One of the acts that caught my attention involved, what my research later told me, was a Space Wheel:
While watching the act, I began to think about how that piece of equipment might be tested. (I also decided I prefer to test software…). I then began to think about who might test that. Who would the stakeholders of the circus want to test it?
Circus performers can be generalists. The person who walks the high-wire may also tend to animals, dress up as a clown, and perform in other acts as needed. For testing the Space Wheel, the generalist performer may be able to provide high level information such as whether or not all the parts have made it to the next show destination. However; it is highly unlikely that the generalist could provide the information on whether or not it was functioning as it should, once it was assembled. And it is very likely that the end user is grateful for this…
I began thinking about the testing of the Space Wheel (and the different levels of testing it would need) because not too long back I was faced with a similar circumstance on the project that I work on. There were a couple of key areas that really needed expertise, specialists. I brought it up a few times and finally found a couple of allies that helped me help management understand the validity and necessity of such.This is likely not an uncommon situation. In fact, it may be one of the main reasons that more and more organizations have been trying to get customers involved in the process earlier. And, while this might help mitigate some of the risk, I still believe that a specialist tester would be able to view things with a Systems Thinking approach.
I consider myself more of a generalist tester. I can provide a lot of information about the application/system/product that I am testing, regardless of what application/system/product that is. However; as a tester, it is my responsibility to report when something is beyond my ability/skill set, and to quantify the reasons in such a way that the management/stakeholders understand the need.
Note: When using the term “generalist” in context with what I am writing, I mean it more in keeping with the Wiktionary definition.
Speaking of “context”… if you have not gotten a chance to read “What Being a Context-Driven Tester Means to Me”, by Scott Barber... I recommend reading it... at least once :)