One of the biggest hurdles facing your new joiners, and one that’s hard to avoid, is learning about the product they’ll be working on. This doesn’t just mean getting to grips with how it works, but also how it fits in to a customer’s workplace. After all, testing is so much more than going dredging through a list of functional capabilities.
Having new joiners get hands on with your product instead of lengthy formal training tackles this problem head on. Testers will see your product the same way a customer would for the first time. Going through the often painful process of learning how to use it gives them greater insight into it’s strengths and weaknesses, which will be invaluable to your test team.
If your organisation is anything like ours, you no doubt have a lot of red tape which helps keep your project ticking. Instead of bombarding new testers with all the rules and processes, try giving them complete freedom with how they approach their testing work at the start, with the chance to regularly feedback to and get advice from the team. Let them learn on their own time.
Seems simple right? The effect it’s had on our team has been enormous. Very few of our new joiners knew anything about IBM CICS TS, and none of them had ever had the chance to work on a mainframe before. The amount of time required to get someone on board and up to scratch used to be up to 2-3 months, but since we started dropping them in the deep end that time has been reduced to 2-3 weeks, and the quality of testing has shot up.
By giving our new testers room to think about the product and learn about it through testing, without direct instruction, they took to the art of software testing like ducks to water. They developed skills and experience with the product in exactly the same way our customers do, giving them deeper insight into why their testing is important and what matters to our stakeholders.
In short, freedom to learn and explore a product has proved itself to be a far more effective teacher of testing than the strict training we’ve tried in the past. Next time a new tester joins you, try reducing the formal training and letting them learn on their own terms. The result may surprise you.