I’m a Black Box Software Tester

More accurately I should say I’ve passed the Association for Software Testing‘s Black Box Software Testing Foundations class.Here’s the proof:

What does this mean? It means the instructors think I understood enough of the material to pass me based on the work I did throughout the course which includes discussion forums, assignments, quizzes and a final examination. I feel like I learned a lot from the exercises, readings and watching Cem Kaner’s videos.

For those who don’t know, Foundations is an intense 4 week class covering the basics of black box testing including the mission of testing, the oracle problem, the measurement problem and the impossibility of complete testing. I’d definitely recommend the class as long as you can spare at least 12+ hours a week to commit to watching the videos, reading the required and recommended readings and participating in the assignments. You must take the Foundations course before you can take any further classes so you learn how they are run.

One of my goals for 2013 is to take the other courses: Bug Advocacy, Test Design and then Instructor!

A Test Group of One

I started the Foundations Black Box Software Testing class earlier this week and we are now into lesson two. I thought the discussion question was interesting so I’d like to share it along with my response:

[P]lease describe the role of the test group (services and responsibilities) in your organization. How do you think this mix differs from what you think of as the “typical” test group? How would you change this?

My response

Up until a month ago I was the sole tester in small software company (our entire company was about 11 people). Since then we’ve been purchased by a large multinational company with over 15,000 people world-wide. I’m still not quite sure what exact group I belong to or what my overall responsibilities are so I’ll focus my answer on the company prior to this acquisition.

Since our company was small so was our technical team, which consisted of 3 full time developers and me. For a few years we also had a CTO who acted as a development manager and occasionally for big projects we’d hire contractors. Like others on our technical team I essentially had two roles in the company: first as a tester of our products and secondly as a jack of all trades, used where-ever I’m needed.

My responsibilities and services include:

  • Support our existing Clients deployments
    • Questions about software behavior 
    • Debug problems with existing systems
  • Install and Configure customer deployments (production systems) 
  • Install and Configure test and development labs
  • Compile / build the releases for our software (release management)
  • Document installation procedures and update existing online help system 
  • Test software releases and patches which includes:
    • Make sense of the changes development made 
    • Understand what was asked of our development team (no formal specs) by our customers or executives 
    • Make sure the company knows the risks and stability of the release in both functional and para-functional areas. 
  • Anything else asked of me by management 

While these responsibilities can limit the amount of time I can spend on a particular release testing, they provide different points of views which feed into what I know and learn about the product. Those influences then get reflected in my testing approach. This holistic view can help identify pain points which I might otherwise not get to see.

I’ve worked in large and small companies. Each organization seems to have services and responsibilities that suit what someone thinks the companies needs are. I think the difference between mine and other testing groups has been the amount of time devoted to learning about the craft of software testing and how that can be applied to helping the business. The only way to change this is to set a good example for others to follow.

Enrolled in BBST Foundations

It’s official. I’m enrolled in the BBST Foundations course for November through AST.

I joined AST (Association for Software Testing) with the end-goal to enroll in the BBST (Black Box Software Testing) Foundations course. I’ve read about the classes, seen a number of experts whom I trust recommend them and also heard good things from my post on SQA StackExchange. BBST.info which is home to Cem Kaner and Rebecca Fiedler (the creators of the material) BBST consulting practice say this:

Too many testing courses emphasize a superficial knowledge of basic ideas. This makes things easy for novices and reassures some practitioners that they understand the field. However, it’s not deep enough to help students apply what they learn to their day-to-day work.

The BBST series will attempt to foster a deeper level of learning by giving students more opportunities to practice, discuss, and evaluate what they are learning. The specific learning objectives will vary from course to course (each course will describe its own learning objectives).

The Black Box Software Testing course information is all freely available online at TestingEducation.org but it seems like I’d get more information going through the class with people in a more collaborative environment. More importantly it’s taught by teachers who have been trained by Cem Kaner and Rebecca Fiedler themselves.

There are several levels to the BBST coursework including:

  • Foundations
  • Bug Advocacy
  • Test Design
  • and eventually… Instructor
Just the list of required and recommended readings at the bottom of the BBST Foundations website has me excited. It’s going to be a lot of work but probably well worth it.
In the video below Dee Ann Pizzica explains the BBST courses at CAST 2011 (Conference of the Association for Software Testing). It’s worth a watch: