If I Could Write a Letter to Me
By Michael Larsen (mkltesthead.com)
There’s a famous song in the country music world called "Letter to Me", written by Brad Paisley. In it, he writes from the view of his adult self to the boy he was when he was 17. In that letter he offers some advice to himself back then, much of it having to do with life, love and opportunities he’ll wish he hadn’t missed.
It’s from this idea that I wrote a letter to myself as a teenager, so I could suggest to myself some attributes that might help me know if I’m a good candidate for software testing.
Dear Teenaged Me,
I know that most of your time right now is spent realizing that you are semi-photogenic, have a decent singing voice, and you really like taking that Fender Jazzmaster down to bare metal and building it back up. I also know that you like twinkling around on that beige putty colored Macintosh that your parents set up in your brother’s room because they can actually get into it (unlike your room), but seriously, I want to talk to you about something.
At some point, you are going to put all your energies into being a musician. It’s going to be a fun ride, it’s going to impoverish you, and at some point, you are going to have to get down to brass tacks and dig your way out of a financial hole. When that day comes, you are going to find yourself surrounded by a strange breed of people, a wonderful breed. They are inquisitive, adventurous, creative and do some pretty cool things with other people’s software. These people are called "testers" and believe it or not, you have a lot of the attributes they’d be looking for.
First of all, let’s take a look at that guitar that you have taken down to its bits countless times. Why do you do it? I’m guessing because you want to see what makes it tick, and what changes and improvements you can make. Maybe it’s just a cleaning or removing scratchiness from potentiometers, but the fact that you thought to break it down to look already points to you having the temperament of a tester.
Check out your reading material. You like to nerd out on unusual topics. You get a kick out of history. You enjoy philosophy. You actually own a book called "Words From the Myths" because you had to dig in and understand why words like "Hubris", "Nemesis", "Chaos", "Cosmos" and "Sisyphean" meant what they did. You aren’t really content with people telling you something is true, you needed to find out
People are often defined by who they hang out with. You are hanging out with a bunch of musicians right now, and while you may think that that’s all that you are, you’re wrong. Many of you are drawn together because you share similar outlooks and ways of looking at the world. Among you are a CAD designer, an inveterate tinkerer and a rock solid network administrator, and that’s just counting the guys in your first band. You don’t realize that these are your future band mates careers, but if you were to look at them for any length of time, it’s self explanatory. But there’s something that sets you a little bit apart. You like to argue why things work or don’t work. You have a passion for doing things right. Not that they don’t, but you come at it from a different angle. While they are focused on the actual building of things, you tend to look for the structural weaknesses and what could go wrong.
You’re not a pessimist. . . you’re a tester!
Can you count the hours that you and your band mates looked for the optimal way to load and unload your gear, wire up your racks, maximize your wireless gear, and all of the other "refinements" you made while you were playing shows? Testing, my good friend.
I know that a lot of this might seem a little weird, and of course, if I were to say that the reason you ultimately decided to go into testing was entirely temperament, I’d be lying to you. Those all pointed the way, but the real reason you decided to make it your life’s work was the people that were part of it. The temperament got you through the door. Your compatriots in arms are the ones that convinced you to stay. You owe a lot to them, too.
I’m going to close this for now, but I just wanted to give you some things to consider as you are plying your trade as a musician and trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. I’m not so sure I’m a good authority on the growing up part (by the way, I’m sorry for the broken ankle, lacerated wrist, splintered shoulder tuberosity and broken tibia and fibula you’ll have to go through) but seriously, consider the testing avenue. You might be amazed at how much like "home" it feels when you get there.
The Adult version of you (grown up? Not so much)