The Grass is Always Greener for Testers

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I was recently a guest panelist for an Applitools webinar on the State of Selenium and Test Automation, and one question I was asked by the moderator Dave Haeffner was whether in noticed any themes at this year’s conference.

That got me thinking…

Have you ever thought, “Wow! I’ll bet the testers that work for Google have it made,” or, “If only I worked in Silicon Valley, everyone would “get it.”

It’s easy to think this way.

It is What it Is

When we’re struggling we often tend to think that we’re the only ones in the world wrestling with that issue. If only we were smart enough, or had better team members, or if our company was more diverse, everything would be great. In my experience, however, it wouldn’t.

One of the reasons I enjoy attending conferences is to hear how others in the test automation space are handling the same challenges that I face.

Number One Theme – Testing Culture

But back to Dave’s question — the theme I noticed in most of the talks at the conference was that even thought most tracks covered different topics they all had one thing in common: we are all faced with messed up software development culture. The symptoms may vary–flaky tests or failing CI systems, but the underlying issue is culture. And we are all are facing it.

Even as I spoke with different people outside the sessions about what they are struggling with, what I came away with from each conversation was that basically, we are all f*cked.


Testing Shadows

Working twelve hour days in my 10×12 office that one might liken to Plato’s cave, I find myself hoping that by attending certain conferences I’ll be released from the shadow world and into the truth.

Well, it’s kind of true, except that the real truth is what I already know–regardless of what company you’re testing for, we all face the same issues. There are no magic, unicorn-filled companies employing all-knowing developers who are creating perfect software.

Software Development Grass is Not Greener

To coin a phrase, the grass is not greener.

Only after you’ve accepted this will you be able to find peace and purpose in knowing that the best place to be is where you are. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

I was speaking to someone at SeleniumConf about how his company (a highly venerated firm in Silicon Valley) had just laid off all their testers because they felt they were holding them back. They apparently believed their developers perform the testing that was needed without having to go through an extra layer of testers.


No Testing Utopias

That’s why whenever I receive an offer to interview for a company like Apple, I think “Screw that. Why leave my family and move across the country for a company where I’ll be facing the same exact shi*t?

I’m a gray beard, so I remember what it was like in the late 90’s before the tech bubble burst. I switched jobs almost every six months hoping for bigger and better situations yet was always left disappointed.

Would working for Google or Facebook be a tester’s utopia? I doubt it. Even the creator of Selenium WebDriver, Simon Stewart (who, by the way, has worked for both companies) seems to have experienced this.

During his keynote at Selenium Conference in Austin, he asked for a show of hands of how many testers felt like they were considered valuable by their organization. As you can probably guess, almost no one raised his or her hands.

Do You Feel Appreciated for being a Professional Tester?

He went on to ask, “Who here is a professional tester? Who here feels appreciated for being a professional tester? How often have you walked onto a project and everyone on the team got excited and jumped up and down saying how happy they are to have you there? Of course, they probably thanked you for saving them, right? Because they had no idea how their code works and was hoping you could help them make it better?”

LOL – right. Never.

Software Development Will Always be a Struggle

Software development will always be a struggle. It’s up to us to keep educating, keep advocating, keep working to make it better.

So keep your head up and keep fighting the good fight– wherever you are.

Your current organization needs you more than any of the other messed up companies who have the exact same issues. Get to it.

3 responses to “The Grass is Always Greener for Testers”

  1. I do feel appreciated for being a tester. Part of it is bringing in testing strategy and automation skills, and helping out with the bandwidth problem that seems to be at every client so far. It’s definitely more about personality and willingness to serve and do the sometimes crap work that comes with the job, but I thrive on that and it sharpens me :)

  2. I agree with your summary: As you put it, we are all f*cked. I had that sinking feeling ever since I read “How Google Tests Software (2013)”.

    A Dynatrace rep told me that testers got in the way of giving “fast feedback” to the developer… so that’s why they don’t have any.

    … To them, unit + integration tests replace QA Departments or embedded QA people in their team.

  3. One key topic you didn’t bring up is $$$ and the disparity of the pay between dev and test.
    I am an SDET – Software developer in Test. In my official title I have a ‘Developer’ but my pay is one level is lesser than devs because I also have a ‘Test’ in my title.

    If you bring in an intern to a company as SDET and want to offer a position, they will only accept a DEV role. Many SDET’s with few years of experience want to become SDEs. Many of the SDEs/Test managers that I know don’t advertize in their linked profile as such but instead call themselves technical architects or some thing else.

    Every screening interview that I took for an SDET role asks me how much time I code, as if that is the golden standard and rest is the boring part and some companies even try to sell me the role as such.

    As SDETs/Test Engineers/Automation engineers/QE we are propagating a self defeating cycle by downplaying the uniqueness and not branding ourselves proudly. And people in management roles easily shoot the messengers instead of fixing the problems.

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