer’s & Speaker Tower
After many years of testing at the trenches, the experience acquired is used to help other testers by training and speaking in conferences. Gradually, the speaker/trainer looses touch with the tester on the front and starts finding it hard to identify with issues testers face on a daily basis.
The Management Tower
Climbing up the corporate ladder, the Test Manager spends most days, managing people and projects. Their goals and challenges differ from the tester on their teams. They too start to loose touch on the real issues that testers face.
The Manual/Automation Tower
As a tester, perhaps whilst performing other tasks, perhaps you have decided to specialise in only certain areas? Manual testers, when did you last try out automation or performance testing?
There is nothing wrong in specialising, or having a niche. But in building these towers, how far have you wandered from the path of testing? You know, the actual testing, where you sit down in front of an application and well look for bugs?
In narrowing your skillset, I think you narrow your mindset, and consequently lose out on all the benefits that testing have to offer.
Puzzles and writing articles are good ways keep up your cognitive skills, but really nothing beats testing a product to remind of the real issues everyday testers face. Try getting your teeth stuck into a good testing problem, and remind yourself of the pleasure and heartache that testing can bring.
Puzzles and forum discussions will never replace or use the sheer number of skills you require in testing such as communication, negotiation, cognitive and written skills.
So, if you really want to get in touch with your inner tester get out and test. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your training or test management or whatever area you have chosen to specialise in, but there is no reason why you can’t contribute to some open source testing, or volunteer to assist a charity in their software testing. If you can’t see your way to doing that, try keeping the tester in you alive by going for the many testing challenges that seem to be popping up. I really like the Weekend Tester’s created by Ajay Balamurugadas. They set themselves challenges and applications to test as a way of improving their testing skills. Matt Heusser is another person who set a challenge on his blog.
Go on, I dare you to step outside and sniff the air outside your Ivory Tower and rediscover your true inner tester.
[updated January 2020 to rectify spelling mistakes and redo the image which had got corrupted]