Katrina’s question of goodness

Software Testing

This afternoon, Katrina posed the question “What makes a good tester?” but phrased it in a clever activating way: “What makes you a great Tester?”
She had been wrestling with this particular behemoth for some days and found it time to call in the reinforcements.

This added a lot of dust and confusion into the fight, but turned out to bring some interesting threads.

Some remarks that came out of the discussion:

  1. Testing is multidisciplinary, what are the attributes that make you a good tester?;
  2. Who/what do we compare a good tester too? Non-testers? Bad testers?
  3. Core skills: “good” means finding & reporting important problems quickly and cheaply and being able to express/defend your actions.;
  4. A test that measures this. An exam? A duel to the death? A multiple choice test?
  5. How good you are is directly connected with how valuable information you supply;
  6. If you’re in high demand and teams are fighting to get you on theirs;
  7. When you are considered an expert of the product;
  8. Customer satisfaction is a parameter;
  9. Peer assessment;
  10. You could be really bad at finding bugs/important information, but inspire everyone around you to not make them in the first place or give their fullest to find them for you;
  11. Being confident in your ability may be an indication;
  12. The Relative Rule was mentioned.(http://www.developsense.com/blog/2010/09/done-the-relative-rule-and-the-unsettling-rule/)

There were other interesting remarks, but let’s keep it at this.

All of the above seem genuine criteria and yes, it is extremely relative to context. To find a general ‘rule’, however, I’d like to go deeper, broader and try to generalize. Many of the above can be countered with a “what if”. (We’re good at finding alternatives that complicate things)
Can we find common ground on what makes a good tester?

Context is important, but for this exercise we must hold every possible context into account rendering the parameter to become infinite or null. It’s virtually impossible to factor this in.

Skills are important, but as we have an infinite number of contexts, where a very large list of skills has the potential to find that out-of-the-box bug nobody without that particular skill thought about, we can’t calculate non-traditional skills as a factor.
There are a few skills that are always valuable but they are not necessarily crucial to be considered ‘good’.

Person X is a blank slate. You may customize X to your own wishes.  You must build person X to become a tester that could be an asset in any context. Use as few attributes as possible.

This is my person X:

  1. The person has a professional demeanour;
  2. The person has good written communication skills;
  3. The person is a power learner, meaning that (s)he can quickly learn new things and is interested to;
  4. The person is aware of his/her own shortcomings.
  5. With the above attributes the person will use every method, tool, colleague, hoodwink, trick, question, experiment, ploy,… in his or her power to find important information.

To me, these are the absolute attributes and skills that make a tester good. Or at least good enough to serve in as many possible context I can imagine.

How would your person X look like?

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