What Makes a Good Tester?

Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 in Agile & Lean, Conference | 2 Comments
Jack bravely tests the new biscuits

Jack bravely tests the new biscuits

Last night, I was invited by Lisa Crispin and Jean-Paul Varwijk to a Potsdam Agile Testers Session (PaTS) at the AgileTestingDays. It was a cool chance to meet friends from the Agile community and to make new ones…

It was an interesting crowd, I was a bit late and didn’t know most of the people (not in real life, anyway). So I sat down, got a beer and listened… There was a list of prioritised topics on a flip chart and one of the discussions went around the question

What Makes a Good Tester?

Many important human virtues were mentioned:

  • Curiosity
  • Passion
  • Communication skills…
I liked an addition that Michael Bolton made: “A tester is able to see simplicity in a complex environment, and to see the complexity behind an apparently simple surface.” (quoted from memory)
You might feel a bit like Jurgen Appelo, who tweeted “Listening in on a discussion about testers. Seems to me as if they’re talking about normal employees.” Obviously, skills and personality traits that make you a good person, good team player, contribute to being a good tester. But where’s the differentiation?

Problem Finders

Liz Keogh said in her BDD tutorial at XP2011 in Madrid (she did the tutorial at the AgileTestingDays this week as well):

Testers are problem finders, Developers are problem solvers. That’s why they need each other.

I think that sums it up nicely. Thanks Gaetano for the reference to back up my memory. Nice list by the way!

I have met lots of testers and developers in my career, and I have met very few who have a similar talent for finding and solving problems. What’s your experience?

Problem Solving

Everybody on a good team should have problem solving skills, and surely everybody is able to develop problem finding skills… But there are some people who have this knack of breaking things… And they make the best testers, in my experience..


  1. A journey to #agiletd (1) | Arborosa
    November 20, 2011

    […] makes a good tester (Nice post on this by Olaf Lewitz); Quote by Michael Bolton: “To see complexity in apparent simple things […]

  2. Helen Wu
    November 22, 2011

    “I have met very few who have a similar talent for finding and solving problems.”
    It is an eye opening to hear read the above sentence. Why would there be any difference between testing and coding. Both are requireing the understanding of the problem the code is to solve and the checking whether the code is doing what it is supposed to do. I really want your elaboration of this, please.


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