During my time as a Test Manager, I’ve worked on many different projects. Most of them large with a lot of personnel with different roles. There are always individuals starting to work on the project and those that leave the project. For me, the task of introducing new testers tend to be a big part of my role and I wanted to share with you some lessons learned.
A new tester needs to learn a lot to contribute. For instance, the business processes, the purpose of the system, the system, the project organization, the way of working, and how to test under these circumstances. Nobody wants to feel like a burden, so the initial phase of the introduction needs to be as short as possible. And of course, every tester is different, and you need to adapt to their needs.
One of the challenges of introducing a new team member is something that the authors of the book “Made to Stick” calls “The Curse of Knowledge”. When you have worked on the project for a long time, you know too much. A lot of things are self-evident for you, so you don’t mention it. This makes it hard for someone new to grasp what the work entitles and how they should go about it. Of course, I do explain the purpose of the system and show how it works, but it’s not enough. I have two different methods that I tend to combine.
Stories are both entertaining and educational. With a good story, the new tester learns important skills, because a story provides knowledge about how to act and, also a motivation to act. What will the new tester learn if I tell the following story?
A tester was testing the function of generating a letter that was supposed to be sent to another system. When he generated the letter, he was pleased that the function worked and continued with another test, only to learn several weeks later that the letter hadn’t arrived at the other system due to that the communication between the systems was not working.
Hopefully, the story teaches the need for checking that a function works all the way through. Other stories teach different concepts.
Stories tend to have more “hooks” for our memory to latch onto, so you need to use storytelling to have an effective introduction. It’s also a fun way of bonding the team, by letting different team members tell different stories from their experiences.
Pair testing is a method I use for different purposes, such as the introduction of new team members. By testing together, the new tester experiences exactly how a testing session can look like and what problems you typically encounter. It makes it easy to ask questions on the fly. Instead of trying to tell about all things that are self-evident for you, these aspects are shown on the job. When the new team member is doing the tests with you by their side, they don’t get stuck because as soon as the need arises, they can ask questions and move forward. During the pair testing, we typically swap stories from our experience.
Both methods are effective, and they should be used in combination. Of course, an effective introduction is no trivial task and we use and should use a lot of different methods. Nowadays, I never leave out Storytelling and Pair testing. How do you introduce a new tester into a project? What are your favorite ways? Please, let me know in a comment. And don’t forget! Tell a story!