Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Should Freshers be Testing Software?

I have seen an alarming trend in India and worldwide. "Test engineers sought - freshers" (for those not familiar with the Indian IT scene, a 'fresher' is someone fresh out of college - 0 to 1 year experience, maybe even a little more).

Seems like everyone with an open tester position wants to throw a fresher at it. This is a huge mistake! What does a fresher bring to the table?
  • Enthusiasm
  • Lots of book learning; in India, that means rote memorization
  • Some programming experience.
I once helped a large, failing consumer electronics company move work offshore to save money (offshoring to save money is a BAAAADDDD idea--ask me why or wait for a blog on it). The development 'partner' on the project brought in a ton of freshers and some somewhat seasoned testers. What did we get? We had test engineers who didn't know what a defect report was, who'd never used a defect tracking tool, who had absolutely no domain knowledge. All they had to contribute was 1) a warm body and 2) some experience in Java. This is a recipe for disaster.

Is there room for freshers in an IT organization? Absolutely! Microsoft focuses most of its recruiting in the college space, but that's because the ratio of new hire to full timer (at least in the US) is probably 10:1. They have people all around them who can mentor and grow them, and they are NOT encouraged/forced to do mundane and boring tasks. Well, not all the time... As a new hire at Microsoft, I was the release lead for German Mac Office 98, with 18 months experience in the company! But that was after 18 months of incredible mentoring and learning.

For you people hiring for testers, don't think "Well, no one wants to be a tester - let's find someone who wants a foot in the door and get them in here." You're doing yourself a disservice, you're doing your customer/project a disservice, and you're really not helping the fresher either. Look for some passionate QA/testing professionals. Bring them in and let them establish a world-class test organization. Then hire freshers, train them up, and keep growing your organization.

OK - off my soapbox for now...


  1. I would prefer you use the word "struggling" instead of "failing", John! But I totally agree with the rest of your post. That experience was a nightmare! But how do you convince the people paying the bills that a few good, experienced, enthusiastic testers are way more effective than a bunch of low-cost 'freshers'?


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