Your Ideal Role in the Testing World

Many of us are used to the question during an interview wherein someone says: “what would your ideal role look like?” It’s a question that has an answer that is easy to envision for me, but not always easy to articulate on the spot. Recently I left a position where my role had to be replaced and the manager was asking for ideas on what kind of person would be a good replacement. I had to put myself in the position of someone coming into that role and what would have made me stay in that position.

So here is the response I gave him, in the form of a hypothetical opportunity description.

Are you someone who is passionate about testing, has lots of ideas, and wants to not only share them, but implement them? We need someone who can fill multiple roles at the same time. Think of yourself as the Polyglot Tester!

You will be a test evangelist. We want someone to promote the use of effective and efficient testing techniques. We have some of our own, but we also know we want to do more.

You will be a test solution analyst. We don't just want you to talk about techniques. We want you to help us craft tool solutions that will support those techniques.

You will be a test designer. Ideally you will help us work on a "common format" that lets us adhere to a single source design pattern for tests. You will be working to make sure test and data conditions adhere as much as possible to this common format.

You will be a test solution developer. You'll take your test designs and work with the team to create an orchestrated and instrumented structure behind them. We work acceptance first around here, so these solutions will involve you talking to business analysts and developers just as much as your fellow testers.

You will be an automation engineer. You will evaluate our current framework and either help us evolve it or maybe you'll create the basis for an entirely new framework. Your goal will be to come up with a generalized framework that can utilize various solutions, like WATiR, Mechanize, Selenium, and so forth. Have another tool you think would work better? Tell us about it. Better yet: prove it to us. You should also expect to be creating the basis for manual tests to be directly converted into automated tests, using popular BDD tools (Cucumber-JVM, Cucumber, SpecFlow, Behat, Lettuce).

Ultimately you will help us promote the idea that quality assurance is a role and not necessarily a team. If the thought of working with a diverse team to create a shared notion of quality is exciting, we want to hear from you. We promise to challenge you and we expect you to challenge us.

Lots of job descriptions get mired in formulaic and procedural ideas about the role which, to me, shows absolutely no creativity whatsoever. I’m not saying those are bad or good necessarily because they do the job in terms of getting candidates in the door.

But rather I’m saying they often miss the point, at least when it comes to testing roles and particularly if you want to attract thoughtful talent that has been in the industry awhile and is looking for fresh challenges. So after I wrote up the above I had to sit and think about what I liked about it. Why did that describe my ideal role? Why would that be something I would respond to quickly?

I consider myself a “modern tester” by which I mean I am up to date on various aspects of my discipline, both past and present. I also have strong ideas about the future of my discipline, many of which are somewhat indicated in various posts on this blog. I consider myself “technical enough” with a variety of technologies to fit into most development organizations. So, again, why would the above appeal to me?

Because it would show me that the people hiring had their fingers on the pulse of what is making the testing and development world tick. It would tell me they know enough to know what they need but don’t pretend to have all the answers. It would indicate they have confidence about their future path but enough honesty to know there are many ways to travel that path. It would indicate to me that they are passionate enough to think beyond just the role itself and that they want a personality to come in and help them, not just a bundle of skills on legs.

Further, hiring managers tend to like when someone is appropriately creative on their resume, and not just giving the same old thing that they see time and time again. Why not have that same expectation when we get people hooked on an opportunity that is being provided?

I know part of the reason, of course, which is generally that hiring managers want to weed out people from applying who you feel can’t do the job. That being said, that’s not always clear, particularly in testing. I wrote about how testers are more than their skills and I still believe that.

Clearly here I’m talking more about “advanced” roles than “entry level” roles but that’s also my point. Those candidates who will be applicable for the “advanced” roles will have been in the industry long enough to treat most opportunities as carbon copies of each other, unless something hooks them.

My thoughts are morphing on this a bit and I know there are practical realities that go into crafting opportunity descriptions but I also think there is room for a lot more creativity in how opportunities are expressed, particularly if you want to attract thoughtful, innovative people who take a broad view of testing.


This article was written by Jeff Nyman

Anything I put here is an approximation of the truth. You're getting a particular view of myself ... and it's the view I'm choosing to present to you. If you've never met me before in person, please realize I'm not the same in person as I am in writing. That's because I can only put part of myself down into words. If you have met me before in person then I'd ask you to consider that the view you've formed that way and the view you come to by reading what I say here may, in fact, both be true. I'd advise that you not automatically discard either viewpoint when they conflict or accept either as truth when they agree.

4 thoughts on “Your Ideal Role in the Testing World”

  1. Hey Jeff. I’m so with you on this. I’m tired of seeing bland job reqs. I work as a hiring manager now and one thing I try to do is tailor our ads a bit, catering to the type of person that I think would respond to certain things, including even our wording. Out of curiosity, what position did you leave?

    1. Yup, basically it boils down to me about writing an opportunity description so it seems like something someone would like to do, rather than just something they can do. As far as position, I left Oracle, which I actually ended up at due to an acquisition.

  2. Sigh, if only there were some job ads written like that rather than the ‘must have an eye for detail, 6 years of experience with ‘X’ and have great communication skills and be a team player’

    Bookmarked this so next time someone asks what a good job spec looks like I can refer them to this



  3. Spot on, Jeff. This is really a problem in our industry. It’s almost like all of these job descriptions go through some cookie-cutter. A lot of times I’ve found you actually get what you want when you are a little more general in the description and speak to the mind set of the person, which I think you’re doing with your example. You’re basically saying: “Hey, have we get a challenge for you! Are you up to it?”

    I love it! It would be easy enough during phone screens to weed out the candidates that simply don’t have the skills, experience and mind set.

    Great post.

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