I recently completed my first sprint triathlon. The feeling of accomplishment
was overwhleming and I almost cried crossing the finish line. For those not
familiar, a sprint triathlon consists of a 400m swim, a sixteen mile bike ride, and
a three mile run in that order. Numerous volunteers provide water, gatorade,
directions and most importantly, moral support and kind words along the
course. I’m unable to overstate how welcome and vital words of encouragement
are. “You can do it!” “Great job! Keep it up!”.
As overlwhelmed, exhausted, accomplished, and inspired as I felt crossing the
finish line, a more inspiring moment came later, much much later. And it also
helped me answer the question “Will I compete again?”
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the evermore awesome Ruby
Hoedown. Among the great talks, my particular favorites include Yossef
Mendelssohn’s “The Perpetual Novice” and Ben Scofield’s Keynote (notes may be
Many talks mentioned testing or included the assumption that we as developers
test. A few touched upon the difficulty of the novice tester. I remember when
I started testing. On a small project, I had the moral support of my
team members but not the buy-in for the team to adopt testing as a standard
practice. Ultimately the tests in that project helped us catch a couple of
sneaky data corruption bugs before we deployed the code to production but the
question always remained “Did we save more time than we spent writing tests?”
Alex Sharp’s talk, in “Refactoring in Practice”, touched upon the most
important reason for testing in my opinion, the ability to modify code with confidence. He
also covered most of the reasons people choose not to test. As his talk
progressed, he painted a complete picture of a tester. When I first
tested, I tested with inexperience often unsure of my decisions. Alex
presented a vision of a tester.
Anson Dorrance, the UNC Women’s Soccer coach said
“The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.â€
With apologies to Mr. Dorrance, the vision of a tester is someone who tests
when nobody else is looking.
As I headed to my car after the end of the triathlon, a volunteer suddenly
yelled at me “Hey! Get off the course! There’re still
racers on the course!”
There’s no one at the finish line. Almost all the volunteers and every other
particpant is either at the awards ceremony or on their way home. There’s no
announcer annoucing the time. No volunteers handing out water or sport drinks.
No one calling out encouragement.
Just a lone runner proudly finishing the race. A champion.
A racer running without the benefit of encouragement. Competing for herself. Watching her cross the finish line, I know I’ll compete again.
Do you have a testing hero? Someone who inspires you?
Do you test when no one is looking? What’s your vision of a tester?