Bharani Asks About Daily Practice

Bharani from India is a novice tester who appears to have a lot of energy. She recently emailed me this:

Sir, I need one small tips. As a, new tester how should they improve to became sharp and clever in the testing field.
 I mean that, What is their homework. what they should do daily…without skipping
For ex: like normal daily activities. we have to do exercise….so..
I mean that, what is the testers daily activities?

I am asked many questions by testers. This particular one reveals a lot about the questioner. For one thing, she thinks differently, because I have never been asked this. And it’s a question about discipline, so perhaps she’s a tester who is truly serious about developing herself.

My first answer is the same as the one my world famous writer of a father so often gives: write.

Write every day.

For me this takes the form of carrying my Moleskine notebook everywhere I go (now with a bandolier for my pens!). Whenever I find myself with a few moments, I make notes of my thoughts about testing and technical life. My notebooks serve as one source of great new ideas for my consulting and teaching.

But for testers, there are a few more practices to keep in mind…

Watch yourself think ever day.

While you are working, notice how you think. Notice where your ideas come from. Try to trace your thoughts. This is not easy. You have to practice to improve your skill of self-observation.

As a tester, you must become an artist of your thoughts, you must learn to see the structure and gain control of the structures by which you notice what no one else notices. These structures are not simply “intuition” or “common sense.” We can do better than that.

Question something about how you work every day.

Testers question things, of course. That’s what testing is. But too few testers questions how they work. Too few testers question why testing is the way it is.

For example: Why do we talk about tests “passing” and “failing”, instead of talking about whether there are problems? Do all bugs need to have steps to reproduce? How do we decide when to write a test down and what steps need to be written?

Explain testing every day.

The ability to explain testing is linked to nearly every other testing skill. Even if no one makes you explain your methodology, you can explain it to yourself. Do that. Practice doing it by voice and in writing. Don’t rest with buzzwords. Don’t tell yourself that you did “black box testing.” Break it down. Explain what you did specifically and explain why you did it.


15 thoughts on “Bharani Asks About Daily Practice

  1. Good tips. Some of them are in your book “Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar”. I started reading it yesterday, and finished today. It is very inspiring. I loved all the details of your past discussions with other people and memories. How you think and question (both others and yourself) was so interesting. The book is really well written and so motivational. Great work. Thanks for publishing it.

  2. We can add one more…

    Prepare a list of testing concepts and read at least one testing concept before you finish the day (obviously from genius Testing Experts) It may be very small one. Also, keep track of it.

    Watch the TV programs like ‘How Do They Do It’, which will keep your curiosity ON and will help in your testing career.

    [James’ Reply: Reading the work of others can be useful. In testing this is difficult, however, because most of what is written in testing is terrible. I generally recommend avoiding books about testing.

    If you want to read my work, that’s okay, but you should be prepared to question it.]

  3. Good stuff!
    Here’s another one (based on “testing is not better than communication of the results”):

    Do a 30 second summary of your findings of the day (or the overall status.)

  4. I am big believer in this particular aspect: “Explain what you did specifically and explain why you did it.” One thing I think all testers should be able to do is ask and answer to themselves “Why are you doing what you are doing.” As James mentions in another blog post, Pilots must practice, practice, practice, but they also must be able to explain why they are practicing what they are practicing.

    You might be practicing (testing) all the time, but you have be aware of what you are doing and why. I’ve seen this applied to training in sports as well (I was training for the Olympics at one point in my life) and my coach would make me practice, practice, practice the smallest movements, and then question me on why I was moving a certain way. Why are you doing it like that? Is there a more efficient/effective way to do what you are doing based on what you want to achieve? He would welcome challenges on his approach/methodology.

    We as testers have to approach our craft the same way. Many thanks to James for bringing this awareness to our craft. It’s nice to see people thinking, not just following.

  5. Hi James, i am Johnson Jr software tester from india. Can you please give me clear difference between sanity and smoke testing?

    [James’ Reply: There’s no clear difference. I use the terms interchangeably.]

  6. Overall, this seems like good advice. There is one part I’m a bit unclear on:

    These structures are not simply “intuition” or “common sense.”

    It would seem that you don’t feel that these concepts are good enough for use in testing. Is this the case? If so, why?

    [James’ Reply: Read the whole section. I’m talking about taking control of your thought processes. How is “intuition” taking control? Intuition means ideas from nowhere. It means you hope that the muse Calliope, daughter of Zeus, gives you the ideas you need.

    I want intuition. Hey I want luck. I want to win the lottery, too. But I don’t RELY on that. I can do BETTER than that by accepting the fruits of my intuition but adding to that conscious, intentional action. I get to that by watching myself think, and giving names to the patterns I find.]

