Month: September 2013

How do I become an Automated Tester?

I caught one of those “How can I move from being a manual to being an automated tester?” questions on LinkedIn today. I rarely venture into the murkier depths of LinkedIn’s group pages, but this particular question made me think of an exercise I’d carried out while stuck on my train recently.

In his book, Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, Andy Hunt recommends maintaining a Knowledge Investment Plan (KIP henceforth). I had a go myself and was fairly pleased with the result. You can see it here if you’re interested. In a nutshell, what you need to do is identify all of the stuff you know or would like to know, along with the skills you have currently or would like to have in the future, and then figure out a plan for investing in them regularly.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well you’ll be pleased to know, it is. 🙂 As with anything like this though, it can be a bit abstract. It’s easy for the exercise to become vague, without any real impetus to do anything further with the information once you’ve got it on paper or in some kind of model.

The thing that makes it really work for me, is applying some David Allen thinking, and saying to myself – “Ok, for this thing that I want to learn, what’s the next action I can take that will move me along the road towards being proficient in <skill>?”

So I wondered how this might be applied for the question above?

Well, we could start by creating a model of where the LinkedIn tester is now in terms of their skill and knowledge. It might look something like the mindmap below:

manual tester mindmap 1

So, using the KIP approach, LinkedIn tester might add a branch for automated testing, and say to herself – “What are my options in the automated testing field?”

This is where it gets kind of interesting, since at this point I can only speculate as to what one might think about or approaches that could be taken from here on in. But if it were me, then my next branches might look like the below:

manual tester mindmap 2

Now at this point, the tester can make an (more) informed decision about the direction they want to take, since their options are relatively clear. For this example, if they wanted to take a relatively pain free step towards becoming more familiar with the perils and pitfalls of automated test scripting, they might choose to use the open source record and playback tool Selenium IDE.

Then, having made their decision, it simply remains to identify the very next action(s) that should to be taken in order to fulfil their immediate goal. I’ve assumed in this instance that the immediate goal is to become proficient in some kind of test tool. Another goal in the testers future might be to actually secure a job or role as an automated tester, but I’m not going to address that here.

manual tester mindmap 3

So there you have it. How to identify the steps required in order to move from being a manual, to an automated tester:

  1. Identify the goal.
  2. Break the goal down into component areas if necessary. Keep doing so until clearly defined options can be identified.
  3. Choose a path and identify the very next actions that will move you along the path.

Clearly there may be some additional challenges ahead for Mr or Mrs LinkedIn tester, but I would hope that by following the process above, and by ensuring that not only the options but also the corresponding next actions are targeted, progress can be made in more or less any area.  

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I'm Simon Knight, Tester turned Product Manager. Helping design awesome products for testers.


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