Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Questions You Wished You Had Asked

There is a discussion going on over on the LinkedIn group for the Software Testing Club, and I decided to participate in it. The topic?

"What questions were you afraid to ask when you started your career in software testing?"

 I had a pat answer because of something that was happening at the time, and it was the first thing I thought of, but after I responded, I realized there were more questions I wished I'd asked back in those early days.

As many of you know, and as I have mentioned, my route to testing came in an indirect way. I didn't plan to be a tester, and in many ways, I don't think many people actually do plan to be testers. It's a career that tends to pick them, I think. Still, when I started, there were a lot of questions that, for various reasons, I really didn't ask, in part because I didn't want to tip off how ignorant I was (and looking back now, was totally stupid of me, because we are frequently ignorant of issues in any product, and the only way to learn is to ask). So if I were to talk with a new tester, someone who wanted to understand what was going on, and wanted to be a better tester, here's a list of questions I'd encourage them to ask (and always ask, frankly):

  • Why am I here?
  • What value to the development process do I provide?
  • How can I best serve the development team (and please do not interpret that as "how can I not rock the boat and just keep everything mellow")?
  • Is there really a value to a voluminous test plan?
  • Does anyone actually read these (voluminous test plans)?
  • Why do we spend so much time documenting what we are going to do and almost no time actually doing it?
  • Is there a better way to do this?
  • Who is our customer?
  • Will what we are making help them, or hinder them?
  • Have I really thought of everything that I can consider to effectively examine this [fill in the blank]?
  • What's my story?

Am I missing a bunch of possible questions in there? Yes, I am. I could come up with a huge list of "automation vs. manual" or "scripted vs. exploratory" or "waterfall vs. Agile", but ultimately, I think the above questions would be great for any tester to ask. Ask them at the beginning of your career. Ask them after several years experience. Ask them when you are a senior player. Ask them when you manage others. Ultimately, though, I think all of these questions can best be summed up in the start of a question. Two words. Words that I think Ajay Balamurugadas has encapsulated well in his e-book, and that you might appreciate and should consider more often, too.

That question?

"What if...?" 

See where that one leads you ;).

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