Recently, Mike Talks (aka @TestSheepNZ) shared an article on Twitter about ‘The Impending Extinction of Testers’. Just to avoid any confusion as to why Mike shared this, it was in the context of a discussion about how automation is sometimes presented as a solution to all of the challenges (and costs) of testing. In this particular article, the author suggests some dramatic implications for anyone who fails to adapt to this view.
On reading the article, my first reaction (after checking the sky for incoming Cucumber shaped asteroids) was one of annoyance. I’ve heard this kind of stuff before. If you are a tester, I’m sure you have too. However, this was a particularly unpleasant piece which seemed designed to scare people about their job security. I can’t really understand why anyone would wish to do this, but it was the only conclusion I could draw. Shortly afterwards, Paul Gerrard shared his own response to another article on ‘How DevOps is Killing QA’ and did an excellent job in debunking some of the claims.
These kind of articles, and the claims of some tools vendors (‘we can automate all your testing’), have made an impression on some of the people involved in developing technology, and I would suggest, on testers in particular.
There appears to be (and I acknowledge that this is based on anecdotal evidence) a common belief among testers that the core skills which they require have fundamentally changed. I also sense a growing unease about their future prospects for employment; increasing nervousness about the opportunities they will have to generate income to support themselves and their families by using the skills they have developed.
When I talk to testers about their futures, conversations which might previously have covered options for learning new test techniques now frequently involve a discussion of some sort about diversification into skills previously associated with other roles; perhaps a motivation to learn about business analysis or how to write code. I admire this desire to broaden their knowledge and understanding and I appreciate the way that this knowledge is often then applied in their testing, in assisting others with tasks, or perhaps in a multi-faceted role.
However, on exploring the motivation for developing such knowledge, it is noticeable that it is sometimes driven by apprehension about the future of testing roles. On occasions, people believe that they must abandon testing entirely because it may not continue to offer them a means for employment.
Patrick Prill (aka @TestPappy) very eloquently discussed some of the changes affecting testing in a recent blog entitled ‘Reinventing Testers and Testing to prepare for the Future’. The blog generated a lot of interest and I believe that this interest reflects the concerns which many testers feel about this subject.
We operate in an industry (I typically still refer to it, rightly or wrongly, as the IT industry) where, as one of my colleagues frequently reminds me, the only thing that is constant is change. Much of the work we do is precisely because things change; human society progresses, science advances, governments and businesses generate ideas. New technology, and improvements to existing technology are required to support or enable these changes.
Within the industry, we often work on the products which facilitate change, but we are also required to adapt to new technology – and to new techniques – ourselves. We are accustomed to change, so why do the changes which are currently occurring generate such dramatic responses, polarized views and anxiety in some quarters?
New methods and practices have been adopted, and the tools which support these methods and practices are often far more useful than those available a decade or so ago. But they are just tools. They do not replace the need for human beings; people who can analyse, investigate, reason, reflect and rapidly respond as they do so.
Instead of feeling nervous about the future, or at the mercy of forces beyond our control, I believe we must assess the changing landscape and define our place within it. We mustn’t leave it to scaremongers, or to those with a vested interest in selling their own brand of silver bullets, to set the agenda.
How justified is the sense of unease? In the next blog, (which you can find here) I look at some of the threats which might affect us – the myths and perceptions, and the marketing techniques sometimes used.