They Know My Secrets: Tales from Atomic’s Software Tester

Recently, our office dishwasher broke. Fingers pointed at me, as I have a talent for breaking things. It really wasn’t me, but it’s not surprising that I was a possible culprit, as I once managed to get myself locked inside one of the restrooms by somehow breaking the lock (don’t ask).

I don’t really have a special force field that breaks things. Nor do I really break things. As a tester, I just surface things that can go wrong and dispel people’s illusions that things are working.

But playing up the “testers break everything they touch” idea makes testing sound fun (and it is!). And it makes my co-workers interested in learning how I do what I do. I’ve even thought about growing a mustache that I could twirl like the infamous IBM Black Team.

Here are a few examples of how a testing mindset has helped others at Atomic.

Lots and Lots of Text

On my current project, the developer had a screen full of text. She had entered large amounts of characters for the first and last names of a contact and included a long organization name. When asked about this, she said, “This is what Phil would do.” And yes, I will enter lots of text, special characters, and emojis into all of the input fields when I do my initial “quick attacks” on a system. That’s how I learn how the program works and where its weak points might be.

Double Clicks

Most makers at Atomic now know that if there’s a button on a page, I am going to rapidly click it. On a recent project, I sent a developer a screenshot of multiple identical payments in the test Stripe payment system, and he quickly learned about “Phil’s Double Clicking.” In a similar vein, adding a leading space to an input email field also claimed a victim.

Making Tea

Another maker is reminded of my testing whenever she goes to the kitchen area to make a cup of tea, as this was one of my reminders for how to test session timeouts. Start a session, go to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, and have a chat. Then return to your desk and see how the app behaves after a period of no activity.


When developers learn these simple test techniques, it gives me some extra capacity to go off and find more complex and challenging issues that a system may have. Reminding people about how things–such as dishwashers–can go wrong and being excited and interested whenever a bug is found gets people interested in testing.

It changes their mindset, so they no longer see testing as a mundane chore that has to be done, but an exciting challenge.