Testers are second class citizens.

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This week I attend the London Agile Discussion Group which had an interesting debate topic:

“Testers are second class citizens”

To give the evening some structure we were split into two groups, the proposition and the opposition. Each group had 15 minutes to prepare their statement which they would then present back to the audience.

The Proposition

Up first the proposition who agreed testers are second class citizens.

As they began I was actually surprised how passionately they put across their statement. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout “You are wrong!” but at the same time i found it fascinating to hear this side of the debate. The debate spurred up a strange sense of emotions. It made me thankful that i don’t have these discussions in my own team otherwise i’d be a very angry man!

These are some of the arguments put forward by the Proposition.

Testers are second class citizens because……….

– Testers are paid less
– Testers are generally more junior members
– Testers are less skilled than other team members such as developers
– Testers are just a “distraction”
– Testers don’t add any value to the software
– You can make money without testers
– If you do TDD or BDD you don’t need testers
– Why use testers when your customers can do testing for you in Production
– Testing can be done by anyone
– It is commonly sent off shore
– Testers/Testing is an entry level for IT industry
– Testing is not seen as a career
– Testers are failed developers or individuals that want to eventually become developers
– We should aim for generalising specialists not specific roles. So based upon this the “tester” role itself doesn’t exist, as doesn’t “developer”, “BA”. We are all just team members.
– If you had to sack all your developers or all your testers. Who would you sack?

The Opposition

Second up was the opposition. I’d conveniently been placed in this group. There were 3 other testers in my group and as you can imagine we passionately believed in the value testers can add however being testers we did have questions around the debate topic:

– What do we mean by “Tester”?
– To whom are testers second class citizens? Developers? Business Owners? God?
– Who may think this?

To present our opposition we first looked at why people might think testers are second class citizens. We all had experiences where testing had been sent “off shore” maybe to cut costs because testing is seen as an unwanted cost, we also had experiences where developers had thought anyone could test and that as testers don’t add value to the product they are not needed.

These were the arguments we put forward as the opposition:

Testers are NOT second class citizens because……….

– We think its important to look beyond roles in Agile Teams. We are “Team Members”
– There should be no “class system” within agile teams
– Whole Team approach to quality is important
– We value that idea of “T-Shaped” team members and having team members with a deep knowledge and understanding is very, very important. We feel that its important for the following skills to be present(many of which are found in testers):
— Communication
— Problem Solving
— Analysis Skills
— Creativity
— Development/Programming skills
— Understanding the domain/business
— Put the customer first
— Perseverance/Determination

We also identified a relationship between ability and second class citizenship in teams. Often team members, sometimes testers, with less ability can be given less challenging tasks within a team, this can create a “class system” within the team. An example from the testing world would be “Lets get the testers to do the regression testing, we’ve got more important things to do.” This in turn becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, rather than bringing these “second class” citizens into “first class citizenship” we further push them away.

It was a really fascinating debate but upon reflection I was disappointed at how i struggled to clearly articulate my position. Over the past year I’ve worked in a team were everyone is treated with the same level of respect and valued equally(or at least that’s my perception) so i rarely have to justify my position in the team.

I’m planning to spend sometime thinking about how in future i can more clearly articulate why testers are not second class citizens.

I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts on the debate topic, either those for or against. Please leave a comment or tweet me!
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7 thoughts on “Testers are second class citizens.

  1. Simon Knight

    I was expecting to see a bunch of replies here. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more engagement from the testing community on this front. I have one thing to add to this really:

    Testers will be TREATED like second class citizens, whenever they THINK OF THEMSELVES as second class citizens.

    If you’re adding value to the project on which you work, and you’re ok with your renumeration – whatever it may be, if you’re behaving like a professional and developing your skills in whatever direction you think is appropriate, and if you’ve built good working relationships with the rest of your team – you won’t THINK or BEHAVE like a second class citizen and hence won’t be treated like one.

    If on the other hand, you’re not doing the things above – then probably you’re going to struggle, both in your current context, and with finding another good role in the marketplace. There’s a good chance you’ll feel bad about the lack (actual or perceived) of value you’re adding to your project, and other people will probably come to the conclusion that you’re not really needed. And maybe they’ll be right.

    For me the solution to this problem is simple. If you don’t want to be treated like a second class citizen, don’t behave like one.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have even entertained the debate. But it’s good to hear you came away from it with a definite action you can take to improve your own skills. I’m all in favour of “elevator pitches” for testers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Toby, first of all good job on your blog, I just found it this morning and will come back to get your interesting insights.

    On the topic of second class citizens, I tend to agree with what Simon says above. A lot of testers act like second class citizens, the consequence is that they are treated like ones.

    I have always found extremely difficult finding senior testers for agile teams and the common denominator was not that the people I interviewed were not smart enough, the main problem I faced was that the people that applied for the jobs had no real interest in software development and testing. They were mainly people that stumbled into testing at some stage in their career and found it comforting and easy enough to do. No real passion or interest to improve.

    On the other hand, when interviewing developers, I find that the percentage of people that have real interest and can demonstrate it through personal research, open source projects and blogging is much higher.

    Agile testers cannot be passengers, we need a new breed of people that care or testers will eventually disappear.

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  3. I think in general you need to show your value as a tester. If your peers don’t understand the value that you provide then you will be considered second class. This scenario isn’t unique to testers. I’ve seen developers that couldn’t prove themselves get sidelined or given the “boring” tasks to do.

    I don’t think we (testers) should expect to be first class citizens. At the same time we also shouldn’t be treated as second class citizens by default. What I mean is you have to work for it and prove your worth…just like the rest of the team.

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  4. Juliette

    I’ve been testing software since the mid-90s and have seen many sides of this. I’ve worked with developers, managers, even VPs who see testers at best as a nuisance and at worst an unnecessary expense. In the defense of some junior developers, they may have never worked with a truly talented tester, so have not seen the value. But I’ve also worked with folks who highly value the role of a good tester, as someone who approaches the product from a different perspective and works with the developer to consider possible issues in implementation, user expectations and usage. In most cases, it comes down to the attitude of upper management.

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  5. Yogesh

    Toby, it’s good to see that you have raised the concern, i have just joined here and saw your concern. Here I want to mention that Real challengers can only be Testers as we need to find the faults in someone’s work and convince that they are wrong in their part so as per Developers we can be Second Class Citizens but for Business owner or Client we are and will be the First class. If you talk to Developers they will treat you as like nothing important but if you talk to a Business Developer or Client they will treat you as like helping hands to make the deliveries perfect. Rest it’s all about your spark and crave for knowledge if you can prove that your knowledge is good enough to make Developer down (as developers can think that you are “second class citizens”) then you are UP. We need to prove that we are here to make good to better and better to best from developer’s worst as they are seriously person’s with least IQ level that’s why we can find the bugs. That should be the spirit and totally agree with Simon says above…

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