Are you a Buccaneer Parrot?

I've had a couple of 'epiphanies' this morning and consequently have that weird floaty, happy/anxious feeling that I get at moments like this.

I didn't go to StarEast but I, along with countless other software testers have been watching the virtual show through twitter.

Some of it I let go, but a couple of links I've clicked on to see what all the fuss is about. Boy, if the two links I clicked on are anything to go by, it would have been a great event to be at.

The first seismic changing event for me was listening to James Bach's clip on what it means to be a buccaneer tester.  Now James is a tester that I have mixed feelings about. I went on his RST course a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I loved his FOCUS/DEFOCUS heuristic and its one of my key techniques that I apply when I test. BUT, sometimes I find his style can be overly aggressive, especially when it comes to:  oh crap, here I go, CERTIFICATION.

But not today. Today he was sublime and this key point hit me:

"We have got to be testing from our own place, not copying like parrots"

This resonated heaps with me as its a trap that I constantly fall into.  Now, I pride myself on my software testing skills. I do have a fondness for exploratory testing and have a knack in asking the 'right' question when determining context. Here's the crunch though. I call my approach pragmatic. In other words, I DONT ROCK THE BOAT.

So when asked, I will happily manage a team of scripted testers. Why? Because that is the process. That is how things are 'done' in that company.

This creates a dilemma for me, because it leads me to ask what in  software testing do I really believe in? Where is my "own place"?   To what lengths would I go to ensure Exploratory Testing was used in a team I led? (I know I would never personally create a test script, or follow one for that matter). This is pertinent to me because I've just gone for a test lead role that requires 'strict adherence to a process'.

In order to be able to answer these questions, (and writing this post is helping me decide mine) and as James puts it 'test from your own place', y ou have to know where and what "that place"  is. The only way your going to find it, is by taking a stand, having an opinion, suggesting a new approach and being prepared for people to disagree with you.  To quietly agree(or disagree) is not going to help you know what you believe in.

It's funny you know, I've always thought that being outspoken is such an 'American' thing. We 'Europeans' are way too polite to express our views so, well, blunt. Perhaps there is an element of difference in culture, but I don't think I can hide behind that excuse any more.

Here's the great thing though,  when you find 'your place' you will be a lot more secure and that is going to help you become a better tester.  Why? Because being secure about your place means you don't have to worry about what other people think. You are less fearful one thing I know for sure:

IF YOU FEAR WHAT OTHERS THINK OF YOU, YOU WILL NEVER BE FREE TO LEARN NEW STUFF

It kind of goes with Elizabeth Hendrikson's article that says "Not knowing answers isn't sign of weakness; not asking question is"  Being fearful of looking stupid, prevents you from asking the dumb question. By the way, before you pat yourself on the back about being able to ask 'dumb questions" I believe its easy to ask the dumb question when your experienced in an area, but try doing it in a field where your not so experienced. It can be a real challenge.

And it can be a real challenge for experienced testers to ask 'dumb questions' when they want to appear knowledgeable. I think for wannabee experts this is a real trap. If you try and spend all your time looking like you have the answers,  you put yourself in a situation where you stop asking 'dumb questions'

Why do I believe all these things, because its what I feel and do sometimes. No often. And its something that it going to change. Now.

So thats why James Bach's Video resonates so strongly with me.

Thank you James, you have once again been instrumental in my growth as a software tester.

Arghh, what's that pieces of eight, pieces of eight?