That's the point Mike Kelly, president of the Association of Software Testing, made during one of his presentations at the Conference of the Association for Software Testing (CAST) last week in Bellevue, Wash.
The skills specialists use are fundamentally the same as general software testers. Any tester can model the test space, determine coverage, determine oracles, determine the test procedures, configure the test system and operate the test system. It's when it comes time to evaluate the results that a specialist really is a specialist.
You may not be the test lead or the expert, but as a tester who understands the basic principles of testing you should be able to contribute productively.
"There's room for different degrees of specialty," Kelly said. "When they discount the bugs you find because you're not a specialist, that's silly."
James Bach, well-known software tester and founder of Satisfice Inc., added to that, saying there isn't a minimum level of skill to be useful. "They can become specialists if they take opportunities and try. Then they practice and get better. And as they get better, the fear will go away."
Managers need to be willing to give those who have fewer specialized skills a chance. Pair them with someone who does have those skills. Put them on a project so they get hands-on experience. One attendee put it quite succinctly, "If you exclude people who are less specialists, they'll never learn anything."
Not only do those testers benefit, but so does the entire testing team. You're providing internal training and you're eliminating the need to pay for someone outside the company to do the work.