25 Secrets That Have Made Me a Better Tester

1) Diligence – I never give up. If I set out to do something I am 100% committed to it. There is NO second best
2) Passion – I have never wavered in my belief that software testing is a noble, worthwhile and honourable career. After more than 20 years as a professional tester I am still as passionate as if it were my first day
3) Humour – If I can’t enjoy my time at work then I shouldn’t be there. I was once asked to tone down the laughter in my team because if we were having that much fun we couldn’t possibly be working
4) Humility – I strive to be the best I can, but I’m very clear about my limitations and never promote my ideas as the best or only way. I have learnt from bitter experience to NEVER over-promise – if I can’t do something, I’m very explicit about why I’m not the best person for the job
5) Flexibility – I have always been willing to do ANY task I have been asked to do (within reason – I wouldn’t try to perform brain surgery!!). Being precious about (apparently) menial tasks is totally unacceptable if you want to be successful. I would never ask one on my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself
6) Tolerance & Understanding – I believe that everyone is trying their hardest to achieve the best that they can. Yes, there are poor Managers, Analysts, Developers etc., but there are also poor Testers… I’m not immune from making mistakes either
7) Working Efficiently & Effectively – I have developed tools and techniques that help me solve problems quicker, achieve outcomes more effectively and meet deadlines
8) I am not an Island – Every action I take creates a reaction; awareness of my decisions on others has always been at the forefront of my consciousness
9) Logic – I have been blessed with the ability to think logically and to be able to distill things down to their basic concepts
10) Prevention before Cure – I have always believed that preventing a poor outcome is better than trying to fix something once it’s broken; effective Static Testing will save on Design and Build, while effective Dynamic Testing can only report on the quality and risk associated with a finished product. Prototyping and modelling are great tools.
11) Context is Everything – Unless I fully understand the context within which something has occurred I am unlikely to be able to provide objective and insightful feedback. I never assume, I always ask or clarify.
12) Understanding Others – Human beings are a diverse and complicated species and doing my best to understand everyone around me is an essential part of my daily routine
13) Understanding Me – Being aware of my strengths and (more importantly) my weaknesses has allowed me to grow beyond what I ever imagined. Of course I still have weaknesses, but I know how to compensate for them
14) Problem Solving – Any problem (no matter how minor) is a great opportunity to improve my ability to find weaknesses
15) Sensitivity – I’m totally aware of others needs and beliefs; we are all equal
16) Listening – Learning to really listen is as important as learning how to breathe
17) Preparing and Predicting – Unless I prepare thoroughly for a meeting or discussion I have no chance of achieving a predictable outcome
18) Playing Games – I have always loved playing games. They sharpen my mind and senses and provide a challenge. I still hate losing (something I’m very aware can be a weakness!!)
19) Learning – My education is ongoing, I (still) try to learn something new every day. I have also endeavoured to learn as much as possible about the organisations I work for and the people I work with
20) Seek out Experts – In my experience the really gifted people are very approachable and more than pleased to help. We all like to be asked our opinions….
21) Take Responsibility – I have always taken responsibility for my actions; if it’s to be, it’s up to me
22) Be a Team Player – I have played team sports for as long as I can remember and this has helped me understand the importance of sharing and depending on others around me. I am NOT the centre of the universe!!
23) Don’t Be Afraid – Be very clear about the worst possible scenario – what’s the worst that can happen? If I make a mistake I tell someone quickly and then focus on rectifying it ASAP; I NEVER got fired for admitting I made a mistake
24) Visualisation – I learn and think in a visual sense. If I’m trying to solve a problem or achieve an outcome I visualise exactly how I want that to look. Then I create an image of the outcome to share and discuss with others.
25) Be – Live in the moment. The past has gone, the future isn’t here yet. What I am doing right now is all that matters. Focussing on the now brings clarity and a sense of calm

Dateline: Melbourne; Monday December 2, 2013

11 thoughts on “25 Secrets That Have Made Me a Better Tester

  1. A good list (recommended via a friend) but there are a few things in here that frustrate me … and I would rather explain why as I believe feedback is always important. Most is down to overuse or misuse of words in the English language, resulting in them failing to accurately portray meaning or even twist them even further from original / correct use (these are not always the same!).

