You Don't Need Superb Technical Skills to Be a Valuable Tester


Yoss, a senior software QA engineer at McAfee, describes how he iteratively built a tool to automate build installs for the product he tests using AutoIt, a free scripting language for automating the Windows GUI and creating GUIs. Using a batch file to build a cluster environment on demand, he cut his setup time from four hours to forty-five minutes. Notably, he writes, “It doesn’t take a computer science degree to build a tool like this that will help increase efficiency and reduce overall cost to your organization.”

A former boss of mine got a test dashboard up and running within a couple hours one day by installing WampServer on a virtual machine, setting up an Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) connection, and copying some sample PHP from the Internet to create a website. Without more knowledge than a basic tutorial could provide, he was quickly able to see the latest test results, which testers were lagging behind in automating test cases, and how end-game testing was charting. My boss gained a clearer picture of where the testing effort was at any point, and he saved time by pointing management to the dashboard when they wanted information instead of digging up the information himself each time. His solution wasn’t pretty or elegant, and no one would have oohed and aahed over the code, but it worked.

In the movie October Sky , four high school boys in Coalwood, West Virginia, take up rocketry after learning of the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1. Their first launches are colossal failures. The rockets blow up on the launch pad or fly in the direction of spectators. The boys begin experimenting with new fuels and alternative designs and eventually get it right; the rockets are crude, but they fly. What it took was the boys’ willingness to start with the knowledge they had to build something and see what happened.

Likewise, testers need not fear any lack of ability or be driven by perfection, for such things only stunt progress. Growth comes through trial and error and plenty of reorienting around dead ends. Any tester who perseveres will solve big problems.

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