Desired Skills & Capabilities for Testing Personnel in a Software Testing Team
Even though software testing is a specific profession many testers have had other careers before becoming testers. However, most of the testers, who have not started their career as testers, either had a background in development or in the domain of the product they happen to work with.
Past Background of Testers
There is a general belief that testers should be from a development background. However It is not necessarily so, but having a development background certainly helps. Knowledge of how software development is done provides valuable insight into what could cause errors and how faults can possibly be introduced.
Background of product domain too offers great help in a software-testing career. It facilitates the understanding of the requirements and the required test environment. Knowledge of the domain creates valuable credibility from the point of view of the users of the product. In fact it can be a good investment to provide testers without relevant domain knowledge with a feeling for where the product they are working on is going after it is released.
Capabilities of Software Testing Professionals
The yardstick for the measure of the capability of software testing professionals remain his/her experience and training in either or all the areas like that of being a user, in development or testing etc. Irrespective of being our position, our skills of dealing with people like convincing others, criticizing others or receiving criticism, influencing others and making negotiations are very important parts of the role of testing.
Software companies prefer to have a variety of personality types within their software testing team. The best combinations may be ensured at times of recruiting. Even if that is not possible, knowledge of certain patterns of behavior can help us enhance the team we are working with.
Individual Skills & Personalities:
Testing is a challenging profession. It requires certain skills and capabilities that individual testing practitioners ought to have. It also demands people with certain set of human characteristics or personality types.
Every person is born with certain set of personalities. Although peersonalities with which we are born are quite difficult to change, yet there are few personalities that get chiseled into us from then onwards.
I am giving below few common traits that will help software-testing engineers in their position as professional testers. Software testing profession demands that a tester must preferably have following basic abilities:
1) Intelligence: Because testing is a sort of intellectual activity.
2) Creativity: Because testing activity requires great deal of creativity for being effective.
3) Endurance: Because testing requires great tenacity against pressure & resistance & the activity needs be carried on despite many odds.
4) Systematic Working: Because testing activity must have a reliable coverage.
5) Pragmatic: Because testing activity involves great deal of sampling.
6) Good communication: Because testing involves many persons having their stake.
7) Good courage: Because testing is generally perceived to give unpleasant news.
8) Good Maturity: Because testing profession is quite demanding, hence needs good maturity.
Professional software testing engineers need to have training and experience in testing domain. Such training can be:
1) Education: Education either from an educational institution or in the form of courses in testing theory. The testers should learn to remember and understand test-related terms, concepts, and statements.
2) On-the-job training and mentoring: The testers should learn to apply their knowledge.
3) Carrying out of testing activities: The testers should learn to see structures and principles and divide the task into smaller tasks.
4) Experience exchange and further education: The testers should learn to combine and think in abstract terms
Test Roles and Specific Skills:
Testing is not just one single activity. If we take a close look at the test process and all the tasks testers need to perform, we can see that there are a many different test roles as described below.
The testing roles can be defined as:
1) or a person responsible for testing functions
2) Test analyst / Test designer
3) Test executor
4) Test reviewer / inspector
5) Domain expert may be a user representative
6) Test or a person responsible for setting up the test environment
7) Test tool specialist or a person responsible for the test tool
Each of these roles requires specific skills and capabilities from the people engaged on these activities, apart from the general traits and skills required for all testers.
The following table described few important training & experience requirements:
Training or Experience Requirement
|1||Test leader or manager||# Test policy and strategies of the organization
# Testing standards
# Test management: estimation, planning, monitoring, control, reporting & managing people
|2||Test analyst / Test designer||# Analysis of requirements and other specifications
# Design of test cases
# Effective usage of test case design techniques
# Building and documenting test procedures
|3||Test executor||Execution, recording, and checking tests
|4||Test reviewer / inspector||Static test techniques|
|5||Domain expert||Basic test principles
|6||Environment Expert||# Platforms
# Test database administration
|7||Test tool expert||# Platforms
# Specific tools
Software Testing by Other Professionals:
Even though software testing is a full-fledged profession in itself, yet people from other professions can also participate and contribute in the performance of the testing activities.
Users too can be very good testers. This applies to both future users of the new product and actual users of similar products or earlier versions of the product. The users obviously see the product from the user�s perspective. Users have ideas about the future use of the product, that is helpful in providing an insight into where failures would have the greatest impact for example it can offer useful inputs to the risk management.
