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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Becoming an Expert in Software Testing

TCL is a consultancy in software testing. That means we are invited to see Clients when they have problems of some kind - and they are seeking us to provide solutions that in some way or other they can't provide for themselves.

It could be that they can't resource, or can't resource at the right time. It could be that they have a problem but they really don't know how to solve it - and they need our knowledge. It could be that they need us to look around and find some problems and to help them improve their organisation.

In all these cases there is an assumption - that as a consultancy, we are experts in testing. Hmmmm. Are we?

Take a look at this stuff from James Bach:

He makes some great points about what makes an expert and what experts do to stay as experts. He also asks questions about the education for testers and things that don't yet exist.

Now, I can tell you that we research and develop new solutions every year. I can tell you that we train a lot - we train each other, we share ideas with everyone that likes to learn and to share in return. We go to conferences and we learn from our peers and other experts and world leaders - people like James B. We go out there and we challenge ourselves and we seek new ways and innovative ways of doing things. We mix things up and involve Universities and Scholarship students and interns to challenge us and rechallenge existing knowledge as well as developing new ideas and furthering the cause of testing as a professional discipline. If this stuff makes us experts then super. But how do we measure it?

Tony and I have a vision for TCL to become a world wide, world class centre of testing excellence by 2020. We're doing pretty well, but there is a long way to go - and I feel like we have some serious thinking to do this year about how we move forward a bit faster. We are in 2008, and our ninth year of trading as a company. It's time to get a new gear, and move this stuff forward even faster.

I'm a bit stuck on this right now. In particular how to measure in absolute terms that we, a consultancy in software testing, are indeed experts in it. Some thinking to be done. Watch this space for more of my thoughts as I progress ideas.


Paul Darby said...

I think there is a hell of a lot more to being an expert tester than just being able to test well: knowledge assimilation, people skills, empathy and inquisitiveness are all skills I would add to the list of things you need to be a so called 'expert tester'.

I think that where TCL are perhaps falling down is that real testing skills and knowledge are not being passed around (or at least not as far as I know). We train in ISEB, SQL, Prince2 etc. etc. but I don't see knowledge transfers like "What is the best way of monitoring memory usage", "What sort of applications are most likely to run into GDI leaks", "What nuances may exist if I use a VM environment".

If we really passed on the knowledge we all knew about our trade, I think we would all get an awefull lot from it. Journals do not seem to be working to spread this kind of info.

Would a Wiki work?

Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

HI Paul

I like your thinking here - sharing knowledge is good and we can never get enough of it.

Some things to recognise as well:
The TCL PEST and Brown Bags / lunch bites sessions are our way of promoting this dialogue. We've been getting some great coverage and attendance on these things, but it never seems to get to everyone. I guess you are one of those people that might be missing out a bit.

The back up and alternative to these two things is the Journal, which has been getting a lot more articles and I am very pleased to see Richard Morgan in charge of it now as I think it will get even more now.

Additionally, I am pleased to be able to tell you that a company wide wiki will be in place very soon. Its being trialled by the interns as part of their project and will be released company wide from end of August (or perhaps earlier if we can do it).

These things are always great to share the knowledge and experience.

One of the other things I really like to see is when people go to conferences such as StarEAST, StarWEST and EuroSTAR. These are fantastic places to learn, share and benchmark.


Stewart Noakes, TCL said...

Nearly forgot to say....
why not bring this stuff up as a discussion thread when we are at the next dinner with the stars - its an area I'd like us to explore more as a team.

Keep your thoughts flowing - I like your thinking.....


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