What makes a great software tester?

29 June, 2009

In my many years working as a Software Test Manager, the question "What makes a good software tester?" came up again and again. Escaped defects cost money, they reduce customer confidence in your products. So you need your software testers to be great at their job. Some people are good software testers. Good is not enough, you need great software testers. What traits do they have? What skills do they have? What makes them great at their software test job. Here is my view of what skills they need to excel at:

  • Exploring: Loading new software, seeing what happens, how it works is exciting for them. They venture into the unknown in many cases and enjoy it.
  • Trouble-shooting: The ability to work out why a piece of software is not working or under what scenarios and conditions it is not working is a key skill for a software tester.
  • Relentless: Great software testers do not dismiss any software defects. They persue all possible options to re-create the defect. These hard to reproduce defects have a habit of showing up on customer sites! Great software tests prevent these escapes.
  • Creative: This skill is not one that people normally associate with software testers. The reality is that software testers need to be very creative. They need to think of ways to test software to reveal bugs. They need to come up with configurations to best uncover software defects. In many cases with budget cuts and lack of real equipment or late delivery; great software testers overcome the problems presented by being creative.

There are other "softer" skills that I believe are important. I will discuss these in the next article.

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