Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Software testing: I don't just "break stuff"

In the past year I've had extremely interesting (and often amusing) conversations with people who have a lot of questions about my day job.

Here are a couple of classics...

Friends and peers: 


The most common type of conversation I've had. I'm talking about the young professional, the fresh graduate who doesn't work in the IT industry, but who understands software (well at least the software they use in their finance/insurance/banking/medical jobs) and who also understands basic IT concepts.
"Oh, so you just break stuff all day, eh?"
Or, along the same lines...
"So... do you just think about stupid stuff that a user might try and do, and then try and see whether the system lets you do it?'
Ahhh, if only it were so simple. I'll admit that I wasn't the best at describing a software tester's job. I think this is because our roles as testers change so often, depending on the type of project, team or environment. No two days are the same, well at least not for me anyway. So it was really hard for me to explain what I do on a day-to-day basis.

So now when I talk to friends, I'll talk about how software testers can work together with businesses to build quality into the software development life cycle, which means ultimately delivering better software. And while it does involve trying to "break stuff" sometimes, that's definitely not the only thing we do.

I'm not entirely sure they're convinced though.

My mum


...who is the cutest. Technology is definitely not her forte.
"You work in IT now, so you can fix my phone? Can you tell me why my app won't open? How does this anti-virus thing work?"
Uhm...no, I can't. But Google can help.


My mum's best friend


...who is a grandmother. She got her first smartphone last year.
"So, do you make apps?"
I don't code. I'm trying to dabble in basic coding, but I don't know how to code at all. This didn't seem to sit well with her, so after several attempts I finally got her to understand software testing by using a very loose analogy about building houses. So 'the business' (or the person who wants the app) is sort of the equivalent of the home owner, and a little bit like the designer/architect; a developer is the builder, and a tester is the building inspector. And we're all trying to build a software 'house'. A bit crude, but she got the gist of it.

But I also mentioned how in an ideal world we'd all be working together from the start, and I'd be able to point out the flaws in the architect's plans before the building got started. :)

Kids 


I did a presentation to a local school about my job not too long ago. Thankfully they had just been talking about critical thinking at school, so I could talk about how my job is all about critical thinking and problem solving.
"So, can you be a video games tester? Is that a real job?" 
Yep, it sure is! How cool would that be?

A great explanation that my colleague had used for younger kids was how we're 'detectives' looking for 'bugs in the code.' I love this!




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