The Continuum Between Testers and Developers

I was having a conversation with a developer on my team the other day about why some developers can be testers and some testers can be developers but not everyone can successfully bridge that gap. We thought it might have something to do with mindset – each of the two roles is traditionally linked to a certain kind of mindset. Developers are linked to what we called the Builder Mindset and testers are linked to what we called the Explorer Mindset.

People in the Builder mindset want to create something new. They find fulfillment in building something out of nothing and seeing it work. People in the Explorer mindset enjoy taking something that exists and discovering how it works – the ins and outs and in-betweens of a product. People in one mindset don’t find the activities of the other mindset to be personally rewarding.

I see these mindsets not as opposites but more like a continuum. Most people don’t fall squarely in one camp or the other. Most people likely find at least a little enjoyment out of activities from both mindsets, though they may prefer one over the other.

I don’t think that a place on the continuum is fixed, either. Through learning and practice, one could move themselves from one mindset to another. It’s obviously possible for people to move from one role to another, as so many have done, so it must be possible to shift mindsets as well.

For myself, I think I am fairly far into the Explorer mindset. I’ve given writing code several tries but I just don’t find any joy in it like I do with testing. I will write code if it’s required, and my code is…passable. I can read code fairly well and pair directly with my developers while they’re writing code often. I even teach beginning classes on coding – though I consider that more teaching than coding. So I’m clearly not 100% on the Explorer side, there’s a bit of Builder mixed in, it’s just not my favorite thing.

Where do you think you fall on the continuum? Or do you think it exists at all?