Testing Sucks. I hate Testing.

You may know the situation; you are at a conference (or meetup) and you get talking to someone who says they “hate testing”. What do you do?

  1. Run away?
  2. Tell them to “man-up” and stop complaining?
  3. Join them in a whinge about Testing?

There are many other potential answers, but another one I’ve started doing recently is asking two simple questions. I’ll come to those two questions later.

Too many people say they hate Testing when in actual fact it can be the software itself, or the domain they are working in, or the methodology they are using. I strongly believe that you do your best testing when you “commit with passion” [1] to doing a good job. I also believe that to “commit with passion” (and therefore do your best work) you have to have some affinity to the product you are testing.

There are a number of factors that affect our motivation towards our jobs and the products we work on. These include, but are not limited to:

  • company culture and ethos
  • peers and co-workers
  • management structure
  • testing approach
  • restrictive systems and processes
  • technology stack
  • company benefits and rewards.
  • and many more

I believe that having an affinity with the product we are testing brings out the best in us. I believe that many testers who complain about testing are complaining about the factors above in varying combinations, but more often than not, they are complaining about the product they are testing.

Over the last few years I’ve made a conscious effort to talk to testers at events/conferences that plainly don’t want to be there. Many of them have indeed indicated that they hate testing.

When asked two simple questions though they fundamentally start to think differently about their “hatred” of testing. It’s not scientific, but it’s enough to give me hope that we can start to change some hearts and minds, one tester at a time.

The questions I ask anyone who says they hate their testing job are:

  1. What is your favourite piece of software?
  2. Would your view of testing change if you were testing this favourite software instead?

Most people smile and answer question two with a big fat yes. Yes it would.

It’s a very leading question and no doubt testing their favourite product conjures up images of a culture, approach and financial situation different to their current one, but a significant part of this vision or thought is most likely that they get to test a product that they enjoy, understand and can relate to in an environment that suits their personal style and preferences. (this vision may never meet reality…but it’s worth a try)

One person I spoke to a year ago was testing banking software and he hated it. I asked him the questions above and he said he liked “social media” software and would love to test it. A month or so ago I saw him again. He’s now working for a start-up blog aggregation company and he loves it.

That’s not to say that working on “social” software is better than banking software, but each of us is naturally more interesting in certain domains than others. Some would never dream of working in the aerospace industry, but others flourish in this industry. Some are drawn to start-ups pushing stuff out of the door and building on modern tech, others are drawn to corporate mega giants with miles of red tape and out-dated tech. Each to their own.

So next time you meet someone who says they hate testing it’s worth asking them whether it is “testing” they hate, or the product they are testing.

[1] – Commit with passion is a term used in the book The Jazz Process – http://www.jazzprocess.com/book/

10 Replies to “Testing Sucks. I hate Testing.”

  1. In answer to you first question, if someone said they hated testing my first reaction would be to ask “why?”, to understand what sort of testing they hated. I can’t say I get a kick out of working long hours to create pointless, shelfware test plans that will be overtaken by events before all the stakeholders have signed them off.

    You’re right of course that if testers genuinely love, or are even interested in software then they’ll be far more engaged, enthusiastic and effective.

    I’m not sure the answer is necessarily to chase after a product that seems more attractive. Sometimes the answer is to change ourselves rather than changing jobs. I suspect this is related to a wider problem in IT that we often don’t really think about what our software is doing and why it is important. I’ve always found businesses far more interesting when I’ve taken the trouble to understand why the software is valuable, and how it helps the business to survive and thrive. If you just look at the software itself without considering the bigger picture then most things are boring.

    1. Hi James,

      “I’m not sure the answer is necessarily to chase after a product that seems more attractive. Sometimes the answer is to change ourselves rather than changing jobs.”

      Interesting insight and I couldn’t agree more. In fact I have a follow up to this post with one about accepting the product but working out how to get the most from it, yourself and the culture you find yourself in. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting

      Rob

  2. Interesting viewpoint – one of the things I really really like about my current job is that I’m getting exposure to a whole range of domains and industries I never knew about.

    Might be more the culture than the domain – in your example I expect a social media startup to have a completely different working environment to a bank.

    You might end up testing a domain you have a real interest in – but if the people you are working with aren’t a good match then it’s likely the job might still suck…

    1. Hi Phil,

      For sure. I think the product often reflects the kind of team behind it though. When we think about some products we automatically image the culture and ethos that *might* sit behind it. It might not be right and hence we could certainly end up working on a product we love, but with people we don’t 🙂

      Thanks for commenting Phil.

      Rob

  3. Rob,

    Another great post.

    I have a hunch (that I freely admit is completely and utterly unfounded from absolutely zero actual “research”) that that top 3 reasons people “hate” testing are, in order:

    1) The methodologies the tester is using are relatively soul-crushing / demotivating / (e.g., filled with obvious time-wasting actions in many places)

    2) The overall working environment the tester is in (including the people they are working with) does not value and appreciate testers enough and/or blames testers too much for problems that are systemic in nature rather than the fault of individual testers

    3) The tester does not have much affinity for the product

    – Justin

    1. Hi Justin,

      Thanks for commenting. Couldn’t agree more. There are loads of reasons, some play more of a part in the disdain towards testing than others. It’s sad how many people seem to hate testing. Good minds who are being destroyed in environments no right for them. I think point 2 is very common and thanks for bringing that idea out, it’s something I had not considered at the time.

      Thanks
      Rob

  4. Daniel Pink wrote on his blog about how to make people reflect on their opinion with two simple questions:

    1. How ready are you to make the revisions, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means not ready at all and 10 means totally ready?

    On the rare chance that she says, “1,” surprise her by saying, “What would turn it into a 2?” If she picks a number higher than 2, ask, “Why didn’t you pick a lower (yes, lower) number?” http://www.danpink.com/archives/2012/04/how-to-move-people-with-two-irrational-questions

    Using this the person starts to attack the negative aspect and instead of digging into trenches and start defending hers opinion, she in fact starts to find ways to support the opposite point of view.

    Let’s make and example: “I hate testing!” (Enter question 1) “I’d say 1. Because my manager makes me do all this crappy stuff and I don’t really get to test.” (The follow-up question) “If I’d get a chance to do some testing with enough time to think what I do…” and so on.

    Usually we use rash statements like “I hate X!” to vent as the root cause lays somewhere else. Using simple questioning methods to find the real reason behind “hating” we can usually solve the situation.

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