Future-Proofing Your Skills and Humanizing AI in Our World of Tech
It’s an exciting time to be in the test arena. Manual testing seems to be going by the wayside as automated and AI testing are coming to the forefront. The traditional lines between development and testing continue to blur.
What’s a tester to do to stay relevant, engaged, and employed in this ever-changing landscape? I’m so glad you asked!
Test Automation and Human Impact
There currently are and certainly will be more facets of testing that will be automated, especially the more monotonous and repetitive aspects. To be clear, manual and beta testing are not going away for the foreseeable future. The good news is there are aspects of testing – including collaborating with customers and internal stakeholders – will increase in both importance and urgency.
The skills we should cultivate – and really it’s about “re-learning” – are those that humanize the role of beta and test management. In the unfortunate trend of the past decade or more, the increasing emphasis on programming languages and skills has resulted in the lost art of human-to-human communications. That’s not just a tech company problem, it’s prevalent in nearly every Fortune 100 company that I’ve advised over the years.
Instead of feeling nervous, we should be excited! One of my missions is to humanize the role of testing and add greater value to what we’re doing. The net result of these changes, most of which is already happening now, is incredibly positive. If you strip away what AI and machine learning will inevitably become better at than humans, what’s left over is an even larger opportunity that beta and test managers must grasp onto. The impact of humans plus AI will far exceed what has been previously accomplished.
It all comes down to the roles and responsibilities that humans have over machines. Most importantly it starts with empathy, which enables us to understand our users and customers at a strategic level. Humans are also better at critical thinking, contextualizing problems, and collaborating across people, technology, and processes to drive success. Developing these skills is critical for continued success in the testing arena.
How Humans and AI Can Work Together
I know this all sounds daunting. Let me give you a real-life example:
I was recently at a conference in Las Vegas and noticed that Uber now allows you to opt into a self-driving car. But because self-driving Ubers are not thoroughly reliable and proven yet, they put two people in the front seats; one is an operator and the other is an engineer that makes real-time fixes. So as this program evolves, it needs guidance and assistance from humans. It takes both humans and machines, interacting in real time and with increasing amounts of data, to optimize the systems. You don’t need to change your personality; you need to enhance your skill set.
Technology has in part led to the deterioration of our communication skills – text, Messenger, Slack, Twitter, and more. Therefore, we need to bring back the human element of communicating; emotional intelligence, effective listening, body language, and situational awareness. For example, pick up a book or research online into body language. Know how to interpret body language; find out what people are telling you but not telling you. These are skills we don’t often learn in school yet are critical in the way we communicate and collaborate.
Become a knowledge worker. Instead of coming in every day with a set of tasks, come to the table with knowledge. The way to do this is by becoming a continual learner. Technology is changing so fast that what works today may not work tomorrow. So, get used to doing your own research, talking to people who know more than you, finding mentors, and learning how to communicate more effectively.
Keep Testing Agile with Critical Thinking
Use critical thinking skills to understand user profiles at a deeper level – who they are, what they want, when and where they use your product, and how they buy. It also involves assessing how your product stacks up against competitors, as well as using critical thinking and analysis to create product differentiation and advantages. As testers, if we can provide granular insights to internal teams about users and competitors, this is guaranteed to help drive better decisions amongst our executives.
Not only that, but also look at the holistic, end-to-end customer experience across the customer journey of pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and understand the true problem they’re facing. Once you’ve mastered design thinking, you can iterate quickly and validate quickly. In other words, it enables you to become quicker at the fails, which pushes the organization towards greater velocity and constantly delivering greater value for customers.
At the end of the day, technologists with consultative skills are much more effective at their jobs – they communicate effectively, contextualize for relevance, think critically, solve problems, and adapt dynamically to different situations. Time and time again I’ve seen two testers interviewing for the same position, and inevitably the tester with the better human understanding and contextual empathy for the problem that the client needs to solve wins the position. All things being equal, and in some instances, not equal; a lesser skilled tester with the more empathetic and humanized view wins out over a higher skilled tester with poor communication skills. Another important skill is learning to fight the attention span deficit by using more visual tools to tell a story and break through the clutter. If you can do all of that, no matter what tech disruptions are on the horizon, you will be valuable to any organization.