Reactions to my technical testers post

I was surprised at some reactions to my ‘Do software testers need technical skils?’ post.

I was told that including quotes from Joel Spolsky undermined the contrast in my article as Joel apparently thinks testers are entry-level positions. This is supported by Joel’s 13 year old blog post, not the much more recent article I had included the quotes from.

I don’t believe Joel Spolsky does consider testing entry level; for instance, if you have a look at current QA openings at his company, you’ll see that they require ‘top notch testing skills‘.

But the most surprising reaction was this one:

I liken it more to asking whether paramedics should study medicine.

What surprised me the most was it being retweeted by James Bach, especially considering how I enjoyed the article he wrote recently about how useful he found his non-technical sister as a tester in developing a personal computer program.

“A tester of any kind can contribute early in a development process, and become better able to test, by pairing with a programmer regardless of his own ability to code.”

~ James Bach

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a technical tester myself. So if I was hiring a tester to be part of my agile team I would much prefer to have a technical tester than a non technical one.

But if I had to choose between an intelligent technical tester who wanted to do nothing but code automated test scripts, or an intelligent, curious tester without technical skills, I would choose the non technical tester every time.

9 thoughts on “Reactions to my technical testers post

  1. I think technical testers are the future but when I think of the modern technical tester I think of today’s testers who are good non technical testers, they are curious and have a fine eye for detail but the difference is they now have technical skills.

  2. What a surprise, some people believe the final truth is on one side! You should be glad it is only about technical / non technical tester to hire. There was time the question was “do we need a tester?” ;) Both technical and non technical have they spot in projects. Projects are different and in some cases preference can be on one or another side. There is no one “right” answer. I like your way of showing real issue from both sides rather than just state a single opinionated position.

    In my opinion the actual stress should be on “curious tester”. And not only testers, developers too! ;) The key for a good result in creative work is person motivation and ability to open mind to something different. But this is going to a different slice of tester job. Is testing a craft or just a metier? :D

  3. I think the confusion here might be over the word “need”. Do testers NEED to have technical skills? No. But it might help. I don’t understand why people are so polarised over this. The answer is, like so many things in the industry, “it depends”. All testers should learn technical skills. They should learn everything to do with anything ever that can apply to making them better at their job. But they don’t, usually, strictly, in most cases NEED to.

    I sort of covered this here: http://secondsignofmadness.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/learn-to-code-or-learn-to-stack-shelves.html. Although it is a bit of a long-winded carbon copy of Tony Bruce’s post which I had not hereto read.

    • Ability to create/run SQL scripts to query/setup data. Ability to provision own test environments. Ability to find errors in log files. Ability to debug JavaScript in browser console. Ability to understand the DOM.

      • That’s interesting. About half of that is stuff that I’d consider pretty everyday stuff for testers I’ve worked with who were labelled as “non-technical”.

        What do you mean by non-technical tester? At what point do you think a non-technical tester starts crossing over into technical?

  4. ‘Technical’ is one of those words that is so open to interpretation that it has become meaningless in context to testers. You would not look for a technical plumber or a technical developer so why a ‘technical tester’?

    Domain experience and technical skills may be a better description of what you are looking for. A tester can be the most technical person you have ever met but if they have not got a work ethic and a collaborative attitude, will they still make a great hire?

    There are such a range of technical skills that testers can have (admin knowledge of sharepoint, cloud testing experience, virtualisation expertise, test framework building, query knowledge to name but 00000000.1% of them) Then there are as many variants of testing environments as there are technologies (not everyone works for a startup or a blue collar company) Which means that a person that is considered highly technical and knowledgeable in one environment may be considered nontechnical {unemployable?} in another

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