I believe in testers

I don’t mean this in the disingenuous way that an X-Factor judge might say that they believe in the talents of an aspiring Rick Astley (hyperlink included for anyone under the age of 35). I mean it in the sense that I believe that testers exist.

Why do I feel the need to make this statement? Because I’ve seen a few forum posts, blogs and comments which state that

testing is not a role but an activity

This is of course true, in the same way that coding is an activity, management is an activity and brain surgery is an activity.

It might just be that I have read more posts, blogs and comments about testing than other activities but I don’t recall anyone feeling the need to make the same point about people who code, people who manage or people who perform brain surgery.

Incidentally, the Oxford Dictionary definition of role is:

The function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation

It is fair to say that a person can assume the function of testing in a particular situation isn’t it?

The point is that I know that testers exist and that there are in fact roles within projects and organisations where the principal activity is to test. I know this because I see them every working day and have done every working day of my life.

Of course it is equally true to say that there are people who test among other things that they do. This is great and I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to learn, broaden their skills and understand other roles. And yes, I understand that in Agile development there are great benefits to having team members with the ability to undertake activities requiring broad skill-sets.

It doesn’t change the fact that testing is a role and there are many people who specialize in testing.

I’m sure many testers have encountered the view that ‘anyone can test’. This typically occurs at the pointy end of a project when there is pressure to achieve a product launch and a backlog of problems has built up or there is a feeling that much more testing is required. Regardless of everything else that is going on, regardless of the many reasons that the project reached this position, a simple solution is to throw bodies at the backlog. After all, it is only testing.

This diminishes the value of skilled and experienced testers and is a spectacularly successful demotivation technique. I have rarely encountered a situation where developers are falling behind and the solution is to throw testers at it, yet the opposite seems acceptable depressingly frequently.

I don’t want to reduce this to a moan about poor undervalued testers. I do however want to explain that I will refer to testers and I do mean people for whom testing is a role, a career, and quite often a passion.

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