Sitting in a hut and assessing the river..

Melissa Fisher
3 min readSep 26, 2023

One thing I’m proud of this year is how I have changed perceptions of what “testing services” I can provide to my team. Initially there was this perception that testers only get involved in the build stage and we’re not needed until much later. I have fought a hard battle to ensure I am included earlier on. Advocating for myself and the team of why we need to be in these meetings. I understand others’ perspective of us only getting involved in the build stage. Perhaps a long time ago I would have been that tester only working by interacting with the product. However, now I am in a place where I get pulled into conversations and asked my view on a matter. This is a significant change to where I had been. It has taken time and lots of patience.

I like to give this analogy. I have been brought in to assess the water quality of a river on a 6 month project. Initially I was deployed to a hut half way down the river and asked to start assessing. In software terms, this might be the build stage. Staying in that exact spot and assessing there. However, I start to think about what I’m assessing — is it the cleanliness of the water? How fast is the river flowing? How much water is coming down the river? I get feedback from my stakeholders and they say the cleanliness of the water and how much water is coming down.

I start to assess the cleanliness of the water, but then I start to ask other questions. What is happening upstream? So one evening I walk slightly upstream and see a beaver! A beaver that was gnawing the last bit of a tree. Until CRASH! It falls directly over the river. Startled a bit I jumped back. Then noticing the river and the tree covering the river. Hmmm…Interesting. The start of a beaver dam. I walk back to the hut I’m staying at and note my observation down.

In the morning I decided to walk further up the stream, past the newly beaver dam and onto a clearing. I notice trees being cut down and some oily mess flowing into the river. Again, I walk back to my hut and write down my observations.

I could have just sat down at “the build stage”, but I ventured and “shifted left”, looking for things early.

My report says:

  • A new beaver family has moved into the area and could potentially create a dam and block the flow of water flowing down the river. If you would like the flow of water to remain the same, my suggestion would be to move the beaver family to a new home.
  • There has been illegal logging going on near the river, which is causing pollution to flow into the river. If you would like to keep the cleanliness of water, then I would suggest for you to bring out the authorities and stop the illegal logging.

The real crux of this story is that you need to think outside the box, look for other factors and assess. If I had just sat by the hut and observed, then the water flow would have decreased and the water would have become polluted.

These are the skills of a quality engineer. You can highlight problems that people can fix. Rather than sitting and observing.

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Melissa Fisher

Thinking outside the box and disrupting people's thinking.