I have been avoiding to write on this topic from quite some years but looks like I should really speak my mind about it now. Before you confuse yourself with the title any further, let me provide some context.
This post is inspired (rather provoked) by bunch of incidents of similar kind that made me upset. Let's briefly talk about those incidents first.
A long time programmer friend looking for change of job met me and asked for guiding him get a tester's job. Out of curiosity I asked why he wanted to be a tester and he said he wanted some easy job. He found testing ideal for his requirement of 'click here and there' sort of tasks he would love to perform.
My wife has been working as a test engineer and has a programmer friend who took a career break after her marriage. After spending some years as 'stay at home' wife she decided to work again. In her discussion with us she said , "I have worked hard when I was a programmer. Now that I am married, I would rather work as a tester and live relaxed, happy married life." (Yes, you read that right)
A friend of mine who happens to be from non-software field called me up for career guidance (in testing) for his wife and they have a kid of 3. When I asked, "why testing?" he told me that another friend of him (who works for some IT firm) suggested them to try for testing career as she thinks that's easy job with less learning headache (?) and a best fit for a married women.
Good thing is that my friend and his wife both are wise and after our discussion they still decided to try for testing career but for all good reasons.
An uncle of my friend called me for career guidance for his son. His son has recently completed his Bachelors in Engineering and looking for a job in IT. Uncle asked me if I can help him find job in testing as he finds it easy to do job for a fresher and that it does not require extra-ordinary talent. Uncle also mentioned that since his son was bit weak in studies he would like him to take career in testing.
Now you might have understood what's the thing from all these incidents that makes me upset. In fact, it's not just about these four incidents but about many of such kind that I have kept on ignoring so far. Mainly because I felt they had more to do with peoples' choices than software testing field. But looks like some people's wrong perception about testing has also contributed to such thinking. After giving some deep thought to such incidents, I realised that there are two key perspectives that must change:
1. Some peoples' (males and females alike) perception about women
2. Some peoples' perception about software testing profession
What disturbs me more out of these two is this mentality of associating women with weakness, with low calibre and wanting to give them easy-to-do jobs. May be such problems can be experienced vividly in societies where women look after typical tasks at home (which is unfortunate and highly condemnable) but even in that case, I am afraid that choosing something as a career because it sounds 'easy, relaxed and with less learning curve' is poorest choice one can make.
Well, this topic is beyond just testing and better left with experts. As far as women in testing are concerned, let me please tell you about some extra-ordinary women testers I have personally known. They have been doing remarkable job in our community. Dr. Meeta Prakash, Smita Mishra, Parimala Hariprasad , Faiza Yousuf, Jyothi Rangiaah are just to name a few. I am sure they did not choose testing career because they found it easy. And if you are interested in seeing a bigger picture then please have a look on what women testers across the globe are doing. Ask Fiona Charles, Anne-Marie Charrett, Leah Stockley, Anna Royzman, JeanAnn Harrison, Katrina Clokie, Kim Engel, Ru Cindrea or Oana Casapu, how easy (or difficult) it is to become an extra-ordinary tester. Alexandra Casapu is probably the youngest tester I have known who has made a name for herself in the field.
I have deliberately mentioned all these names from different geographies so that one does not come with an excuse of socio-cultural problems from their region to blame it on. The closer look on the work all my mentioned (and not mentioned) female colleagues have been doing would tell you how challenging the testing field is and that it's not a job only hard-working, talented males can do. Well...never mind!
Is testing an easy job (anymore)?
It never was. It's just that some bad testers and test-case selling factories have managed to survive this long, so much so that it has resulted in spreading wrong notion about testing field. Unfortunately, we still have significant portion of bad testers in our community who appear to be the main reason why some people think about testing this way. With below average skills, one may very well secure a job in some STLC (Sell Test-cases and Loot Customers) model based organisations but be informed that they are likely to run out of business soon (if they don't change).
As a matter of fact, software testing is way too beyond just filling excel sheets with pass/fail, checking actual vs expected, raising defects and calling it a day. It's a discipline that requires an individual to have excellent exploratory skills, critical thinking ability, analytical skills, communication skills, technical expertise, a right mind set and every other thing that would make someone a successful programmer, analyst or people manager for that matter. I have been testing software for over 7 years now and I have experienced this field becoming more challenging every other day.
If you are unable to relate the happenings around you with the products you are building then your any role in software field has a zero significance, forget about the role of a tester alone. A skilled tester knows how to play the role of all potential users of the product, a skilled tester is able to visualise how the failure or new feature of one software product she uses daily, is likely to impact the product you are building. And this is not an easy job. Interesting thing is, your gender does not make any difference here. You will rock if you have what it takes to be a kickass tester.
It's unfortunate that despite of some great things happening in testing world, I am compelled to make the post explaining the reality of testing field. But even in these changing times, I have come across too many of mentioned incidents to ignore them anymore. If this means "just another post about what is testing?", so be it . Being a passionate tester and active member of testing community, I get deeply hurt when someone (who does not understand testing) makes such reckless remarks about testing profession.
If you are curious to know the current state of testing field then please have a look on what we have been finding via State of Testing survey every year. The bad testing is getting exposed and eliminated, skilled testers are replacing the bad ones already. Role and significance of testing field is changing drastically and that means only the best would survive. Our community needs more awesome testers (men and women alike), please think of it as a career option only if you think you can become one. If you have the courage, curiosity and conviction as skills in you then I promise you'll rock this field.
On other hand, if you are choosing testing as a career just because you think it's an easy job then I am afraid, it's not an option for you. It's not an ideal job in that case. At least not anymore!
A passionate & thinking tester. Trainer & student of the craft of testing. Father, Foodie and dog lover. Chief Editor and Co-founder of Tea-time with Testers magazine.