As the testing pendulum has swung towards more engineering in recent years we’re facing a new issue, the prevalence of an engineering mono-culture. There’s a view that there’s one “correct” way to do things, which is an engineering way that nobody questions. As we become increasingly technical as testers we run the risk of losing diversity of thought and test ideas by becoming part of this mono-culture, an issue that can be compounded by a lack of diversity in the people within teams too:
- Studies show that women are increasingly put off by “all the technologies” job adverts.
- Some teams have a “people like us” mentality when it comes to hiring.
- The drive towards logic and engineering in decision making rather than human factors can put people off.
- An assumed inclusion of engineering backgrounds makes it harder for non-computer sciences graduates to engage.
Mono-culture is problematic for quality because it results in a bias towards a correct way of doing things. If we base quality within a team on the same shared biases then things are going to get missed.
Being different means different ideas!
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I’ve identified bugs and design flaws in systems that weren’t obvious to my colleagues, such as noticing that a pensions tool didn’t allow for the selection of a Civil Partnership (an issue which would have put the system in breach of law). Other people could have found these issues, but they were easier for me to identify as they related directly to my life.
Everybody has a unique perspective on life, shaped by their background and personality, which can be a great heuristic for testing:
- Accessibility: People who are differently abled would have the most exposure to what works or doesn’t work for them.
- Localisation: People fluent in the languages and cultures being used will be able to inform greatly on what would make sense.
- Usability: Reading comprehension, short term memory, how you use a screen; everybody has different ways of doing things so can have an idea on what would work.
The more diverse our teams are, the more we’re able to tap into these different view points and increase the quality of what we design and build. Something that we lose if we ignore the human side of testing in favour of only engineering.
But wait, there’s more!
As testers we frequently put ourselves into the shoes of other users; our empathy for them allows us to test with them in mind. Having a diverse workforce or team can open our eyes to types of people that we didn’t even know existed and increase our knowledge of our potential user base.
Smash the mono-culture!
By supporting diversity of people and thought we gain the potential to widen the scope of our testing just by using the most readily available heuristic there is: ourselves. Let’s challenge the prevalence of mono-culture and make sure that we don’t allow hidden biases to mean that we don’t see issues.
- Support or create Diversity and Inclusion groups at our places of work.
- Ensure that job adverts use language that’s appealing for more types of people.
- Create an environment that’s welcoming and pleasant for a diverse group of people.
- Challenge colleagues to be more diverse in their thinking.
- Point out when everyone is behaving like there are no other options; there’s always other options we can consider.
- We can bring our authentic self, emotions and all, to discussions to ensure that we’re not being washed along in a tide of the same people having the same thoughts.
- Support people’s diverse viewpoints and give them the consideration and respect they deserve.
- Give the time for introverts to think and voice their opinions.
- We can educate ourselves on diversity topics so that we can learn to think like different people and how to work with those people.
As testers we’re engineers and we’re human. Let’s use both.
This blog post was inspired by a talk that I made at Test Brekkie on The Human Side of Testing that Scott Logic hosted on 6th February 2019.