By Rajesh Mathur

Last year, I asked a question on few LinkedIn groups whether testing was a skill. I received many responses and almost all responses focused on the skill aspect of testing. Then couple of weeks back, Pradeep Soundararajan opened a can of worms on LinkedIn by stating that QualityCenter is a tool and not a skill. Some responded that QC is a tool and skills are required to use a tool; some said knowing QC is a skill in itself.  So, what is this debate about “skills versus tools” or “skills & tools?” As testers do we just need skills to find defects and report those, or we also need tools to use to support our testing efforts? I have added my 2 cents to this debate.

There are few things which need attention when we talk about skills, training and tools. As testers, we have to have critical thinking skills. As they say, testers do not break software, it comes to them broken. We only identify where the breakage is and report it as a defect. It is a skill to identify those defects. Some people are particularly good at it and we call them skilled testers. That skill comes with experience, training and education. However, in today’s fast track technology environment, testers need more than critical thinking skills. They constantly need to update their skills which come from learning about newer technologies and SDLC methodologies. They need to learn & differentiate between testing for a cloud based application versus a mobile application. They need to think beyond testing based on a requirement & design document and the appropriate application of their test methodology. We cannot live in the dark-ages of Waterfall and V-models anymore. If we do not change the way we test, the same thing will happen to us that happened to dinosaurs. Extinction!

In the era of Agile, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data & Big testing, Virtualization, Web2.0 (and they are already talking about web3.0), testers will need to be much further ahead in the game than the end-users are. The simple is fact that end-users are becoming testers now and software is becoming more complex. I believe the skills that our testers need today are, to be more technical so that s/he can understand, analyze and deliver testing for complex software. They will need to use their technical skills to devise tools that can support their testing effort in those complex environments.

Talking about tools that we will need to learn to use, it is all the more important to sharpen the edges of what we already know. I use Microsoft Excel almost every day. I use it for generating reports, I create macros (more tools) which help me generate those reports. This is one tool that I believe I will keep on using in the future too. I use mind maps extensively because they help me organize my ideas. I use PowerPoint. Once, I created a Test Strategy in PowerPoint because business users wanted to understand how I approach testing and I found it a very useful tool to communicate with them. I was a doubting Thomas initially for this way of presenting the strategy, but I got a great response. We do use few commercially available tools here, but the value to cost proposition always remains questionable to me.

In a nutshell, I believe testers will need to continue using their natural given skills and tools: creativity, critical thinking, analytical ability, good communication and stakeholder management along with continuous learning and adapting to ever changing technologies.