How to talk about testing?

I was thinking for a long time to write about this issue. This article by testerzy.pl (sorry, only in Polish) inspired me to finish it and publish.

Comeout2

The thing is that I find it really hard to talk about my job with non-IT people like family or friends. If I would introduce my job like “I’m a programmer” I would hear “Oh, ah, nice!” and in their minds, they probably see a lot of money since this is what IT field is famous for.

But I’m not a programmer. I’m a tester. And when I say “I’m a tester” I mostly see nodding and lack of understanding. In Poland, those not familiar with the IT world see tester as either the perfume sample or person trying the product like wine/clothing/toys. There are even fidelity testers! So it is more reasonable to use “Software Tester” as a job description. And then they see me more like the person receiving the fully developed product (like the game already in the box), just a few days before the rest of the world to check if everything is fine.

Moreover, my job description is “Quality Engineer”. When I say that I usually receive the reaction like “What?”. So if I have time I need to go into explanatory what I do in my job. And there the fun begins!

What do we do

When I think about what I do at work the first things that come to my mind is what I do physically. Something like “I click through the application” or “I read the documentation and compare it with the application”. And right after I say it I know it was not the right answer. It is too shallow. It doesn’t describe what I actually do. There are some days that I even do not open my application, and still, I consider those days productive.

So to find out what I really do I took the unusual approach. I decided to think why employees would pay me, as a tester, a lot. This is not a brag blog post, this is just listing my tasks, roles and responsibilities to figure out what the hell am I doing as a tester. Give it a try as well!

Knowledge

In order to do my job, I gather the knowledge about every application I am supposed to test. Sometimes I create a mind palace almost like a Sherlock Holmes! Therefore I know how our application works or at least where to find this knowledge. To do my job even better I need to at least try to understand business needs. This makes my job very close to Business Analyst work.

Creative work

My work requires creativity. Based on my knowledge of relations between modules and past experiences I can figure out the potential places of failure and identify potential risks. With only the description of the change required by business, I can tell You what should be checked after this change.

Communication

Often I translate business requirements into technical solution with support of developers. This communication isn’t only one-way street, translation works both ways. So sometimes I write reports and documentation that can be understood by business.

Toughness

I can work under high pressure of time and responsibility. I have no problem with switching between multiple tasks and still keep high focus.

Summary

I think that in order to change the perception of tester job we need to change our own perception and how we talk about our job with others. Remember that often the person paying for our work (our client) is a non-IT person. So who knows – maybe during a small talk at the airport with some stranger, You will change the perception of another potential client.

And back to the main issue. When I explain what I do at work I void saying >how< I do stuff. I try to say >what< I do and what is my value. In short – knowledge of product, creative work, communication between business and development and toughness – all this in service of assuring the good quality of the product. Sometimes I even add that I work closely with the client and my performance is a “business card” of my company. I like to underline that I am the connection point between business and development, so I need to work on both my technical and social skills.

And how would You describe Your job as a tester? Do You feel how important is Your role as a tester? Do You explain the importance of tester role to non-IT people?

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