Do Tools Matter?

Life is different.

I’ve moved from the world of desktop software into the world of web software.  I was working on a team with thousands of integration tests – now I’m on a team that has very few. I was one of the experts on the team – now I’m asking all the newbie questions.  Things have changed a lot. In a new environment there are many new things to learn and it raises a question: is being a good tester about the tools you use, or not?


Being a good tester is not about the tools

I’ve noticed that I was able to very quickly get up to speed on the product and how it worked.  I was able to file several bugs in my first week.  I was able to feel comfortable talking about the different areas of the product. I was able to understand much of what the team was talking about very quickly.

How so?

I have been a tester for almost 10 years. My experience might be in a different world, but there are still many things that are common to software testing regardless of the type of application you are testing.  Software for example. And programmers.  You see, both desktop and web developers are humans. Desktop and web developers also both use this thing called code to help them accomplish things. Programmers and programming languages share things in common with each other that go beyond the boundaries of the kind of application you are building. The ways in which we create and interact with data structures and control flows are constrained by the way coding languages work.  The way that we create and maintain code are constrained by the ways that humans think and work.

I was actually surprised at how much of my skill and experience as a tester was easily transferable to an entirely new domain.  There are many things about being a good tester that go far beyond the tool set being used and the type of application being used.  There is a real sense in which being a good tester is not about the tools you use.

Being a good tester is about the tools

But that isn’t the full story. In the last couple of weeks I have not only been learning a new application, I have also been learning many new tools.  Some of them are internal tools that help make things easier for me.  Some of them are very well known tools that I didn’t need to use before.  Developer tools in Chrome for example. Or JMeter and Webdriver and Postman and the list goes on. As I get a better understanding of the application I get the urge to dig deeper and learn more and for that I turn to tools. Could I quickly get up to speed and contribute without learning new tools? Yes! Am I content with staying there?  No! I want to be a testing Batman. A skilled testers can be effective independent of the tools used, but a skilled tester will use tools to get even better.

I’m re-building my toolbelt now.  I’m like an electrician who has moved from doing residential work to commercial buildings. The underlying skill of knowing and understanding how electricity and wiring works stays the same, but there are some things that need to be done differently.  If the electrician refuses to learn and use new tools, she will be less effective than she could be, no matter how skilled of an electrician she is.

I still use the same underlying skills, but there are some new tools that I need to help me get more effective at my job. What tools do you use? Do you have any recommendations for a tester new to web apps? What tools should I add to my toolbelt?

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