Software Testing is one of the least known professions in the tech field. Most likely you have come across people who have performed a “checking” exercise and they equate it with “testing”. That really does dilute our value and it is important to take those teaching moments to let them know they performed a “checking” exercise to make sure that basic functionality did not break; however testing is much more complicated. This might lead to the question of:
- Do you think I can be a Tester?
- What does a Tester do?
- Do you have a job opening in your Testing department?
These are great opportunities to educate people regardless if they become a Tester. We all need to come up with our elevator pitch when asked about the testing field. An elevator pitch is basically a short summary that can be provided in about 30-seconds.
Here are a few ideas to get started and the above articles provide more details.
- What is his experience with Testers and what is his observation on their role? This can be helpful in correcting any misunderstandings as many people think Testers are the “Quality Police”. Another situation is the type of testing he witnessed at another company – for example that company may use test cases whereas another company is using session-based testing. Best to clarify any differences upfront.
- What does he enjoy doing? What are his career aspirations? If his goal is to implement company-wide solutions then a testing career might not be for him. But be careful about discouraging someone because a testing career could help him for other opportunities or he might find he really loves the field. A Tester’s skills crosses so many areas such as problem solving, critical thinking, risk analysis and mitigation, report writing, troubleshooting among many others.
- Take a personal approach to the conversation. Spend some time discussing why you became a Tester; why you enjoy the field; what do you find challenging about testing; what advice you would give a new Tester. Set a bit of background about the field before discussing how to perform testing. Have a few of the Testers share the same information. Perhaps have a small gathering of Testers meet with him to have this conversation. Make it informal so it does not feel forced and be sure to give the person opportunities to ask questions.
- Is he an employee of your company? Perhaps he can spend some time in the Testing department. Just be careful because if he does not understand testing then he might be overwhelmed with both what is testing and the product under test. There is a risk that this could discourage him from a career he might enjoy since he will not be going through the typical training program.
- Identify a tool or application he uses to demonstrate how to test a piece of functionality. Such as FaceBook, Twitter or anything that he is familiar with so his focus is on learning the testing piece. In the November article are a couple of mind maps on bridging the training.
None of these suggestions are fool-proofed and it is important to tailor the approach to the person. Hopefully this will provide a few ideas to prepare for these conversations. Plus be sure to come up with a Testing elevator pitch to be ready at any time to discuss “what is Testing”.
What is your Testing Elevator Pitch?
How do you explain a Tester’s responsibilities to someone who has no idea?
One aspect of management that I have always enjoyed is sponsoring an internship program. I have sponsored these programs for software testers, business analysts, and other technical professionals. I love working with college students to help them discover a new field or expand their knowledge in a discipline they have chosen.
One comment I hear is how difficult it is to find good testers. Those of us who live in the “rust belt” region understand the challenges. Recently I watched Erik Davis “CAST Live” discussion on this problem. Click here to hear what Erik has to say about the problem. One option to this problem is to start an internship program that may allow you to fill open positions and help educate people what testing is really about. In this posting I am sharing some guidelines that helped me start a program.
Things to Consider
Before starting an internship program consider the following points in relation to the length of the internship program:
If you do not have time to properly train or work with the intern then perhaps sponsoring a program is not a good idea.
Job Posting and Local Colleges
Write a brief job posting of what you are hoping to achieve from the internship and any basic requirements. Contact your local colleges to understand what departments may have students that meet your objectives. Many times they want a job posting to send out to their students. I have found that some colleges are great sources for filling a short-term internship whereas others are better at fulfilling internships with students who are interested in future employment.
Paid Versus Not-Paid
Sometimes the student will receive college credit for the internship. Companies may offer an hourly rate to encourage students to apply. I recommend that you pay your interns. Often the college student needs the money for tuition, books, and living expenses. Plus if you define your internship correctly as to expectations and find the right interns, you should receive testing beyond checking exercises.
When interviewing the students, remember they may not have a lot of experience to discuss so your approach needs to be different. Scale back the intensity of the questions you ask. Spend time talking about the testing field and the role they will fulfill in your company. Most likely they will not know anything about testing. And many people think of testers as checkers. Try to tap into something they enjoy (ie., playing video games, Facebook) and relate it to the testing field. I often start interns with regression testing and easy bug fixes. I let them know their role can be expanded based upon how quickly they learn and their desire to take on more responsibility.
I usually look for students with good work ethics and show an interest in learning more about our product. If you have any younger testers who may relate to the students, consider pairing them with a more experience tester during the interview. This provides the younger tester with interviewing experience. Plus he may relate to the student talking about his initial experience entering the work place as a tester.
Review your current testing onboarding program. Identify important areas that the intern will need to successfully complete his assignments. Try to narrow it down to what he really needs to not overwhelm him. You can always provide him with additional training material throughout the program. If you had a younger tester part of the interview process, talk to him about his initial job experiences. What helped him? What would have helped him? The great part of going through this exercsie for an intern is you can expand this approach when you hire testers straight out of college!
It is helpful to identify a mentor for the intern to ask questions. If you are the manager or team leader you may not always be available to assist him. Having a dedicated contact is beneficial to the learning process.
Look for testing assignments that are contained in scope and are easier to learn. If your department test reports, identify an easier report to train him. Provide a demo on the report’s functionality and then identify small testing assignments ensuring you provide sufficient guidance. Do not provide too much structure to your training program so you can adjust it based upon how quickly the intern learns. I have found that some interns have a natural appitude for testing and transition into a software testing job. While others may enjoy the internship but will pursue a different career path.
Have you worked with any interns? How did it go?