The mental processes of a star tester

How come that one blessed tester in the team finds those really important defects faster than anyone else? Everytime? Every single time?

I talked to two really good testers I had the fortune of working with, about the mental processes that help them dig out those critical defects much faster than most. It's interesting how a few right turns in the build-up to D-day helps these folks find the treasure of important issues early up in the testing cycle. These are habits the whole test team should inculcate. So here's the list:

1. Change density:
Find out which functionalities have undergone the most change (or most revisions in case of a brand new application). The essense of hunting for high touch areas is to look for human errors. Higher the rate of code change, more the chances of defects being introduced. More the footprints in the sand, closer you are to the party. Simple!

2. Feel:
Most brilliant testers already have a great handle on the application. This comes from three things (a) A thorough review of the functional specifications (how the application should behave) (b) Understanding system parameters that affect application behavior (very important for enterprise software being used very differently by different customers) AND (c) Some go-crazy-try-everything time with a demo install of the application (no documentation beats the systematic understanding of an application gained from trying it out for real).

3. History:
What type of defects did I see last time on this application? Any coding or design mistakes repeated across defects? What type of test data was failing? These questions and more probing into the history of an application's quality help build a really effective test bed.

There's one more thing that contributes to the happy, productive, aggressive tester mindset. This one's on the lead/manager. Most managers make the mistake of bundling appreciation as a 'we' thing. Early progress in defect identification saves money, time and pain. Any tester making it happen deserves a pat, if not an applause. This metaphorical pat is even more effective if you see, highlight and appreciate defect-finds as they happen, not way after. Don't wait for a project plan milestone. Walk over, appreciate, say Thanks, hand over a mini certificate. Whatever works. Just do it in tandem with the test runs. This helps build the momentum in the rhythm of testing way more than the double digit dollar voucher handed out at the end.

Published: 1 Dec 2014. Co-author: Aishwarya Sathyan


All views expressed here are my own and not endorsed by my employer or any other company. Cases presented do not necessarily relate to my employer, peers or team. - Vikrant