Why Are You a Tester?

I am always curious as to what drives people – what their motivation is – especially when it comes to other testers.

I know why I am a tester. My driving force is my curiosity and the need to learn and gain experience. I want to know how things work, and preferably also why. That is why I went to graduate school and got a Ph.D. in physics, and it is also why I am a tester. To me testing is a quest for information: I test to learn about a product and everything that surrounds it.

As much as I love science and research, I decided that I did not want an academic career, and did what many other physicists do: I took a job as a developer. At least programming was something I knew how to do, while the demand for experimental astro-particle physicists outside of the academic world is…somewhat limited. By coincidence, I was asked to pitch in and help the test team, and I was immediately hooked: I had found a research substitute! As a tester I am able to take full advantage of my curiosity, attention to detail, observational skills, logical thinking and ability to analyse and draw conclusions. Software testing is something I am very passionate about, something that occupies my mind constantly, and something I am so enthusiastic about that I do not really consider it “work”. I have found my true vocation.

But what about other testers? What brought them into software testing?

Asking around, a common answer seems to be “curiosity”; the need to find out how things do – or do not – work. Not surprisingly, it seems as if testers have a tendency to want things to work, and they get more annoyed than the general public when software they encounter fails. Maybe being a tester is a way to make the world function a little bit better and bother us a little bit less. There is of course also the thrill of the hunt and the excitement when you catch your prey, even if it is just a bug.

Quite a few testers start out as developers and then – like me – make the transfer, after finding that testing is more interesting and fulfilling. Why is it then that software tester is still rarely presented as a viable career path, comparable to software developer? I find it interesting – and important – to ask testers that I encounter why they are testers. Not everyone starts out as engaged and enthusiastic testers, and some might need a little bit of encouragement and coaching to realise how much fun it actually is.

Take the time to think about why you are a tester, and you might learn something new about yourself – and others.

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2 thoughts on “Why Are You a Tester?

  1. dzieciou says:

    Thanks for post. I know what you mean. I’m in the same club: moved to testing position after completing Ph.D. But don’t you consider moving to a testing as a step backward in your career?

    I sometimes think so about me. Here’s my story. I did my Ph.D. in computer science, but for many reasons haven’t seen myself in academic world, at least the world I knew so far. I decided to leave it, but honestly had little industrial experience in development, most of the work I did for industry were some small freelance projects. Then, fortunately, I got my job as a project manager of a small development project. That was highly challenging position, and the not best fit for me, but I found one really interesting part in that job: verifying whether what developers did was the right stuff and working correctly. Then, I got a real tester position in a large project.

    What I like about being tester, is that you have more freedom in development. When you write test automation framework, you are not constrained by customer requirements, as developers are. That is similar to development in R&D or even more in one’s research. I like this level of independence in my job. I also like the process that starts once I find a bug: defect reducing and isolation. It’s like you said, a quest for information.

    The main difference I see is limited prestige of a tester’s job. Researchers, research engineers, project managers are considered as prestigious jobs. In this context, I often see my decision to move to a testing position as a step backward. So there is this tension between having a prestige and doing what you like and need.

    • Christin says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s always interesting to learn about how people end up in testing – and what makes them stay. Personally I of course find it especially interesting when people have a background in science similar to my own.

      Let me start by answering your questions: no, I don’t find moving to testing a step backward in my career, not at all. I take great pride in what I do, and I honestly believe that what makes testing a good fit for me is my background in science. The 11 years I spent in the academic world trained me for one specific purpose: to learn. I was taught to search for information, analyze and evaluate data, draw conclusions and present my findings – which is exactly what I do as a tester. Without that training I wouldn’t be the tester I am. For me discovering the world of testing was really like coming home.

      I’m aware of the sad fact that the world in general tends to look down on testers, but I see if as part of my job, and my purpose, to try to change that. Like with every profession there are good testers and bad testers, we just need to make sure the good ones make more noise and get more attention than the bad ones. We as a community also need to make people want to be tester, and make the job fun.

      I choose testing because I love it, and I make sure to tell everyone I meet that.

      /Christin

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