Many people do not think about Software Testing as a career. In fact many do not even know the field exists nor how rewarding and challenging it is to be a Software Tester. There is not a degree in Software Testing so many people applying for the job are not really sure what we do. It does make me contemplate how I learned to test. In my earlier days I was trained as a Cobol programmer. As part of my training I learned how to create flowcharts; test my own code (negative, positive, boundary testing); validate the records returned at each data set; and review the raw data to ensure it was processed correctly at each step. The assignments were difficult and our documentation was expected to be perfect. If you made one mistake in your flowchart you lost a grade level. At the time it seemed very harsh to me, but I now understand the discipline was necessary to help us work through a problem. In those days we worked through the assignment by creating a flowchart. From there I worked as a programmer in different capacities that included finance, human resources, and securities. Sometimes we received written requirements, but most times we needed to work with the requestor to understand what s/he needed. Other times we wrote code for production systems or consolidated programs for efficiency that often required reading in a dozen or more files. We needed to understand the file layouts, the data, and how to merge the files to ensure we did not duplicate records. Basically we gathered our requirements, wrote the code, and tested it. We did not have a testing department – sometimes you could get another programmer or a business user to help with the testing.
I was often the liaison with the Information Technology department on the behalf of the business community. I could speak both languages. This afforded me opportunities to test the output of the IT department projects such as an employee change form that automatically filled in data based upon pre-defined information. While working in Human Resources we implemented an application tracking system to handle the large amount of resumes received for opened positions. This afforded opportunities to help define the requirements and “test” the commercial-off-the-shelf products to determine if they met our needs. As object-oriented programming became more popular or perhaps better known, we were hearing more about Java, Oracle, and data warehousing. During that time I started a new job to start a software development department and we did it all. We wrote requirements, developed the code, and tested it. Over time I moved into a role to start a Software Testing department. And we performed a lot of different roles including business analysis, software testing, training, and implementation.
I will always value my days as a programmer because it helped shaped my career. Plus when I talk to the developers I have an appreciation for their struggles and can visualize what they are trying to achieve. I find myself translating what they say to how I would code the solution. Through all this, I realized I was a born tester as I view my world through my testing eyes. It can be difficult to explain to those who are not passionate about testing. As an example, when something does not work in our house I automatically think about the business requirements, how it might have been developed, and tested. Immediately I want to study and test the problem to find any patterns to the failures. When there is an upgrade to our DVD, I start to “test” the new features. What happens if I try this, or try that? What is the logical flow and how can I take what I know about software standards to learn more about the upgrade. I tend to not read manuals – I jump in and start with exploratory testing. I start with learning at a high-level or the surface. How does it work? Then I will go deeper to understand the functionality. I tend to be a button-pusher; what happens when I click this button. As an example, when we moved into our house, we got a new stove. It had an electronic clock. While the delivery guy was still in the house, I went to the stove and started to push buttons to figure out how to set the time. The delivery guy was stunned. He asked how I knew that because they have customers calling them to find out how to set the time. Honestly, I do not know how I knew – I just did. And that is how it is with software testing. Some of us are born testers and some may not know – yet. There are just times when we know what to do when others are scratching their heads asking, “how did you know to do that?”
So what is your story on how you became a Software Tester? I would love to hear it.