7 Underrated Traits of Highly Effective Testers

7 Underrated Traits of Highly Effective Testers

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What traits should a tester possess to be successful? How should one acquire those traits? 

 

These questions always lurk at the back of the mind of every tester. While some of the traits are obvious, universally known, and widely accepted, they are several other critical ones that don’t find room for discussion and are highly underrated or taken for granted. 

 

In the article, I attempt to outline 7 of the most underrated traits of an effective tester. Based on my observations, experience, and tête-à-tête with some of the world-class leaders in the field of software testing via conferences, seminars, workshops, and other public platforms; I boiled down on seven critical traits that every tester must possess.

 

At first glance, you may think that these traits are difficult to acquire but they can be learned and instilled with practice, discipline, and continuous efforts.

Trait # 1: Problem Solving

Problem Solving
  • 1. Problem Solving is asking for Yes or No questions at scale.
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  • 2. Do you jump on problems directly or do you reflect on them first? In most cases, people jump right into solving problems without exploring their context, needs, objectives, alternatives, risks, etc. Such rapid reactions negatively affect the effectiveness of solutions.
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  • 3. Ask questions while approaching any problem. Questions are a gateway to more information that helps to make sufficiently informed judgments and calculations.
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  • 4. Do check out the Questioning Toolkit which provides over a dozen kinds of questions in over 15+ categories. Through these, you will be able to sharpen your questioning skills.
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  • 5. Another aspect of problem-solving is the ability to divide and visualize problems in layers. In this way, you can simplify complex problems by tackling them one layer at a time.
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  • 6. You can make yourself a ninja at problem-solving as well as getting things done if you prepare yourself with:
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      •       6.1: Next Logical Question (NLQ): If you do not ask or answer the NLQ in one shot, you may be repeatedly paused or interrupted.
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      •       6.2: Next Logical Action (NLA): If you don’t plan the next logical action, beware of being stuck despite agreeing on the shared goal. Try it if you like getting things done. 😊
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I learned about NLQ and NLA from Ajay Balamurugadas and this small habit has made a huge impact on how I approach problems.

 

Jerry Weinberg’s Rule of Three:

 

  • 1. If you cannot think of three ways, how our solution can fail, then it’s NOT a solution.
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  • 2. If you cannot create three solutions for a problem, then you have NOT thought enough.
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  • 3. If you cannot interpret in three ways what you’re hearing from the other person, then you cannot fully understand what the other person is saying.
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Weinberg’s rule of three can be used as a heuristic to check for all possibilities rather than just stopping at the first one that you come across.

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“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Trait # 2: Reusing Good Ideas

Reuse Good Ideas
  • 1. As they say, some good ideas never die! It is vital to have a personalized catalog for such good ideas.
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  • 2. Having a lot of ideas is the best method for coming up with a good one. We all come across ideas every day (even in the craziest of moments :D) and the key to reusing them is to note them down and act on them. 
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  • 3. In our knowledge economy, it is crucial to seek ideas from multiple sources:
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    •     3.1: Curiosity: Curiosity is the most important element that opens the door to many potential ideas. Curious people go beyond their normal routines to find interesting things.
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    •     3.2: Common Idea Sources:
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    •            3.2.1: Social Media: Follow relevant #hashtags and handles.
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    •                     1.  Twitter
    •                     2. LinkedIn
    •                     3. Facebook
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    •            3.2.2: Blogs: By people who share good and quality content. I follow blogs by James Bach, Michael Bolton, Jerry Weinberg, Huib Schoots, and Scott Hanselman
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    •            3.2.3: Forums: There are a lot of good communities with amazing forums for all sorts of discussions and brainstorming. I have got some of my best ideas from forums like The Test Tribe, The Test Chat, Agile Testing Alliance, Ministry of Testing, and Synapse QA.
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  • 4. Take Notes: An idea not noted is mostly an idea lost. If you don’t save good ideas, you will never have them when you need them. As Jerry Weinberg says, Document is nothing, Documenting is everything. Always have note-taking apps/tools handy.
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  • 5. In Testing, there are many good reusable idea catalogs. Find such catalogs and start exploring. Catalogs that I frequently refer for good ideas:
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“I've always thought that writing isn't that hard. It's having a good idea that's hard.”

Trait # 3: Good Communication Skills

Communication Skills
  • 1. Many people believe that they lack the natural abilities to communicate well. Well, that’s a misconception. Like any hard skill, this can also be learned through deliberate practice.
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  • 2. You can improve your effectiveness as a software tester by mastering the following skills:
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  •     2.1: Self-Advocacy: By advocating for yourself or negotiating for yourself you will avoid being continuously blocked and manipulated by bullies or succumbing to work pressure.
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  •    2.2: Test Advocacy: It’s the ability to demonstrate your testing/work that separates professional testers from others.
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  •    2.3: Bug Advocacy: Best tester ain’t one who finds most bugs, but the one who gets the MOST bugs fixed. Learn to sell your bugs too 😊
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  •    2.4: Emailing Skills: It might sound stupid but I have realized that people who can write well, get things done quicker and better.
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  •    2.5: Presentation Skills: If you want to get your work recognized, get good at it. Practice is the key here.
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  • 3. Listing down some resources that have helped me to improve on the above-stated skills:
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  •    3.1: Jerry Weinberg’s Blog, i.e. Secrets of Consulting
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“Communication works for those who work at it.”

