Wednesday, 21 March 2012

February 2012 - Why I made the right choice

I have now been a Software Tester for two months. It seems like only yesterday I started, as the time has gone so fast, but at the same time, I have probably learnt more in the last two months than I did during the last year at my previous job. This says a lot about the difference between my previous employer and my new employer and how they make me feel about going to work.
I think the word Agile probably sums up the difference. Although this is generally a Software Development methodology I think the values below (taken from the Agile Manifesto) can and should apply to multiple industries:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

I think the list above highlights quite accurately why the way things are done where I work now make much more sense than the monotonous planning, processes, documents and contracts my former bosses seemed disinclined to get us away from.
Where I now work there is a lot of emphasis on learning both through colleagues but also by self driven education. When there is a positive atmosphere where everyone wants to learn and use their knowledge to help others it instills in me a desire to improve my own knowledge outside of work. I think it helps that Software Development and Testing are such a vast and ever expanding area which the world is becoming increasingly reliant upon, as companies go online and start using the cloud, rather than the high street, to sell their wares. In hindsight I probably would have gone down the Computer Science rather than Sports Science route at University.
As a tester, one of the main lessons I've learnt so far is that there are some core aspects of working in a Test team which must be right to allow a smooth and efficient delivery of work. For me, two of the most important aspects are communication and time management.
Communication so that everyone has a good idea what other individuals in the team are working on and therefore tasks are not duplicated. Also, to be aware of what other teams are working on and how that may affect what your own team is doing. We achieve this through daily team stand ups followed by a scrum of scrums stand up. This means that every individual need not listen to every other individuals update which saves a lot of valuable time.
It really helps that we sit in very close proximity to the developers so that as soon as a bug or issue surfaces we can immediately grab one to demonstrate the problem and they can look into it straight away. Sometimes bugs are known about and a fix is already in the pipeline, or they can be put down to a limitation with the system or feature which hasn't been built yet rather than a fault in the software. I'm sure as time goes on I will come to learn more of these possibilities and will become one less bug for the developers myself.
I've also learnt that effective time management is very important in testing as time can very easily be eaten up by going off on tangents. By this I mean you have to be focused on the task at hand, whether that is testing a bug is fixed, testing a new feature or exploring a new area of the software. In any of these situations you can easily spot a bug or unusual behaviour and decide to investigate a little further. Before you know it you have lost half an hour and wonder where it went. This can have a doubly negative effect in that you have lost focus on your original task and you are probably not 100% focused on the new quirk you have found as you know you have digressed and ought to get back to what you should be doing. Now, when I spot something new I will make a quick note of it as something to look into later when I can allocate time specifically to it, as tempting as it may be to pursue at the time of discovery.
After two months Testing I really feel part of the Development team and appreciate the way the team works. I've learnt a lot and am sure I won't stop learning whilst I'm still a Software Tester. I'm quite sure I have not written anything revelationary as yet. Hopefully over time my posts will offer more insightful views and I'll be able to talk more about experiences that other testers may value.

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