Testing is a funny business

A colleague recently messaged me shortly after I'd raised a bug to say "how did you find that?!". My standard answer to that (since it's been said to me a few times) is "because it's my job", which usually gets a laugh, but doesn't really explain the "how". So what is it that's different about testers?

I've worked with a lot of different testers through my career and the are a few traits that are common to most of them: an analytical approach (often to life as well as work); an element of pedantry (wanting things to be "right"); and a slightly skewed perspective on things (always looking for a loophole). These often manifest themselves as what the lonely hearts columns might call "a good sense of humour" - probably because the basis of most jokes is a reality that is twisted, but logical, and the best jokes reward the listener by leaving them to make connections for themselves. I often find myself involuntarily laughing when I find a defect, not out of disrespect for the developers, but just at the sheer delight of having made an unexpected link.

In addition, the testing mindset is one that can extend through areas of your life outside of the job, something I would have thought is less applicable to developers (you can only code so much). It can be hard to switch off from spellchecking and proofreading everything you see, and that's actually quite useful when helping your kids with their homework (less so when you spot the major loophole that runs the movie).

It's also a mindset that can be applied to other jobs - for example, my wife is a technical editor for knitting patterns, which you would think requires more handicraft skills than testing; that's true to an extent, but her day-to-day tasks include checking a particular pattern will produce what it says it will (i.e. meeting specification), breaking bad news to the author when she finds an issue (as discussed in Diplomatic Baggage) and putting herself in the persona of someone who wants to produce the finished item (see Personally Speaking). [Incidentally, she recently tech edited a book which, unusually, has its own mini-musical to promote it: Guys Knit]

Yes, testing can be tedious and repetitive; but that small chuckle rising in your throat when you do find something makes it worthwhile. Which is why when people ask if I'd like to change careers I say: you're having a laugh.