What have you learnt from other industries that informs your testing?

It’s new article Tuesday once again and we have a great article from @atmnk

The article explores other industries and attempts to draw parallels between them and the work we do. So I thought we could keep the conversation going by asking:

What have you learnt from other industries that informs your testing?

I’ve learnt a lot from music analysis and composition. The skills I got from breaking down complex scores came in handy when breaking down complex products.


Two answers, two fields…bit of a cheat.

I find that I structure my personal progress - technical and soft skills - the same way I structure my weight training. I use similar incremental models to grow as a tester as I would to get stronger for a competition. I did an article about it a while back so I want dump my thoughts here - Becoming a Stronger Tester. The role of a tester is — to avoid a… | by Ken Talbot | Medium

The second field is comic books. The shape of the industry - trends in storytelling, cultural influences and the concept of following authors across the medium - reflects how the testing world is constantly shifting and personalities drive trends. In fact, much like in other media, knee jerk industry shifts that dilute everything around them are as common in comics as they are in testing. ChatGPT can replace testers! is just as backwards a trend as the edgy violence of 90s comics.

A great way to explore these parallels is one of my favourite non-fiction books (by my favoruite writer) - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10081832-supergods

I think all testers bring life experience with them to the work they do. That’s one of the reasons why having a diverse set of testers is much better than ones from similar backgrounds. I think a lot of my experiences influenced me as a testers.
Amongst many other things ones that stand out are being trained as an auditor. Being able to look at a process and understand all the touch points and steps. Working through that documented process and assessing if reality is aligned to it. While training my teacher once said that our job was to ‘catch people in’ rather than catch them out. It really stuck with me to work with people not against them.
Another is capturing knowledge to create guides and training material when a team lead in customer support and processing. That has helped in so many ways from creating how to guides, to a testing apprenticeship to workshops and even talks. I’m so grateful for all the different paths I travelled before coming to testing.


Usually I only think about something useful from my memory when it comes up in a situation, and I haven’t had to use some (or been able to, my illness affects my thinking) in a while but here’s what I thought of:

Philosophy: Falsificationism, epistemology, ontology, empiricism, induction, analysis and synthesis, ethics, logic, reasoning, linking observation and inference, mental modelling

Science: Design of experiments, confounding variables, lab conditions, the difficulty of proof (double blind randomised trials etc), metrology, social science, sociology, the history of scientific philosophy, psychology. Biases, the limitations of the mind, evolutionary history.

Magic: Exploiting assumptions, providing a subjective reality based on those assumptions, the assumptions people make when they have a partial understanding of what’s going on, egoism, social norms and their effects on truth.

Mathematics: Formal logic, set theory, algebra, proofs, statistical significance, number theory, combinatorics, graph theory, game theory, first principles, axioms.

Programming: Typical programming errors, the limitations of code, how to make scripts and tools, the nature of thinking when designing and writing solutions, troubleshooting, empathy for the difficulty of the job

Poetry: Metric foot, beauty in language, communication, linguistic affordance, metaphor, writing efficiency, note taking

Graphic Design: UI elements, colour theory, the nature of contrast in colour, size, tone, position etc.

Cybernetics: Control systems, Ashby’s law of requisite variety

Hiking: Mapping, exploration, finding paths, being wrong, getting lost without panicking, preparation, perception failures and limitations of view (scouting).

Board games: Social engagement, design of board games taught me about the difficulties of formalising gaming behaviour into a rulebook, existing rulebooks (see pages 1 to 280 of the Magic The Gathering comprehensive rules), problem solving, planning around dynamic changes to the context, hidden information, resource management.

First draft, I’m very tired today. I don’t always use these nor remember to but I find them helpful in testing or have found them helpful with regards to theory or applied skills.

I have worked +10 years in the food producing industry and learnt many things. I adopt also these days many things from that industry into the software engineering where I work now +25 years. The rigor with which quality is pursued as the ultimate goal is something I certainly got from that time.

  • The food producing industry needs to have very high standards and their specification reviews and models are very detailed.
    • The reason is simple: To build a new machine you need to invest money and you won’t put into a machine which won’t work. You do sampling and prototyping very often.
    • Same is in production (there the name is the real production) because the wrongly produced product often needs to be disposed. There are laws that stipulate how which product must be tested and when (sampling sizes).
  • Next is the sharing of information: All people working on the production line needs to have the recent information what is their job, what is the goal and who needs the results of your work. Otheriwse a production line won’t work.
  • Quality is defined in many steps and phases. Approaches like HACCP (Hazard analysis critical control points) defining what has to be checked at which control point aka “quality gates”.
    • We also tasted the products we made every day!
  • There is no release if the physical, chemical and bacteriological laboratories have not given their approval. So, the processes needs to be well designed to have no lacks.
  • The rollback scenarios have to be very clear and the alarm chains must be observed otherwise humans could die! The Zero defect strategy is the key and not the IT-strategy we often see in the wild :slight_smile:

There are many more things we could learn from other industries which are older than the IT business - it makes fun to see how they have resolved our issues :slight_smile: