I remember three things that made me think testing was cool before I was a tester.
The first one was when I was a high school student and I was reading an article online that a tester for LucasArts games wrote. It was a funny “day in the life” piece, and described how he got to play the game before it was finished and found bugs that would make Guybrush Threepwood’s head fly across the screen. He described the glee he felt in waiting for the optimum time to tell the developer about the one flashing white pixel in the bottom of every frame, and watching that developer burst into tears. He sounded like a man who loved his job.
The second one was when I was a university student and I was studying human-computer interaction as a subject. The textbook had a piece describing how Microsoft conducted usability testing. They had usability labs, and brought in real users and observed them while they used the software. It sounded like an interesting way to gain insight into how people used software, and a way to help make software easier to use.
The third one was when I was fresh out of university and working for Microsoft as a developer. My boss Gary had been working there for about thirteen years and he loved to tell us stories about Microsoft. One story he told us was about a group of testers in Microsoft who would walk around in packs wearing black trench coats, striking fear and awe into the hearts of developers as they passed by. They’d walk up to a workstation, click a few buttons, crash the system and coolly walk on their way, while developers scrambled to fix the error. They sounded like badasses.
Conversely, I remember the first time I met a software developer. I was in my first year of university and had told my uncle that I was studying IT and wanted to be a programmer. My uncle was a manager in a bank. He was shocked. “What? You want to be a programmer? Aiyoh. Come with me, I’ll show you a programmer.” So he took me to the bank and showed me his huge, beautiful office. It had a separate lounge area and an ensuite bathroom. Then he took me down a corridor to a black unmarked door, punched in a combination into a keypad and there, in the middle of a windowless room, sitting in a pod of cubicles, sat four men who looked like they’d lost the will to live. “Look at these guys” said my uncle, gesturing to a despondent-looking programmer. “Look at their faces. Is this the kind of job you want?”
When someone meets you for the first time, having never met a software tester before, what will they think of software testing when they walk away?