I recently went to the UK TMF (Test Management Forum) in London where there were several talks related to testing. The 38th Test Management Forum took place on Wednesday 24 April 2013 at the conference centre at Balls’s Brothers, Minster Pavement.
One of the talks I chose to attend was hosted by Paul Gerrard and was entitled ‘How Techy Should a Non Techy Tester Be?’ I was drawn to this talk as I was really interested to know the answer and to hear the opinions of others who worked in the test industry. I also aspire to become a more technical tester and was interested to see how far along the continuum I was.
The first thing we discussed was what is actually meant by being technical when applied to testing. There was a lot of input from everyone and the areas considered technical included the following (please note, since it’s nearly a month ago now, I may have added some areas which weren’t mentioned and forgotten others which were): security, performance, selenium, specflow, developer tools such as Fiddler and firebug, coding, SQL, event logs.
It was concluded that a large proportion of testers in the industry fall into the non technical tester category, in that they do not include any of the areas mentioned above in their testing. It was also agreed that there are people who specialise in each of the areas above and they may not even badge themselves as testers but have more glamorous titles such as Performance Specialist or Security Consultant. This category of testers is obviously a lot smaller than the non technical one.
So my takeaway from this talk is that to differentiate yourself from the pool of non technical testers in the marketplace, and have the edge when striving to progress, you either need to become a real specialist in a defined area of testing, or brush up on your technical skills over a relatively wide area. At a minimum you really have to start looking at what’s going on behind the scenes when software is running rather than at what any lay customer would see. Otherwise you could be in danger of reinforcing what should be the unjustified belief amongst many, that anyone on the street can be a software tester.
I would like to think I am personally somewhere in the middle of the continuum from ‘Not at all technical’ to ‘Technical Specialist’. Obviously, this continuum is vast so I’m not giving much away, but I do know that I want to move further in the direction of the technical specialist from where I’m at and I believe that can only make me a better tester.