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The Difference Between Testers & Coders


Image by Joshua Reddekopp

Testers and developers have substantially different mindsets. People often talk to me about learning new skills, which is important, but skills aren’t all of the difference. There is a fundamental contrast in how developers and testers look at the world.

Testers, usually, will see the functionality at the component and system level. They won’t be aware of the minutiae of the design patterns within the code, certainly not inside anything smaller than a class. Mostly, with some exceptions, there’s no reason to get into it at that level.

Programmers, on the other hand, live in those details of implementation. They have to keep all of the details lined up for the method they are currently working on. They will know it intimately, every try and catch accounted for. In order to do so, they must focus, and therefore lose the wider view of the system.

Another side of the difference is our internal attitudes. Developers love building things. When they read and discuss a requirement, they’re constantly thinking of how to build it, what data it needs, how to turn it into a working part of the software.

Testers are different. We like to break stuff. Not as much as we like to see what we’re testing withstand our torture, that’s when we’re filled with pride, but we like to give it a good kicking.

When a developer sees a text box to build, they think of the data handling behind it, and how values are passed from one component to the next. A tester looking at the same input field is already switching their input language to Turkish or Japanese.

Ask a programmer to pick a number, and they’ll say 7, or 23. Ask a tester and they’ll say 2.5. A good tester will say pi, and then ask you what the number is actually for.

It’s these core differences that mean you need both programmers and testers on your team. Teaching testers to code, or programmers to test, is simply not enough. Also, this constructive tension between building a tower and kicking its bricks makes better software, it’s also good for morale.

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