Starting a Career in Software Testing
Are you interested in becoming a software tester, but are unsure where to start? You’re not alone. We’ve spoken to lots of people who are excited by the idea of becoming a tester but need some advice on how to get there.
We are going to help answer some of the questions that you might have, but keep in mind that this isn’t a map; there are people who have done things differently and have still been able to start a career in the industry and thrive.
If you are reading this, you probably fall into one of two categories:
You’re looking at potential college or university courses and trying to work out what qualification to pursue
You’re working in another industry and looking for a change, wondering if you need a formal qualification to start in software testing.
Let’s start with considering college and university courses. If you’re at this stage of your life and have the chance to get a formal qualification, then we would recommend that you do so. For software testing a degree in computer science, computing engineering or information technology would stand you in good stead, and introduce you to many of the concepts and theories that will underpin your work as a software tester.
However, a formal qualification is not always necessary, as some companies will have junior roles that don’t require you to have technical knowledge when you start. Nevertheless in interviews you will be asked about your technical skills and your understanding of code; therefore even if you don’t have a formal qualification in computing, taking the time to work through some basic programming courses will give you a better chance at being successful in interviews.
If you’ve taken the time to do this, you’ll be illustrating to your interviewer that you’re passionate about the subject matter, motivated, and able to work independently to build the skills that you need. All 3 of which are characteristics your interviewer will be looking for.
There are plenty of online platforms that provide programming courses at varying prices, such as Udemy and CodeAcademy. You won’t become an expert in these areas overnight, however any time you put into developing these skills will lay a good foundation for a career in the software testing industry.
Skills and Characteristics
When you start going to interviews, what will your interviewer be looking for?
Whether you have a formal qualification or not, there are certain skills and characteristics that will appeal to prospective employers. We’re going to touch on 4 aspects that interviewer’s will be looking for. These may be skills that you already have, or they may be ones that you need to develop, but a strong software tester must have a good mastery of these core elements.
Attention to Detail
Firstly, attention to detail is vital for being a successful tester. Whether you’re directly looking for defects within software or learning about the software that you’re going to be testing at a later date. As testers we must be able to see when something isn’t quite what we expect, we have to be patient, good at problem solving and have a keen eye for the finer details.
During any potential interview process your interviewer will try to ascertain whether this is a skill you display and may even give you a testing task to see your attention to detail in action.
Secondly, potential employers will analyse your communication skills. This is likely to be from your written communication in your CV, covering letter or the emails you send to organise your interview, as well as your communication skills in the interview itself. A good proportion of what you do as a tester is about communicating with others, both verbally and in written formats. This may be in test cases that you write, reports about possible bugs, or the feedback that you give to your manager after completing a testing task. With so much of the job hinging on your ability to communicate clearly and consistently, you need to ensure that this is always coming across in the interview process.
The next skill that is incredibly important for software testing is time management. As software testers we need to be able to successfully plan, determine how long tasks will take and prioritise these assignments. Alongside this we also need to be flexible and allow for the plan to evolve, as we will often find that extra tasks are given to us or crop up over the course of the day. Time management can be learnt and there are various methods you can use to develop this skill, but before embarking on a career in software testing you will need to have a good grasp of this. The industry is fast paced and relies on the meeting of deadlines. Time is money.
Passion and Motivation
The last of our four core aspects which interviewers will look for is passion and motivation.
With technology constantly evolving, software testers must stay ahead of the curve and the only way you’re going to do this, is to be interested in the subject matter. Interviewers will look for initiative and you will need plenty of this to keep your knowledge fresh and up to date with the latest technologies and software. You can do this in a variety of ways but the easiest options are to; read blogs and articles to stay abreast of the latest changes in the industry, and to attend training courses to develop your testing skills.
You will see that we’ve not included programming skills in this breakdown. This is because whilst some employers will be looking for this ability, it is not a strict requirement. Most employers will be more interested in the 4 aspects listed above, because ultimately if you have these qualities, you are more likely to want to learn and develop new technical skills either before you start or as you progress in the industry.
As with most jobs the more experience you have the better a software tester you are likely to be. However, if you’re applying for a starting position, then a company won’t expect you to have lots, if any, experience.
Nevertheless, you can acquire this independently for yourself, but be sure to mention any steps you’ve taken to develop this experience in interviews, as it will show that you are motivated and passionate about the job.
There are a couple ways of doing this; many companies will use crowdsourcing to test their software and this can be an effective way of building your own testing skills. You along with other people across the world will test a piece of software, report on issues and hand them over to the development team. This gives you the opportunity to investigate different types of software for yourself and to develop your bug hunting skills.
The second option available is to attend training courses, particularly those focused on the practical aspects of software testing. These types of courses will often guide you through exercises where you can practise software testing for yourself. If this is a live course you may also have the opportunity to see the types of defects that others would look for. If you’re looking for a course to fill this need, check out the courses that we offer at EQA.
When being interviewed, always draw on your experience from other job roles to help appeal to potential employers. For example, if you’ve worked in an office environment, then you are going to have an understanding of the professional attitude that will be required. If you’ve managed people, then you can use this to your advantage when applying for roles that require teamwork and management. Any previous work experience you have will help get your foot in the door, even if it's not directly related to software testing.
We hope this has covered some of your initial queries about starting a career in software testing. The main thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t one path into the software testing world; however, if you aim to cover qualifications, the skills/characteristics that we’ve discussed here and make the most of the experience that you do have; then you should be able to take that first step onto the software testing career ladder.
If you have any other questions about how to start a career in software testing, get in touch. We’re always happy to help.