Questions from the future

I did a guest lecture today at University of Washington’s Bothell campus.

It was for CSS 490 (“Software Testing”), taught by a colleague of mine named David Socha.

He handed out 3 x 5 cards to the students and asked them to come up with questions for me about testing.

In the interest of giving all of you fellow software professionals a glimpse into the mind of our future workforce, here is what they asked:

* I’m looking for a career in the gaming industry as a game programmer. I know software testing can help me as a game programmer but I want to learn more. Where do I start?

* Is it possible to work both as a tester and a developer?

* What certifications are industry standards?

* How do I get started as a tester, and also more interview questions / techniques?

* How much do testers make in comparison to devs?

* Is there a different approach to take when testing critical systems?

* What’s it really like to be a tester?

* Where do you get started?

* Can you tell us any interesting stories?

* What is the salary range for entry level, 5 years, 10 years?

* What are the working hours?

* Is the software testing job secure and stable?

* What is the major challenge?

* How do you know you’re a tester, not a developer?

* How much time a day does a tester spend documenting, coding, and testing?

* What are some testing career paths?

* What are the popular testing tools?

* During an interview how is a tester tested?

* What are the internship options around here?

* How do I get a tester job at entry level with no experience?

* What role does the PM have in testing?

* Is it a very stressful job?

* Can you give us some interview tips?

* What one thing can a dev do in coding to make things easier on a tester?

* Why should I be an SDET over an STE?

* What is the growth path for a tester at your company?

* What is the difference between a tester and an SDET?

* How do I write code in a way that is testable?

* How do I test my own code?

* How do I work with testers efficiently and in a friendly way to keep a positive relationship?

* What should I know to be a successful tester?

* How do you define a successful tester?

* What other college courses can help me become a tester?

* What’s it like if you have to work as a tester for a defense contractor in terms of ethics?

* Do testers work longer hours compared to other team members?

* Does paired testing result in better tests than individual testing?

* What’s a good answer to the classic “How would you test a soda machine?”

My next-to-last favorite:

* As a PM, how do I learn to like testers?

And my favorite… :

* Is testing depressing?

These questions would make Utest proud given their skill in asking questions for their “Testing the Limits” series.  In fact, I mentioned them today as an answer to “How do I get started with no experience?”  [ David Socha (the instructor) also mentioned mifos.org as a good way to build skill by volunteering. ]

Anyway, I’m sure we can build a whole conference around answering these, and I plan to do them service next time I’m asked to guest lecture (on Wednesday, actually). If you want to drop a dime on some of these, feel free to comment below and I’ll say to them: “This is what my colleagues had to say…”

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3 Responses to “Questions from the future”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    These are some seriously great questions, and can be generalized to just about any field.

    “How do I work with testers efficiently and in a friendly way to keep a positive relationship?” This question assumes that testers are some sort of alien life form. They aren’t. My thought on this is to pretend that you are a tester, and tell them what you would want and need to know in a way that you would be receptive to. Also, a plate of brownies helps.

    And to the person who asked, “What one thing can a dev do in coding to make things easier on a tester?”, you might not even need the plate of brownies.

  2. Ben Kelly Says:

    Hi Jon,
    Some very interesting questions there. Takes me way back to when I was in their shoes. Some of them seem to be questions from ancient history :P

    Let me take a stab at ‘How do you know you’re a tester, not a developer?’ which is sort of related to ‘Is it possible to work both as a tester and a developer?’

    I don’t know if there’s any one thing that defines you as a tester over a programmer. You may have a preference for one over the other. You may be better than one than the other and those two things may change over time.

    You can do both of these things. No reason why not, though I find that your own code often benefits from having someone else test, generally because it suffers from the same biases and assumptions that you do.

    For me, I grew up wanting to be a developer. I went to university, got my CompSci degree, but I was never the gun programmer I envisaged myself becoming. I was decent at finding problems in other people’s code. I should have twigged in high-school where one of my friends would always come to me and ask me to find ways to break his code. I almost always did. Over time it became a challenge. His code got stronger and as finding problems got harder, I got more creative. I fell into a testing role and immediately loved it. It wasn’t until then I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I just never realised it was an option before then.

    I believe it shows up in the way you think. Both are creative roles. Programmers try to create elegant solutions to non-trivial problems often in trying conditions. Testers play devil’s advocate and look at possible problems with the solution. We explore to find things other people have forgotten. Depending on which of these things you find more enjoyable, you’ll gravitate more toward one than the other.

  3. Lee Hawkins Says:

    Since it’s your favourite (and also a common question I’m faced with), I’ll take “Is testing depressing?”.

    There seems to be a misconception that testers have to be negative characters, always finding fault and nit-picking. The reality for the good tester – in the good environment – is that utilizing your power of critical thinking is anything but depressing, it’s genuinely rewarding. Not only are you then adding value to your team, but you’re also adding value for the customers – “making a difference” if you like.

    If, however, the tester is working in an unsupportive environment, performing rote tasks and treated as a second class member of the team then sure, it’s probably going to seem depressing. This is no different to any other ‘job’ then though, so is nothing unique to testing in my opinion. The good tester elevates themselves out of these situations by demonstrating their value and becoming more appreciated over time (and also has the sense to evict themselves from environments that don’t succomb to their value proposition).

    Testing is much more than fault-finding (a fact that seems to be gaining some concensus finally) and being a valued member of a team by making a difference to product quality is a rewarding place to be, not a depressing one.

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