January 31, 2010

Testers and Developers at Fog Creek Software

Joel Spolsky is hiring a Tester.  See: http://www.fogcreek.com/Jobs/QA.html 

As he often does, he expounds a bit on his ideas behind the role on his terrific "Joel on Software" site (http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2010/01/26.html), before he leads the reader to the ad for that particular job.

Joel seems to believe that one part of a tester's role is to boost the morale of developers.  He says "Believe it or not, one of the most valuable features of a tester is providing positive reinforcement."  I have to say that I've never heard that expressed before, and I can't say that I agree.  While I do want my testers to be professional, and enthusiastic about the company and their job, I really don't want my testers concerned with programmer morale.  What if programmer morale starts to dip?  Should we blame the testers?

Joel also seems to see some sort of connection between liking puzzles and testing.  I hear this from lots of folks, mostly from those who aren't testers but also from some who are, and I remain skeptical.  I've never seen any real correlation between puzzle-playing affinity and testing.  I've seen great testers who dislike puzzles.  And I've seen fanatic puzzlers who make terrible testers.  I wonder if he asks Microsoft-style puzzles during interviews?

I also noticed that he is hiring a Software Developer as well.  See: http://www.fogcreek.com/Jobs/Dev.html

The two job ads make for an interesting contrast.

For the tester role
  • no experience is necessary
  • they require intelligence and curiosity
  • they require a track record of success.  By that they mean "a bachelor's degree with top grades"
  • they require a scientific approach and unusual attention to detail
  • the applicant must love a good puzzle
  • the applicant must like to think about things methodically
  • the applicant must generally like working with software and computers
While for the developer role
  • the applicant must be able to "master any technology, language, or development environment"
  • they require incredible coding skills
  • the applicant must be described by friends and coworkers as an "animal"
  • the applicant must have a continuous string of successful projects
So testers don't need any experience, but they must love good puzzles?  And developers must have experience, but apparently don't need to love puzzles (good or bad)?  Seems odd to me.

Oh, and presumably Fog Creek Software wants to attract the kind of no-experience tester that likes to point out flaws in their corporate website.  The ad for the Tester is sprinkled with typos like
  • no necessary, rather than not necessary
  • you`ve
  • and and
  • moral, rather than morale
  • ıt, instead of it
  • va1uable
  • etc.
Clearly this was intentional, since similar flaws are not present in the ad for the Developer.  While I suspect it would be rather off-putting for a professional QAer or Developer, perhaps this tactic is actually exciting to someone with no experience?

So, if you want to apply for this job - go solve some puzzles, proofread their website carefully, and study up on the best ways to improve someone else's morale.  I hear that a good backrub, a nice cup of hot tea and a pep talk can work wonders!  Experience is no necessary.

And if Fog Creek really wants to raise the morale of their programmers, perhaps they should just hire a consultant?