Friday, June 18, 2010

Location Irrelevance

Warning: this is a bit more political than my usual tech-heavy posts.

I was leafing through James Bach's blog the other day; James is one of today's leading writers about software testing and always well worth a read. He referred to an excellent post by Pradeep Soundararajan, one of my other favourite testing thinkers and writers, which really nailed some important test patterns that I've come across the need for frequently, but never figured out how to summarize. I highly recommend that you read Pradeep's post before you carry on.

At the end of his post, James referred to Pradeep as "one of the leading Indian testers". This made me feel a bit uncomfortable, enough so to comment on the post, and James commented back:

"I think culture is relevant, and nationality often associates to culture. There is a distinctive Indian testing sub-culture. I also think there is an American testing culture, too. I wouldn't mind being called an American tester."

I can't agree with that at all. Software testing expertise shouldn't be about culture, location or nationality at all, unless you're in the really specialized test areas of localization or internationalization. Given the frequently negative connotation that badly-handled outsourcing projects have given to software professionals outside of North America and Western Europe, I think it does no good at all to classify anyone by nationality or location - or sex, musical taste, number of prehensile toes, or anything else other than ability - when discussing their professional achievements.

One of the great things about the internet is that it's levelled the global playing field for writing, testing and using computer software to a massive extent. Let's keep it that way, recognize the achievements of software professionals all over the world for what they are, and call a leading tester a leading tester, without confining them to some largely meaningless subcategory.


  1. I wish he cited more concrete examples of what makes Indian testing (or American testing) distinct.

  2. Since you can't really test *everything* then something must be guiding your choices of what/how to test. So, consider some stereotypes: Germans => thoroughness, Japanese => process quality, Amercians => features, Italians => aesthetics, etc) ... it seems likely that culture would reflect into their test choices, doesn't it? Just as we would expect different testing choice from, say, an electrical-engineer-turned-SQA than from a CS graduate in SQA.

    Obviously, none of us fits perfectly into cultural/educational boxes, but perhaps it works as a reasonable grouping when discussing substantial numbers of testers at once?

  3. I can see the argument for associating culture with test choices, but I think it's too much of a generalization to assume that a tester would select what to test based on that. Personality, educational background (some of the best developers and testers I've known don't have their degrees in CS or engineering, for example) and experience level are much more important factors - and a good test team should include a good mix of all of them.

    I'm all for creating teams with diverse cultural backgrounds; it's one of the reasons I love working in the Bay Area. My first job here involved working with people from France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, India, China and Vietnam as well as the USA, and I must have added dozens of countries to the list since then, but I've never thought of any of my coworkers as being typical of their nationality. Maybe it's just the way I think; this discussion has certainly made me look at things differently, but I still can't help feeling that you're on a slippery slope if you start assuming that anyone will perform their job in a particular way based on their nationality.

  4. Well I work for MNC in india. I feel the same as Gareth Bowles feels like. Today its globalized most of us work together either directly or virtually. Today and right now in india we discuss more about soccer than cricket.
    I feel we are at the level of global (cross cultural) phenomenon complimenting each others strengths. I like what my manager says in US and what my developer says in Prague. They understand what I said. I am not able to agree the part of testing relates to the culture.