Testers: an essential part of any agile team

I am an agile software tester at White October, I consider myself lucky to be working with multiple cross-functional teams. My interaction with developers starts right at the start of a project. We learn about the project and the stakeholders at the same time. I’m actively involved in sprint planning and refinement sessions, contributing to writing and refining user stories ahead of the work starting.

When we break down stories into subtasks before the sprint starts, the developers normally get a fair idea of the type of testing I am going to do because, in my subtasks, I highlight the high-level scenarios and the low-level testing I will undertake, which, in turn, helps them to design the software accordingly.

The daily scrums give me a chance to highlight any issues I’ve faced while testing on a previous day and the opportunity to step through how to replicate the bug or clarify any questions the developer might have about the defect report.

At White October, it is definitely not Dev vs Tester, everything is focused on how the whole team can contribute to the success of the sprint and the quality of the deliverable.

The developers at White October are highly competent. They know what they’re doing, they do it incredibly well and, I therefore, rarely have to log UI issues as these are picked up and fixed before the product reaches me for testing. Apart from Acceptance testing, Regression, and re-testing, I also spend time in exploratory testing, in conjunction with end-to-end testing to seek out any potential problems.

They will help me keep up to speed with the latest tech and we go by the old saying “Two heads are always better than one” when it comes to solving problems.

When we have to develop and deliver in rapid timeframes, the developer and myself will sit together. After they code, we make sure we cross check each logic against the Acceptance Criteria. When we work this way, we save time and produce better code. Both of us gain an insight into what the other person does. It also means that any defects are found, fixed and retested rapidly, with the changes ready for the client sooner than expected.

I had mixed reactions when I asked our developers what they think. For some of them, this is the first time they’ve worked with a tester. Sometimes they are happy that someone has caught an error before the client found it. And then, the delay in deployment has highlighted the need for a proper planning procedure to ensure testing time is mandatory. Both ways, the outcome is positive and the client gets a better result:

We had an external testing company for certain projects, and this worked good, but having full-time internal testers has improved the relationship between tester and the rest of the team no end.” – Jamie Munro

I think we are glad not to have to test ourselves, are glad of the chance to increase release quality.” – Sam Partington

My top 5 golden rules

Here are the top five pieces of advice I give to anyone embarking on a career in testing. These come from years of experience, working out issues and learning to see both sides:

  1. Never blame a developer for the defect, keep it low-key and positive, and possibly frame the correction as a suggestion. After all, it is all about the client.
  2. Always ask if a defect is really a defect. This will ensure that you and the developer find common ground and in the process get the facts clarified by the stakeholder. It is also an opportunity for the developer to explain their point of view.
  3. Make time to talk about everything else apart from the product you are developing or testing, so that you get to know each other and develop a naturally friendly working relationship.
  4. Never be authoritarian. This will always block your chance of learning, seeking, and might result in people avoiding interacting with you
  5. Before you start to test, always ask the developer if they have tested the feature on their system. If yes, ask if they will be happy to explain a few features or scenarios. You never know, you might get an insight you did not think about. In return, tell them how are you planning to test. This will always open up a positive conversation

What would you add to this list? Add a comment below, I’d love to hear your views.

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