All your Leftover are belong to Test

Today in the United States, we are observing Labor Day, which celebrates a strong history of economic and social benefits wrought from the American worker. So for you testers out there, can you find the bug in this code?  (being from US, not required)

Notice Test as default?   Some may not even view this as a bug.  This is the case if you believe a colleague of mine who stated a few weeks ago, “The definition of Test’s job is easy… We are the remainder. We pick up the work that’s left over after the other disciplines do their part.” Is that right? Is Test the cleanup crew of software engineering? I can see where that viewpoint is coming from. In TEST is a four letter word, I point out that the word TEST is meaningless because of all of the different types of work that can generally land on our shoulders. However, even given this, I don’t view test as essentially a technical Janitor. As I wrote in The Tester’s Job, we have a valuable and important job to do. While how we do it may take on a diverse set of actions, I don’t think it is those actions that define us, but rather the goal we are striving to achieve…. the acceleration of the product to shippable quality… I do think if you are on a Test team and the work you are doing does not help the product to be shippable quality, then you are doing the job of some other discipline (which may or may not be ok… it’s just not Test work).

About a year ago, I predicted my work environment was heading for a tipping point. The roles and responsibilities for Test would change in a dramatic fashion. I predicted it wouldn’t land for another 1 to 2 yrs. I was wrong. I believe the tipping point has already happened. There are a number of indicators that would point in that direction – the biggest of which being a large shift towards Service orientation. I bring this up because I think Test is fundamentally changing in a predictable fashion and those who understand the job of testing as well as the direction Test is heading can shape their own careers according to their preferences. If you view the value add of Test is the actions Testers do, then you may be heading for a surprise when the reformation finally lands on your doorstep.

So what are the options? This is the number one question I get from folks when I bring up this topic. I see several options available to Testers, but I think they will likely be one of the following:

1) Development – I think the bulk of test will shift into development roles. Testers who are strong coders and can’t shake the view that finding bugs is all that matters will go into this role, which optimizes for same.

2) PM – Those strong in customer outreach will head this way.

3) Dev Ops – Integration experts of the machine topology and software…

4) Toolsmiths – Title will likely be Developer, but will be developing tools that accelerate the rest of the business.

5) NFR Specialists – Non Functional Requirements (E2E, Stress, Performance, Load, etc) are a needed and deep technical specialization. Once tooling makes doing this simple and friction-free, these jobs will likely minimize, but today, it is often more work for Dev to own this than they can afford.

6) Data Scientists/Analysts – Beancounters of the world unite.

7) New Career/ Company

I think when the world stabilizes again after this shake up, we will find the role of “the remainder” gone. If that was what you liked about test, then you may be heading for a surprise.

Why not instead take a moment and think through how you really like to accelerate quality and then make a conscious decision to pursue it?

I, myself, am aggressively heading down the #6 path. And loving it… Unlike prior times in my career when my job was to point out flaws in other people’s code, I truly can state I am accelerating the product towards quality.