Testers need to spruce-up people skills: specialist

Some suggest technically minded Kiwis are particularly below-par on people skills

The human side of software development and testing is given too little importance, say testing practitioners who attended a Wellington address last week by UK-based specialist Dorothy Graham.

Some suggest technically minded Kiwis are particularly below-par on people skills.

Graham, a principal of Cheshire-based Grove Consultants (www.grove.co.uk), is giving three seminars, on test automation, in a trip that is otherwise mainly a holiday.

For her presentation to the NZ Computer Society’s Test Professional’s Network, she concentrated on the interpersonal side of the craft.

Taking as her title “the tester’s critical Cs — criticism, communication and confidence”, she discussed the role of and likely reactions to a critic, which is essentially what a tester is in a developer’s eyes.

She reflected on techniques of inspiring a confident attitude in oneself and others, on how messages can be misinterpreted and on the difference between the “push” mode of communication — telling the other person what you think — versus the pull mode, which involves asking for someone else’s view of a situation or issue.

If someone continues to make the same mistake, for example if you know every time you test their code it will have boundary errors, then rather than letting annoyance grow, an appropriate action might be to draw up, with the developer’s agreement, a check-list to ensure they are vigilant for that particular kind of error.

Much of Graham’s material would be familiar from a course on assertiveness training, complete with a few practical exercises, but testers in the audience agreed that it was refreshing and productive to see such techniques applied to their discipline.

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