Just read an article on how to explain programming to your Mum. It wasn't that good an article so I thought we could do better

How do you explain your job to your family and friends ? Do you just use the old cliche of 'I break things' ?

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I see myself more of a transformer, turning good software into great products. Thats the official elevator pitch anyhow. I'ts a great question because it gives an insight into how you see yourself as a tester. I think I'm going to reserve it as an interview question.

Nice work Phil.
To keep it simple I usually plump for the 'i just break stuff' routine, or I did before moving in to a team lead role.
So what do you say now ? " I lead a team " or " I lead a team that breaks things "

My Mum's got a Mac. She gets it! ;-)
My mother's had a (series of) Mac(s) for decades now, and used to be the unofficial tech support for her dept. I really hate the way "Mum" is used as shorthand for "technophobe".

Almost as much as I hate it when "Your Girlfriend" is used as a shorthand for "non technical person".
I've a bit more time to answer properly now. The question rather surprised me. I find it much easier to explain what a tester does than I did when I worked in other roles. "I check to see if it works like it's supposed to, and to see whether people can use it". That makes sense to people.

When I worked as a a computer auditor I found people really didn't have a clue what that was about, and had difficulty understanding when I explained. Working as a developer was slightly better, though most people just saw it as "working with computers". Developing insurance management information systems was way too much for anyone to really get, though to be fair no-one much wanted to understand! Information security management was a tough one. People thought "ah, you stop people hacking in" and had difficulty grasping that there was rather more to it than that.

So testing is actually a pretty easy one to get across. People know computers make mistakes, and they seem to understand that testers are needed to try and make sure the screw ups aren't too bad.
One friend of mine who works with computers(Office, Internet) for years allready, could not understand what does testers.
Hi Phil,

I never really liked the old cliche "I break things".... I did not break anything, it was broken when I got it :)

I consider myself an investigator and a reporter... so, maybe an investigative reporter? The Wikipedia entry for Investigative Journalism sums it up, except the time frame... we never have months or years to report...

I have found that most of the time, no matter what I say I do, they think I can fix their PC issues and have direct contact with Microsoft...
"I have found that most of the time, no matter what I say I do, they think I can fix their PC issues and have direct contact with Microsoft..."

Exactly! last week one woman asked me what really am i doing. when i told that i am tester, she answerd that now she knows whom to ask help when she has again problems with her architecture programms.
I'm impressed by the word 'investigative reporter' :). In a broad level it depicts what a tester does. To add to it, investigative reporter of a software product/service/application/component :)
My son seems to be the only one in my family that actually understands what I do and I suspect that is because he breaks software all the time......I have never attempted to explain it to the rest of them....and they have never asked....I think some things are just better left unsaid :)
I just tell my mom that I do a very small chunk of what she does in general in life! I personally think that mothers(specially school dropouts) and kids can be very good testers. They seem to do a lot more analysis and experimentation to figure out how stuff works, how to make it not to work and how to make it work.

Parimala Shankaraiah



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