I have been away on holiday. As I left New Zealand I had to complete immigration paperwork. One of the prompts on immigration forms is for occupation. Before you can enter or leave a country, their government would like to know what you do.
I have done a fair bit of international travel and used to diligently write 'software tester' in this space. I would hand my paperwork to a bored official for them to scan their eyes across, only to have them pause in their process and look at me through narrowed eyes. "Software tester" they would question, "What is that?".
Without fail, I would end up in a long conversation about what my occupation actually was. A conversation that usually concluded with the official saying dismissively "Oh, you work in IT", stamping my passport, and sending me on my way.
Because of this, I've changed my strategy. Now when I fill in the form, I just write 'IT'. This annoys me as it seems so general and sweeping. But the officials are satisfied and there are no questions asked.
Why doesn't everyone know about software testing?
A job exists to fulfill a need. In most cases, the need is obvious when you think of the alternative. For example, a bus driver is employed to drive a bus. Without the driver, the bus would not go. The need for a person to fill this role is very clear.
Without doctors we would stay sick or injured. Without plumbers our toilets would not work. Without electricians we couldn't use our lights. Without dairy farmers we wouldn't have milk, cheese or butter.
Without software testers, then what? My first instinct is to claim that software quality would degrade. To people outside of the software industry that means very little. Computer users are conditioned to expect their software to be imperfect. Though the degree of imperfection would change in the absence of testing, without seeing the better solution many would just assume that what they were given was how it had to be.
How do others within software development avoid this problem? Programmers write code, so it's easy to understand that without them the software would not exist at all. Architects and Project Managers have strong parallels to similar roles outside of our industry, which makes them easier to grasp.
Those with an understanding of software development will, generally, see the need for and value of testing. They have expectations of software and can identify when these expectations are not met. I think it would be nice to see this knowledge spread to a wider audience.
I'd like to be specific about my occupation without having to explain what it is. Wouldn't you?