  7. I think teaching others and explain what you do is very helpful and force you to think about what you do and you learn yourself. If you don’t have others to explain to, write it down.

  8. I would like to add one:

    Communicate your ideas (on testing) with someone else every day.

    And communicate with other testers, but not only with other testers.

    In my experience, I gain some insight from thinking by myself.
    At the same time, I usually get the most interesting and new insights once I share my ideas with others. And when others share their ideas with me. No matter how much thinking you do, another person will always bring a whole new perspective along.

    So I would like to point out the importance of sharing what you’ve written down, noticed when you observed yourself (and others), realized after questioning yourself (and others) and how you explained the testing you did.

    NB: I do not think James is suggesting to do things in private, not at all. But I would like to add ommunication because I want to stress its importance. If you decide to write, watch yourself, question yourself and explain your own testing to yourself, but do not share any of it with others, you’ll miss out on so many learning opportunities!

  9. This is my one of the exercise i do ……. For tracing my thought process…..

    1. After waking up in morning…. i would take notes about the dream( dream fade away easily, once you get up )

    2. After taking the notes… Start your analysis about the dream…

    3. Question your dream –

    1.Why i got this type of dream?
    2.Before going to bed,Did i thought anything related to dream?( it may be places, peoples, things……)
    3.How often i am getting the same dream ? ( With Resume or Replay )
    4.Did you liked the dream?
    5.You was feeling Happy/Sad in that dream?
    6.Did you remember any faces in that dream?
    7.Finally, do you store any important information to your conscious mind in your dream…


  10. “Sir, I need one small tips. As a, new tester how should they improve to became sharp and clever in the testing field. I mean that, What is their homework. what they should do daily…without skipping. For ex: like normal daily activities. we have to do exercise….so.. I mean that, what is the testers daily activities?”

    I like the question very much… the answer is “YOU” have to answer it yourself.
    That is going to be the first step towards your success!

    >> Try to answer these questions through your observation/experience/academics/learning…
    Am I a tester by choice or am I doing it just because I’m offered that role?
    What is Quality? Can I define Quality in my own words? How long would I need to come up with a Quality definition?
    Why is testing needed?
    What happens if this is not tested?
    Why am I being paid to test? Why is so much time and amount invested in testing?
    How can I test is thoroughly (coverage)?
    How should this be tested? Is there a proven/tested way to test? Or can I think of a smarter way?
    Do I have enough time to test it; if not how can I better utilize the time given for testing?
    What are the high priority tests that should be executed for sure despite of the shrinking testing windows?
    What could be the severe bugs? What could be the high priority bugs?
    Are there any similar products out there? How are they tested, can I quickly learn something from there?
    What would be bugs that I do not want to pass my testing gate?
    What is the end user community? How will they use it? What could be the potential issues that could let me/my company down?
    Why are performance, usability, security equally important as compared to the functionality?
    Who is branded/tagged a very good tester in my vicinity? Why?
    Who is a better tester than the tagged one in your view? Why? What made me feel that he/she is better than the one the group is thinking?
    What do I need to learn/unlearn/fine-tune to be a champion?
    Can I use any tools to improve or increase my productivity?
    How am I appraised? Am I able to market my contribution to the right degree?
    Will my current skillset let me be a good tester or do I need to improve in terms of the domain, analysis or the technology?
    What are the latest trends that I’m aware of and what are the latest trends that the market is seeing (do research)?
    Am I able to explain/document things? Can I win a win-win situation?
    How long am I going to be a test engineer? What next? What after that?
    Learning is continuous, but when will I be able to mentor others? What would I need to have to come to that level?
    What other role can I take up in the software field if I were not a tester?
    Am I geared up for the agility in the current industry?
    Am I proactive or reactive?
    What soft skills do I need as a tester?
    Can I take the advantage of being the first mover or a pioneer?
    If code is error prone and testing is mandatory, then why go for test automation which is development work again? How should that be tested?
    How are few players like Microsoft, Oracle, Apple ruling the world and how are others like Google, Java and other open-source teams gearing up and giving a tough competition?

    … the list is exhaustive…

    Now I want you answer the questions to yourself. Take time! May be after a few months or years I expect you to add to the above list to help others…
    Good luck!

    Best regards,
    Pavan Kumar Sreeramoju

  11. Hello James,
    This is a good list of daily tasks to do for a tester!

    I’d like to add to the list if you think its worthy. Here’s how it goes;
    > Get feedback about your work, even your thoughts if possible and implement it.
    > Discuss with or teach someone what you learn today.
    > Try testing any object – For example, when you get home, take a pen and get the testing motors running in your brain. try thinking about things like why is that pen designed the way it is? what temperature the ink will endure? Get others’s thought on the same.

    Milin Patel

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