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02 May '15 | Debjyoti Paul

German Shoppers: Meet Them in the Fast Lane to Phy-gital

15 January '15 | Ralf Reich

Shoppers Will Share Personal Information (But They Don’t Want to be “Friends”)

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Modernize or Perish: Property and Casualty Insurers and IT Solutions

14 January '15 | Manesh Rajendran

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13 January '15 | Anil Gandharve

The New Omnichannel Dynamic: Finding Core Principles Across Industries

13 January '15 | Debjyoti Paul

Technology does not disrupt business – CIO day 2014 Roundup

02 December '14 | Anshuman Singh

Apple Pay – The Best Is Yet To Come

02 December '14 | Indy Sawhney

Digital transformation is a business transformation enabled by technology

01 December '14 | Amit Varma

3 Stages of FATCA Testing and Quality Assurance

06 October '14 | Raman Suprajarama

3 Reasons why Apple Pay could dominate the payments space

18 September '14 | Gaurav Johri

Beacon of Hope: Serving Growth and Customer Satisfaction

05 August '14 | Debjyoti Paul

The Dos and Don’ts of Emerging Technologies Like iBeacon

30 July '14 | Debjyoti Paul

What You Sold Us On – eCommerce Award Finalist Selections

17 July '14 | Anshuman Singh

3 Steps to Getting Started with Microsoft Azure Cloud Services

04 June '14 | Koushik Ramani

8 Steps to Building a Successful Self Service Portal

03 June '14 | Giridhar LV

Innovation outsourced – a myth or a mirage or a truth staring at us?

13 January '14 | Ramesh Hosahalli

What does a mobile user want?

03 January '14 | Gopikrishna Aravindan

How to Hire Top Test Engineers

Posted on: 11 March '09

This one has programmed a PIC chip; that one has a degree in applied mathematics; those carry a certificate in SAP consultancy or a letter proving membership in a W3 advisory body – these are all really good signs that someone might turn out to be a good tester. I’ve all but trembled in my boots before interviewing such candidates, they have such auspicious qualifications. But there are more reliable indicators.

In job interviews I have often asked test engineer candidates, “How would you test a pencil?” I don’t give them a pencil, they have to imagine it. Some merely smirk, as though the question were beneath them: A pencil!

One candidate started talking about the ductility of the shaft, which threw me for a loop. I was wondering how to re-state the problem without insulting him when he saw my discomfort and said, “Ah, you are thinking of a wooden pencil – I am thinking of a mechanical pencil!”

A woman who turned out to be one of my best hires asked me if the hypothetical pencil was new or used. She is the only person to have asked that question.

In their first responses, both of those candidates indicated that they were reluctant to make assumptions. That’s a prized attribute in test engineers.

The test engineers I’ve hired have tended to share other traits as well:

  • – Inquisitive
  • – Analytical but rarely left-brain dominant
  • – Broad range of experience and interests
  • – Fascination with technology in general, not just computer science

Several might ask “what kind of pencil is it”, or “what will the pencil be used for”, but the best candidates have such acute powers of imagination that they simply have to be stopped in their enumeration of possible tests: conducting all tests in high temperatures, high humidity, zero humidity over unit time, submerged, at minus 270 degree Celsius, under high torque, in ice, so many pounds of sheer stress, etc.; if painted, the chemical stability of the paint, resistance to wear, consistency across large batches; if the body is wood wrapped around writing material, one list of questions (test qualities of the glue), if it is a mechanical pencil, another list; is the graphite or lead material of required hardness, and so on.

One of the worst candidates had a Masters in Computer Science and a PhD in astrophysics (trying to find a job in the same city as where his fiancee had landed a plum position). One of the best had worked for five years repairing vintage European sports cars.

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  • Ujj

    A beautiful read, especially the last paragraph, that sort of compares qualification with attitude.

  • Thanks. Attitude has a lot to do with qualification. A professor advised a former student who had already met with success as a busienss consultant, “Instead of trying to look interested, get interested. It’s a lot easier.”

  • Siva Sankari Arunachalam

    I am one of the laziest users. If technology is not making us lazy then why did we invent Remote Controls? I found the passionate tester in me when I was not ready to compromise with the navigation pattern of a famous mobile handset. It doesn’t give me any option other than a ‘back’ button when I try to see the clicked photos in a ‘full screen’ mode. And it was really surprising to see that usability and maintainability counts more to me everywhere including when I arrange the frequently used vessels in the front row in my kitchen.

    IT is all about storing and retrieving information faster as we could. Shouldn’t Usability be given enough space into Performance Testing where what the user see is restricted to the screen’s height and width no matter how high-end our technology is? Wont thinking in terms of simple would make us reconsider whether we need to use those high end, cost effective Caching Systems which often proves expensive than a database-hit in terms of maintenance?

    Is technology all about thinking complex and not simple? How a simple process enforced like a ‘usability check list’ which includes ‘the tab order is not working, telephone field accepts more than 10 char etc’ prepared and issued to the development team by testing team which is expected to be ‘must done’ by the developers for every release reduces a lot of manual hours spent from both the sides.

    It’s really an encouraging article when I was always warned against seeing Testing as ‘How we perceive things’ rather they want to see it as a ‘Task to be completed’.