A former colleague of mine (a former manager, to be exact), recently blogged about the plight of the SDET as second class citizens earlier this week. I was going to reply to the post right away – then I was going to reply in a blog post, but in the end I decided to wait a few weeks to collect my thoughts and see if I could come up with something better to say.
So here goes.
The first time I read the article, I thought, "Eric is living in the past – this just isn’t the truth anymore." Career paths and respect for testers is something I’ve been working on at Microsoft for a long time, and I know where we came from. We have over ten times as many testers at the "Senior" and higher levels (i.e. they get paid huge bucks) than we did four years ago. I work on a team where the testers are absolutely fantastic, and where levels are roughly matched between test and development (we actually have more senior testers than senior developers on our team). Sure, there are pockets of "trouble", but 99% of the time, programmers and testers live on equal ground. I have colleagues in other groups in similar situations, so although my group is exceptional, it’s definitely not unique.
But because I live in such a great world, I forget how often that isn’t the case. I’m reminded that on some teams, testers aren’t matched level-wise with their programmer peers and don’t have "first class’ respect. For every team like mine, there’s another team where testers are treated like crap and are looking for an escape or solution.
One thing to keep in mind that testers are promoted just as often as programmers (and other disciplines) at Microsoft (I’ve done the research, and I’m sorry to say that there’s no conspiracy theory in play here). The biggest reason we have (in general) higher leveled programmers than testers is that many testers move to programming (development, as we call it) roles before they get to senior levels in test. To me, that’s fine. If you want to be an "SDE" at Microsoft, and you spend a few years as an "SDET" to get your feet wet, that’s fine with me. I think testers make great developers – especially the one’s that didn’t want to be testers in the first place. The last person I want taking on big responsibilities or hard challenges on a test team is someone who doesn’t want to be testing software (or doesn’t care about testing software).
Eric goes on to give a developers overview of what test can do and (I think) makes the real point of his article.
Then the comments came and I had another thought.
Are testers just a bunch of whiners?
I can’t imagine another profession where people complain so much about the crap they have to deal with, yet won’t quit because they “love their job”. Yes, there is testing, and there is dealing with people, but both are attributes of a professional, so I don’t get it.
Here’s a tip – you don’t "get" respect, you earn it. In my experience, testers "earn" respect by being credible, showing good results, and making good decisions. You don’t "get" respect from your "level", or by demanding it. Seriously, stop whining and figure out how to earn respect.
Let me also put some blame on the test managers. It’s your job to make sure your team has the tools (including mental models) to do their jobs (including relating with their dev peers). If they can’t do their job, it’s probably your fault.. If your team is bored, fix what your team is doing. If the job is manual (IMO, manual scripted tests are a black mark of idiocy on the testing world), either automate it (if it makes sense), or stop doing it completely. I know, I know- your situation is “unique”, so your team has to piss off highly paid testers with programming degrees. I”ve heard the “unique” line a zillion times now, and it’s simply not true.
In all seriousness – I don’t care whether you work at Microsoft, Wal-mart, or Chik-Fil-A. If you don’t think you get enough respect at work, try to earn respect. If that doesn’t work, quit and get a new job. Life’s too short to have a job where you aren’t challenged, motivated, or respected. But please stop the whining – it’s ugly and does nothing to help.
you with me?