Is Software Testing for Losers?

Are software testers the losers of the software world? Well, in my opinion, yes and no. Let me explain. Very early in my career I was strictly a software developer, coding mostly using the C language. Then I started working at Microsoft in the 1990s doing software testing work. In those days, most system software was being written in C++ (VB was often used for relatively simple applications) and there was a clear distinction between development activities and testing activities, mostly because using C++ was, and is, hideously difficult so developers just didn’t have much time to thoroughly test their code. In these days I was very proud to be a tester, and the majority of the testers I worked with were as good as any of the developers I worked with.

Then, after the creation of Java and C#, things changed. Using these two languages, developers can be vastly more productive. Developers starting doing more and more testing of their own code (often through unit testing). Rather quickly, software testing became sort of a second class citizen in the software world.

I observed the effects of these changes most noticeably at software conferences. I used to speak at several software testing conferences, but every conference I spoke at, the quality of both the speakers and the attendees declined. Currently, many of the regular speakers on the software testing conference circuit are absolute jokes. These speakers spend endless time defining useless terminology like “exploratory testing” and “context school” and drawing useless “agile quadrants” instead of presenting useful technical information. Additionally, it seems like many of the speakers at software testing conferences are proud of their lack of knowledge — I noticed one clown who proudly stated his lack of education (I think he might have not even finished high school) benefited him. Just pathetic.

What was worse than the poor quality of speakers at software testing conferences was the fact that the attendees seemed completely unable to distinguish the few good speakers, those who provided good content, from the majority of bad speakers, who presented nothing but meaningless vocabulary fluff.

Now let me point out that there are a few — very, very few — software testers I know who are excellent. In particular, a guy A.P. (I’m not going to give his full name for fear of embarrassing him) is as good as there is and I read his blog regularly.

So what’s my point? Basically, software testing has changed dramatically over the past few years. Software testers tend to fall into extremes — very, very good, and very, very bad. If you are new to software testing, be very leery of the many self-proclaimed experts, and critically analyze exactly what these so-called experts say and write.


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6 Responses to Is Software Testing for Losers?

  1. Darn Dr. Mccaffrey! You tell em! Very clear delineation of what happened in the software testing world. Thanks for writing.

  2. Thanks for writing. But whom we actually need to follow and learn from as new to testing.

  3. Win vinaya says:

    Interesting and informative post. Its so impressive.
    Agile Testing

  4. Excellent content – as you always provide and inspire me to come again and again. You are on my RSS reader now.
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  5. I’d love to know who A.P. is. Why not share the identity if he’s so good?

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