Why Automation Scares Many Traditional Testers

(This content originally appeared on TechWell Insights)

I remember job shadowing at three different local newspapers for a high school senior project. I spent hours upon hours talking to different print journalists, following them throughout their daily routines, and learning how stories eventually make it to paper.

And at all three organizations, at least one person I talked to urged me to never get into print journalism.

No one hated their jobs, but this was just when online journalism was starting to take off. Stories were hitting the Internet at a rate that traditional print journalists could never keep up with — and this was before Twitter became an even faster means of curated news delivery.

Today, manual testers face a similar dilemma. Throughout the years, manual testing was just how things were done within standard software teams. Now, with advances in technology, the introduction and spread of agile, and the greater demand for speed, automation tools are almost required to keep up in this fast-paced industry.

For a veteran, storied tester to learn that everything they’ve been doing for the last twenty years no longer applies in the new software landscape can be terrifying. No one wants to be phased out, but testers can no longer sit back and rely on manual testing if they hope to stay relevant.

Speaking in an interview with StickyMinds, Melissa Benua, a senior technical lead at mParticle and senior backend software engineer at PlayFab, explained how we might look back at certain types of manual testing in the same way that we view punch cards today.

“You know, honestly, I think we will look back at all of the manual stuff that we do… I mean, even now we look back at the manual testing that happened ten years ago and go, ‘wow,’” she said. “I think that manual testing is becoming less and less a part of the bread and butter skillet. For example, there’s still a lot of manual testing that happens in UI testing.

“It’s a changing of the paradigm. We’ve had manual testing for a very long time now and it really does seem to be contracting down.”

This hasn’t come out of nowhere — we’ve seen a steady move toward more automation solutions — but the fear and even frustration from testers is understandable. However, as you’ve likely read multiple times on TechWell, this is an opportunity for testers to learn new skills, become more integrated within the development process, and grow into larger leadership roles.

Manual testing isn’t going to disappear tomorrow, but automation and the new wave of the industry can’t be ignored. Testers are allowed to be afraid of a new landscape, but that shouldn’t prevent them from finding an even better role on their teams.