Users are best involved in requirements� analysis � which remains the starting point. Users can also be extremely useful in the test, even if he/she does not have an in-depth knowledge of the domain.
Developers can be good testers. They know how difficult requirements analysis is, how difficult design is, and how difficult coding is, and this means that they have insight into where errors may have been made, and hence where the faults may be.
Developers are best involved in static testing. They can also contribute in dynamic testing, not least in component testing and component integration testing.
Requirement of Interpersonal Skills:
Interpersonal skills are important in the roles of testing. Testers need to have ability to:
1) Provide constructive criticism and receive criticism
2) Influence people
3) Do negotiations
Providing constructive criticism is very difficult for most of the people. No professional ever wishes to hurt others – most of the people prefer to have peace with others instead of blaming & pointing out failures.
Again we need to consider what testing is. It may be seen as a destructive activity, since the tester has to find and register failures. However, registration of failures is not criticizing the developer. Testing is a very constructive development activity. It makes useful contribution to the possibility of everybody reaching the common goal of delivering a product of a good quality, learn, and becoming even better in the future.
Testers do however have to give criticism from time to time. The basic rules for doing this are:
1) Stay calm
2) Keep focussed to the facts
3) Never blame
4) Keep an open mind, as you too could be wrong.
Receiving criticism is just as difficult as providing it. We feel threatened, and some of our needs like respect, recognition, and security appear to be at stake.
Testers do however have to take criticism from time to time if we want to get better at our job. The basic rules for bearing criticism are:
1) Listen carefully for the smallest piece of truth
2) Whenever in doubt, ask for clarification of views and goals
3) When you find that the criticism is genuine, have courage to admit to it frankly, otherwise you will loose your credibility.
Testing involves interaction with many other developments and supporting activities. Here the tester remains dependent on the decisions and schedules of other people.
Generally testers find themselves with a feeling that they are being victimized. They find themselves in impossible situations, and they don�t do much about it because: �This is just the way things are!� There is no reason for bending under this �law of necessity.� In fact testers can usually influence more than they think – especially if they start early.
Some of the areas, where testers are dependent on others, but where they can also use their influence, are:
1) Delivery order: By asking and explaining why
2) Delivery quality: By defining entry criteria
3) Delivery date: By negotiating with other managers
4) Planning of test activities: By talking to other managers
5) Allocation of resources: By negotiation with management
6) Classification of failures: By using a scheme
7) Training: By asking and participating
8) Process improvement: By contributing and participating
When we assert our influence on other people it is useful to remember that demands create resentment, while requests for help usually create kindheartedness.
Like in all other communication we need to listen first and then talk. When we listen we must listen for reasons, goals, fears, and threats from the other party�s point of view. And when we talk, we most of all have to explain. We have to explain our reasons, goals, fears, and threats.
Most of the time we can come to an agreement simply by talking and explaining our needs and constraints to each other.
However, sometimes we get into a situation where we have to negotiate, that is, to engage in bargaining to reach agreement.
A few basic rules about negotiations are:
1) Look behind the positions to the real interests
2) Work with best alternative to a negotiated agreement
3) Walk away if negotiation is going nowhere
4) Identify options as parts of the solution
5) Go for a win-win solution
6) Aim at an atmosphere of common problem solution
Conclusion: For being a Good Software Testing Professional, following ten traits are quite essential
1) Be an explorer & don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown.
2) Be a trouble shooter having ability to diagnose if something doesn�t work.
3) Be relentless & keep trying, don’t rule out any failure for being a fluke.
4) Be creative & adventure with an off-the-wall approach.
5) Try to achieve perfection if not cent per cent, at least close to it.
6) Try to exercise best judgment as to a) What to test? b) How long to test? & c) Whether it is truly a bug?
7) Be tactful & diplomatic with courage to tell the developers that their code is really bad.
8) Be persuasive with an ability to convince others on your point especially on the reason why a bug needs to be fixed.
9) Try to do many things as per the pre defined plans & not on the spur of the moment.
9) Assign different tasks to the team members according to their skills & preferences.
10) Maximize diversity of your team to reach more beneficial conclusions & in turn better decisions.
An expert on R&D, Online Training and Publishing. He is M.Tech. (Honours) and is a part of the STG team since inception.