Friday, 3 February 2012

Get your code up


For testers like me, coding beyond batch/routine like scripting is a bit exotic in the main. In my experience most testers are doing VBScript on you-know-which-tool, maybe some Java on pretty much every tool as it’s the defacto language it seems. There’s a smattering of Python in use but the ardents seem few and far between. Then there’s fan boys like me doing some Ruby stuff all mixed with a smattering of other languages depending on the environment the tester works in.

I guess it’s more like doing testing which involves a bit of coding, instead of coding which involves a bit of testing. It’s great if your role involves you touching code at some point a few days a week. That way you can get your coding skills up and keep them up to. A lot of testers however are looking to start coding so they can develop professionally and of course utilise it for automation, testing, etc.
One problem I found was deciding which language to pick. So, simply put:

Step 1: Pick a language
There’s a multitude to pick from, the TIOBE index (http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html) is said in some circles to be worthless but if you don’t know what’s out there it’s a good start point for reference.
What are you using at your current workplace? What are they developing in? Well there’s your starter for 10. Is there a particular tool you want to get good at, which involves some coding? Bingo, go learn that then.
There are languages that are flipping everywhere. Java, PHP, VBScript, JavaScript, C, C#, C++ and of course the handy ones such as SQL and Perl that have been in utility use forever.
If you can, pick one that’s going to see you able to use it day to day, ideally one that those around you are competent in too. It’s easier to learn that way.
In order to learn you need to find some trusted sources of tuition, I’m assuming you’re doing self-directed study here and not going on a course. Have a look at www.codeyear.com for example, how about http://www.sqlcourse.com or just searching for “Learn [language] online” and see what comes up. There are too many resources to list but plenty to get started.
Create some form of learning plan and set yourself a goal as to how many hours you’re going to spend learning your chosen language. I picked 100 hours after a suggestion on the Software Testing Club. I have a goal but not a how-many-hours-a-week goal, I study when I can. If you can set time aside then great. Regarding a plan, simply list out what topics you want to learn and tick some off or add some more as you go.

Step 3: Share your learning
There’s nothing better than backing yourself up against a wall, putting yourself in a corner, etc. by telling the world you’re going to learn to programme. Head over to http://www.softwaretestingclub.com and start blogging about your plan and progress.
Also, have a look at www.codepad.org where you can paste snippets of code, then post the link in your blogs. Set up your free Github repository over at https://github.com, there’s an easy to follow tutorial there and it’s 3 commands day to day to maintain your library. Don’t forget to use the Wiki you get to document what you’re adding.
Overall…
Just get started, whatever you learn will be of use!
Good luck and I look forward to reading your updates.

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