The impending extinction of testers

11 January 2016

If you are a tester, there is a meteor heading your way, and that meteor is called automation.  Your very survival will depend on your ability to adapt to life with automation.  Fail to make that adjustment and you will join the dinosaurs in the museum as the new exhibit, “apatosaurus tento”, “The Non-Technical Tester”.

Testers who do not embrace this brave new world of automation run an increasing risk of being down-sized, right-sized, or whatever other euphemism you prefer to use for being made redundant.

What is the driver of this doom and gloom?  Cost!  The desire to get more bang for your buck.

A team of (for example) five testers that spends their time writing test scripts and then following those test scripts against a system is in the unenviable position of joining that species on the edge of extinction.

As the manager of that team, I would retain one member of the species to write the test scripts and analyse and interpret the results, but down-size (use your preferred euphemism here) the remaining four members.  Why would I pay for five testers when the simple act of following a test script can be performed by almost any semi-skilled labour at a significantly lower cost?  Especially if I can send that job off-shore to countries where the labour cost is cheaper.  After all, following a script does not require any special training, skills, or knowledge.

To those four former testers, welcome to the fate of the genus apatosaurus tento.  To the surviving tester, be afraid, be very very afraid.  That meteor is putting the remainder of your career at risk as you compete with all the other survivors for the dwindling resources of jobs available for that endangered species, the non-technical tester.

How then to survive this extinction level event?  Don’t just try to survive alongside test automation, ignoring it or hiding from it – that path simply delays the inexorable slide to extinction.  Instead, adapt and evolve!

The tester that embraces test automation has the adaptation that allows them to rise above their former colleagues and feast on the more bountiful lake of bugs available to those who are freed from the time-consuming shackles of manually following test scripts.

The tester that can automate the repetitive and mindless job of following test scripts will find that they have more time on their hands, time that can be spent on tasks that cannot be automated, such as exploratory testing.  Such techniques yield a richer crop of bugs that are not typically found by more mundane testing techniques, but rather are normally found by users in production.  When that happens, the users get angry because there is a roadblock preventing them continuing with their work, and the development team (including the testers) lose face.

As a manager, I would want testers who can offer that bit extra beyond their colleagues, who can find those more elusive bugs, who yield better productivity because they automate all the repetitive tasks that they can.  These technical testers are the ones who will survive the extinction level event of automation.  Welcome to the future of testing, to the evolution of testers into the new species of “homo tento”.

Post by Colin Garlick