Testers with Asperger’s Syndrome: A twinterview with Michael Drejer

Recently, a link came my way about Aspiritech, a testing company that only hires testers with Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning Autism. I’d heard of companies like this before, and was curious about the advantages and limitations of this testing approach, and about what made software testing so suited to this demographic. So I expressed some interest on Twitter, and was subsequently introduced to Michael Drejer. Michael has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is a software tester working at BOAS Specialister in Denmark. So he was able to answer a few of my questions over Twitter.

Michael:
Oh yeah, @Aspiritech they’re good guys. I work for the company that started the whole asperger-software tester thing. Or well, we are a separate company now from the original Specialisterne. We are called BOAS Specialister. Specialisterne is Danish for The Specialists (and BOAS is a contraction of words Live on your own Asperger).

Trish:
Cool. How does the test approach of these orgs differ from other orgs?

Michael:
They don’t really. Except we’re better and more thorough. We follow test cases/plans when we have them, or write them then execute. The main difference is that you have to have an asperger diagnosis to be hired. And the work environment is more asperger friendly.

Trish:
Is all of the testing done with test cases, or are there also exploratory sessions done without test cases?

Michael:
We do bug hunts as well. Some things are easy enough to do without test cases. But it’s good to have a structured process to work from, that’s one of the important things.

Trish:
Interesting. Do you work directly with developers, or does your team work externally from the main dev team?

Michael:
We work only as external testers. We usually report the bugs in a bug report software, depending on what the client uses. Over the years, we have done a lot of testing for Lego on their website, shop and flash games for example.

Trish:
Cool. What makes the structure of the testing so important?

Michael:
It’s the asperger thing. We really don’t like when things aren’t structured. It’s what makes it difficult for us to find work, because a lot of jobs and places of work don’t have that kind of structure we need. That’s why QA testing is so good for us. And because we have an extraordinary ability to notice details, we find more bugs than most other testers do.

Ah I see. Do you think your preference for structure helps you spot software defects more easily?

Michael:
Structure prevents me from losing my mind in frustration, allowing me to focus on the testing. The work environment is also an important factor. I don’t like a lot of light, and I don’t like having my back towards the door. My co-workers have other issues, mostly sensory-related.

Trish:
Interesting. I know a few test approaches that aren’t as structured though. I guess that wouldn’t work as well for you guys? Like for example, working without specification documents, and/or not using test cases.

Michael:
When testing websites we rarely use test cases (I basically make them in my head and remember for testing again). BTW, a couple of us are ISEB certified. I think it depends on the scope of the software. Big software, like the one we’re working on now, needs test cases.

Trish:
Ah sorry, when you said structured, I thought you meant test cases. What did you mean by structured?

Michael:
I do mean test cases. But when it’s smaller jobs, it’s okay, we don’t need test cases for that. If it’s a complex software program, then we need to know what to do. It is just how we work most optimal, and it can stress us out very easily if we don’t have test cases, or at least some sort of recipe for how to do the testing. We just don’t always have the privilege of having test cases.

If you’d like to learn more, Michael wrote this guest blog post about working as a software tester with Asperger’s Syndrome. It was recently published in the book “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism”.

2 thoughts on “Testers with Asperger’s Syndrome: A twinterview with Michael Drejer

  1. Darren McMillan

    Hi Trish,

    Thank you for taking the time out to share this and provide further reading links. I’m about to start working with the Specialisterne Scotland, so this was really helpful for me, in getting to know a little bit more about the challenges that will face us both. So thank you kindly for taking the time out to share this with us.

    Michael sounds like a great guy, I’m glad he’s found something that he loves doing.

    Thanks,

    Darren.

  2. Pingback: QA&TEST Blog » Blog Archive » Testers con Síndrome de Asperger

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