Intellectual Curiosity

Posted by Brian Tue, 19 Jan 2010 22:47:11 GMT

I am becoming more and more convinced that what separates a good employee in a knowledge industry from a mediocre one is simply intellectual curiosity. Let us take an example.

You are an analyst who also doubles as a tester when changes are pushed to the test environment. Every week changes are pushed to the test environment and you are responsible for testing some subset of these changes to make sure they actually work as expected and introduced no regressions. Given that this testing work is painful, what should you do when given this job?

  1. Find a new job.
  2. Find tools to reduce the pain.
  3. Manually slog through every week.

If your answer was A and you have another job lined up, good for you. You get a banana sticker. If your answer was B then you also get a banana sticker. If your answer was C then you get beaten a banana-shaped stick. Let’s look at why.

Last year I reviewed The Productive Programmer and the more I think about the more it sticks with me. One thing the Ford discusses is that computers are great at running repetitive tasks, but that the modern computer user sits there doing repetitive tasks anyways. If you are doing a repetitive task it is usually painful and that is why answer C above is so wrong.

In this case the testing is painful because it involves having to go through many web pages before reaching what is actually under test. There are two better options. One, ask the developers how they test it. Any developer worthy of the title will not be sitting there doing repetitive tasks to test his work. Chances are good that you can apply his knowledge to help with your testing as well. Second, research tools to go through the pages for you. There are quite a few of them out there and they can be used by a non-programmer with some training. I use Selenium myself.

A little intellectual curiosity goes a long way.

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