So, you are a tester? You play games all day long then!

Well, not really. Since I started working as a software tester I’ve been hearing this opinion again and again. Most people are convinced testers do nothing else but test computer games, which for them means they play all day long at work. They couldn’t be more wrong!

Testers work not only for game dev companies. They work in IT departments of companies operating in various sectors. They can also be found in software solution houses, like Goyello. And even if they work for game dev companies, you may be surprised to hear their work is not all about play. Despite that working as a tester can be a great fun and bring you much satisfaction. Let me tell you what it takes to be a tester and what you need to be like to be a good one.          

Let’s play it… 50 times in a row!

Why isn’t professional game testing all about entertainment? That’s simple. Testers don’t play games the same way regular user do. Their major aim is to spot as many bugs and problems as possible while playing. In practice it means they take part in the same fight e.g. 50 times, each time modifying their performance a little bit. They use different weapons, attack the opponent from a different side or move in a different way. But it is still the same fight. Trust me, after the twentieth time it becomes a bit boring and after the forty fifth any tester may feel quite exhausted. 😉

I was responsible for testing an “endless running” game once. While running you had to jump over obstacles, fight with enemies using different weapons and avoid objects that could kill you. The background and all the elements were uploaded dynamically. So you never knew what configuration you would see the next time you played that game. You could spend the whole day testing a single character’s behaviour. First you had to find it, then check if its performance was correct, constantly looking at the fast-moving background on your screen. At the end of the day everything was wavering in front of my eyes. Driving home from work? Forget it!

But let’s talk business

Now imagine that a company developing applications for banks, insurance companies, aviation technologies or medicine does not test its products. Applications built for business must be high quality, “bulletproof” and secure. And here we have our testers. A typical tester’s working day consists of checking various applications, reporting bugs and making sure issues reported previously have been fixed.

What’s the hardest part?

The most difficult aspect of a tester’s work is working under pressure and stress. It of course depends on a project but most of the time a tester has to stay focused throughout an entire working way. Why is that job that stressful? Well, the reason is mainly that testers are responsible for quality and security of a product. It is also true that the tester takes responsibility for all critical bugs present in the final product and not found or reported at the QA stage.

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So, you are a junior developer?

The most common and typical problem testers experience is that they are treated as “junior developers”. Even worse, being a tester is often seen as some sort of inferior job which can be done by anyone. Whoever thinks so, cannot be more wrong. In good teams developers and testers work together, supplement each other and look at the same application from different perspectives.

Who is a tester then? What makes a good one? There are a few essential features any tester should possess. Let me enumerate and briefly discuss them below.

Professional knowledge

Testers should have the same knowledge about application as developers.  In addition, they need to be able to put themselves in a random user’s shoes. It allows them to use the final product in the way a user would use it and not the way a developer wants it to be used. They also should consider the business rules and compare them to developers work. Testers should also have some technical background − know the technologies, have basic knowledge about programming languages and use this knowledge in testing as a mix of experience, values and contextual information.  

Communication skills

A tester should be communicative and a “people person”. They should pass information about any bugs they found in a neutral way, without putting any pressure or blaming anyone. Both verbal and written communication is a vital skill to be able to contact developers, business analysts and other stakeholders in a project. Also, testers cannot be afraid of any reaction their reports may cause. Their role in the project is to look for bugs and report them.

Out-of-the-box approach

Testers should have some kind of specific childlike naivety. You cannot predict what application will do in a specific situation and especially what a user will do. That is why if a tester can think outside the box, it is a big advantage. Testers should have a sense of intellectual curiosity and creativity. They must love asking questions and shouldn’t be ashamed if they are wrong about something.

Analytical thinking

Analytical and logical thinking is a skill any tester will benefit from. It can help them identify hidden bugs and errors, as well as figure out given business rules and imagine what could go wrong later. They also need to be analytical and open minded to prepare test scenarios and test cases.

Attention to detail

Even a small stone can make an avalanche. It’s the same with bugs. That is why testers must pay attention to details. Team members who have been working on a project for a long period of time may not be able to notice certain issues simply because they see the application every day. Testers should always have their eyes wide open in order to catch all bugs overlooked by others. Even if they see the application for the hundredth time.

Willingness to learn

Testers should be eager to learn. The world is changing rapidly. So are processes, codes and technologies. What was on yesterday, can be outdated today. Testers should be aware of those changes, notice them, adapt to them and learn from them.

And…patience

There are also other skills like time management, priority and good organization of one’s work, which may prove useful in this job. They definitely could help testers and make the work more effective. But the most important of all skills is patience. “Patience is a virtue” should be all testers’ keynote.

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Not so long ago I read the following sentence: “Testers should see what everyone else hasn’t seen, think what no one else has thought and do what no one else has dared”. I think this is the best description of what makes a good tester.

Are you a tester yourself? Want to become one? Would you like to share your opinions or observations? Leave a comment below.

Software Tester at Goyello. Agile believer, following the Agile manifesto both in her professional and private life. Passionate about databases and IT project management.