The “Tester Gene”….

I’ve often wondered if there is such a thing as a “testing gene”. In fact, since I first started out as a tester over 7 years ago, I’ve often asked if testing is a trait that people can learn or whether it’s a knack that you are born with, that makes you feel the need to investigate and explore everything.

It wasn’t until 4 years ago that I decided that it must be a gene….
I was living in Shanghai with my partner – she managed to get offered a great job out there and I decided to up sticks and move out to the Far East with her to get some life experience. We moved into an apartment that was in a lovely leafy area in the heart of the city, and as I was unpacking I noticed a bizarre red button on the wall with a small hole underneath it. I asked my partner what she might have thought the button was for, but she simply replied “I don’t know”, with a look that indicated that she was not really bothered by it.

I, on the other hand, was filled with intrigue. It was eating away at me. What was this red button for?

About an hour later (when my partner was out), I couldn’t contain myself anymore. I was itching to press the red button, so I stepped up to it and braced myself. As I pushed it in nothing happened. No lights went on, nor was there any noise at all. Nothing…
Being slightly disappointed, I then tried to push it again, but as it was already depressed, there was no more give in the button and it would not pop back out. It was very strange. The button now seemed stuck, pressed into the wall.

I decided not to meddle with it anymore, but just at that moment there was a very loud knock on the door! I could hear some men shouting in Mandarin as they continued to knock. As I opened the door in a panic, I noticed that they were dressed in security uniforms and they rushed past me to check the rooms.

The older of the two men started shouting at me with an angry look on his face as he began pointing to the red button – Aha!! It was a panic alarm!!

As I couldn’t understand a word that he was saying, I tried to apologise and tried my hardest to say that I pressed it accidentally. It didn’t look like he (or his colleague) were able to understand me either though, but eventually he understood that there was no problem in the room. He went over to the red button and inserted a small key into the hole, turned it and the button popped back out of the wall. We said our goodbyes and off they went, un-amused.

In the end, my curiosity got the better of me, but at the end of the day, it was inevitable that I would push the button. I had to know what the red button was for, so ultimately nothing was going to stop me from pushing it to find out. But I can’t help thinking about what other people would do in this situation. I know that my partner would not have cared about it being on the wall and would have happily left it alone… Probably, most people who I know; my family and friends, would have left it alone (except for the testers that I know – most testers would have pressed the button, I’m sure!)

What do you think? Is testing in the blood?
Would you have pressed the red button??

5 thoughts on “The “Tester Gene”….

  1. I’m not sure if I would have pressed the button, maybe because of the colour, red being danger, probably would have left it alone, but wondered about it all the same.
    But yes, I agree on the tester gene part. It was proved in a team meeting of mine once. We were in three teams, and the dev manager handed out wooden coffee stirrers, selotape, and bluetack. We were given 15 minutes to come up with a structure that would hold his mug of tea. I was the only tester in the room, the other tester in my team being on video in Switzerland. We had scrum masters, UX designers, release managers and front, back and cms developers. I was the only one who picked up the mug, assessed its weight and then went to help the team make the structure. This was pickedup at the end, when the dev manager and other tester were giving feedback, that the only person to do any thing different from the devs was the tester. The devs went into it straight away making something. The tester thought about what exactly is it we need to do.

    I’ve also worked with fantastic testers, and they definitely have a different mindset. More destructive, more enquiring, more wanting more knowledge than simply “does it work”.


    1. Thanks for the comment Gav!
      That challange sounds fun! I need to try it some time…

      I also noticed some similar behaviour, when I sent out a logic puzzle to my collegues to try and solve – it was about a cat weraing a heron suit and liking a gorilla (can be found here if you want to give it a go: )… you need to determine if the logic is true or not.
      I noticed that the developers automatically tried to prove the statements first, whereas all the testers that I gave the puzzle to automatically tried to disprove it first. Crazy! 🙂


  2. As a Tester, my first instinct would have been to press the button, regardless of what colour it happened to be. I’m one those people who always wonder “what does this button do?” when confronted with an unlabelled, anonymous button of indeterminate effect. As I mentioned in my latest post, curiosity is prevalent personal trait of mine and it is an almost essential quality of any good tester. in my opinion.


    1. Hi David, thanks for the comment!
      You have the tester gene!! 🙂

      I like your blog too! It reminded me about a blog by tony bruce i read a while ago, that wass about whether you see yourself in a job or a career. He made the point that if you love what you do as a tester, then you tend to view your work as a career rather than a job. But I think that there is ultimately a reason that you love being a tester, and that is the tester gene… 🙂


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