When I turned 13 years old, my Dad said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  I already knew the answer.  “A software tester” I said!

Yeah, right. 

In fact, even in college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be.  I had enrolled in a new major called “Communication System Management” and was studying to be the guy responsible for company telephone and computer networks.  However, my internship put me to sleep.  All analytics and no people got boring fast.  The job interviews during my senior year were just as boring, despite getting flown around the country on several occasions.

So when a buddy of mine found me a job teaching software, which I had done part-time at Ohio University’s computer lab, I packed my stereo and clothes into my ‘85 Jetta and headed south, from Ohio to Atlanta.  It was good money back then. People were getting personal computers one their desks and they needed to learn how to use things like…email.  I went on to teach VBScript and AutoCAD and eventually taught proprietary telephone-office-update software for Lucent Technologies. 

As the new versions of the Lucent software rolled out, I trained the users, which put me in a unique position.  I could see first hand, which features the users liked and which they hated.  I was among the first to observe the software performance under load and capture the concurrency issues that occurred. 

This was in the late 90’s.  The programmers were doing the “testing” themselves.  But they realized I was getting good at providing feedback before they put their software in front of the users.  To better integrate me into the development team, the programmers asked me to write a piece of working software.  I wrote the team’s personal-time-off (vacation request) software in classic ASP and was officially accepted as part of the development team.  My main responsibility…was quality.

Thus, a software tester was born.  And I’ve been loving it ever since.

How did you become a tester?  What’s your story?

15 comments:

  1. Jim Grey said...

    I taught myself to write code when I was 14, back in the early 80s when that was still kind of unusual. I went to engineering school and got a Math/CS and hoped to get a job writing code, but the market was terrible. So I took the first software job I could get, which was as a tech writer -- and it turned out I liked it and was really good at it. So I did it for 12 years, eventually rising into management. And then I had an opportunity to lead a test team. Now, usually you start as a tester and work your way up, but I made a lateral move from tech writing management to test management. Not wanting to look like a complete moron in the role I learned everything I could about testing and got passably good at it. But more importantly, I got good at hiring really good testers. A little unusual path for me, but like you said, nobody grows up wanting to test software!

  2. David Greenlees said...

    I love these stories! Here's mine...

    http://www.es.sogeti.com/PageFiles/173/A%20tester's%20journey_David%20Greenlees.pdf

  3. Elena said...

    I've got my degree in Computer Science (it was 13 years ago), and tried to work as a software developer, but soon realized that I prefer testing activities and I'm much better as a tester than developer.As for me I've made a good choice :)

  4. Adrian@Tester said...

    That’s a nice story, but I wonder why didn’t you follow a development career? It seems to me that you could do that, what happened? :)

    My story so far could be traced back when I was 15-16 years old, and I really got involved in computer games…6 years later, during the 2nd year of college (Mathematics Informatics), don’t know why (maybe I got bored), I went to some interviews and got a job at a big computer games company.

    This should have been a temporary job…and so, 4 years later, I am still working as a software tester :). But I like software testing, I get to learn new things and technologies, also, it’s nice to break things that other people with more knowledge than you are creating!

  5. markrushton.com said...

    In the early 90's I left art school to work full time at a mutual fund company, doing manual account processing on a mainframe of imaged documents. I was exceptionally good at the work. Out of 350 or so people doing this work at the time, I was the most productive and in the top 3 most accurate, so I got offers to work various "pilots". One of these pilots was telecommuting. It just so happened that I lived in a certain part of a big city that had ISDN available (this was 1994), so I spent the next 18 months working with IT on security matters and other issues, doing my regular job, and providing feedback on the telecommuting experience. By 1996 I could tell that the web was going to eventually render my job obsolete, so I made the leap over to IT and software testing and I've been here ever since.

  6. rumadak said...

