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Weaponizing Manual Testers

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Weaponizing Manual Testers

weaponizer-of-manual-testersA few months ago, I challenged myself to come up with a snappy title that explained what I did, in a minimal amount of space, and also has my consultancy mentioned in there.

There’s not a lot of real estate, so I came up with: Weaponizer of Manual Testers –

Since that change, I found that a lot of people were attracted to that title. It sounds really cool to weaponize something, and even cooler to weaponize people.

And although it sounds cool, I thought… I wonder if people know what I mean by that?

How Do You Weaponize Manual Testers?

To weaponize people, you give them a skill that can make them dangerous.

It could be anything–teaching them about shooting, fighting, espionage, intelligence.

To weaponize manual testers, I give them a skill that can make them dangerous.

I teach them how to automate. Here’s how:

Learning How to Code

It used to be, you had to be a wizard to write code. Now, languages take care of a bunch of the heavy lifting, and libraries are written to handle specialized instructions.

So that means, the barrier to learning is a lot lower. We don’t have to learn everything about a particular language, just enough for our purposes.

Which, it turns out, isn’t that much.

Gain Independence

You might ask, “Why would we need to learn how to code up our own automation when there are so many paid-for tools out there?”

It’s a fair question, and the biggest reason is that it helps you gain independence. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies adopt a silver-bullet solution that works great at first, but then with time comes wonky workarounds. Or needed enhancements. Or even bugs.

When that happens, you might be stuck. Will that vendor provide support, or, if what you’re needing doesn’t help their bottom line, will they just let it lapse?

It’s much better to control your automation’s code, so that it can be changed to fit what you need. It also means you can have just enough solution to your problem, instead of trying to take a Swiss Army knife approach.

Level Up the Testing Craft

Testers are extremely powerful. They know how to find bugs.

Not knowing how to automate because of perceived barriers can hamper the testing craft.

What if testers all had a higher level of understanding how to automate? Even if it’s not a ton, if they could automate some tests, or some day-to-day operations, that would help them do a much better job, that would be tremendous.

I help them get there.

That sums up what my consultancy does. That, and helping teams go faster, do better, ship awesomer (is that a word? it is now).


5 Responses

  1. Cassandra HL says:

    Hi Michael,

    Did you mean to imply that testers who don’t use automation aren’t dangerous / powerful in that cool way you described?

    This is a genuine question, as I found myself wincing at your reveal and kind of thinking, “here’s another article about how everyone needs to automate testing”.

    That’s what I’m taking from this, as it comes across to me that your message is “make manual testers great by transforming them into automation testers”, which, to me, isn’t really the same as making manual testers incredible at what they do. I guess it’s kind of like, “How do you weaponize intelligence analysts? Give them field work.”

    I wondered if that was the message you were trying to get across, or if that’s just the way I’ve picked it up? Really interested to know your thoughts on this.



    • Hi Cassandra,

      Nope not at all, and thanks for pointing out where I was unclear.

      Manual testers are indeed powerful, as they know where and how to find bugs. But there’s still this irritating perception at many companies that “manual = old and busted” and that “automation tester = new hotness”.

      The problem is, the current solutions for test automation are either really codey (as in: you have to be a developer to wield it properly), or really clingy (as in: hard to get out of a product’s ecosystem, even when it’s no longer the right solution).

      Right now, some companies don’t hire manual QA, in favor of automation testers. And those companies are losing out on some hardcore talent. The point of this post was to say: although testers are already awesome/dangerous/powerful, if they can break into automation with a handy blend of technology and teaching, and become awesom-er/dangerous-er/powerful-er… why not?

      Hope this de-cringed the post enough. I value your input. We cool?

      – Fritz

      • chleung8 says:


        Thanks for responding. Haha we were never not cool =]

        I think I understand where you’re coming from… But is the solution for de-bunking ‘“manual = old and busted” and that “automation tester = new hotness”’ and ‘some companies don’t hire manual QA, in favor of automation testers. And those companies are losing out on some hardcore talent’ to have manual testers move towards automation?

        I appreciate you might more be trying to say, “let’s get another tool under our belts,” but I personally find it hard not to imagine that by doing so, we’ll just play into the hands of those who will only consider testers who use automation by playing by their rules, not ours, and those particular companies still won’t fully understand or value non-automation skills, particularly if the automation tester pool grows and the manual tester one shrinks – they’ll have no more reason to branch out and consider other perspectives than they do now.

        If I ended up working for a company like that, I would worry that they would steadily push me to automate more and think less.

        Maybe you have more real-life experiences around this to draw from?



      • Hey Cassandra,

        In a sense… it’s both. It’s adding another tool to our tool belt and, yes, playing by their rules a little bit. We still benefit in two ways, both from knowing how to automate some of our job to make us more effective, and by having a higher chance of being hired.

        And although communicating is a great way to show the benefits of manual testing, it can be hard to convince people from the outside. The decision makers aren’t usually deeply familiar with testing, they’re just on fire, doing the best they can, and reaching for what they think will fix the problem. Right now, that’s automation, and that’s great because it defines what would help get in the door, and it’s a learnable thing that directly helps us as testers too.

        I hear you on being pushed into a role. It’s happened to me before. But “Don’t let the role define you, you define the role” 🙂 Once inside a company, there’s nothing stopping us from sharing testing strategies with colleagues. Maybe we see they have a ton of tests automated already and we go, “guys wait this is way too many. Let’s test just these points because of [these reasons].” And they do, and the tests take less time to run, they find bugs quicker, there’s less maintenance. When decision makers see this in action, they’ll realize, wow, there’s some serious value in people who know how to test well. And then they might relax their requirement of needing automation testers, and more like testers-who-automate-a-bit.

        • Cassandra HL says:


          Re defining roles, yes, I think I’ve heard that somewhere recently haha.

          You’ve put your points across in a really good way. Looking back at my own comment, it reads as being resistant of using automation for fear of the negative consequences it might have. But you’re totally right, there are benefits for us testers too.

          I particularly like the example you used of changing attitudes from the inside.

          Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and helping me to understand them better.



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