I’m not a leading thinker in the software testing field (Captain Obvious I know), but I do think about the field and, as often as possible, as deep as I can think about the trends that are influencing my field and how it impacts me moving forward. Looking at one’s field or practices analytically or theoretically can be helpful to help reign in some of the “pragmatic drift” that occurs as we deal with the realities that are thrust upon us day-after-day. I have been interested to gauge the field of those attending the Agile2015 conference about where they see the trends for software development and software testing, in particular, are currently and where they might be headed. Most likely this same question would produce different answers if put to people attending the CAST 2015 conference (possibly radically different answers in some cases).
I had the chance to attend an AMA (Ask Me Anything) style session with Elizabeth Hendrickson (twitter handle: @testobsessed) and asked her what she saw about the growth (what I really meant to say was change) of the field of testing over the next 5 years. Elizabeth’s answer, as I heard it, was that she didn’t see growth in the testing industry over the next five years. Maybe she meant for traditional testers, I’m not sure because we were running out of time, but that is a sobering thought for someone that identifies as a tester currently. If (and that might be a big if) the software industry is moving towards more combined engineering and probably fewer test specialists (or testers) overall or certainly as a ratio to the number of other developers or team members, what does that mean for testers working in agile environments and for our next jobs (because let’s be honest we should all be preparing for our next jobs, that’s just the way careers and the world of work, especially in technology, are today)?
What does that mean for job openings that people hire for? Does that mean they will be just hiring software developers in general? Is the future of agile teams to have no dedicated testers, but to have T-shaped people who have testing skills and any “testers” in the organization work with different teams to try and ramp up those types of skills?
Sometimes I feel like that is what people are saying without saying it, but I could be interpreting things wrong and I certainly don’t have a wide gauge of the industry beyond what I’m reading in blog posts and on twitter. I’m certain that there is plenty of manual script-based testing still happening and remnants that will hang on for a long time, but as these practices spread and entrench, it feels like the role or number of dedicated testers will shrink. When other industries experience a shift or change, some roles have to change, shrink or go away.
Frankly, I’m fine with change and I’m increasingly of the opinion that the role of testing moves further “left” into the development and design phases as we get better at “being” agile in our software development. It feels like that is where the industry and trends are moving (at least it is one probably evolutionary possibility for the field). What is hard to know for someone who isn’t seeing that style of development is to understand what that looks like, what new skills should be developed and then how to evangelize that to other team members and management when it also flies in the face of what they see as the traditional role of testing. I suppose that is why change is hard. The long term reality, however, is that not changing individually while facing a shift in industry is even harder.
*Note: These thoughts have been percolating for a while and represent my thinking and perceptions about what I think other people are saying (which might be incorrect, they are my perceptions after all). The session I attended at Agile2015 this afternoon really just spurred me into trying to put my thoughts into words to clarify both the questions I still have, as well as what my current thoughts are on the topic.