I tend to operate on a “just in time” basis. In my day-to-day role as a Tester, I need to know how to do lots of stuff; technical, analytical, communication, management, mentoring activities – all sorts of things. Typically, my most useful skill is the ability to problem solve, either by applying previous experience of a similar situation or by learning something new, quickly. Most often I figure that, if I know enough to do the next thing my job requires of me, I’m doing ok. Sometimes, I only learn that thing just in time, hence the moniker. But is that really enough?
It finally dawned on me recently that oftentimes, the answer is “No”.
Yes on the one-hand, it’s been sufficient to keep me progressing steadily forward in my career to date. The ability to learn quickly and stay [just] ahead of the curve is no bad thing. To become a specialist, rather than a generalist however, something more is needed. There needs to be depth of knowledge.
Looking back on some of the not-so-great testing situations I’ve been in during my career to date, I realised that the mistakes I’ve made have been because I’ve thought that simply having enough knowledge to get by was sufficient.
Not knowing quite enough about the business and the users of the product under test to understand what was important to them and tailor or add to my test approach accordingly, for example. Or, not understanding enough about the key technologies involved in a product to be able to identify problems with architecture, data, integration or performance. Not being sufficiently aware of the politics within a particular team, department, organisation or supplier to be able to manage relationships and/or communications in a sufficiently tactile fashion.
Or, not reading those few extra chapters that would have enabled a complete, rather than partial solution – as one friend described it recently.
To be a great tester/specialist/consultant – one needs to be able to dig below the surface of a problem, and keep digging; to plumb the depths and become truly expert in a domain. Testers and friends/colleagues I’ve admired – I’ve typically done so because of an appreciation of their expertise in or commitment to a particular body of knowledge or discipline. They’ve been a go-to resource because they know (or seem to) everything about their specialist area. They’ve risen above the mediocre and excelled through their passion for a subject matter.
I want to do the same. Do you?