• Toby Sinclair

Testers are second class citizens.

This week I attend the London Agile Discussion Group which had an interesting debate topic:

“Testers are second class citizens”

To give the evening some structure we were split into two groups, the proposition and the opposition. Each group had 15 minutes to prepare their statement which they would then present back to the audience.

The Proposition

Up first the proposition who agreed testers are second class citizens.

As they began I was actually surprised how passionately they put across their statement. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout “You are wrong!” but at the same time i found it fascinating to hear this side of the debate. The debate spurred up a strange sense of emotions. It made me thankful that i don’t have these discussions in my own team otherwise i’d be a very angry man!

These are some of the arguments put forward by the Proposition.

Testers are second class citizens because……….

– Testers are paid less

– Testers are generally more junior members

– Testers are less skilled than other team members such as developers

– Testers are just a “distraction”

– Testers don’t add any value to the software

– You can make money without testers

– If you do TDD or BDD you don’t need testers

– Why use testers when your customers can do testing for you in Production

– Testing can be done by anyone

– It is commonly sent off shore

– Testers/Testing is an entry level for IT industry

– Testing is not seen as a career

– Testers are failed developers or individuals that want to eventually become developers

– We should aim for generalising specialists not specific roles. So based upon this the “tester” role itself doesn’t exist, as doesn’t “developer”, “BA”. We are all just team members.

– If you had to sack all your developers or all your testers. Who would you sack?

The Opposition

Second up was the opposition. I’d conveniently been placed in this group. There were 3 other testers in my group and as you can imagine we passionately believed in the value testers can add however being testers we did have questions around the debate topic:

– What do we mean by “Tester”?

– To whom are testers second class citizens? Developers? Business Owners? God?

– Who may think this?

To present our opposition we first looked at why people might think testers are second class citizens. We all had experiences where testing had been sent “off shore” maybe to cut costs because testing is seen as an unwanted cost, we also had experiences where developers had thought anyone could test and that as testers don’t add value to the product they are not needed.

These were the arguments we put forward as the opposition:

Testers are NOT second class citizens because……….

– We think its important to look beyond roles in Agile Teams. We are “Team Members”

– There should be no “class system” within agile teams

– Whole Team approach to quality is important

– We value that idea of “T-Shaped” team members and having team members with a deep knowledge and understanding is very, very important. We feel that its important for the following skills to be present(many of which are found in testers):

— Communication

— Problem Solving

— Analysis Skills

— Creativity

— Development/Programming skills

— Understanding the domain/business

— Put the customer first

— Perseverance/Determination

We also identified a relationship between ability and second class citizenship in teams. Often team members, sometimes testers, with less ability can be given less challenging tasks within a team, this can create a “class system” within the team. An example from the testing world would be “Lets get the testers to do the regression testing, we’ve got more important things to do.” This in turn becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, rather than bringing these “second class” citizens into “first class citizenship” we further push them away.

It was a really fascinating debate but upon reflection I was disappointed at how i struggled to clearly articulate my position. Over the past year I’ve worked in a team were everyone is treated with the same level of respect and valued equally(or at least that’s my perception) so i rarely have to justify my position in the team.

I’m planning to spend sometime thinking about how in future i can more clearly articulate why testers are not second class citizens.

I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts on the debate topic, either those for or against. Please leave a comment or tweet me!


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©2020 by Toby Sinclair.