What Makes a Great Tester? It’s Not What You Might Think!

After accumulating over two decades of experience in IT and software testing, Rana offered her insights into the exceptional qualities that distinguish a great tester.

Rana Gorgees

Rana Gorgees Principal Test Consultant Follow me: Linkedin

What Makes a Great Tester? It’s Not What You Might Think!

Date: 03 October 2023

Great testers begin with curiosity, possess a big-picture perspective, lateral thinking abilities, and a profound interest in understanding how things work and how they can fail.

Software testing and quality assurance is an engaging, challenging, and highly rewarding field. One question that frequently arises is: what personal attributes define a great tester? While the seemingly “obvious” answer points towards an IT-savvy or highly technical individual, this assumption is not entirely accurate. The qualities contributing to success in this domain are more diverse than expected. Before delving into the qualities that define an exceptional tester, it’s crucial to grasp the purpose of software testing.

Software testing goes beyond merely identifying and rectifying bugs before users encounter them. It ensures that the software serves its intended purpose for the business. Good testers play a pivotal role in spotting and preventing bugs, reducing risks, and enhancing software quality. Ultimately, their mission is to enlighten stakeholders about the solution’s quality through rigorous testing and assist in making informed decisions during project implementation. It’s vital to remember that the responsibility for software quality lies with everyone, not just the testing team.

Great testers begin with curiosity, possess a big-picture perspective, lateral thinking abilities, and a profound interest in understanding how things work and how they can fail.

The “bigger picture” view is paramount in testing. Testers must delve deeper beyond the lines of code, contemplating the what, why, and how. What does the application or product mean to the business? What were the developers tasked with delivering? Going beyond surface-level understanding necessitates an appreciation for the business objectives rather than just the developer’s code. After all, flawless code that fails to fulfil the application’s purpose serves no purpose at all.

Context is key. The best testers look beyond immediate concerns, seeking reasons, justifications, and potential issues. They relentlessly strive to uncover weaknesses in whatever they encounter. While this approach may occasionally ruffle the feathers of developers or product owners, the ultimate goal is to deliver exceptional software that performs as intended.

Contrary to stereotypes of introverted programmers buried in screens with headphones on, great testers actively engage with various business stakeholders, even coaxing programmers out of their comfort zones. They converse with business analysts, executives, product managers, subject matter experts, and, most importantly, end users—via email, in person, and on the phone.

Great testers are adept listeners and diligent note-takers. They absorb information rapidly, display flexibility, and combine their big-picture thinking with a knack for delving into details. As the saying goes, testing might not be your calling if you’re resistant to taking in new information.

Maintaining an even temper and possessing strength of character are advantageous traits for testers. Testers often find themselves as bearers of what may be perceived as bad news, but in reality, they bring valuable insights that contribute to improved quality and performance.

Troubleshooting and narrowing down the causes of defects are integral aspects of their work. Encouraging solutions and providing insights into root causes are encouraged, even if it means challenging those in positions of authority. Keeping emotions in check and selecting battles wisely is essential in this regard.

Another valuable attribute for exceptional testers is flexibility in how, when, and where they engage. Knowledge is power, and testers often become the most knowledgeable individuals about the products or software under development. They bridge the gap between business analysts, product owners, and developers, immersing themselves in diverse perspectives. This requires the ability to lead meetings, speak candidly, and, when necessary, assert that “the emperor has no clothes.”

Ultimately, great testers take ownership and responsibility for their assigned tasks. They wholeheartedly embrace the product, the people involved, and their colleagues. They play a pivotal role in shaping exceptional software. Successful projects lead to a transformation in how they are perceived, with adversaries becoming collaborators.

In conclusion, a good tester is someone eager to continuously learn new skills, stay updated on the latest developments in the IT industry, read relevant literature, and attend seminars and conferences. Being open to acquiring new knowledge and keeping pace with industry changes is essential for maintaining excellence in testing.

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