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What Questioning Means to a Testing Newcomer?

- Amanda Halvordsson, Knowit Sweden

Amanda Halvordsson Amanda Halvordsson

In this article I’ll briefly explain my journey so far as a new and enthusiastic software tester. I’ll focus on what I’ve learned about questioning. This is something that I had given little thought before, but is now almost constantly on my mind.

Over the course of 2 years I’ve gone from not knowing what software testing is, to going through an education, to starting work as a tester. My education was an 18-month vocational university course focusing solely on software testing. It’s one of the first of its kind and it is taught with a context driven approach. The last module of the course was an internship. I ended up working with integration testing at a large retail company which has been incredibly challenging and interesting. Working as a tester has definitely confirmed the importance of questioning. It has been the foundation of all the disciplines of testing I’ve been taught so far.

Throughout the entire course we were constantly reminded to question. This was repeated in lectures, completing exercises by my teachers and guest speakers. One of these exercises was to design, produce and package products in different groups. This particular exercise was later into the course which meant that we’d already had many similar tasks. At this point we asked some questions, many of which we’d failed to ask previously; like how much time we had and what the requirements for the products were. Yet we still failed to ask about everything we needed to know which ultimately lead us to delivering numerous products, after hours of work, only to be told that we had failed our task. This exercise seemed a little harsh and nitpicking to me at the time, failing us for not asking what might be considered quite far-fetched questions. In retrospect I am incredibly grateful for these type of exercises because in the end, they started to mold my brain into the inquisitive, critical brain of a tester, which I believe was the intent of my teachers all along. I have found that despite all those exercises teaching me over and over again the importance of questioning I still miss things. I still fail to question at times. I believe this usually happens when the workload is especially heavy.

Perhaps a part of me still doesn’t prioritize it over things that “have to be done”. Of course this is wrong of me, questioning is absolutely essential and should be at the core of everything I do. A lack of time is no excuse, especially since the right questions can often reveal information that actually saves time. I also believe that we cannot question everything absolutely, there isn’t enough time for that. We have to choose our questions based on the perceived importance and risk, the same way we choose what to test.

Another difficulty I have found is perhaps personal, although I have realized after asking other testers that they too have felt the same way. Finding the courage to ask certain questions; some questions may seem too simple, so obvious that you feel convinced many others must have asked this exact thing before, like how does this part of the product actually work? Some may feel scary to ask; such as questions that may unravel truths that some people may not want to see, for example: have we missed something major in our testing?

These are the type of questions that may be the most important to ask. Perhaps everyone else has also refrained from asking them for those same reasons. Therefore these questions may never be asked until someone builds up the courage to ask them.

It isn’t easy to question, even though I’ve been thoroughly taught it and believe in it completely. I have to actively keep it in mind and work on it, and I seek and value opportunities that continue to force me to question and remind me when I fail to. I’ve found that I learn much better from these experiences when I take my time to truly reflect on and remember the event, so I often write it down. We had many guest speakers during the course which I learned a lot from. They, and many more I’ve come in contact with, have made me aware of how incredibly helpful the testing community is.

Some of the debates and discussions looked frightening to me at first. It seemed so loud and brutally honest, every part of one’s argument seemed be questioned and critiqued. I will admit that I was actually afraid to pose opinions and ask questions in the community for a long while. But as time has passed I’ve come to understand this a lot better. Behind the heated debates I now see the will to develop and perfect questions, opinions and ideas by truly challenging each other. Testers are excellent at asking questions and finding weaknesses and things that can be improved. Some testers have realized this potential to practice and developed their skills together.

I’ve also come to see that established testers are often very understanding and intelligent people, they are especially nice and go easy on beginners. They use a different tone and approach based on your experience, which actually provides a fantastic learning curve. The many different perspectives that are out there provide a platform for our own growth, are always helpful and I believe should be used continuously. We don’t all see the world in the same way and without asking one another the questions that are on our minds, we won’t know what is missing or what is really there. As I mentioned I stopped myself from expressing anything in this community for a long time but after I understood it, I’ve used it more and more. Every time I’ve thrown a question or request into our community, I’ve always received an immediate, respectful and thought provoking response. I have yet to feel uncomfortable by a response and today I strongly believe that the testing community is one of my most useful tools. Testing may be the only profession that puts so much value behind the phrase “good question”. Questioning is a vital part of our job and used the right way, it can make us absolutely invaluable for our projects. I believe questioning is something I’ll have to work on and perfect for the rest of my career. I am not worried though, I know that I have a community behind me that will continue to challenge and help me.


About the Author:

Amanda Halvordsson is a 20-year old tester from the south of Sweden. Although new to testing, it has quickly grown to be one of her biggest passions. The incredible intellectual challenge as well the focus on both people and technology are just a few of her reasons. She recently finished an 18-month long testing education and is now working at Knowit as a testing consultant. She is currently working with integration testing for a large retail Project.


The article was published in  Women Testers April 2016.