The role of the software tester — to provide a different perspective
In my early career I thought that my role was to break things. A developer would pass some software over to me and my mission was to find as many bugs as possible quickly, then send it back over to them to fix.
I remember a developer saying once to me, ‘Go for it. See how you can break it’. Then I rolled my sleeves up, rubbed my hands together in glee and got to work.
This is what the role was to me back then. To find as many bugs as possible.
Over time I started getting to know the developers on my team. We started to understand each other more and the way we work. Even at times, a developer would give me suggestions of what tests to do. I remember specifically walking away one time thinking that’s great you have given me ideas. I will certainly keep those ideas into consideration, however, I do need to think, What Else?
This is where I started demonstrating my worth, by finding problems no one had ever thought of and my understanding of the role of a software tester deepened. The benefits of having someone provide a different perspective. The power of those two words. What Else?
The break it mentality stayed with me. Continually thinking back to, What else can I do to observe a different behavior in the product? It is very interesting to observe creators of products, whether that be product owners writing out requirements or developers writing the code can get tunnel vision and need that second viewpoint of, What else?
Perhaps we can call this creator bias where a creator thinks their work is the best and is unable to observe any flaws. This is why in all sorts of areas, we do peer review, to get another perspective.
Over time this then evolved to add a few extra words.
What else matters the most?
I started to think about such questions like what bugs are going to cause the most frustration to our users. What bugs are most likely to be encountered by our users? This evolved into a journey of learning about bug advocacy. What bugs I would try and influence the team to fix and others to simply let go of.
So returning to the role of the tester and what I’d like you to take away.
- Software testers are important to provide a different perspective.
- We can help teams develop a better understanding. For example, we can question requirements to remove ambiguity and create clarity.
- We can be objective and unbiased. We’re not the creators, we are the observers. This is our advantage at finding flaws that a creator cannot see.
- We are the providers of information. This allows us to react rationally by looking at data/evidence, instead of following a feeling or opinion.
- Support the team to provide an accurate idea of where things sit.
2. When you are testing, ask yourself these two words, What else?
3. Break it mindset is fine to get into the groove of thinking, What Else? Although do remember it is not about the number of bugs you find. It is about finding the bugs that are going to cause the most frustration.
Remember you provide an important role of a software tester. If you ever need to justify your existence, then simply ask the other person, Is it important to gain a different perspective? What could the benefits be of providing that different perspective?