logi_media_dir/images/news/96.jpg Newspaper: testingmentor
Sep 26, 2010

This week I was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After 3 days of attending the VistaCon 2010  conference and 1 day visiting the MS office here I got to explore the city, visit some museums, and end my trip by zipping around the city on a rented scooter.

What great fun! Michael Hackett and I rented scooters on Saturday, drove around for a bit, then around noon got separated. Three hours later we met back at the place we rented the bikes and Hung Nguyen was there as well. We once again set out for a coffee shop, then on to a Czech style beer hall well hidden in the middle of the city. After a beer (or two) and a great squid dinner Hung and I headed off to Vive for a few games of pool with his son Denny. Next we headed to a karaoke place I embarrassed myself and also got a treat listening to Hung, Denny, and our companions sing songs in Vietnamese. Today was a continuation of the day before and I spent the day riding out to Hiep Phuoc to explore the countryside a bit. Getting caught in 2 torrential down pours was not part of the plan and forced me to stop once in a small coffee shop for an hour, then a pho stand for another hour to wait out the rain. Away from the city communication is mostly smiles, head movements and hand gestures, but ice coffee is well understood and I knew how to say pho bo to order noodles with beef. All in all, I had way too much fun this week immersing myself in the culture and getting to meet so many wonderfully friendly Vietnamese!

Back to the conference, I was very honored when I was invited to present the opening keynote for VistaCon 2010, the first software testing conference in Vietnam. My dear friends Hung Nguyen and Michael Hackett and the rest of the staff at LogiGear organized a fantastic conference that hosted about 180 people from 6 different countries. I also presented a 2 hour tutorial on combinatorial testing practices, and another talk on random test data generation in automated tests. The talks went well although culturally the Vietnamese people are a bit shy about speaking out, and many opted to talk with me one on one or in smaller groups during breaks or the lunch hour. One attendee later told me, “I didn’t understand everything you said, but your talks really made me think.”

The software industry in Vietnam is growing rapidly, and Ho Chi Minh City has tremendous potential as both an outsourcing destination and for distributed development. So, it was not a surprise to repeatedly hear the recurring question, “What skills will we need as software testers in the future?”

Those of you who read this blog regularly or have listened to me speak at conferences know that I think that software testers should have a rich understanding of the “system.” In my opinion, the less you know about the “system” in which you are testing the greater the potential to miss important issues, or decrease your ability to troubleshoot issues and identify patterns of software testing that can then be applied in the appropriate context.

For example, many testers have heard of the problems with the antiquated double byte encoding systems (DBCS) and will continually cut and paste hard-coded strings containing “problematic” CJK characters into various input textboxes. Unfortunately, much of this ‘testing’ is simply wasted effort. Due to a lack of “system” knowledge they don’t know is that these characters were problematic in file I/O operations on ANSI based systems, or where an application is thunking between Unicode and ANSI. Today the native character encoding of the Windows operating system is Unicode. Different encoding; different problems.

I also think testers should be competent in at least one programming language for several reasons that I have discussed in previous posts. Over the past few years, my message has been pretty clear; to grow as a professional in the software testing discipline many of us must improve our overall technical skills and knowledge. I have leaned in this direction mostly because I saw this skill gap in many testers and understood the needs of companies that produce software will require a greater breadth and depth of skills from their testers. The key operative phrase in that last sentence is “companies that produce software” because that is the lens through which I view the maturing role of software testing.  My perspective of testing is biased towards testing practices at companies that produce software.

Cem Kaner also gave a keynote at VistaCon. At first I wasn’t sure if his keynote was on investment banking or testing, but he eventually drew a parallel between the job of “quants” in the financial sector and the role of a business domain expert tester working for an outsourcing company. But he did say that if you work for a company that produces software then you probably want to increase your technical skills, and if you work for a outsourcing company that tests software produced by software producer then you should become a specialist in the business domain of the software you are testing. You know…I agree. If you want to grow your career as a vendor for companies that outsources the testing of their products to specialists that test software from an end-user perspective then you should definitely become an expert in that business domain. On the other hand if you work for a company that produces software, or creates software solutions then I think you need to constantly improve your overall knowledge of the complete system; including some understanding of the domain in which you are testing.

Surely in the future there is demand for testers who are business domain specialist working for outsourcing vendors, and there will be demand for testers who want to work at a company that produces software and will need an increasingly richer set of technical skills, and I suspect that professional testers in the future will have a mix of skills and knowledge that will enable them to adapt to the changing job market and demands of the industry.
Bj Rollison