Should automation testers dive into manual testing?

I’ve been quite busy for a few weeks, that’s why I wasn’t posting any articles. However, a blog with lots of code in posts will become boring eventually. That’s why I thought that some general talking about quality assurance may be useful.

Do you think that automation guys should do manual testing activities? This is a very tricky question first of all because there is no univocal answer. Every single person can have his (her) own point of view which is often opposite to yours. Many men, many minds, you know. Let’s try to sort out in these jungles of contradictions and maybe then some of us will be able to answer this question more clear.

Let’s say, that a QA Automation Specialist should indulge in manual testing. What’s the pros and cons of that? It’s good on the one hand because it helps to feel a product under test, to become soul mates with it, to become akin to a real user, etc. No doubts, it helps to write better automated tests to some extent. I’ve also heard stories about some colleagues who liked to take a break from the automation world and have fun playing with the product.

However…

Does it distract an automation guy from real professional tasks? After all, coding, building frameworks, configuring continuous integration (CI) and delivery systems are more challenging things than just running test cases manually or doing exploratory testing. What if a QA Automation Specialist starts losing his skills because of that? Yeah, it happened to many people, I guess. So, everybody ought to do his own thing.

However…

What about Scrum methodology where each team member should be able to do everything? Okay, there are some differences between developers and testers in a typical Scrum team but according to the methodology principles, every developer should be able to take any developer task. Apparently, every tester should be able to perform manual testing activities as well as automation stuff. And here we come to the conclusion that it does make sense for automation guys to dive into manual testing.

However…

Every activity needs a specific skill set, right? For example, test automation assumes programming, analytical and technical thinking, knowledge of specific technologies relevant to a project (for example, Docker). Likewise, manual testing assumes test design techniques, usability testing skills, attention to details, critical thinking, etc. Sometimes these skill sets are overlapped, i.e. automation guys, as well as manual testers, should have similar skills and knowledge but that’s not gonna happen in real life. At least, I haven’t seen too many examples of that (but there are!). Seems like such activities should be split between appropriate people.

However…

What about motivation? Do you really believe that a manual tester can grow to a good automation specialist if he (she) has enough motivation? I do! Do you really believe that an automation specialist can stay up to date with his (her) main direction even if he (she) switches to manual testing activities from time to time? I do! So there is no problem at all? The answer isn’t obvious, and even if we agree with some comfortable solution, it won’t work in all cases.

However, what do you think?

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