Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Must Testers know how to Program?

One of the most common question that rises when talking to testers in an Agile context is
“Does testers have to posses programming skills in an agile team?”
For a long time my answer to that was no, since testing includes vast number of activities which doesn’t require programming skill there will always be room for testers who cant program.
However I think that I was mistaken. these days I would expect anyone who claims the title of a professional tester to posses some level of programming skills. 

Testers who cant program are obsolete.

This fact can not longer be ignored.  As automation gains a firm hold in our industry a tester must be able to significantly contribute to all automation effort. And while certainly one can contribute to this effort without knowing how to program, the room for these is relatively limited.
Yes, even 10 or twenty years from now our industry will still have a large number of testers who cant program. The same way that even today there are still professional Cobol programmer or programmers who cant do object oriented programming.  But I would expect that this will be the minority

Testers who cant program – CATCH UP

If you want to stay valuable in the market, start learning the basic skills of programming today. no, I don’t think you will need to become an expert top notch developer (not that there’s nothing wrong with that). The actual skill level required in order to become a productive test automation engineer (i.e. significantly contribute to automation effort) is lower than that. But Unless you will start to aquire these skills soon you will find very hard to find new open positions.
Here’s an interesting post that backup these claims with some concrete data. And while I don’t consider this in any way as scientific proof or even big enough to indicate anything with significant statistical confidence, it still suggest that   ~80% of testing job posting indicated a programming skill as necessary. Also notice, this post was published as early as 2010.  My personal observation of recent job ads, which is certainly skewed towards Agile culture, suggest that the percentage is even higher.

Bottom line

As a tester you should want to know how to program in at least one major programming language ,in order to decrease the time you will be looking for a new job.

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