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Tester and blogger Lanette Creamer recently posted this question on Twitter:

If you are a professional software developer who works with testers, think of the best testers you know. What traits do they have in common?

I thought it would make an excellent question for here.

My thoughts are:

  • They want to remove ambiguity from requirements even if it means asking awkward questions.
  • They create new features by seeing the way software "should" work, rather than just how it's documented.
  • They demonstrate honesty and integrity and encourage but not demand it from those around them. In other words, they model behavior.

What are the traits of the best testers you've worked with?

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In my company programmers are regarded as a necessary evil, so testers are even less regarded... Therefore I've never worked with a good tester, so it is difficult to discern the best one among them... Actually, we don't even have software quality assurance, just some "test monkeys", totally unqualified people doing this job :-( –  Lorenzo Sep 7 '10 at 15:39
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here are a few that I'd add:

  • Smart - These people come across as rather bright or deep thinkers. Boundary cases come quickly to these people it seems. They may ask the, "What about. ." questions a lot.
  • Attention to detail - Listing reproduction steps, stating the difference between expected and actual results, etc. Thorough in their work.
  • Self-motivated - The better testers I know seem to drive themselves to be thorough and go, go, go! Get things done would be another way to state this to my mind.
  • Analytical - Arguing over priority or severity with calm, rational arguments. Understanding what bugs are going to get fixed ASAP and which are too cosmetic, e.g. a bad color choice.
  • Tenacity - They stuck to their interpretation unless a project manager, business analyst, or someone with the power changed the requirements to overrule them. Not a push-over for another way to put this.
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Some of the best testers I've worked with really understand how the users are going to use the software. They understand what business function the software is supposed to play and how that software will effect the user's role/job/function. It makes for a successful project when the tester has as much knowledge of the business as the developer and the business owner.

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Sadly, for what is actually a highly skilled and technical role, there are a lot of cowboys out there. Far too many testers have had a long career moving from position to position being interviewed and hired by people who have no idea what testing is about.

The best testers I've met have:

  • excellent communication skills, in order to liaise with business people and interpret/clarify requirements
  • the ability to see the application from the perspective of a user unfamiliar with the system
  • the patience to go through things systematically when required, and can analyse a system so that they really are going through it systematically, not just spending a lot of time
  • a creative side to them to pick out things developers might not think of
  • the ability to organise their own time so they spend an appropriate amount of time on exploratory testing, automation, etc rather than just focussing on a single type of testing
  • an interest in what they do so they keep up with developments and best practices in their field

and lastly, if the tester is working on an agile project

  • can do test automation in a structured maintainable way - I'm afraid that these days if a tester can't automate things that can be automated (and not everything can) then that tester will never end up being effective in an agile project
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+1 for "the patience to go through things systematically when required" –  tcrosley Oct 11 '10 at 21:15
    
+1 - this is a good summary (from a 20-year tester!) –  Alan Oct 12 '10 at 1:07
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The best tester I ever worked with was extremely good at one thing: breaking software in a repeatable way. We could give him pretty much any software and he'd kill it within minutes. He's got the kind of skills that could probably find cheat codes on Nintendo games and Easter Eggs in professional software - just a natural, inquisitive nature and a good memory for what he tried before and didn't work.

Note that his goals were the exact opposite of the programmers - he had a good day if he broke the software; the programmers had a good day if he didn't.

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long ago, i worked with two ladies that would have your application dead on the floor in minutes; not only did they know what the users would do, they knew what the programmers would not do; any they kept a checklist of everything they had ever done that had broken any application. Thorough, and very pleasant people to work with. –  Steven A. Lowe Nov 19 '10 at 4:29
    
+1 Breaking software is the very purpose of a tester. –  mouviciel Nov 19 '10 at 13:20
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Two things that haven't been mentioned yet:

  • Asks questions
  • Pays attention to details
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