    1 – 110%? Sorry, but this is an annoyance of mine. As a former sports coach, as a project manager and as an analyst, I find the frequent use of this across the wide spectrum of media unbelievably frustrating. You cannot give 110%. You can give 110% compared to the previous effort last week (depending on how you measure effort). You might hear commentators saying that certain athletes have improved by 110%, meaning that they have improved by 10%, making their total performance 110% of what it was previously. Accuracy in this area is essential in testing and misuse of the language is something we should steer others away from.

    2 – Passion / Passionate. Probably one of the most overused terms when it comes to reading CVs. Everyone is passionate about their job, you should be passionate about this area of work to get a job here, etc … and the overuse detracts from those who truly are passionate about their work. I repeatedly have to explain to those outside of the education sector that many roles in education are not jobs, but vocations. They have purpose, are directed by an ethos and way of life, are filled by people who have a level of dedication higher than what most would describe as normal and working in the sector is likely to be a lifelong activity / task. I tend to recommend people use the word ‘dedication’ now, to try to break down the overuse.

    7 – Work smarter, not harder. This is simply a buzz phrase for efficiency … Manglement speak … and yes, I do describe those who use such buzzwords a ‘Manglement’ rather than management or leaders. Efficiency is simply good practice in business terms, and doesn’t need shaping into buzz phrases. The process of gaining those efficiencies are pretty well documented, and all you need to do is look at the standards for software development, lifecycle management, IT Services and project management.

    22 – Be a team player. This varies … there will be times when you *have* to be the centre of the universe. It depends on your tasks, your level within the team but there may be times when everything feeds into *your* work stream alone … and at that point you have to be regarded as the pinnacle of the team. The difference might simply be to remember that you are still in a team and without that team you cannot do your bit, but the team need to remember that they are working towards supplying something to a sole point and the task from that point could be the most important.

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your insights/comments. Here’s my responses:

      1) I can’t see any reason not to follow your recommendation so I’ll update my post.
      2) Firstly, I don’t agree that everyone is passionate about their job. Secondly, much of the work performed by Testing professionals is often seen as unpopular and therefore passion (or maybe resilience is a better word) is required. I may not have mentioned it in my original Blog post, but my passion has led me to drive change throughout the Testing profession and put in thousands of hours of my own time promoting and championing it – I think that shows passion for my profession.
      3) I agree that I may have resorted to a cliche with my “work smarter” comment, so I’ll try a different tack there
      4) I can’t agree with you assessment of a “team player”. I can be the captain or manager of the team and still be a fully fledged member of the team. I don’t see that seniority or focus has anything to do with teamwork or team-playing. I do not believe in a singular focus (mine or anyone else’s) as this can lead to self-centredness and “glory-hunting”. My overall ethos is that no-one exists within a bubble (we are all connected) and therefore focusing on teamwork is essential to being successful at ANYTHING.

      I’m obviously interested in you thoughts on my responses.


  2. Pingback: Testing Bits – 12/1/13 – 12/7/13 | Testing Curator Blog

  3. Colin, again a great post. That shows me what is important for you as a tester. And I can only agree. I also agree to Peter, that most people hiring don’t care for that. But that is sad, because this attitude makes the difference.
    I read this post this morning and it made me glad to be a tester and start the new week of work. Thanks!

  4. Great post, Colin. All of these are a good reminder to us all. In fact, each one could be its own blog post. Most of these speak to the type of Tester I am as well, but there are also some that I either strive to be or are a good reminder to continue to focus on. Nice Job!


  5. To be honest, I scanned most of the list. To dedicated and proficient testers these attributes are second nature but I am sorry to say that many entering our specialist industry will shrug most off as a nice to have as they have done the course, passed the test and have the paper to prove it. Those of us that have been around know that the listed attributes are requirements to be a good tester but not considered mandatory by those that do the hiring and firing. Keep posting. Maybe we can get the message through.

  6. Great list, though I would propose that the first point is a bit of a mix of diligence and perseverance. The “I never give up” is more a perseverance thing than a diligence thing. Then again, perhaps I am being a little picky. Either way, good stuff and I am with you on every point. Probably need to be stronger on some, but I am still a work in progress, right?

    • It’s ok Mike, you’re allowed to be picky 🙂 I usually write these just as they fly into my head so some stuff sneaks through that isn’t always make 100%. I like it to be as raw as possible….

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