August 28th, 2010


Two weeks' notice, involuntarily

I got my annual performance review at work yesterday, coupled with an ultimatum. I resigned my job, effective as of September 10 (the traditional two weeks), because it's preferable to being fired on the spot, which was my other option. In two weeks' time, I will be officially unemployed unless I've found something else by then.

I'm not actually taking this well. I know I've always been a bad fit for a software testing position- I'm a developer, not a tester- but I felt I was improving enough to avoid another consecutive U/10. I guess not. This is pretty much what my final review said, and it, my boss, and HR all agreed that I really don't think like an effective tester, nor do I have the right focus. They're right. I'm not that great at testing the standard, bread-and-butter common scenarios. I give them enough coverage to run through all the common scenarios, but the majority of my time and attention is spent on edge conditions, which really isn't what they want. It's just what's a lot more interesting to me.

I'd much rather look at a spec and software design and try to figure out what was probably overlooked, implemented wrong, designed wrong, or just plain not noticed. It's interesting to look into a program and figure out what combination of input and behavior make it perform badly. It is completely uninteresting to do this by blindly doing every standard thing the program does. Which isn't what my job title was supposed to be, but for a whole bunch of reasons mostly beyond my control, we didn't get enough automation working.

My inability to get the automation running was, of course, part of it; no allowance was made for the fact that I was relying on another group finishing their part of the automation, and they couldn't make it work in a timely manner either. Once they got their part working, I could have picked it back up, but by then it was a different milestone and my boss had taken it over. So much for the only interesting project I had for the last two and a half years; my first boss gave me work I was actually interested in, but he didn't last long at all, mostly because he had the same "wrong" focus as a tester.

I can't disagree with any of this: I am not a very effective software tester. I think I have to accept that, and when I look at it like that, I can make peace with it. Of course I am not an effective software tester. I have been trained as a computer scientist. I want to make computers do things, not sit on the sidelines and verify that someone else has made a computer do something. When I'm sitting next to a program and its source code and I watch it do something wrong, I want to fix it, not write up a bug report and send it off to someone else and watch management argue about whether they should care about the bug. And I want a job where doing my job to the best of my ability doesn't make the entire management chain pissed off at me for holding up the entire project with serious bug reports, and why didn't I find them sooner? (Filing bugs nonstop isn't good enough; you have to be psychic enough to know where you will find the most severe bug before you start testing.)

In the end, I have to agree with my supervisor. This is not the right job for me, they're best served by kicking me out and finding someone who actually is suited for it, and I will be much better off as a dev. As he put it, I should not go to work and be miserable every day, and that's a pretty good summary of how things have been going.

My last two weeks will be spent documenting everything I'm assigned to do so it can be handed off to someone even more incompetent than me, who my boss desperately wants to flat-out fire (no honorable resignation offer here) but, because of his seniority, can't without even more flagrant failure. I intend to document it to the best of my ability, so any reasonable software tester (or dev) with basic reading skills should be able to pick it up easily. The person who will be taking over my work has neither of these qualifications, so I suppose the documentation will be most useful for his successor.

The other task for that two weeks is my exit interview, getting my resume in order, and applying for dev jobs left and right, inside and outside Microsoft; this is with the full support of both my boss and HR, who both think I will be a very good software developer but test is wrong for me.

I was hired by someone who took pride in his preferring to hire devs as testers. Y'know, three years later, I think I can say very clearly that this does not work.

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