To anyone who follows DevOps, you probably understand the importance of automating your testing efforts. According to a survey conducted by ElasticBox and devops.com, 64% of respondents identified automated build and testing as their key DevOps focus. Gene Kim has pointed to automation as a great way to reduce deployment lead times. In the DevOps world, anything that can be automated should be automated, and testing is one of the first in line.
However, not everyone is excited about test automation. These people are known as manual testers, and they’re afraid of losing their jobs. I attended Agile 2015 a few months ago and attended the “Introduction to Agile Testing” session by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory. As the talk was wrapping up, they asked: “how many of you are scared of automated testing?” About 75% of the room raised their hands. It’s another example of how the software delivery pipeline is akin to a manufacturing plant. Just as factory workers may be afraid of losing their jobs to new machines, so too are testers.
As we know, automation is just more efficient than human testing. It’s a lengthy, repetitive process that’s prone to human error. Why not save time there? One argument is that we’re automating too quickly, that the balance between what humans handle and what computers handle should be reevaulated. If a machine breaks down, the person who knows how to do the computer’s job will be forced to jump in. However, this is a temporary measure, and there’s a very good chance the person’s skills have gotten rusty as a result of not being in the fray every day. It’s a valid point, but people can still adapt to the changing landscape in meaningful ways, including taking the charge on automation efforts.
Yes, you can automate yourself out of your own job. If you don’t take the charge, somebody else will, and then you will be seen as less valuable than you really are. If you get ahead and expand your résumé to include more criticial thinking and programming skills, you’re well positioned to thrive in a post-automation world. Better yet, you can sell your experiences to future employers. This won’t be easy, but no career transition is. Taking some Codecademy or Pluralsight classes on SQL, Java, or another language of choice can become incredibly useful down the line, as well as familiarizing yourself with frameworks like JUnit or Selenium.
Anyone whose job is in danger of being automated is not automatically a low-value employee. They're capable of transitioning to new careers, especially in IT. Automated testing may take over your regular job, and just maintaining or monitoring that software may not be an exciting prospect, but it is possible to evolve, survive, and prosper in a post-automation world.