Without testing there is no development

I’ve been at the Lead Developer conference in London today. It’s schedule has a blend of leadership and technical talks that have been both inspiring and thought provoking.

Testing has been given plenty of mentions. Usually like this, “… you know for testing, [dramatic pause] but nobody tests anyway!”, everyone laughs, or “you must automate all the tests” everyone nods and takes pictures of the slide.

700 lead developers going back to leading and inspiring their teams, sharing a casual joke about testing and recommending we automate all the things.

This I hope is not the message people take home.

Preserve dignity

Anjuan Simmons explained leadership lessons we can learn from the agile manifesto. He said,

“preserve dignity at all cost”

So please, stop taking a pop at testing, I know it’s easy to do, I’ve done it myself plenty of times (self effacing humour, a cultural thing I guess, we’ve covered that plenty today). Here’s the thing though, it’s not cool and it’s really not ok. People didn’t like it when jokes were made about Java and PHP but testing was fair game. At this point I should point out that this is a very inclusive conference and it’s clear there’s no room for haters here. If you are in a tech leadership role you should really check it out, it’s all on YouTube (or will be shortly).

Here’s the confessional part, I’m a tester or at least, that’s how I got to where I am today.

Thank you

Erika Carlson talked passionately about fearless feedback for software teams. She advocated (apologies for paraphrasing here), “thank you” when you get feedback, even if the feedback is hard to hear.

So to all those who laughed, thank you. Following another of Erika's suggestions I sat and thought about this feedback.

Skunk Works

Then something unexpected happened. We finished with a brilliant talk from Nickolas Means on the original Skunk Works. If you don’t know the history get to Google, it’s fascinating (and the circus tent image will be explained).

Over the course of 45 minutes we learned how the Lockheed Skunk Works developed amazing planes in no time at all that could do things no plane ever should. Yay developers!

But wait let’s look a bit closer. The story starts with some tests. That new plane won’t work. Many iterations of build and test later it works. So they do some more and it’s more amazing, they prototype using a mock (jet engine) and then test it with the real engine when they get it. They build a plane full of defects they understand and find ways to (literally) prop it up. Finally they pull in a load of bits of stuff built for other purposes and cobble it into a plane that can’t actually fly but they test and understand it’s limitations and write software that keeps it in the air.

What is development if you do not test?

Google “develop” and it’ll give you this,

“Develop - To grow or cause to grow and become more mature,advanced, or elaborate.”

To develop means to mature and advance, to do this you have to iterate, to iterate you need to learn about the thing you built and to learn about the thing, you need to test (a long way of saying build, measure, learn). So if you don’t test you are not developing, you are just assembling.

Next time you joke about not testing reflect on what that means about your development.

Some feedback for you

Maybe you have had a bad experience with testers, it happens more than it should, but perhaps you could think about how you hired them (that’s some feedback by the way, you’re welcome ☺️).

There’s lots of places you can learn about the testing craft, Ministry of Testing is a good place to start, watch some of the talks from TestBash (or go, they are literally everywhere these days). Find out why you can’t possibly automate all the tests (or really any of them) and find out what you’ve missed if you think you have.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the excellent Micheal Bolton (no not that one, you really should try to learn more about testing),

“Testers extend the senses of the development team. Testers, and testing, are part of the development process”

It would be lovely to think that some of those 700 lead developers (well 698, I spotted at least one other tester in the crowd) might be returning to work on Monday explaining to their teams just how valuable tests are.

And thanks again for the feedback.