Friday, October 12, 2007

Soft Skills that Make a Tester- Redefined

In the Year 2003, I had written an article on the topic- "Soft Skills that Make a Tester" ( as a part of Original section on Stickyminds website. In this article, I had attempted to list down the Soft skills of the testers that differentiate and helps the testers be successful in their jobs (in addition to Technical skills, of course!). Considering India Software testing scenario, I feel that early part of this decade was the time when there was a lot of emphasis on Technical skills and every other tester wanted to learn Automation and about how to do testing, test designing etc.(Its prevalent even now to some extent). In my experience, I came across quite a few people who left their organizations just because they didn’t get opportunity to work on Automation! Such was the extreme focus on Technical skills that Testers used to believe that "If you are not involved in programming, then you are not being productive".
Contrary to this belief, I think Soft skills are extremely important for the people in Software testing and this is something that is often found to be neglected by the upcoming testers. In order to become an all-round tester with great skills, Soft skills have to be given their due importance. There are many situations that we come across on the day-to-day work life as a testers in which one person perform better than the others just on the basis of Soft skills- be it winning an argument with developer on the basis of his/her communication or finding handling multiple tasks effectively because if superior organizational abilities etc.
In the mentioned article, I had tried to put focus of some of the important soft skills namely-
- Discipline and Perseverance
- Reading Skills
- Negative Thinking
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Time Management and Effort Prioritization
- Attitude
Most of the testing practitioners will argue that this list of Soft skills isn’t complete. Even I agree with this and have to admit that I had to leave out some of the important skills in order to meet the word-limit requirement of the article.
I believe there is a lot of change that has happened in the way Software testing is conducted in many organizations since last 4-5 years or so. The terms like Security Testing, Stress Testing, to an extent Performance testing, White box testing, Code inspections by testing groups etc. which used to be in testing theory earlier, has gradually become a part of testing schedule and plans. I have seen this change in many organizations- i.e. the drift in focus from Only Functional Testing, Automation to different streams of testing as described earlier. There were multiple factors governing this change mainly- Expectations of customers, Post production bugs (and the noise generated by these!) and motivation to deliver ”complete" software to the market. This change has been a good one for the Software Testing fraternity and has opened up a myriad of growth paths- both horizontal and vertical, both Technical and Management paths for the testers. This has created the jobs for new Technical skills in the market and has enhanced the role of Software Testing in overall scheme of things.
This changed focus has also brought about the changes in the way Soft skills are perceived. Earlier, in my article I had classified Soft skills generically for Software testing profession. Now, with the shift happening in Software testing profession- every unique kind of testing requires certain specific Soft skills.
For example Security Testing requires a lot different mindset as compared to Functional Testing. A Security tester will need to have an attacker's mindset, always thinking of finding the ways to expose Security holes in Software. Also, the bug find rate for the Security tester may not be as high as that of a functional tester, so a Security Tester will have to show more perseverance and patience in dealing with testing. On the contrary, a Functional tester also needs to do negative testing but it is generally not as extreme as is required of a Security Tester.
The case of White box tester is even more unique. The tester in this case has to strike an effective balance between being a developer and a tester and he/she is often required to switch the roles with ease.
If you are new to any type of testing or any new work for that matter, it always makes the job easier (and thereby, increasing the chances of success) if one tries to approach the job by learning about the associated soft skills first. In my experience, I have found it easier to get into new role and learning new skills by first working to master the soft skills required and learning the technical skills along-side.
Watch out this blog space for more on the variety of skills sometime soon!

Keep testing passionately!

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