On Safe Ground

I recently watched the David Bowie documentary “Five Years”. The documentary focused on five key years in his life and showed how he kept changing his sound and style. It was told through interviews with people whom he worked with it and featured tonnes of his quotes. I have quoted and used Bowie before in this blog, but something he once said really hit home with me. The quote was used to describe why he kept changing, he said : “the minute you know you’re on safe ground, you are dead”.

This seems a little bit intense, but what about Bowie wasnt? It made me think about feeling safe and getting comfortable in a working environment. Now there is nothing wrong with being comfortable in what you do, it means you are good at it. It has happened to me in the past, but once I start feeling safe I can get lazy. Also just because something is working, does not mean it can’t be improved. Taking Bowie as an example he could have easily just coasted, but no, right up until he died he was experimenting and trying new ideas.

So what can testers do to keep their days interesting?

Become T-shaped is the answer. For those of you who have not yet come across the term the following is my understanding of what I strive to be as a tester.


tshapedWhat does being t-shaped involve? Well if you take a quick look at the picture, you will see a person with a core skill and two arms worth of others. Your core skill is whatever you enjoy doing the most, developing, testing, or analysing business requirements. The t-shaped part comes from the arms. Having an arm for each other skill makes you a more well rounded team member.

As a tester if I have some understanding of development it makes testing easier but also more interesting. This is also true of having a business understanding. No matter what your role is on the team, it is GREAT to know what you are doing is delivering customer value. It also really helps if you understand the customer’s needs, this allows you to think like the person using the software. For a tester this makes our jobs easier as we will know how the software is going to be used. This knowledge will make a developer’s life easier as well. There are usually a million different ways to create something, knowing its use up front allows us to pick the fastest, smartest way to get a working solution.

Give it a try, you will probably find your teammates will be happy that someone is helping them with their workload. You may also find it makes your day to day work more interesting and you will no longer be coasting on safe ground.

I will leave you with a quote from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, “Arms held out, in your Jesus Christ pose”.

What Chris did not realise is that he was talking about being t-shaped.