Improvement through practice

In music, the better you are at the basics, the better you are on the bandstand. Even the pro musicians I know practice almost every day. I think testers (and developers) forget the value of practice too often.

In The Passionate Programmer, Chad Fowler suggests doing the exercises on CodeKata. I checked them out, and sure enough, the Kata are great, and I plan to start working through them. A few years ago, I solved a bunch of problems on project euler as an exercise to keep myself sharp.

As a tester, it’s sometimes hard not to practice. As I interact with software, I often ask myself “what if” …then I try it and see what happens. But this is only “sort of” testing – it’s my tester DNA seeping out into my every day life.

I’ve been thinking about other ways to practice testing. I’m a member of uTest, but I haven’t taken the time to test anything. I suppose I could volunteer to test a non-profit’s web site or find a product I like to seriously beta-test – or I suppose I could look into volunteering a few hours a week in a MS product group.

How else do you practice testing?

Comments (2)

  1. Shrini says:

    Very good post … much needed. People who treat software testing as skill and view testing as cognitive activity – would require to practice much in same way as a music artist or a sportsman.

    But to many,  testing is an engineering activity – mechanical. Do assembly line workers "practice" ? They work to produce work product repeatability … volume and correctness holds key there.

    The question  "do you practice testing" – will make many test managers  say "practice … what? and why .. I manage testing team – process, deliverables, client interaction"

    So … do managers practice "management" ?

    For improvisation, new creations – you need to practice. If you take out these elements out of testing .. practice word to many testers would be totally "inappropriate" …

    How do I practice …due to my role, I get relatively less time to "formally" practice testing  with software … but I practice testing at abstract level by to doing "testing driven thinking" and seeing the world. I practice testing by reading and engaging in philosophical debates, reading science/physics/economics. I practice reading books on systems thinking, modeling and other topics that engage me into thinking mode. Every now and then, I get do "what if" or "how does it work" kind of pursuits with software that I use …. Need to improve …


  2. Alan Page says:

    Thanks for the reply Shrini – I’ll answer out of order.

    As a manager (as well as a tester), I do practice management. I work on communication and interpersonal skills with my friends and family. I challenge myself to think of new ways to coach and challenge my team, and I play through what-if scenarios in my head. And, as I did with testing books, I read a lot of books about management and leadership. As with testing, many of those books aren’t very good, but through the fog of knowledge I find new things to think about – and most importantly, I find new ways to think about managing – to me, that’s practice.

    I believe that for any /career/ profession – if you want to get better, you need to practice. It’s obvious for sports and music, but the same is true for a scientist. Now, a scientist doesn’t necessarily practice doing science – but the good scientists practice thinking differently and they practice observing.

    Many years ago, I worked as  bicycle messenger. I got better at it as I did it longer, but I certainly didn’t practice. But I didn’t care about getting better (and I didnt’ care about making more than minimum wage either) – it was a job and not a career.

    The point is, that if you’re in a profession that you want to make a career out of, you better care about getting better, and you better realize that you won’t learn fast enough purely from on the job experience. You have to work at it.

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