Trait #4: Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking
  • 1. For people working in the field of designing, developing, and testing software systems, Good Systems Thinking Skills >>> Good Coding / Scripting Skills.
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  • 2. Develop a thorough understanding of systems and their interconnections.
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  • 3. Don’t limit your focus on the individual components, start thinking on the below lines:
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    •     3.1: How does the module you are testing fit into the larger system?
    •     3.2: How do things impact systems?
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4. Recommended Reading: An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Jerry Weinberg.

“It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.”

Trait #5: Self Driven Learning

Learning
  • 1. As they say, “money attracts money”, knowledge attracts knowledge as well.
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  • 2. Everything you learn is a gateway to everything else you will ever know. The more you know, the more easily you can know.
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  • 3. Build your KenAshraya: KenAshraya means “Trusted Knowledge Network”. Having a knowledge network of trustworthy people is a superpower in today’s knowledge economy.
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  • 4. “Do you want to have 20 years of experience? OR The same experience for 20 years?” – If you are looking for the former, Focus on Continuous Learning.
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  • 5. Common Learning Modes (In increasing order of retention):
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  •     5.1: Reading / Watching: Low retention rate yet crucial for starting. 
  •     5.2: Doing / Writing: Good for clarifying and reflecting on your learnings. 
  •     5.3: Teaching: Widens your perspective and understanding of the concept.
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  • 6. Check out Learning Pyramid and Knowledge Retention Rates Here.
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  •    7.1: We forget 75% if we do not revise within 24 hours
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  •    7.2: If your initial learning is on Day 1, Repeat the revision on the 2nd, 4th, and 7th Day.
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  • 8. Embrace the Bootstrap Approach:
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    •    8.1: Begin in Confusion, End in Precision.
    •    8.2: If you try to do something but fail, that’s learning (progress).
    •    8.3: Know that whenever you do something for the first time, you will suck at it.

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.”

Trait #6: Context-Driven Approach

Context
  • 1. Testing is an intellectual process and not a mechanistic process.
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  • 2. Judgement, Decision Making & Sapient use of tools are essential to testing. The key to efficient testing is understanding context.
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  • 3. There are no best practices.
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    •     3.1: There can be good practices in a given context.
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    •     3.2: The value of any practice depends on its context.
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    •     3.3: Read more about Context-Driven Testing Principles Here.
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  • 4. Other Things that help to be a Context-Driven Tester:
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  •     4.1: Epistemology: The study of knowledge. Helps you to solve the fundamental question, i.e. How do you know that you know?
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  •     4.2: Cognitive Science: The scientific study of the mind and its processes.
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  •     4.3: Understanding Bias: A cognitive bias is an inherent thinking ‘blind spot’. Check out the Cognitive Bias Codex.
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  •     4.4:  Heuristics & Mental Models: Testing is driven by Heuristics & Mental Models. Refer to Detailed Video on this concept by James Bach.
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  •     4.5: Tacit (Implicit) & Explicit Knowledge
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  • 5. Use these Context Revealing Questions by Michael Bolton to help you probe the context of the test project, your givens, and your mission.

“Content without context is noise.”

Trait #7: Exhibiting your work

  • 1. Great ideas never evolve by keeping them to yourself :)
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  • 2. Good work builds reputation quickly. 
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  • 3. Common (Popular) Modes for Exhibiting your Work: 
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  •     3.1: Writing: “You have a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die.” Conserve your keystrokes. You can check your remaining keystrokes at keysleft.com
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  •     3.2: Blogging: Rather than answering every email, consider blogging the answer and emailing them the link to your post.
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  •     3.3: At Forums:
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    •          3.3.1: Quora
    •          3.3.2: Stack Overflow
    •          3.3.3: Community Groups
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  •     3.4: Journal Papers, Books
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  • 4. Speaking
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  •     4.1: At Meetups
  •     4.2: At Conferences
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  • 5. Teaching
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  •      5.1: Workshops
  •      5.2: Training Courses
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  • 6. You can keep competing against thousands of other testers or advance your career by exhibiting your work. The choice is yours!
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7. The Key to Getting Started is to Get Started 😊

“The greater the potential for reward in the portfolio, the less risk there is.”

Now that you have read all the seven traits a good tester must have, you have already completed half the work. The second half now involves starting and working towards them. Even if it’s very small, it’s still progress. Even if you get stuck, try altering or seeking help, but don’t give up. Furthermore, the compounding effect also works in the case of self-upgradation. So, good luck and keep compounding your skills. To put it in the words of Albert Einstein, Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. The one who understands it earns it, the one who doesn’t, pays it.

 

If you’d like a quick glance at all the points covered in my article, you can check out this mindmap / bookmark it:

If you are a visual learner, here is a quick video that highlights the key points from my article:

Know our Super Writer:

Rahul

Rahul Parwal

senior software engineer

Rahul is a Jaipurite with a B.Tech. in Computer Science & Engineering. Currently, He is working as a Senior Software Engineer at ifm engineering pvt. ltd., Pune. He is a seeker at heart and is a passionate lover of Indian mythology and Cricket. He is a firm believer of right education and an ardent advocate of open-source mentality. You can check out his latest ebook, “Ultimate Productivity Toolkit” at bit.ly/rpajtoolkit Want to know more, Check out: bit.ly/m/parwalrahul

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