STAREAST 2013 Keynote: Surviving or Thriving: Top Ten Lessons for the Professional Tester, with Lloyd Roden

Beth Romanik's picture

Lloyd Roden, with Lloyd Roden Consultancy, first stated the obvious to the standing-room only audience: He's a Brit. The accent gave it away.

Lloyd launched into his keynote session by talking about the negative connotations the word "survival" has. It usually means just getting by, like someone struggling to survive the winter. Instead, he wants software professionals to thrive, a word that has a much more positive influence. He wants people in the software industry to work toward creating progress in their careers, to grow, and to be happy in their jobs. He gives ten ways testers can try to truly thrive.

1. Tailor your test documentation and use modern technology. Lloyd says creating detailed test scripts are often boring, and he thinks the industry needs to change and make this process quicker and more engaging. The test environment is also important: Employees need to feel comfortable and have the materials required to do their jobs.

2. Use test design techniques as a review technique. By applying basic techniques, you can challenge and clarify a spec. Lloyd says if you don't do that early, a developer will come along and say, "Oh, I know just what they want," and that's often incorrect.

3. Provide management with feedback on decisions that they make. It's our responsibility to provide information for cruicial decisions. Lloyd says employees are affected by decisions management makes, but it's rare that anyone goes back and tells management whether the decisions were right or wrong. Lloyd also noted that whenever a manager asks if something can go live today, the answer is always yes. But testers should start qualifying that answer with "Yes, but if we wait an extra week, our testing can be much more effective and we will save the company money and the customers frustration." Be proactive!

4. Learn to be a weather person. Testers need to use statistics to derive correlations that will give useful information. Lloyd says that if a tester runs fifty tests, twenty could pass, and thirty have bugs. Reporting that information is just like saying, "It's cloudy outside right now." Useless. Learn to project from that information and try to forecast what that will mean for test cases, such as saying, "If we continue at this rate of defects, we won't make our sprint deadline." Just like a weather person, your predictions won't always be correct, and that won't always make you well-liked, but you won't lose your job over it!

5. Test the testers' tests. Testing is quality control on development, but who's doing quality control on the testers? Lloyd says to try an experiment: Testers should ask developers to put one hundred bugs in their software on purpose. If testers find forty of them, you know you're only being 40 percent effective. Work with developers to find out what wasn't found and why. Do managers have the frame of mind that anyone can do software testing, or are there "quality gates" that filter out applicants and make sure a tester is good enough to join the team?

6. Make your test environment the strongest link. Weak, volatile, messy, or out-of-date environments are unreliable and lead to corrupt data. Recognize if testers have issues with hardware. Reuse your tests as much as possible. Improve efficiency with a limited number of tests. Data are an integral part of your environment. Offset your manual footprint by automating as much as you can, but don't lose your testing skills. And grow your experts. If you ignore your environment, bugs will breed.

7. Stand out and be different. Not your team, not your company—what makes YOU different? Someone else could be cheaper, or a job could be outsourced. Create your unique selling point. It could be collaboration or integrity or expertise or estimating quality. (On the idea of estimating quality, he underscored the fact that not all projects can be improved or sped up by adding more people to the team. "Nine women cannot have a baby in one month." Awesome.)

8. Become a pioneer (or explorer), not a settler or outlaw. Pioneers are researchers who come up with ideas, some of which are crazy, some of which are good. Think Steve Jobs. Explorers take the ideas and flesh them out. These R&D people challenge the ideas and put the worthy ones into practice. Settlers follow the crowd—these are the majority of people, none of whom seem to have a mind of their own. Outlaws are pessimistic and look back in the past. Lloyd says that, sadly, most outlaws are one-time pioneers who failed: They had too many crazy ideas shut down and became cynical. Don't let this happen to you.

9. Believe in yourself. Low self-esteem can eat away at you. Reignite your passion for testing and remember why you got into it. You can't win every battle, so pick your fights. See change as an opportunity, not a threat. Create good habits and set daily goals.

10. Take time to sharpen your axe. Be brave and try new experiences. Enjoy the little things in life. And become a champion in what you do.

Do you want to simply survive? Or do you want to thrive and have passion in your job?