The role of a tester isn’t just to be an inspector, identifying problems in the system. Their contribution within the overall software development process is far more comprehensive than that. So, what kinds of testers can be described as T-shaped and what can they bring to the situation? T-Shaped testers are those who possess multiple skills and utilize them across other domains.
The vertical bar on the T indicates depth of knowledge and the horizontal bar indicates the breadth of knowledge. Say, for example, with the core strength of all testers being functional testing, these people can also be great technical writers, scrum masters, or product owners. These are some of the additional skills a tester can possess. However, the list is probably endless.
The Characteristics of a T-Shaped Software Tester
The qualities possessed by a T-Shaped Software tester are not so very different from those of a regular tester, but here are three top characteristics that can explain the differentiation.
Working on a specific component or a particular type of testing can help a tester develop their expertise. Whatever the subject, expertise is always the first thing in demand, but at the same time, the ability to adapt is also a highly valued T-Shaped tester attribute. Working outside your primary specialization or on a different work schedule is what defines adaptability. A versatile person will always be the first who comes to mind for filling any gaps in a team.
2. A Good Communicator
Say, a tester is good at all levels of testing, possess the cross-functional knowledge, is flexible BUT not an excellent communicator. Sometimes these skills are poorly utilized because the person isn’t able to communicate well enough with the team. In this context, an excellent communicator doesn’t just indicate someone’s ability to write a proper email but also includes their overall relationship building with the team, ability to adapt to different cultures and the ability to properly communicate and convince others of their opinion. Hence, being good at communication is a desired feature for a T-Shaped tester.
3. Highly Motivated
Motivation drives results. A motivated tester will never leave a task incomplete, even if they have to dig deep to finish the job, or they have to go out of their way to achieve their target. Thus, upgrading yourself to become a T-Shaped tester involves a lot of motivation to be able to perform any job role given to you. A Tester may be required to complete testing on a module they are an expert at or sometimes, they may be needed to just observe and support a module where he or she lacks knowledge. Both job roles will require the same level of motivation to bring the task to closure.
How can you develop yourself into a T-Shaped Tester?
Assess your skills
The first step in determining how close you are to be considered a T-Shaped software tester is to assess your capabilities and interests carefully. A streamlined person focussed only on just one area of testing cannot be called a T-Shaped tester. Check this questionnaire to judge your current state. For questions on rating, you can use these levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced.
- How will you rank your Functional Testing Skills?
- How will you rate your Performance Testing Skills?
- How good are you with documentation? Have you ever been involved in any content writing?
- How familiar are you with Agile Methodology?
- How familiar are you with DevOps?
- Do you like to work as an individual contributor or work as a team?
- What are your interests other than Software Testing?
- Given a chance to perform a role other than Testing, what would you like to do?
- Are you a tester who wants to focus only on the part you are supposed to test, or would you like to know the product as a whole?
Enhance your skills
At the end of the above exercise, you will be better aware of your strengths, weakness and your interests, so the next step is to enhance the skills you are excited to learn. To interpret the results better, the areas where you have marked yourself as beginner or intermediate, it indicates there is scope for learning and improvement. Areas where you feel, you are already at the advanced level, see if you can utilize your knowledge towards your work. For questions 6 to 9, your response will indicate other domains that you lean towards, and these interests can help develop the horizontal bar of your T-Shaped skills.
Many of testers, if not all, are versatile. Many possess the skills required for qualifying as T-Shaped testers but are not getting opportunities to prove themselves. If you feel the same, it’s time to be vocal and discuss this with your team or your next level manager. The T-Shaped concept is for individuals who aren’t happy with just the core skills but want to expand their horizon and utilize their skills across the board.