Friday, June 11, 2010

(8/12) All I Ever Needed to Know About Testing I Learned in Scouts

This is the eighth of a 12 part series.

As many of you know, outside of testing and raising a family, my single biggest time commitment is being a Boy Scout Leader. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen and heard various presentations regarding a code of ethics around (teaching, development, testing, governance, fill in the blank). Each time I’ve heard or read these statements I’ve caught myself saying the same thing… “If everyone just lived by the Scout Law, we wouldn’t need this patchwork blanket of ethics rules and codes of conduct”.

My “challenge” now is to see if I really could map Testing to the Twelve Points of the Scout Law.

Note: these twelve points are those as defined by the Boy Scouts of America; while the Scout Law is similar in all countries that have Scouting movements, the wording is often a little different depending on the country.

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent”

A Tester is… Cheerful

When I talk to Scouts about Cheerful, it doesn’t mean that I say “be happy all the time”, because that isn’t realistic. The cool thing is, though, that when I look at most Scouts, they are naturally cheerful. It’s hard to keep them down. There’s a natural optimism that exists with them and in most cases, life tends to just roll off of them. Scouts tend to want to have opportunities, and to explore those opportunities. Given that state, it’s fairly easy to remain cheerful and upbeat. Even when life gets in the way, so long as the opportunities exist, and there’s a chance they can go out and pursue them, Scouts tend to keep their focus, enjoy what comes their way and make the most of the situations at hand.

As testers, don’t we tend to want the same things? I don’t expect the world to go my way every day every time, but I want to at least have the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Given opportunity to advance and learn and grow and get involved with projects that challenge me, I tend to stay cheerful and optimistic. Are there times that that cheerfulness and optimism gets tried? Absolutely, but I also feel that pessimism has no place in the tester’s attitude. I realize that may sound strange… how can there be no pessimism when a tester’s very existence is to find out what’s wrong with a system? What I mean is that, while we are trying to determine if there are issues, that’s not our sole focus, and really shouldn’t be. If we get into the trap of only focusing on the negative aspects of a product, we tend to start viewing ourselves and our jobs negatively. We are the troublemakers; we are the ones that always find the problems. We are the ones that are seen as the hindrance to products not being released on time. It’s easy to get a sense of pessimism if we are not careful. In my view embracing the “Law” of Cheerfulness goes a long way towards preventing or at least deflecting those feelings and attitudes. Even if others want to view us by those stereotypes, there’s no rule that says we have to view ourselves the same way.

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