If you manage a software testing company (or team) for long enough, you’ll eventually run into one or both of the following:

  • When business is booming, should your next hire be an experienced tester or a relative newcomer?
  • When business is hurting, should your next layoff be the veteran tester or the novice?

These 2 questions are really just different ways of asking the same thing:
When developing software products, which counts for more:

  • Age (i.e. experience and wisdom)
  • or

  • Youth (i.e. objectivity and novelty)

Let’s take a look.

Why Experience Matters When Developing Code

Making the case for age and experience is pretty easy.

In quick order, experienced testers and developers:

  • make fewer mistakes
  • know how to ask the right questions (and why)
  • discover underlying problems more easily
  • can synthesize new information much faster
  • require less training and handholding

As a result, experienced testers are “usually” far more productive and economical – even when you factor in their higher salaries/benefits.

But is age an automatic asset in an industry that thrives on lateral thinking and perpetual innovation? Will you always receive more bang for your buck when bringing in seasoned veterans in lieu of software testing novices?

Not necessarily. Let’s review why.

How Inexperience Leads to Better Software

Making the case for inexperience (or youth) is a little trickier. But the benefits are no less real.

To illustrate this, consider the following:

You’re standing in front of a bathtub full of water. On the floor, you find:

  • a 3 oz. spoon
  • a 12 oz. teacup
  • a 5 liter bucket

Your mission is to empty the bathtub in the most efficient way possible.

If you’re like 99.999% of adults, you’ll use the bucket. It offers the highest returns with the least effort.

But if you’re like most kindergarteners out there, your solution is much simpler.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbspJust pull the plug and let the water drain out on its own.

Newbies are not blinded by biases or groupthink.

They’re not slave to the same assumptions and confines that normally come with experience. They literally think outside-the-box and come up with questions, answers, problems, and solutions that the rest of us completely miss.

As relative outsiders, inexperienced software testers challenge established norms and force us to rethink our own thinking.

In short, lateral leaps are invaluable. They open up new vistas and illuminate potential problems.

So Which Software Tester Is Best for Your Team?

Based on my own experience, this either/or mentality is a false choice. Youth and wisdom are 2 very different assets that offer very different advantages (and disadvantages).

[This is why we launched our flagship product for users of all experience levels.]

When faced with the prospect of expanding or contracting your software team, your best bet is to strive for balance. Diversity of opinion, age, gender, race, and experience often yields greater results than conformity does. Just think of all the software debacles that could have been prevented by consulting outsiders (yes – even kindergarteners).

This is why many of the most successful companies promote from within and recruit from outside. They also invest heavily in diversity outreach to ensure a healthy mix of perspectives and skills.

But mixing it up is not sufficient in and of itself – especially in the world of software testing.

To maximize your recruitment efforts (or to mitigate the damage of scaling back your team), we recommend the following:

  • Make open communication central to all software development efforts. Testers, coders, and management must all be on the same page from Day 1 (see here for more).
  • Education and training should never stop – ever. The least experienced among us have much to learn. But even seasoned veterans must constantly evolve or become obsolete (see here for more).

Do you agree with the above assessment? Or am I way off?

At Testuff, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the debate between experience and novelty. Please comment below and share your own insights.