We are not Testers

15 Apr, 2012
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In 2009 Steward Reid predicted that within 10 years 70% of all software development would be done with some form of Agile methodology.  Due to the growing need for ‘’hands’’ this would result in having to employ also the less qualified testers on these projects. The first point he made is absolutely valid, the second point is only valid looking at it as a commercial opportunity (you don’t need hands if you work with qualified people), maybe he only said it to comfort the people who fear loosing their jobs because of this shift. It’s obvious that now Agile is becoming main stream there is a growing demand for qualified testers.I believe there has always been a shortage of qualified testers and it’s hard to decide who’s good and who’s not through the forrest of mediocrity.
Compared to traditional approaches, agile software development just demands that bit extra from a tester. Not only does it require great testing skills, which in my honest opinion all testers should have regardless the methodology, but it also requires a tester to have above average technical skills.
Agile software development without test automation is something I do not believe in. Effectively this means that testers should be capable to automate their work, or are capable of letting the team to do it for them (which requires authority and persuasion if the team is not fully committed). Furthermore an agile tester should also be a good requirements engineer. An important part of his/her work consists of helping out the product owner or business analysts to deliver useful requirements that actually add business value, with valid examples of the expected (mis)behavior. All these skills require above average communication skills, domain knowledge and responsibility.

One of the observations I make is that in a sense Reid’s prediction will become reality, not so much caused by the demand for less qualified testers, but by the inability of companies to select the right people. Some consultancy firms eagerly jump into this hole by certifying their test consultants, thus giving them credibility on the market. Big corporates have no choice but to hire these now certified Agile Testers.

I don’t really have an answer to this movement, but I do think we should start to invest in training and coaching these people to get the most out of it. This way at least the people that have potential will float to the surface. Hopefully in the process the rotten apples will fall from the tree.

The whole idea is in a way discomforting.
Last night I was contemplating the subject with a colleague and it suddenly struck me… I AM NOT A TESTER!

The exact same thing has been said numerous times before, for instance during the keynote by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory at the 2011 Agile Testing Days. More recently the title of our last FAT-NL event (named after the presentation by the evenings speaker Jamie Dobson) was “None of you are testers”. Although I got the message behind it, the true essence just now revealed itself to me.
When trying to recruit new testers I hardly ever seem to find anyone matching the entry criteria. But it’s clear now, all this time we have been trying to fish in the wrong pond (as a Dutch saying goes). Let’s build a new honorable guild, call ourselves Executable Specification Craftsmen or Automated Requirements Engineers and have pride in whatever we achieve.
If coincidentally you happen to fit the above profile, please apply for a job at

Cirilo Wortel
Cirilo Wortel is an Agile Test Consultant at Xebia

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