Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A ‘title’ is of value to someone who matters

Recently I attended the Eurostar Testing Conference in Manchester and came away with some mixed messages and thoughts about the content of the conference. Some of the presentations and tracks were really good whilst others appeared to repeat the same old information. I hope to write a few blog articles on some of the positive messages I got from the conference along with lots of ideas I have with regards to social science and how it can be used within testing, these may have to wait until after the holiday period.

The reason for writing this blog post is due to the, what appeared to be a negative, message coming from some of the key note presentations, this is my opinion and how I understood the messages in the context of my views on testing and testers. The one point I wish to raise (and maybe rant) is one of the messages that James Whittaker made.

“at Google ‘Tester’ has disappeared from people’s job titles. People who were ‘testers’ are now ‘developers’ and are expected to code regularly”

Now my thoughts on this may be taking the point James was making out of context however I am not sure in what other context this could be made.

James during the presentation made the point that testers should be part of the team and not get bogged down in who has what role and I whole hearty agree with that.

However from a social and status perspective people need to be able to identify with a title and there has been a lot of talk within the development community about removing titles especially the title of tester. Take the following scenario:

You go out on a social evening with a group of friends and their partners would you work with a project manager, a developer, a business analyst and a tester, As the evening proceeds each person is asked by a non-team member what they do at work.

The developer could reply: I write code and create applications

The tester could reply that they test to ensure the system works

The project manager could reply that they make sure everyone knows what target they have to meet

The Business analyst could say they provide information on what the customers who will use the application need

Each person answering this question I would say would be proud of their job title and what they do.

So my take on making a statement in which we say get rid of the of the title of tester and call everyone a developer is a little insulting and makes me personally feel unappreciated and unvalued. I feel I have been working as a tester for a long period of time now and whilst I can understand that within a team people can have a variety of roles and responsibilities why should I have to give up something that I feel passionate about? I wonder what would be said if at a developers conference everyone is now going to be called a business analyst since we all provide something that the customer wants.

Why does everyone have to be a developer within a project? My concern is why has the word ‘tester’ become such a dirty word? It is if we should be ashamed of what we are and what our title is.



  1. Me too! I prefer the title "tester". I've had all kinds of goofy titles over the years due to HR departments, but I self-identify as a "tester".

    However, I am in the camp that says EVERYONE that participates in delivering a software product is a developer. Some developers are testers, some are programmers, some are BAs, some are DBAs, etc. It bugs me when people use "developer" to mean "programmer". But, that's not a battle I'm gonna win...

    I'm not interested in writing production code, if I were, I would still be a programmer. I'm a big believer in the Whole-Team Approach, it has worked for my teams for years, but that doesn't mean we all have to be in the same role. Diversity is much better than everyone doing the same job and having the same skill set.

  2. James Christie wrote a good post around this. I think you'd appreciate it too

  3. Hi John,
    I can so relate to your blog post. I'm too proud to be a tester and find the craft a beautiful one of which I'm passionate about.

    And developing software and systems, whether you're in a traditional waterfall environment or in an agile one, still takes a team with all the skills presented in it to complete the effort, INCLUDING testing.

    Why else has the profession become more and more valuable in the last years; it's not because the developers became more hazed by the comfort of tester's being there and thus resulting in crappier code, the safety blanket that was referred to. It's because the products delivered were already delivered in such a state there was a need for this specialism (which wasn't there in the first place!) within the whole development- and life cycle.

    I thought when sitting in the audience that some stuff was presented as conclusions but were actually badly questioned assumptions.

    As I know you're fond of healthcare analogues (and I hope I get this right): In healthcare there are also specialisms that make sure you get to health again, we don't call THEM 'health care practitioners' but use their specialism names : doctor, specialist, MD, nurse, physiotherapist etc. And nobody's making a fuss of that, so why does this have to be the case with testers? (in software- and system development).

    I got the feeling it had nothing to do with the craft/profession itself, but had a lot to do with the perception of the presenter towards testers and his own experiences with them and maybe the weren't good ones, maybe he hired the 'wrong batch' , who knows. My thought was that maybe it works for him in his environment, but that doesn't mean that it's applicable for ALL the testers (in the audience and elsewhere) - alas the message was presented in that way and also emphasised with being a keynote...

    It had one good outcome though: it made the tester's who are proud of their craft discuss and feel alive more then ever :-)

  4. I worked at a young startup where everyone had the title "Software Engineer". Some were developers, some were testers, some were managers, etc. This was one of the many wacky startup-fueled initiatives launched with the goal of making the company a "fun place" to work.

    To those of us who had software experience, it felt a little foolish at the time, but honestly made no functional difference in the end.

    People still did the same work they would have done if they owned a more typical title. And peoples' resumes still used whatever title they felt was appropriate when they left.

    The company no longer exists. I look back on this experience as just one of the many silly experiments that startups like to do. It's good to experiment, but I wonder if the same cast of characters would do it again.