The Power of Tinkering: How a Little Curiosity Can Lead to Big Achievements in Software Testing

I don’t know where I’d be today if I didn’t tinker around with things. Certainly not in software testing, certainly not writing this blog, and certainly not having nearly as much fun, I suppose.

When it first came to creating a website I thought ‘why not’. I knew a bit about Ruby from, yes, tinkering, and I had read and, yes, tinkered around with enough HTML and CSS while sussing out bugs to figure it was worth a try. So I did.

Now, despite my constant tweaks, and what I’m sure will be some gnarly styling to anyone who knows their stuff, here I am writing a blog post on my own website. The casual viewer is none the wiser that when I hit a brick wall I tinkered, or read a guide, or tinkered while reading a guide.

People I’ve workd with who don’t do (but are interested in) test automation have asked me how I got started. Reading between the lines, I guess this is because going from ‘nothing’ to ‘something’ is a pretty big step. But is it, though? You’re basically just instructing a robot to replay some tinkering you yourself did before. You don’t need to know a language back-to-front to do that, just the basics of how to speak robot. The rest is sensible test engineering. Heck, most of the complicated stuff you can probably grab from Stack Overflow - millions of people have done the same thing and millions more will do it in the future anyway.

I also read a lot. If you dread the idea of coming home and reading blogs and books and old code to figure out how to improve then you’re missing out of a big part of the process. I read because I want to learn the simplest, most functional and least risky way of solving a problem. If you can’t find a way to be passionate about learning by itself then find some other aspect of it to be passionate about. Maybe learning how to speak robot will give you more time to do exploratory testing, maybe it’ll lead to a new oportunity - anything really.

Tinkering with preexisting code and reading about code can also be really helpful. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen something, or edited some boilerplate, that helped me refactor or improve something I’ve done in the past or will do in the future.   And that’s the secret. Easy right? Just tinker, read, have fun and don’t be afraid to get stuck in with something.

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