Friday, July 18, 2008

Agile Tester Skills

A StickyMinds column by Johanna Rothman about exploratory testing on agile projects prompted a discussion about what skills agile testers need on the agile-testing mailing list.

Janet Gregory posted this response, I thought it was insightful.

Johanna talks about the perfect tester skills but acknowledges generalists without coding skills may have a place. I have seen a few teams where none of the testers had coding skills, but worked with the developers to create the automation framework using FIT or some other similar tool.
If the team works closely, and develops a framework that the 'non-coding' testers can use easily, the testers can be very productive. I do agree that it helps the team if the testers can code, but it is not absolutely necessary. Because the whole team is responsible for quality, the whole team usually can solve any problem.
I think that some of the most valuable skills a 'tester' can bring to the table, are critical thinking and understanding of the big picture - implications of proposed changes. Exploratory testing helps to expose issues if testers have those skills, and can use them properly.

She adds in a later post:
I didn't take it one step farther which is to say, that many of the "manual" testers who started using the spreadsheets for Ruby/watir implementation, eventually got comfortable enough to start understanding the code and actually doing some of their own scripting. That shows initiative and proves that everyone is capable of learning :-)
I do think it is absolutely beneficial to understand scripting and coding, and I do encourage learning those skills. I think testers will go so much farther if they do. However, it is important that we don't discourage those testers that don't have any coding skills when they first come to an agile team. I guess those are the testers I work with mostly.

I've worked with "manual" testers who were happy to learn new skills such as automation when given the time and support they needed. I've met so many teams where the testing team freaked out when the development organization adopted agile. Telling testers they need these skills they've possibly never had the chance to acquire is not going to help with the transition.

I also know lots of testers who had no interest in learning new skills or improving. People like that won't fit on an agile team, for sure. But anyone who gets excited about agile and wants to work on an agile team is worth a bit of investment, in my book.

1 comment:

Levi said...

OMG. That is exactly what we are dealing with. In regards to the StickyMinds article we have been arguing that the testers/QA SCRUM team members should not have to learn code. The Dev Lead/Product Owner/SCRUm master says we should learn code. This is a huge debate in our company right now. Can you post where this article can be found?