Thursday, 17 March 2016

Not sure about something? Ask questions...

Recently I was watching Zoolander (it's an amazing film, and one I can highly recommend), and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) plays a dumb male model in it, but it's hilarious. One scene however got me thinking, and it's this scene here:



"Did you think I'd be too stupid to know what a eugoogly is?"

It shows Derek not knowing something and being too afraid to ask for fear of looking stupid. It's something that unfortunately I still see, and one of the reasons why I believe that Testers need to understand what they are testing, but all too often, I see Testers scared to ask questions.

If a Tester is scared to ask questions, then that raises alarm bells on multiple fronts:

- Firstly, is the team a safe environment for the Tester to ask any questions? Do they feel confident and comfortable in front of their fellow team mates.
- Secondly, if the Tester doesn't truly understand something, then how do they know how to test it? What test cases to write and execute?
- Finally, if they are scared to ask questions then they need to work on their self confidence, it's far better to ask a question early on, remember, feedback early is critical in all aspects of life!

So, how can a Tester overcome the above or at least attempt to?

The answer in short, is that it's very difficult for a Tester alone to conquer the above, it's a team mindset. Having said that, there are things a Tester can do to help the team appreciate and become engaged in the process.

For the first point, if the team isn't a safe environment, if they don't feel comfortable then how can they tackle that? How can you improve the relationship between members of the team? This is a difficult question as it can be quite team specific, maybe it could be that the team need to work closer together and appreciate the work that others do? Pair and then pair some more, not just paired programming, but paired testing too! Or it may be that they need to just do some good old fashioned team bonding! We often have team away days here, and they're a great way to get to know others in the team and people always come back feeling closer and more of a team after a successful away day!

Sometimes I think it's easy to get bogged down with work and you forget that everyone in the team is a person too, they all have a life just as complex if not more complex as yours, so ask them questions about their day, what they did last night, that sort of stuff. I've mentioned in the past that by divulging some personal information about yourself people feel like they know you and are more likely to open up.

For the second point, if a tester doesn't understand something then research it, whether that's Google, Bing, YouTube, Pluralsight... There is an infinite amount of resources at our fingertips, we need to take advantage of the situation we find ourselves in with the Information Highway! Failing that just ask a developer that you are comfortable talking to if you're not sure.

Finally, and the solution to the last point is fairly obvious, just ask questions, swallow your pride and ask a question if you're not sure. The earlier you ask a question the better, just like in testing the earlier you give feedback the better! This is why it's essential to get Testers involved early, not just because they may ask about requirements etc. and question them, but it helps them to understand the technology and what is being developed, otherwise they will always be playing catch up with the developers in the team.

The 3 key things to take away from this article are:

1 - Do not be afraid to ask questions - If you do not understand something, ask a question...nobody will think it's a stupid question.
2 - Work closer with the team, it's about how WE test it, how WE deliver quality - By working closer you get to know information without necessary asking questions and this works both ways
3 - Ask early and often - The earlier you ask a question the better, as the more value that it will bring for you and the team

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