The product you test can make or break you as a tester

No product domain is better than any other, but we do each have preferences and favourable products to test. We each prefer to use, test and work with some types of products over others.

When I was testing products I didn’t enjoy I wanted to leave software testing. Period. I wanted out. Software testing sucked.

Sure, the environments/methodology these products were built in didn’t help, but ultimately I didn’t have an affinity to the product and this made me think that the trade of software testing was at fault.

I didn’t understand the product. Actually – let’s be honest, I didn’t *want* to understand it – it held no interest to me. I wasn’t interested. It didn’t make me feel curious about how it worked.

I actually thought I was rubbish because of this.

I realized over time though that it wasn’t me though. I was OK. I was a naturally curious person, just not about some products. It was the product – it wasn’t me.

I’m not curious about things that don’t interest me. However, when I find a product I like and a product I understand I flourish. I become a good tester. I am curious. I am interested. I am engaged. I want the product to succeed. I become a product evangelist. I want to know how it works, why it works and how useful it can be.

I’ve met so many testers over the years that hate testing. Or at least they think they do.

When I ask these testers what their favorite product is they always have an answer. When I ask how they use the product and how the product works they can always answer me. When I ask what it must be like to test a product like this they get wild eyed and passionate about that testing job. And when they notice this enthusiasm in themselves they soon realize that it’s not testing they don’t enjoy – it’s the product that they are testing.

I don’t have an interest in testing transactional banking, insurance products or defense products, some people will thrive testing these. I prefer cloud/hosted/web services that have communication or social interaction at their heart, some people would loathe to work on these products.

So if you’re feeling down about testing and you’re finding you’ve lost your testing mojo it might just be related to the product you’re testing.

It might not be you. It might not be testing. It might just be the way you feel about the product you’re testing.

10 thoughts on “The product you test can make or break you as a tester

  1. Helpful thoughts.

    I know I’ve had assignments where I was bored out of my mind and wondering if I was doing the right thing. But when I left for new assignments that doubt vanished. And looking back it was clear that it was the product that bored me.

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for commenting. Good to hear you found an interesting product to test.


  2. As usual, interesting post. I suppose if you’re testing basic CRUD apps all day every day it could get boring. I’m lucky in that at the moment I’m testing a device that goes down oil pipelines, a personal fitness device, mobile app for college sports, iPad app for professional sports, iron lung calibration devices and laundromat apps. Hard to be bored – but I can’t really say the subject matter of any of them has a huge interest for me – until I got to work on them and then I found it fascinating how people used them.

    Having an interest in the product can help – but thats how game companies get away with paying peanuts and working their testers to the bone as the testers are gamers who thought it would be fun to play games all day…

    There’s many factors at play – would you be so interested and passionate if you were working in a rigid waterfall environment? What about your teammates ( you seem to have a great bunch! ) – don’t they help with your passion for your job?

    1. Hi Phil,

      Thanks for commenting. It sounds like you’ve got a really varied set of stuff to test. The interesting point you make is that you later find these products interesting once you understand how they work and why they are being used. In this post I’m talking about products that aren’t interesting even after finding out how they work and why they are being used. I still have flashbacks when I think of the banking systems I used to test. Arggh.

      Absolutely agree – the surrounding context makes a vast difference (team, environment, methodology etc). In my experience though I’ve found the product to be a really important aspect of my work.

      Glad to hear you’re not getting bored 🙂


  3. When I read this post, it resonated with me. When I tracked back through my career I realised that in the main (not always) it correllated with my interest in the application(s).

    But similarly, the more varied the challenge the more interest in that work I was able to generate. It also indicated a pattern where I was less satisfied within a role, and saw other problems with the organisation in order to justify my decision to move on…not neccesarily stop testing.

    Initially being part of a new product was exciting, but it quickly became a horrid chore to test, not because the app wasn’t interesting to me, but because I felt my hands were tied with regard to test methodologies I was allowed to employ within a particular organisation.

    I have tested in some of the situations you have mentioned that you would dislike, such as social housing software (not as social as you would like Rob), police and forensic data management and defence and navigational aids. All have had their pros and cons.

    But recently, say in the last year or two, being empowered to innovate and generate my own ideas about how products could be tested, even within a defence environment, has proven to be the more interesting challenge than the application under test itself.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Thanks for commenting. Awesome story of finding and losing your passions for testing. It’s never just one dimension that makes or breaks a tester but to have some “love” for the product can inspire people to change the environment and vice versa.
      Nice comment Dan.

  4. In addition to enjoying your work, in some cases the 1st job you select will define your expertise, and thus the chance you will test other types of products later on.
    It’s not that it is impossible to change the technical arena – but it is much harder than staying in same tech subject.
    Recruiters will mostly prefer someone who already has knowledge of the product / type of systems the need to test – so getting a chance to change it – is harder.

    Surprisingly enough – in the Telecom arena, I see most testers enjoy and show interest in the product details & protocols more than they are interested in Testing methodologies.
    They even skip all testing training – Which is the other side of the coin.

    @halperinko – Kobi Halperin

    1. Hi Kobi,

      Thanks for the nice comments. It’s good to hear your experience. I do think the first job helps to launch your career and does set you up for your career.


  5. Thanks for the post. It gave me a new view of my current project. It a typical ecomerce web app and I really need to gather all my will power to go to work every day.

    After reading your post I feel may before not the testing job I am bored of but it’s the application I can not relate to. Hopefully knowing this bias will help me doing a better job.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for commenting. It could well be the application you are testing. It’s a shame you don’t enjoy going to work. Hopefully you’ll find a way to relate to the product and improve your working environment. Good luck.


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