“He who does not ask is a poor fellow” my father always told me. A few weeks ago our DevOps coach attended a Retrospective with our team. He also emphasized the importance of asking questions because making assumptions is a bad habit, and a dangerous one. Moreover, asking questions is not a sign of weakness; it is always a step in building a relationship between people. I immediately had to think back to my visit to EuroSTAR in The Hague last November. How we as testers often find ourselves in situations of “testing in the dark”. Then we are forced to use methods of reconnaissance style, charter driven, and session based, exploratory testing (Rob Sabourin). This illustrates that we, as testers need to be equipped with a particular mindset. It’s a mindset of being curious, honest, critical and open. In this blog I will explain this any further by means of some examples I gathered at the conference.
Be curious – Question the system
Many testers are in their comfort zone when they only focus on functional testing. But you have to get out of that. For example, a simple database compare can save hours of GUI testing; understand where your data goes and where it comes from (Michael Bolton). Another example; let the logging run during testing. Make sure you, as a tester, learn to understand this logging more and more (Alan Richardson). If you understand logging you can also perform simple Shift-left performance tests; look critically at variations in response times in the logging, and discuss these observations with developers. Potential performance problem can be tackled in an early stage. Finally, if you lose your curiosity as the questioning starts to become repetitive, more like checking; automate it! (Michael Bolton).
Be honest – Question yourself
You are often good at work that you enjoy, and you enjoy the work you are good at. Try to get a good overview of what you are good and not good at, you like and what not. Be honest about this in your communication. It may feel uncomfortable because you are afraid to miss an assignment. But ultimately both you and your client are better off when you exactly point out where your passion in work lies (Alan Richardson).
Be critical – Assess the questioner
If you are about to have an intake with a new tester for your team, then you should ask yourself whether this person is a “questioner” or not. You can have a simple assessment carried out using a random test application or website. First, ask the candidate “how would you test this application?” let the candidate speak aloud his/her actions and questions while he/she is running through the application. In this way you will get the feeling whether the candidate is a match or not, because “Trust” is determined by 3 factors:
- Logic: The candidate can – and does not know everything, but the questions he/she asks give a good idea of his/her analytical abilities
- Empathy: Does the candidate ask questions about the users and the purpose of the application?
- Authenticity: On the basis of this assessment and the questions you ask yourself, you can conclude whether the candidate is credible or not.
Be open – Ask for forgiveness
Be open about your mistakes. This might be hardest part of all. Although, in the airline industry this is part of their working culture (Michael Bolton). However, being open is one thing but asking for forgiveness is another. It is essential for building or rebuilding the relationship between people when things got rough or simply forgotten. For example, in extreme large projects like building a metro line a stakeholder is easily left ignored (Iris Pinkster-O’Riordain & Greet Burkels). Be humble and reach out to another.
To sum up, I am in favor of a new name for the DevOps test engineer, namely the DevOps questioneer!
Arjan Steltenpool (1970, The Netherlands) is an experienced test consultant who has worked for CGI since 1998. He performs as a test consultant and product owner of a test automation team at a pension provider in the south of the Netherlands. The aspects of working in software testing that Arjan really finds important are teamwork, entrepreneurship and well-considered communication.