A few weeks ago, I was having a glass of wine with a couple of colleagues one evening discussing the role of Software Testers in developing good and well-performing software. There were some of the oft-stated lines about “not running the project” and “not owning quality” and “you can’t test quality in” and so forth. We dismissed them as trite and irrelevant.

Where we landed was:

Software Testers serve the needs of the project and support other participants and stakeholders.

This brought up ideas around how the above can be interpreted. One person made an observation of a distinction between “service and servants” – one apparently triggered by something he heard or read and could not recall the source.

This sent us into the question of what “service” meant. Being who we were, we wandered off to distant times to discuss this idea. Of old, the Samurai of Japan were in service to others – at least in theory. In Europe, knights held their position through service to their lords. In both cases, it was possible to lose one’s station – that bit often gets left out of the romantic stories. The romantic stories tend to overlook some parts and emphasize others. Reality was never as neat and tidy as stories, books and movies would have it.

Still, we looked at the idea of serving others.

Testers are in service to others. 

Then again, software developers are also in service to others. As are others in the various roles around software development. As are those whom we develop software for. The needs being addressed usually are problems that need to be addressed to support those whom they, in turn, serve.

People serve people who serve people.

Most folks, in their working life, serve someone else. We don’t want to admit it, but unless we who are paying others – who serves whom? How do we get the money we earn?

The simple fact is, being in service and serving others are closely linked. I find people who object to being “servants” are people I cannot completely understand. When they object to being “servants” I look to see how they treat those who serve them.

It dawned on me in that discussion that there was much some people could learn about service, servants and servitude from people who are in service. Most Americans don’t really know what that means or entails, to be “in service.”

Perhaps that is part of the problem.

Some people see people who serve others as some form of lower life than they are. They have adopted a Victorian or Edwardian view of “station in life” – maybe they watched too many episodes of “Upstairs/Downstairs” or “Downton Abbey.”

They see the films or shows where the household staff (servants) turn and face the wall when the family in the house, the ones they are “in service” to, pass them in the hall or stairway.

So now these folks treat waitstaff at restaurants as inferiors. They also tend to look down on hotel staff, flight attendants, sales clerks, construction workers, the simple minded, physically (and mentally or emotionally) handicapped, emotionally damaged, traffic cops, TSA agents, teachers, administrative assistants, clerical staff, med techs, nursing assistants, gardeners, Mexicans, Asians, Indians, or any other they see as beneath them.

I suspect, when one has such a superior opinion of themselves and a low opinion on lesser beings, that it is easy to look down on others – that the thought of being looked down on by others is repugnant.

If we, as testers, serve others, does that make us lesser beings?

Does that make us inferior?

Hardly – unless your ego is so fragile that it can’t handle the simple idea stated above.

I’ve been in software for longer than some folks with such attitudes. I know as a developer, business analyst, project manager or software tester, my role exists so I can be of service to… someone else.

As a person in software development, I am a servant to a broader purpose. My purpose is to aid the project, make the software better, and by extension, make the company better.

Yes, Testers provide a service.

We are in service.

We are servants.

We serve for the betterment of our organizations, our craft and ourselves.

We are second to none.