At a recent conference, one speaker stated that, as a tester, she trusted no one. (I believe the exact words were very close to "I don't trust anyone. As a tester, I don't think I should.")
Now, I can agree that skepticism can be an extremely valuable for testers. When every head is bobbing that yes, the CashRun interface is scheduled to run over the weekend, being that one voice to ask "I'm sure you're right, but why don't we check?" can add a lot of dollar value in a little time -- especially if the cost to check is cheap and the pain of CashRun not running is expensive.
Likewise, when programmers turn code over to us, of course they think it works. In most cases, developers wouldn't turn over code with issues only they know about -- our job is to find unknown things.
So, again, skepticism can be powerful.
Yet as I heard those words, I was reminded of a speech that General Douglas MacArthur gave at West Point Military Academy in 1962. Perhaps the most famous part of his speech was this:
Duty, Honor, Country:
Those three hallowed words reverently dictate
what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your
rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain
faith when there seems to be little
cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.
Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence
of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell
you all that they mean.
The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant
phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker,
and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to
downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.
But these are some of the things they
do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians
of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and
brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending
in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words
for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of
difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm
but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others;
to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how
to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take
yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness,
the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the
will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs
of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over
love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what
next, and the joy and inspiration of life.
They teach you in this way to be an officer and
(You can read the whole speech online
, or download the audio recording as an .mp3. It's worth listening to.)
You may not be an American, and you may not share the same definition of honor as I do. Perhaps you are a freelancer, and work for different clients part-time.
Still, all in all, I hope you agree with me on the term duty
-- that is it a virtue that we should strive toward.
Duty. As in "To Do My Duty."
As a testing professional, those duties might include doing work I feel as boring, repetitive, and low-risk ... because I said I would do it and because it needs to be done.
They might mean staying a little late, throwing something else in, or having a argument I hoped to avoid ... because I messed up and need to fix or, or I mis-judged something, or because the words need to be said.
Perhaps, as a tester, I should not trust others, but if I am really living up to the standard of duty ... shouldn't you be able to trust me?
We've had sixty weeks of podcasts
here at Software Test Professionals. For most of those, nearly a year, you've heard Michael Larsen's voice as the lead show producer. Of the many virtues Michael has, one of them is the importance of keeping his promises. Michael says what he will do, and he does it -- or better, sometimes early.
I've come to trust him.
Now the risk of trust, of course, is that people can let you down. They can fail. If the risk is big, perhaps you have backups and plan Bs and wheels within wheels. (More than once, I've had an executive ask "what if John gets hit by a bus?" and I have replied, in an even tone "The company will be just fine; we'll get over it. If John actually does get hit by a bus, then what we do is buy his wife some flowers and visit him in the hospital! You heartless [unprintable]!")
So, like I said, the danger in trust is that you can get burned.
I'm afraid to say, we've been burned.
There will be no This Week in Software Testing Podcast this week.
No, Michael did not get hit by a bus, but he did break two bones
in an accident on the way to work.
The company will be just fine; we sent him a stuffed teddy bear while he was in the hospital. (It's okay, it's a masculine one
, or, well, you know, as masculine as these things go.)
But the story, my friends ... the story is not over.
How I found out about the accident is amazing.
Shortly after the accident, Michael's wife Christina sent me a facebook message.
You see, as the paramedics were carrying him away, on the stretcher, he was trying to explain to her about the podcast, and his obligations, and who to tell about what.
Can you imagine? You just broke your leg in two places. You are on a stretcher, and you have the presence of mind to worry about some .mp3 file you need to get to a friend for some bloggy thing?
I find Michael's sense of duty inspiring.
I chose to trust him.
Now as I said earlier, and you've figured out by now, as will inevitably happen in this imperfect world to people who choose to trust, eventually, I was burned.
Or perhaps not.
You see, Michael offered to try to do some editing from his morphine drip
I sent him home.
You and Me
I may be a tester; it may be important for me to be skeptical. If I believe in things, I run the risk of being wrong, and having to live with the consequences of that decision.
I choose to believe anyway, and to try to be someone others can trust and rely on.
What do you choose?