Every organization that conducts software testing is on the lookout for the elusive unicorn tester…the Indiana Jones of software testing...the Iron Man of all testers…one who has the answers for every problem. In fact, one who can not only test like a pro but also can look into the future and detect possible problems that might arise. Clearly, this unicorn tester is not easy to find. Some even call this species a myth or an urban legend. Without getting into the question of the existence of the unicorn tester, in this blog, we take a look at some specific qualities that can turn the lesser mortals, or our everyday manual testers, into the elusive but much in demand unicorn testers.
Given the changing software development methodologies today, testing is becoming an integral part of the development process itself. In order to run parallel to development and roll out high-quality products into the market, automation becomes the need of the hour. Test automation takes the pain out of the testing process, making it less time-consuming and resource intensive. Given the rise of scriptless test automation, now testers do not even have to know a single line of code to write test scripts. However, does scriptless test automation then render the manual tester redundant? Not really! In fact, scriptless automation makes manual testers more powerful and agile. While their domain and functional knowledge are the core, scriptless automation can up their speed.
Value Creation Through Business Domain Understanding
Automation has indeed taken the pain out of testing. However, for automation to deliver to its potential, it becomes imperative that the testers shorten the feedback loop by exploring user stories and use cases. Since manual testers have the testing expertise, they become the perfect candidates to explore testing requirements, make them clear and concise for easy understanding, and ultimately shorten the feedback loop to create value. The Unicorn Tester thus should be able to nail the business requirement analysis and discover specifications for testing that keep the customers’ and stakeholders’ perspectives in view. This tester proactively works with the development team and helps the product owners achieve their goals.
What do Unicorn Testers do differently from the other testers? For starters, they employ exploratory testing and critical thinking to assess where to employ test automation and where to stick to manual testing. Unicorn testers have supreme impact mapping capabilities that help them fine-tune their planning techniques keeping in mind the business perspective. As planning and impact mapping capabilities increase, testers can prevent development and business teams from getting lost during the product development process. This helps them align the development activities with the business objectives of the application in question.
Unicorn testers have exemplary skills when it comes to contextual adaptability. Testers need to bear in mind the context of the application when assessing what to test. Application standards and risks are different for different applications. This makes it essential that the tester has the capability to look for the right context in the project that he/she is working on. Additionally, the tester has to ensure that he/she adapts the manner of testing to the context in question. Building this wisdom takes time, but once built, it can put one in the league of the Unicorn Tester.
Unicorn testers are masters of prioritization. Given that testing environments, timelines, and requirements continue to vary frequently throughout the development lifecycle, it is of foremost importance that testers are able to interpret, organize, and prioritize their activities in a manner that achieving testing goals does not come at the cost of quality. Unicorn testers almost never execute tests sequentially alone without deciding on the priority. The ability to identify the test importance and then to prioritize execution based on that ensures that all critical test cases are executed in time and not compromised owing to a time crunch.
The Art of Measuring
Amongst all other things that the unicorn testers do, such as building, automating, and testing, they really end up creating more value because along with this, they also "measure" the success of the software in production. They look at data to not only see how many and how well the users are using the product but may also employ analytics to see the number of software crashes and interruptions or to find out if the user is seeing errors. They leverage test data and analyze it for a particular behavior to reach the root cause of the problem and ensure that the defect does not come up the next time around.
Along with the above-mentioned capabilities, the Unicorn Tester keeps himself/herself abreast of all the latest development in his/her line of work. They stay updated on the latest technologies and developments in the field of testing and evolve as the testing landscape does. They also ensure that they employ their strong logical, analytical, and great testing capabilities by looking at the larger picture – the business needs and goals.
Clearly, earning the status of a Unicorn Tester is no small feat. Given the increased adoption of automation, testers have to focus on continuous learning and upskilling. Manual testers are especially well positioned to become Unicorn Testers since they already have the domain and functional language knowledge. For example, by adopting scriptless automation, they can quite easily become manual and automation experts! However, earning the badge of the Unicorn Tester takes time…it takes dedication and a whole lot of commitment. But then, no one ever said "being a unicorn in a field of horses" was going to be easy.