Learning testing is like learning to paint

One of my “aha” moments with painting was when I took a gouache class and thought oh this technique is so easy – it’s just like colouring in! But when I tried to teach a friend to do it, the gap in our experiences really showed. I didn’t realise how much I’d learned about drawing just from doing it for so long. Mixing colours, looking at real images in a way that makes them “flat” so that I can transfer them to a 2D drawing – these are things that I learned through years of practice.

A pink beetle I painted. Gouache on paper.

I think testing skill is the same. You can’t really say to someone “just do this and this and now you’re an expert tester”. It’s more like “start by doing this, and do it again and again for years and you’ll get good at it.” And I think that’s why there’s a myth that testing is just some magical “mindset” that some folks are gifted with and others can’t learn. It’s the same when people say art is a talent that folks are just gifted with – it ignores the years of hard work that went into refining that skill, and it prevents people from trying to learn it.

Another of my paintings. Lady in a silk kimono. Gouache on paper.

I hear many developers say that it’s impossible for a developer to be a good tester because it’s an innate talent or mindset. It’s not true at all – it just takes practice. Lots of practice.

If you’re interested in seeing more of my artwork, visit my art website – http://designs.hogfish.net

2 thoughts on “Learning testing is like learning to paint

  1. Ah, the curseof knowledge. Dan North’s explaination of dreyfus squared in his talk on patterns for effective teams was very helpful here. In summary a beginner relies on rules to understand something new, experts however have transcended rules so they’re best matched with those who are already proficient.

  2. That sounds like the curse of knowledge which makes it difficult for an expert to explain to a novice.

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