Monday, September 1, 2008

Whither the Agile Tester?

Jason over at ParlezUML (boy did I probably get that capitalization wrong) writes about the difficulties he's having finding an Agile Developer-Tester.

Basically, he wants someone who can:
  1. write code (a developer)
  2. who understands test
  3. who can automate tests with
  4. who's done this before in a SCRUM/XP team
And he's having a hard time hiring someone.

So now we enter the realm of unsolicited advice.... 

First of all, people like this do exist. I've hired more than one in my career. Granted, I'm in Boston, MA, and that's not London, but I suspect they're out there. So, how do you find and then hire this elusive creature?

  • Understand if you're looking for a developer or a tester. Yes, we want both in one person, but that's not the way industry is currently structured (at least in the US), and ultimately you're going to have to figure out whether you work with a developer recruiter or a QA recruiter.
  • Look into pairing. One of the advantages of XP is the emphasis on pairing, and pairing someone who's stronger on development with someone who's stronger on test will eventually give you two developer-testers.
  • Yes, they are rare. There are a lot of software engineers out there, and probably only several thousand (note: this is a total guess) developer-testers. As a percentage of the total pool, that's pretty small. So be prepared to sift through a lot before you find the right candidate.
  • Phrase your ad in terms of problems. Part of the issue is that people self-identify as developers or as testers. However, many of the problems overlap. So emphasize the problems, not the title.
  • Get rid of the chip on your shoulder. Going in with an attitude that "the industry thinks testers are inferior to developers" reflects that attitude right on you, the hiring manager, regardless of whether you actually share that attitude.  A good developer-tester already knows the state of the industry and the relative rankings of dev, test, design, DBA, etc; there's no reason for you to project it, too. Embrace the future - where these distinctions are both less important and also less indicative of a relative hierarchy.
And good luck.

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