April 25, 2018 // By Paul Grizzaffi
Throughout my career, I’ve often heard things like “Amanda the tester was just promoted to developer” and “Jake was just promoted from tester to automation developer”.
News flash: these are not promotions, or at least they shouldn’t intrinsically be considered as such. A promotion is an elevation to a higher level or rank. Consider a move from a senior role to a lead role or from a lead to a manager. Clearly, these are moves to a higher level of responsibility and authority; they, therefore, fit the definition of a promotion. A move from a tester to a developer might be a promotion, but it’s not necessarily so. Developers don’t, or at least shouldn’t, have a higher rank than a tester just because they’re developers. The same is true for automation developers/engineers; the role is not necessarily a higher rank just because automation is in the title.
Using the word promotion for this type of move perpetuates the flawed notion that the tester role is not as important as and does not warrant the same authority as the developer roles do. Earlier in my career, I was told not to go into testing because “testers were the computer science majors that couldn’t code”. I believed this; it influenced some of my behavior. Then, however, I started working directly with some testers, some really good ones. I learned that these testers were not of a lesser level or ability, they just had strengths in different facets of the job. Additionally, when people wanted information on how the products worked, they went to the testers; the testers had to understand multiple aspects of the products, while developers usually only knew their feature sets. Imagine the additional value I might have been able to provide had I not been given some poor guidance when I started. <irony>The team I joined was essentially a test automation tool development team; our team had many biases against it as well</irony>
As we can see, this notion of “tester second-class citizenry” is damaging to relationships and team cohesion. It doesn’t accurately represent what our goal should be: a healthy and cooperative team that works toward a common goal of providing business value to our users and our companies. Further damaging is the notion that a move from a tester to an automation developer is a promotion; automation and programming are additional skills that can be beneficial to testers, but gaining additional skills and a role change does not necessarily mean someone’s been promoted.
I’m not advocating doing away with titles or promotions. Certainly, a move from senior automation developer to lead product developer could be considered a promotion; there is a change in rank and, ostensibly, in authority and responsibility as well. What I’m suggesting is that there are no intrinsically lesser roles between developers, automators, and testers; let’s do away with the notion that moving to a new role is necessarily a promotion. I think this is important for the health of our teams.