Explain what you do as a tester — for your parents

Andreas Cederholm
Image of Andreas infront of his computer

Parent: So how is work going?

Me: It’s going really great. Great assignment, nice colleagues and interesting tasks.

Parent: Yes, hmm, so tell me again, what is it you do?

Me: Really? I must have told you at least 20 times.

Parent: Yeah but I have never really understood.

Me: So my job is to find as much valuable information about how the product actually behaves compared to how people think it behaves based on priorities and risks.

Parent: You do what?

Me: Ok let’s say we are building a car. First there is someone that thinks that a certain car would sell well, let’s call this person the product owner. The product owner guess what the customers want in a car and write these things down.
We also have a designer that decides how it should look to please the customers.
Then we have the builder that builds the car based on how it should look and behave.
During the building there are a lot of discussions between the three since it is not always possible to build so it looks or behaves as wanted.
In the end hopefully a car is built.

Parent: So you are the builder?

Me: No, I’m the tester.
My job is to look at what we are supposed to build and see if that is what we have built. To do this I can look at what the product owner wrote down but I also need to figure out what the product owner wanted but didn’t write down to see what we should have. Let’s say the product owner wrote down that it should be possible to turn on the wipers. What the product owner then also meant but didn’t write down was that there should also be wipers on the rear window. The builder on the other hand didn’t realise that it also was part of what should be built so it was never added.

Parent: Can’t they just write down everything?

Me: It would be a very long list, that would take a long time to write and by the time the list was done, the customers might want something else.

Parent: So couldn’t the product owner and builder just talk to each other more frequently?

Me: Really good suggestion and that is what happens in a more agile workplace where they talk often and build in small steps.

Parent: So why do they need you?

Me: Well that miscommunication is one part but a more tricky part is to find the things we haven’t even considered.
Say we thought about having wipers front and rear then the problem is solved right? Well as a tester you’ll start to think in “what if”s. So for example, what if it rains a lot. Hmm ok we might need different speeds on the wiper. What if it snows heavy snow, hmm I guess we need the wipers to be strong. And just like that we have 2 more things we need on the list.

Parent: Oh I see then it can become a lot of things on the list and many what ifs.

Me: Yes so then we have the risk factor. We can’t test or build everything, there just isn’t time so we need to choose where we spend our time.
For example, you might wonder what if the wipers use too much electricity? It might drain the battery if using wipers with the engine of. To decide if we are to test this we need to consider how hard it is to test, how much time it will take and what the risk is. Drivers will probably not sit in the car with the engine off and wipers on for a long time so we might skip this in favour of other tests.

Parent: So it seems that you do a lot of thinking about what to test.

Me: Yes, a lot of the work is to talk to different people to get their view of what is important and not and where they might think problems exist. And also look at the product to see where it might have problems. Like in the car example we might focus a lot on the engine and the brakes since they are an important part of the general features and security.

So do you better understand what I do now?

Parent: So you find things no one thought about.

Me: Yes