Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Haven't Been Hiring Testers


As many of you know, my engineering career started in software testing. I'm in engineering management now, and spend most of my time building and managing teams, writing code (product code and test code), and handling technology strategy for various clients. I feel like that's important to mention up front: I am not anti-test.

But.

Well, here's the thing. I haven't hired a straight up manual tester since 2007. I haven't hired anyone to a test position since 2009. I've hired developers, contracted designers, even hired project managers and contracted documentation experts. But no testers. I know what kind of value a tester can bring to an organization... so why haven't I hired one?

Well, partly because the testers that we did hire mostly stayed. That guy I hired in 2007 is still with the company and still doing testing. The guy I hired in 2009 is still with the company, although he has moved into development. We're still getting the testing function.

There's another part, too. I've basically stopped hiring testers as an early team component.

The testing function is hugely important. We do want to know that what we built works and that it fits our customers needs. So why no testers?

Increasingly, I have other people who are embracing the tasks that used to be reserved for a dedicated tester:
- developers have survived - thrived even - while writing test automation
- product owners have been eager to use the product in a structured way
- customer service reps and implementation managers have been able to provide additional context about application usage and behavior
- improved monitoring points out problems in dev, QA and production, and makes the patterns behind them apparent so debugging is a lot easier

Now, for some applications I'd still hire a tester. I'd make that hire when I needed that kind of specialized knowledge. But that knowledge is becoming less and less specialized as more people start listening to the mantra that "quality is everyone's responsibility". We're seeing more people who test, even as I'm around fewer testers.

Test is not dead. Test is more pervasive and discussed than it has been for most of my career. The dedicated tester, however, is becoming more rare. And I think that's actually good.

5 comments:

  1. So how this been working out - any problems with delivery, have the customers been happy with the quality delivered ?

    "I've basically stopped hiring testers as an early team component." - does this imply you'd hire a tester later on ? If so, why ? What value would they add later on that they dont add in the early stage ?

    I'm joining a company as their sole dedicated tester but they've been doing pretty well without one for the last 10 years

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  2. So how this been working out - any problems with delivery, have the customers been happy with the quality delivered ?

    "I've basically stopped hiring testers as an early team component." - does this imply you'd hire a tester later on ? If so, why ? What value would they add later on that they dont add in the early stage ?

    I'm joining a company as their sole dedicated tester but they've been doing pretty well without one for the last 10 years

    ReplyDelete
  3. Phil, good questions. So far it's been working fine; we haven't had any delivery problems, and my phone has been pretty darn quiet on the complaint side!

    I should probably also mention that I've been mostly working on products that are testable by devs and/or product owner types. They fall into two categories: (1) very straightforward apps - think web app; or (2) products meant for use by other developers. I'd be more likely to bring in a dedicated tester if the other people on the team didn't understand the problem space as well, or if the products were more complex.

    I reserve the right to hire testers later, and can certainly think of situations where I would. Take, for example, one product I'm working on, which is basically a web application. As it gets more popular I could certainly see hiring, for example, a performance tester to make sure it can keep up as traffic grows.

    Congrats on joining the new company! I hope you have a grand time with it.

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  4. I think it's a little more difficult to apply this strategy for web development, and also when your project is developed by beginners.

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  5. agoox - interesting take. You make a particularly good point about beginners. If you don't have people who can do the testing tasks (say, your developers), you need to bring in some people who can do those tasks. I'd argue you should also be teaching your beginners testing as well as development!

    Oddly, I've had the most success here while doing web development. Maybe it's the development stacks we use, but I've found those stacks to be some of the most dev-tester friendly in terms of tool availability and general advocacy.

    ReplyDelete