Testing is dying. Should I look for another career?

It has become quite fashionable to stand on podiums and announce “Testing Is  dying!. All of life is going to be automated! There will be no need for testers in the future.” I think reports of testing’s (impending) death are grossly exaggerated!

Sure, RPA and AI are displacing people in jobs with repeatable, predictable outcomes. As they well should. A tester is not, and should not be, hired to do mundane, repetitive tasks.

Let me take the discussion out of the IT domain and prove the point to you.  Here’s a test that was developed by Karl Dunker in 1945 to measure problem solving ability.

The ProblemCandle problem - Question

“How will you fix and light a candle on a cork wall so that the candle wax won’t drip onto the table below?”

To do so, one may only use the anything in the picture alongside.  It contains:

  • A Candle
  • A book of matches
  • A box of thumbtacks

Go on, think about it.

Most people figure it out after an average of 10 minutes, after a couple false starts involving attaching the candle with brass tacks or trying to fix it after melting the side of the candle to stick it to the wall.

The right answer, of course, is this:

Candle problem - answer

However, when the problem was presented differently, with the thumbtacks placed out of the box as shown alongside, people solved the problem in an average of 3 minutes.

The difference is that the when the thumbtacks are out of the box, it becomes obvious what the solution is. In the former case, one is stuck thinking about the box as a container for the thumbtacks and it takes a bit of lateral thinking to figure out that it can also be used as a stand for the candle.   Solving the problem when the solution is not obvious is immensely more satisfying and requires the solver to see beyond what is obvious.  It involves creativity.

Implications for you

What is the relevance to testing, you ask?  Allow me to explain.

Testing is essentially a task framed, by neophytes, as being similar to  the last image above – as a job that proves that something works.  You develop test cases to “verify & validate specifications”. Basically, the thinking is that testing is to endorse somebody else’s creativity.  When they use creative thinking themselves, testers need the license of a new name for it: exploratory testing.  It has become so bad that there are reams of books and articles enjoining and allowing a tester to think – an activity which should be as natural as breathing.

If your view of testing conforms to that, then yes, your job is of the kind that can, and will, and should, be automated.  And, be my guest, please re-skill yourself; find another career.

If you think, however, that the basic purpose testing is to ensure that the product can be used as intended by a customer, not conformance checking, then you do not need to move out of testing.   In fact, I would argue, it is only now that the tester would be freed from being midwife to another’s child and start creating herself.   When the connection between cause and effect seems tenuous at best and when it takes increasingly more creativity just to prove that A causes B consistently, reliably and only as intended, a testers job becomes truly fascinating

I cant think of a better way to spend my work day than solving interesting puzzles and getting paid for it.

So, put on your thinking caps. The future is inviting as long as you are willing to think your way to it!