7 March, 2018

How to Train Your Testers

When you think about being in a classroom situation, what do you imagine? School? College? University lectures? Being subjected to hours of one teacher reading out slides in monotone, sounding more bored than you feel? Well our last classroom experience was very different.

We were involved in our own learning. We weren’t talked at or read to. We actively participated in sessions led not by a lecturer but by a friendly, approachable, experienced industry professional. This is the opening act of the Edge Academy…

The Edge Academy model involves both these productive classroom sessions and practical on-the-job learning – which combine to produce a rounded candidate from the Edge Training Academy.

When we started at the Digital Test Hub we were given this classroom-based learning approach for several weeks. The people who ran the various sessions for us used their own experiences and their own innovative ways of working to tailor the sessions so that we were given realistic ideas as to how things work in the generic ‘software development lifecycle’. The sessions included basics like Testing Fundamentals and Requirements right through to the more defined Exploratory Testing and Risk-Based Testing subjects.

During each session we were taught the perfect world scenarios. The rose-tinted view of what will happen throughout the software lifecycle. We would be given detailed requirements and plenty of information from which to form our tests. Once we had been through this we would then be walked through the more likely scenarios - mysterious requirements and non-existent documentation - so that we could understand the difference between the ‘perfect world’ and what would happen in the ‘real world’. This meant that we understood that although this is the ideal way to do it, things rarely work out like that.

This classroom learning ensured that we had a good understanding of the theory of testing which we could then apply when we joined the Digital Test Hub.

Once our classroom sessions were completed, we were let loose. We could choose our desk, get comfortable, sit with our new found colleagues, and prepare ourselves for the big wide world of Software Development. For some this was a brand new experience. Coming from from a non-IT related role, we were not used to having our own desks, our own space, and ‘normal’ working hours. We were eager to learn new skills and eager to please.

As the days passed we were assigned real client work, and ‘buddied up’ with an experienced tester to make sure we were following the correct processes and covering the requirements. This helped with increasing our confidence dramatically. We were all very capable and had picked up the basics with ease. We just needed an adult to tell us we were doing OK. So we continued to do remote testing for real clients, exceeding expectations and even compiling end of day reports on occasion (with review from an adult, of course).

Once we had the knack for this, we were ready to take it a step further. We were ready to be shipped off to a real life Client Site. Ready for our metaphorical stabilisers to be ripped off. Our little protective classroom bubble was popped.

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Once on Client Site, we were again ‘buddied up’ with an experienced Tester. They would show us round the physical building, introduce us to our soon-to-be managers and colleagues, and most importantly show us where the kettle is.

Once the initial terror on our faces and in our hearts had subsided, we quickly grasped the client’s systems and testing processes. The fundamentals we learned inside the classroom followed us wherever we went. As long as we kept these in mind, and used our initiative to dive into the client-specific stuff, we would be just fine.

And once we’d served our time, we would be off to the next Client Site. This time there would be no need for a buddy. By now we were confident in our ability to test complex processes/applications and integrated systems. We could test a website, an application, a database, an app, and the jobs which transfer data between these.

The experience we gained from being on client site has been invaluable. We have learned so much more by doing rather than by reading/listening.

So. Classroom learning versus practical on-the-job learning.

Whilst we have used the word ‘invaluable’ to describe our on-the-job learning, it was the classroom training which really laid the foundations for us to build on. Without this foundation, our skills wouldn’t have been as easily transferred between clients. Not by a long shot.

Our journey through the Edge Academy has been a rollercoaster. From sitting in a classroom not knowing a soul, to working amongst friends both Edge and otherwise. From not knowing what a Requirement was, to writing them/querying them/testing them. From not knowing what a defect was, to getting that adrenaline rush when you find one.

We say, both is best. First the classroom, then the world.


By Emma Fitzpartick and Charlotte Moss, Test Analysts at Edge Testing

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