    Good to know how people end up as testers!
    During post-graduation, I got two jobs from campus placements, both as developers. I joined a company called Airvana as a developer. Worked only as 5 months and migrated to Australia in early 2009.
    After waiting for 5 months without a job, I got an opportunity in testing, which I resented at first. It did not take long for me to realise I can break things better than to make it.
    After 4+ years in testing , I feel everything happens for good!!

  7. Justin said...

    I followed a circuitous route into testing. I got a degree in English literature and intended to be a professor, but before my pipe and tweed jacket were ready, I instead veered into a short, unhappy career as a newspaper reporter serving a succession of sociopaths that eventually drove me out of journalism entirely and into technical writing. Somewhat to my surprise, I liked tech writing and seemed to have an aptitude for it. But after 10 years of it, I switched paths (again) into testing. As a tech writer, I tried to use and understand software I was documenting, and in the process sometimes did ad-hoc testing and filed occasional bugs --I found myself enjoying that aspect of tech writing more than the actual writing. Too, I was plagued with a sense of either fatalism or pragmatism that made the change appealing (the company I worked for was unstable and went through a depressingly regular series of layoffs, and the general demand for testers seemed to be much greater than for tech writers, so I figured I'd have better luck finding a new job as a tester after a layoff. My paranoia proved sadly justified). Then a lucky circumstance arose in which the QA manager for the project I worked on wanted to add a tester to the team; I knew the product quite well, so I approached him and he enthusiastically brought me on. So I gave testing a try, enjoyed it, and have stuck with it for 7 years now with no regrets.

  8. Dan said...

    How did I become a software tester?

    It all started during the 2nd year of college (Mathematics-Informatics) when I really needed some cash to pay the college taxes. Some friend of mine suggested getting a job as a game tester. So I went to a game tester interview and got hired. For the 1st year in this company, it was amazing (new technologies, the corporate feeling, the USA company feeling), but when I've started to gain experience and QA knowledge, I wanted a new challenge. Some career opportunities appeared in this company, but immediately I've realized that the promotions for that kind of job opportunities were made based on the friendship and not on employee skills. That disappointed me and I couldn't realize why I'm not getting promoted, when everybody was telling me that I'm the right person for that opportunity, my skills are the exactly what that opportunity needs, my evaluation rank recommends for that opportunity. But I've opened my eyes and after 4 opportunities like this, were other people got promoted because they knew the right person, I've changed my perspective about the company.

    Also the fact that I was giving my best to do my job and my evaluations got the higher rank but the salary raise was the same with the raise that an average tester got left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. So I've received a job opportunity for a software tester. After 3 interviews I was hired and started my journey as a software tester and I don't regret the choice I've made.

  9. Lanessa Hunter said...

    Like you, I discovered "all analytics and no people got boring fast." I relished my B.S. studies in environmental science, with a mix of classes in ethics, civil engineering, lots of chemistry, ecology, biology…and was extremely depressed and anxious in my only programming class, FORTRAN! I left Auburn, Alabama, and went on to work as several flavors of a scientist over the span of 2 years and 2 states - environmental microbiologist, research and development technician in a food ingredients company, risk assessment scientist at an environmental engineering firm. It was the late 90's when I shifted gears to get out of being confined by myself with samples, data, or formulas. Thanks to the suggestion from a fellow classmate, I joined a large IT consulting firm as a business process analyst/programmer, was trained in C++, began actual work on a data conversion project and later built web applications for health care organizations, large and small. We analyst/programmers were responsible not only for unit testing, but also integration and user acceptance testing. Putting it all together and making sure it worked was fun. The quality aspect, making sure what I/we built was going to be done right and make my teammates and the customer happy, brought me the most satisfaction. After 4 years in IT working primarily out of Atlanta, I was ready to be closer to family and on the Gulf of Mexico again. When presented with an opportunity to interview in North Florida for either a programmer or tester long-term role, I easily chose the latter.

    Things come back around full circle for me though. After 10 years of not programming, of solely testing, I am starting again as a junior "prog" so that I can increase my capacity to contribute to testing. A big part of this is me working with passionate "devs" on interesting products and cloud-based services. When I was biting my finger nails and losing sleep over my FORTRAN class, if someone would have told me I would be working "with computers" and loving it in a few years, I would have thought they were crazy! Fortunately, a testing career takes care of my analytical, creative, and social sides - the scientific me which wants to understand things, the creative me that likes to make things, and the social me which loves working with an eclectic bunch of smart people.

    Thanks for the reflections! :)

  10. Lanessa Hunter said...

    I relished my B.S. studies in environmental science, with a mix of classes in ethics, civil engineering, lots of chemistry, ecology, biology, and one lone programming class (FORTRAN). I left Alabama, and went on to work as several flavors of a contract scientist for a couple of years - environmental microbiologist, research and development technician in a food ingredients company, risk assessment scientist at an environmental engineering firm. Like you, I discovered "all analytics and no people got boring fast." It was the late 90's when I shifted gears to get out of working mostly by myself with samples, data, or formulas.

    Thanks to the suggestion from a fellow Auburn classmate, I joined a large IT consulting firm as a business process analyst/programmer, began work primarily out of Atlanta, on a data conversion project and later built web applications for health care organizations, large and small. Analysts/programmers were responsible not only for unit testing, but also integration and user acceptance testing. After 4 years, I knew I enjoyed finding and investigating bugs more than coding, so when presented with an opportunity to interview in North Florida for either a programmer or tester long-term role, I easily chose the latter.

  11. Kaz said...

    I allways wanted to work in IT, but developing wasn't fun for me. On last year of my study I learnt jmeter during my practises. From that moment I knew that I will become a tester. I'm testing on many ways. But my real hobby is performance :).

    Thanks for other great stories :) good luck

  12. Anonymous said...

    There is that running joke at software quality conferences, where every speaker starts with "I got a tester, because I was a not good enough as software developer" ;-)

  13. Agata Szybowska said...

    I became tester by accident, like most people :)

    Though I like to think, I was testing before I knew it can be a job!

    Since I remember I always had some access to the computers. Since it was still pre-internet times, and games bored me, I used to break them ("what will happen if I change this setting?"). It helped that I didn't know English at a time, while there was no language packs.

    Being around 15 years old I jumped into more serious "IT". I started hanging around with guys who though it was cute to teach me Linux, I was learning some simple coding over summer holidays, and so on. I liked bits of everything, but I wasn't stuck on any of it enough to consider it as my future. Until today, I like to mix things up and combine technichal and business worlds (and isn't that what testing is often about?).

    At the same time, several people caught on to me asking for opinions about their work (mostly graphics, photos, web sites). I could not just lie to them with "wow, it's awesome", while I honestly thought it was ugliest piece I saw in a long time. At the same time, I was always pretty emphatetic and didn't want to hurt their feelings. The tester was born :)

    First real IT work was combining testing, customer support, and some other (sometimes strange things). It was entry-level, they didn't ask for experience, as long as I could use computer, speak English and didn't expect big salary. From then on, I never had a non-tester job.

  14. The Rain Maker said...

    I did not like scrum meetings, as a developer I was treated like a criminal, worked 10 times harder than the QA guy, always under the gun and blamed for and was not respected for the stress and hardwork.

    I LOVE QA. blame someone else and get $$$$$

  15. Anonymous said...

    UK 1990's- for me a computer was for games. I had no desire to study IT or anything related.
    I actually studied for Dentistry but failed to get the grades and for some reason ended up doing Computer Science at university. Was rubbish at programming, don't think my brain was "programmed" that way, wanted to become a BA. Just about passed my degree, did not know anything about testing, got a job in a bank in the call centre, applied for a secondment to the test team as it was related to my degree. I have made all the rookie mistakes a tester does early in their career. Worked my way into a consultancy, traveled the UK, worked up into Test lead and then Test manager, can't travel right now due to family expansion and now head up the test division for a marketing research company from scratch, getting better now at programming too :)



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