Software testing is undoubtedly a technical skill – one that requires logic, critical thinking, and analysis.

And few would ever argue with this statement.

But the very best software testers are also artists.

They have a “creativity” itch that they absolutely must scratch. And that deep itch often manifests in unusual ways, which is why these testers tend to be somewhat awkward in social situations. They have odd tics or personality traits that make them less relatable. And this feeds into the larger stereotype that software testers are a nerdy bunch – complete with pocket protectors, horn-rimmed glasses, and adolescent acne.

This “geeky” behavior also leads many to believe that these testers are a bit naïve or disconnected from reality.

And sometimes they actually are.

So what good are they?

Why You Want Awkward, Nerdy Creatives on Your Team

The average person on the street probably wouldn’t want to work with someone who is awkward in social situations. But if you ever have an opportunity to bring a creative (geeky or not) tester on your team, you should jump at the chance. They’re relatively few in number, but these guys often work magic with their amazing artistic abilities:

  • Thanks to their creative outlooks, testers from this group consistently discover solutions that no one else can find. That’s because they dig deep – poking around in areas and running unusual tests that everyone else overlooks.
  • Nerdy creatives can’t (or won’t) work the traditional 9 to 5 shift. But make no mistake – these guys are incredibly disciplined. They typically work odd hours for long stretches – fueled by their desire to find the root of every problem they tackle. And they literally can’t stop until the issue has been reported, fixed (by the dev team), and tested again.
  • They argue constantly – both with themselves and with others. Although 24/7 debates aren’t necessarily great for team cohesion, they allow such testers to more easily challenge assumptions and break the rules that everyone else automatically follows. And this willingness to follow one’s own path is a critical ingredient for outside-the-box thinking and intuitive problem-solving.

On the surface, this may all seem very strange. Why would anyone willingly work with a combative team member who keeps odd hours and makes his own rules?

But when you consider creatives from other fields, none of the above behavior is actually that unusual. Just think of all the painters, poets, and composers with:

  • Erratic working hours
  • Long stretches of isolation
  • Unconventional personalities
  • An ability to challenge long-held beliefs

Still not convinced?

Check out this video from creativity expert, James Taylor. He produced this clip specifically for those in the arts. But as he goes through each point one-by-one, you’ll start to see personality traits common to many high-performing testers.

Keeping the Creative Nerd Inspired

Most of the above “creativity” traits become amplified when there’s “muse” involved – i.e. a source of inspiration that helps to spark new insights and breakthroughs. When you have your muse, the creativity naturally flows. It’s almost as if you’re channeling some higher power.

But finding that inspiration isn’t always easy. If you’re a painter or musician, for example, you may have to wait years to find your muse (assuming it ever happens at all).

Fortunately for software testers, inspiration is already built right into the job. As natural problem-solvers, we love puzzles and challenges. In fact, most of us can’t leave well enough alone. If we see something that doesn’t work properly, we want to know the who, what, when, where, and why of the issue. And we keep at it until we find the bug in question.

It’s in our nature. We simply can’t help ourselves.

Some might even describe it as a sick obsession. But that itch is what allows us to do what we do.

Do you agree with this analysis? Disagree?
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