As a tester, while striving for the impossible goal of perfect software, I sometimes feel stupid. How valuable am I to the team? Do I really have any hard skills different than the next guy? Am I a testing failure?

I feel stupid when…

  • production bugs have to be patched (the kind I should have caught).
  • devs talk about code or architecture I don’t understand.
  • non-testers log bugs.
  • I have to execute brainless tests that the guy on the street could execute.
  • I can’t remember if I tested a certain scenario and my executed test documentation is incomplete.
  • the team celebrates individual dev accomplishments for feature sets and QA is not recognized.
  • my bug is rejected by dev for a legitimate reason.
  • I read a software testing blog post about some tester with 95% of her tests automated.

As a fellow tester, maybe you have felt stupid at times too. Feeling stupid is not fun and eventually will lead to disliking your job. I guess there are two solutions; 1.) find a new job or 2.) try not to feel stupid.

I talk my way out of feeling stupid as a tester the same way I do outside of work during conversations with doctors, physicists, CEOs or other potentially intimidating experts of some field. I remember that everyone is an expert at something…just something different. In the examination room, the doctor may be the expert at prescribing the treatment, but put the doctor and me at the bottom of a 300-foot-deep pit in a wet cave, and suddenly the doctor is asking me for help (I’m a caver).

When it comes to testing, we don’t know the same things the developers or BAs know but we shouldn’t feel stupid about it. It doesn’t mean we should stop learning, we just need to put things in perspective instead of feeling inadequate. Faking your knowledge is way worse than saying “I don’t know”.

Don’t second guess your skills as a tester.

In a future post, I'll tell you when I feel awseome as a tester.

13 comments:

  1. Tony Bruce said...

    You need the bad to have the good.

  2. Dez said...

    YAY! It's not just me. Thanks for making me feel part of a group instead of all alone in a fog of stupidity.

  3. Michael said...

    What if we adjusted some language here?

    When I find out that "production bugs have to be patched (the kind I should have caught)", I might feel embarrassed. But I also feel human. I'm not perfect.

    When I read "devs talk about code or architecture I don’t understand", I feel intrigued and excited, and maybe a little innocent. That's okay; they weren't born knowing this stuff either.

    When "non-testers log bugs", I feel good that at least someone found the problem, and that we know about it now. I would like to have found it. Oh well; I hope I've learned something for next time.

    When "I have to execute brainless tests that the guy on the street could execute", I feel disempowered. It doesn't take long for me to work my way out of that problem. Plus, I feel motivated to observe something more than what the brainless tests tell me to observe.

    When "I can’t remember if I tested a certain scenario and my executed test documentation is incomplete", again, I feel human. I'm not perfect. Ideally, I feel humble.

    When "the team celebrates individual dev accomplishments for feature sets and QA is not recognized", I feel resentful. Or I can choose to feel confident that they couldn't have done it without me. I don't need another coffee mugh.

    When "my bug is rejected by dev for a legitimate reason", I feel like I've learned something.

    When "I read a software testing blog post about some tester with 95% of her tests automated", I feel proud for them, motivated to learn more, but confident that my approach is the best one for me in my context. I also wonder what bugs found by other people are going to raise feelings in them.

    I'm not saying that anyone is wrong to feel a certain way; people will feel as they do. But there are always alternatives when we try to think congruently with the state of the world and ourselves.

    ---Michael B.

  4. Rob Lambert said...

    Eric,

    Nice post. I think you have encapsulated how many testers feel.

    There are indeed skills that each member of the team possess that the other don't. A good team is one that recognises that.

    I think it is natural for testers to feel stupid at times. O'm glad I'm not alone.

  5. Eric Jacobson said...

    Michael,

    That's some damn good therapy. Thank you, doctor. Should I call you in the morning?

    Seriously, the next time I feel stupid, I will try to convert that feeling into said suggestions.

  6. testalways said...

    Yeah I feel stupid also sometimes and that is a good list! :)
    But think it this way also: most of dev today are morons, do simple stuff, not all are the hippie hardcore programmer type.
    The work others do is not all the time useful. Even if someone implements something is not useful unless its sold to a customer that will come back again later.
    I think its like 20/80 % rule here.

  7. Anonymous said...

    Jeez, I've experienced feeling stupid for every single one of the reasons you've listed! Thanks, it makes me feel better that other testers sometimes feel the same way.

    The one that I'm struggling with now is the "other groups getting praise while testing efforts go ignored". In our company, it's consulting and sales that get the praise. We get emails from our CEO to the whole company - "Thanks to Joe, Bob, and Lisa, we made a huge sale to X client!". But there has never been an email to the whole company saying "Thanks to Gina on the testing team for finding a critical bug that could have lost us a major client!". It is frustrating sometimes, when you work just as hard as anybody else in the company, and other people get praise and all the testers get is grief for the bugs that slipped through.

    If I sit around waiting for praise in order to feel good about my job, I'll go crazy, because it's not likely to happen. In order to cope, I've decided that I'm just going to look at it this way - my job is to make other people look good! If other people are getting praise for selling the software, well, part of that praise belongs to me too, in an indirect way. Kind of like, when you go to a restaurant and you tip your waiter/waitress, a percentage of the tip goes to the hostess. Or, like Batman... :)

    Anyway, thanks for writing this post, I totally get you on all points.

  8. Chia Wei said...

    I thought I am the only one who feel that some of the tests I do are just stupid and boring. Thanks, glad to to know that I am not alone LOL

  9. Marc Vaughan said...

    Personally I never expect my testers to be perfect, but I value them highly and my products wouldn't be as good without their hard work.

  10. Anonymous said...

    You probably are an idiot. Testers are definitely in the way the majority of the time. They are not even part of the agile development phenomenon. Oh well.

  11. Gaurav said...

    I used to feel the same till I got myself trained on automated testing. Now I work as a Developer in Test and dont feel stupid anymmore. There are lot of misconceptions about manual software testing plus there are so many ignorant people out there who think software testing is all about bashing at the keyboard and some people think that its not really a career option but a path to become a developer or a business analyst. My suggestion to you would be to stop calling yourself a 'tester'. Think yourself a 'Quality Analyst' or a 'QA Engineer'. Trust me it will help

  12. Eric Jacobson said...

    "You probably are an idiot. Testers are definitely in the way the majority of the time. They are not even part of the agile development phenomenon. Oh well."

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience with testers. But thanks for sharing. I suggest you fire the testers that get in the way and find some that help improve your product.

  13. Anonymous said...

    LOL, from time to time, i felt like that too. And do you remember DEV are god. If QA got frustrated, Dev will said it is OUR personality.

    Damn, Dev just the smartness people on earth, really? Btw, i forgot before we release the software, Dev just have hundreds of bug that be found in a sprint. Dev, you look good!

    But because of the culture of dev, I will quit QA soon and join the mighty power DEV. Plus, don't forget QA has no bonus, DEV get it all!



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