What makes a good Software Tester? Phrases like "attention to detail", "ability to work with complex systems" and "enjoy solving problems" are often bandied about, but they only tell a small part of the story. There’s a lot of aspects that come into play when we consider what makes a good tester, and many people get into software testing for a variety of reasons.
It is rare to find someone who has deliberately gone into software testing as a first choice of career. What I mean by that is that, it is uncommon to hear of someone who goes to school, makes a plan to become a software tester, and then goes out and devotes their education and efforts to specifically getting a job as a software tester in a company. For most of us, if you were to ask "How did you become a software tester?", the most common answer you would hear is "I just sort of fell into it."
Truth be told, "I just fell into it" is also rarely true, but that is how it often feels when we look back in hindsight. More times than not, what happens is that there is an opportunity that we recognize that needs to be filled, we discover that we are effective in the testing role, and based on that feedback, we continue testing, and grow into the role over time.
Many people look at software testing as a stepping stone to doing other things. For some, it may be a starting point towards becoming a programmer. For others, they may want to become product managers. Others may want to go into product marketing. Others may want to become Customer Support representatives (and to be fair, a lot of really good software testers also come from Customer Support roles).
Those who choose to stay with software testing and make it a career often have a number of things in common:
- They are often top down, big picture thinkers who tend to approach problems starting from the whole and diving in to understand the smaller parts.
- They like to ask questions, and see how those questions are answered.
- They have a high level of comfort with ambiguous situations.
- One of their favorite questions to ask is "what if?"
- They are often tinkerers who enjoy getting into and seeing what makes something tick (this goes beyond software)
- They are often people who feel comfortable pushing at boundaries, and will often, if given the chance, go beyond the boundaries as seen or written
- Testers like to "poke the box", just to see what will happen.
In the following sub sections, I have included "Letters to Me" from a few software testers that have examined their careers and made some considerations of what it is that interested them when they were in their teenage and young adult years, and how these revelations helped them consider and understand why they might want to consider being software testers as a career.
[Editors Note; I had hoped I’d be able to link the Letters to Me to this section, but so far, the way to do that has eluded me. If they can’t be linked, I’ll put them into Element Boxes and include them here. Downside, it will make this section inordinately long.]