One of the great­est thrills I get is when I work with new ana­lysts, con­sul­tants, and com­pa­nies as they take the evo­lu­tion and become great testers. It is so easy to talk about every­thing that is wrong with most groups, peo­ple, and agen­cies in our indus­try, but the real­ity is that I rarely find peo­ple who are not intel­li­gent and not will­ing to work hard. The real­ity is that there are a very spe­cific set of skills that you find from the best peo­ple, either inher­ent or devel­oped, that allow them to make a much larger impact than oth­ers. With that in mind, I want to present seven skills that all great testers have devel­oped and work on daily to make them­selves better.

Will­ing to chal­lenge all ideas – There can be no stone left unturned and no idea that is too sacred to chal­lenge if you really want to find the best results. Being will­ing to give any and all ideas a fair shake, and being will­ing to seek out ideas that you don’t agree with is a skill that takes peo­ple time to really learn to live.

They are not beholden to a sin­gle Dogma – So many groups fail because they try to force test­ing into Ana­lyt­ics, IT, Mar­ket­ing, SEO, SEM or any other spe­cific skill. The real­ity is that test­ing is a new skill, one that takes parts and inter­acts with all of those exist­ing dis­ci­plines, as well as any other cur­rent or future ones. Being able to develop their own skill base and being able to talk to oth­ers on their own ground. It isn’t about own­ing test­ing, but about bring­ing it to others.

Tech­ni­cal under­stand­ing of how things work – This is not the same as some­one who can write all sorts of com­pli­cated JQUERY code or can archi­tect your entire sys­tem, but all testers need to be able to under­stand how your site works, how dif­fer­ent sys­tems inter­act, and the dif­fer­ent options avail­able to accom­plish each goal. To do this, they have to be com­fort­able work­ing with, around, and even replac­ing devel­op­ers as needed.

They have ADHD – In a sin­gle day, you might be talk­ing to a designer, two C level peo­ple, 3 prod­uct own­ers, work with project man­agers and engi­neers, ana­lyt­ics, and then fin­ish the day prepar­ing a result for prod­uct man­agers. And the next day will be com­pletely dif­fer­ent. In over 7 years of test­ing, I have not had two days that were alike. You have to love the con­stant change, the shift­ing con­ver­sa­tions, the com­ing and going of indus­try con­cepts, and you have to be eas­ily able to shift what you are doing on the fly. If you are only com­fort­able when you are focus­ing on one thing, or when you can really dive into some­thing, test­ing is not for you.

Under­stand Why peo­ple believe what they do – If one of the core ten­ants of test­ing is to prove your­self and other wrong, you are going to be upset­ting a lot of peo­ple if you can­not talk to them about what lead to that con­clu­sion and how best to lever­age that think­ing. One of the great­est skills is get­ting peo­ple to chal­lenge them­selves or to ques­tion their very core beliefs.

Not eas­ily frus­trated – Test­ing can be a very frus­trat­ing job. You are so often sim­ply ask­ing peo­ple to test out some­thing, know­ing full well that it takes you longer to dis­cuss the option then it is to add it as a recipe. Or how about when you are wait­ing for code to be deployed? Or when you prove that a redesign is a fail­ure and the group decides to move for­ward with it? The real­ity is that you are always fight­ing an uphill bat­tle, and it is only when you are able to get past all of those frus­tra­tions that you are to add real value. So many per­fectly com­pe­tent peo­ple I know fail and end up act­ing as project man­agers and just yes men, because they are no longer will­ing to fight the uphill bat­tle and are not able to get past all of the frus­tra­tion that you will face.

Prag­ma­tist – More than any­thing else, a great tester is prag­matic and effi­cient in every­thing they do. You have to be will­ing to not just hold a dogma and be able to take any idea and decon­struct it to get more value. You will so rarely be able to just run with a test­ing pro­gram, but being able to find places to chal­lenge ideas, add value, and learn are the places where a tester really earns their salary.

The real­ity is that it takes at least a year to a year and a half for even the first signs of lights to pop-on for most testers. Even worse these skills are con­stantly poached by other groups, since they can be both non-threatening and add a lot of value. No mat­ter where you are, start­ing out or have been test­ing for years, I chal­lenge you to look at your own actions and skill set and to see what you can do to get bet­ter at each and every one of these.

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