Stick your oar in!

By August 2, 2012 Skills No Comments

Does your project ever feel like this? (Picture © 2012 NBC)


I managed to catch some of the Olympic canoeing today and was hugely impressed by the whitewater facility being used for the event. This magnificent engineering feat was the subject of some prolonged discussion during what was supposed to be a tester team meeting (this is what happens when you hold your team meeting in the pub though!)

I took the opportunity to highlight the analogy of whitewater canoeing with testing, and life generally. Sometimes, you can allow yourself to be swept along with the current because it’s heading in the direction we want to go – through a [quality] gate for example. On other occasions however, one needs to paddle against the tide in order to maneuver through, or around obstacles.

It’s quite easy on software projects to get swept along by the flow of deliverables, client requests and impending deadlines. But it’s our job as testers to know when to go along with the flow and when deliberate and decisive action should to be taken to help steer the project through the necessary channels. Sometimes – we need to stick our oar in; into discussions, meetings, stakeholder communications – wherever necessary to make our voice heard and ensure appropriate steps are taken to avoid project issues.

The ability to stand against the tide is a key tester skill (particularly combined with persuasion and negotiation) and one that is not often highlighted. Digging one’s heels in to ensure that the tester voice is heard can be of paramount importance. It’s a trait that can be difficult to learn and practice, particularly in a more junior role where remit may not be clear, but it’s one I’d encourage any tester to sharpen.

Just take a look at the canoeists to see how it’s done!


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