I've been inspired by reading this book. I've been reminded of my passion, of the reasons I have chosen to do what I do. After all, I chose to be a tester, I haven't just fallen into a job and decided I should deal with the hand I've been dealt.
I didn't always want to be a software tester. As a young child, I wanted to be a marine biologist! Actually, I wanted to study the neurological systems of dolphins. I was convinced that I was going to figure out what it was about their brains that made them so smart. I still have the book that inspired me then, 9 True Dolphin Stories.
After a marine biology course and choking through learning the ocean zones, I shifted my interest over to genetics. There was something about genetics that was *beautiful* to me. I was amazed at how the whole system *worked*. Granted, sometimes it goes awry, but at an incredibly rare rate. I liked it because it is so *simple*, and yet so completely *complex*. I was amazed at how 4 simple bases could turn into a *human being*. (HA! In the middle of writing this blog post, I went to Barnes and Noble and happened to come across a copy of Matt Ridley's "The Agile Gene"! I'm a Matt Ridley fan, and this title is a re-title, but very coincidental timing!)
When looked at that way, genetics and computers are rather easily related to each other. In genetics, a 4-letter alphabet turns into some complex stuff, like human beings. In computers, a 2-letter alphabet turns into some complex things, too, just not as complex, and too often, not as smoothly. So in a lot of ways, my switch from genetics to computer science was an easy one.
When I work toward making software beautiful, I have in my head a picture of how it's done in genetics. Those systems are exponentially more complex than software, and yet, there has somehow developed a *synchronicity* (Is that a real word?), where even given countless variables, the system is responsive and *works*, regardless of the state of all of those other variables.
Isn't that incredibly beautiful?
Reading Beautiful testing, I saw these same ideas threaded through the chapters.
Matt Heusser talked about math in terms of number theory and proofs, including some commonalities in nature (the Fibonacci sequence and pi, for example). In studying mathematics, Matt found an appreciate for what he calls "aesthetics" (and what I've likely been calling 'harmony'). His sentences on the aesthetics in mathematics hearkened back to my appreciation for genetics for the same reasons.
But it was Chris McMahon's chapter, relating creating software to an artistic performance, that inspired me to think about the way I work on a software team in a new light. He mentioned the way a band rehearses together before a performance. I have seen some *amazing* bands, where I watch them communicate with each other silently. The slightest gestures can be made, some not even perceptible to the audience, and the rest of the band follows suit.
These things happen all over the place! A new mom once told me that she enjoyed me coming over because I "just knew" what she was going to need before she did. Well, of course I did, I've been through the mom thing before. I used to ride horseback (dressage, actually) and with some of the horses I trained on, the *slightest* shift in my body weight caused the horse to change direction. I had to learn to control every muscle in my body to only send the messages I intended. Have you ever seen a couple, who at a party, seem to be able to send signals to each other with just a glance of the eyes?
Coming back to testing and software, it seems that the very best teams work in much the same way. They are able to shift direction, together, without falling out of step with each other. They are able to fill in for each other without the need to go through hoops to do so, and they trust each other completely. They all care about the same things, and work together to accomplish their goals, following the same values.
As a tester, I love the fact that I get to strive toward this kind of harmony, while also managing the effects of so many other variables: the customer, usability, risk, time, cost, value, technology, the business goals, product management, etc etc. For me, being involved in testing means that I have my hands in everything, and spend my time trying to make sure that they *all* work together seamlessly. As a tester, I must represent the customer. I must represent the potential customer. I must represent the developer. I must represent the business. And, I must tie all of these together in an intricate web, ensuring that the outcome represents all of them and is responsive to any variation in their needs.
THOSE are the reasons I am drawn to Agile. THOSE are the things I see in the teams I have had exposure to that I think work *really well*. THAT is why I love testing. Testing *is* beautiful.