Editor’s Note: We asked Peter Spitzer, Test Manager at Tricentis and winner of Test and Measurement World’s Test Engineer of the Year award in 2013, to share the 10 most common mistakes that testers make. Overseeing an ever growing team of testers, Peter is no stranger to the process of training novices into world class testers. His answers confirm the old truth: software testing is as much an art as it is a science.
1. Fail to communicate
Communication is key to Software development, and therefore also to Software testing.
One of the most important skills a Tester needs to have is the ability to communicate well. He or she needs to be able to express what they are thinking or doing to many different audiences – Developers, Test Managers, Product Owners, etc., all of whom have a different view of the problem. If a tester isn’t aware of this, they’ll be in trouble pretty quick.
2. Try to fix the bug yourself
This is a basic and fundamental rule of testing: don’t try to do the developers work. It’s his job to find the root causes of the problem by debugging and fixing it. Don’t mislead the developer by giving him wrong assumptions. As a tester you need to be precise and give exact information to the developers.
3. Assume you are a multi-tasking expert
This is a “skill” people assume they have, but believe me, multitasking will not help you finish your work sooner. On the contrary, it will thwart you. You’ll finish your work faster by focusing on one work item after another.
Like with most deadline driven work, at the end of a test cycle several people will throw the work onto your desk and urge you to finish the work yesterday rather than today. Don’t fall into the trap of starting all the work at once. Estimate, prioritize, check, and then finish the work piece by piece. All your “customers” (that gave you work) will be fine with your prioritization and the finish date you give them.
4. Be afraid of asking questions
“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions” – Claude Levi-Strauss
There is no stupid question. Be patient, listen, understand the big picture, and ask the right questions. If I were to stop asking questions I would stop learning and therefore stop improving my knowledge and skills. This quality is one that divides the good testers from the best testers.
5. Give In (quickly)
Every tester will have witnessed this: At some stage during testing (usually at the end of a test phase) you get “forced” to ignore risk, give a thumbs-up for release, or close a defect because it’s not “easy to reproduce” and needs a lot of work from someone else. Never give in on such suggestions.
You are the dauntless defender of quality and you want to deliver the best product on earth. This doesn’t mean that you should insist on a bug fix for every minor Issue. You should be certain that the issue is not likely to affect the final outcome and be graceful enough to concede.
6. Stop learning
Software testing is a huge and continually adapting field where it is impossible to have “seen everything”. Every day you’ll be faced with new situations/challenges where you have to prove that you are willing to learn and improve your testing skills.
7. Ignore your intuition
Once you have a couple of years under your belt in testing you’ll find out that you can “smell” bugs. You develop a certain 7th sense for the bug’s hideouts.
Some people prefer not to call it intuition and prefer the term “work experience” instead. I don’t really care how you call it, all I can tell you is that my intuition never lets me down and makes my work that much easier. Sometimes you’ll even be able to raise a problem before they actually become a defect in your product. Believe me, the developers will love you for your valuable feedback in the design phase and invite you to every important design meeting in the future.
8. Begin testing before understanding the scope and requirements
I love structured procedures – that’s probably one of the reasons why I love my job. I know that feeling when there’s a new feature implemented – and you can’t wait to get your fingers on it to search for those nasty bugs. You walk home that day with a smile on your face knowing “I saved a customer’s life today”. But it’s crucial to understand the scope and the requirements of a new product before you start testing.
You should read specifications, talk to the Developers or Product Owner, or use a quick exploratory test session to gather all the information you need to start with a structured and sophisticated test approach. It’s fundamental to know what you are doing and what to do next.
9. Worry about making mistakes
It’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake.
When I was a kid my mom often told me “mistakes are there to be done – as long as you learn out of them they are the best thing that can happen to you”. This also applies to mistakes in software testing. You can only make mistakes when you “travel new paths” – which means that you are learning, acquiring new skills, and becoming a better tester.
Testers especially feel the burden of this, owing to the fact that any and all issues in production are attributed to bad testing. Do not worry about that, pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Just listen to my mom and make sure that you never, ever make the same mistake again!!
10. Forget to organize the release party
“Work hard – party hard”. Every testing project should have a party at the end. I’ll leave it up to your imagination and budget. 🙂
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