September 20, 2010

When the only tool you have is a buggy whip, everything begins to look like a dead horse

When the only tool you have is a buggy whip, everything begins to look like a dead horse. 

Over at SQAForums, a member asked about the choice of relying on his current knowledge of one test automation tool, versus taking a position at a different company, but having to learn a new test tool.

While some short-term jobs (such as contracting jobs) may require little more than specific, single-tool knowledge, most testing and QA positions require something different.

If you tie yourself into a one specific tool, you may get lucky for a while and that tool knowledge will be in demand for a long time.  But eventually, it will be replaced by another set of tools.  You risk becoming yesterday's news.  Better not to become a specialist, but rather become a generalist - one with deep knowledge in a few areas, and broad knowledge in many others.

When I hire QAers, I want someone that knows how to test and is able to use a variety of tools and techinques.  If the candidate happens to know the particular test automation tools we happen to be using at that time, it's a plus, but if the candidate knows ANY tools well, I usually find that they can learn others.
The concepts are the important thing here, not the specific tool.

I once had a college professor who said "Life is an open-book test."  His point was that using one specific tool or technique, or memorizing a few bits of information isn't enough.  In the world today, you must be able to adapt quickly, find the information you need or learn the new tool and technique that is appropriate for the task at hand. copyrightjoestrazzere

Become good at learning new tools and techniques.  When you hear about a new tool, find an opportunity to check it out.  When you hear about a new technique, read about it and give it a try.  Be ready for new requirements that are sure to come your way.

Perhaps you are very good with your buggy whip.  That's fine, but make sure you aren't still beating a dead horse.

My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
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  1. Good point Joe!

    It's a bit like being a one-recipe chef (if you can call that a chef) - only doing a very limited menu - some restaurants do that, but they are more the niche end of the market. If such a chef wanted to move to a different restaurant employer (assuming he's not the owner) - what has he got in his experience that shows he /can/ do something else, experiment and even invent new recipes? Maybe not so much.

    And that's the same with a tester - it's not always the demonstrated ability to use a whole range of tools or techniques that is important - it's the demonstrated willingness/interest in using, learning and adapting to use of new tools and techniques. And that's difficult to do if you cling to one tool.

    On the other hand, some are very happy to be a one tool tester, with all that entails. Fair play to them.

    But for those wanting to give themselves the chance to move in other directions then they need to make sure they're not wearing the horse's blinkers!

  2. Thanks, Simon. I agree. In testing, as with life in general, willingness and interest go a long way.