In recent years, SQA has found many manual testers are hesitant of the industry shift toward software test automation, fearing it will eventually put them out of a job.
While it’s true that test automation does make certain portions of the manual tester’s job obsolete, software testing is not disappearing as a discipline. In fact, testing is an increasingly integral part of the software development process as companies strive to maintain product quality while delivering to the market faster than ever before.
In this effort to increase speed of delivery, these companies are adopting methodologies like Agile and DevOps which require more advanced technical and collaborative skills from their employees. They seek specialized individuals who can adapt quickly and are interested in being at the forefront of technology trends.
In these ways, the role of the manual tester is evolving, and for the better. Testers have the opportunity to demonstrate continued utility by developing new skills to enhancing traditional software testing and problem-solving skills. There are new testing methodologies to embrace, innovative technologies to latch on to, automation techniques to learn, and the opportunity to expand domain knowledge beyond software test.
Read on to learn five ways manual testers can advance their careers by embracing a shift to automation:
1. Explore multiple software testing methodologies.
Testing methodologies such as Test Driven Development (TDD) and Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) allow software testers without development backgrounds to write test cases that enable automation. By their nature, these methodologies require developers to concentrate on meeting business objectives as opposed to just solving technical problems. Quality becomes part of their “definition of done,” making the process more collaborative.
2. Stay at the forefront of software testing and development trends.
Read articles, subscribe to relevant blogs, join LinkedIn groups, attend meetups, and make sure to network with thought leaders in the industry. The ability to discuss leading-edge trends, a passion for continuing education, and an investment in the market at large are all traits highly attractive to potential hiring managers. Formally or not, the Quality Assurance community is a guild of artisans – members love their discipline and are committed to its development. Embrace your membership.
3. Learn how to use software test automation tools.
With many companies pursuing continuous delivery of software, testers with automation scripting skills are in high demand. Simply put, if you acquire software test automation skills, you’ll become more valuable to organizations in the long run. Fortunately, there are many tools and skill development resources available online. Start by learning how to use open source automation tools such as Selenium or Jmeter. And while you’re at it, consider beefing up your coding chops and programming skills with low-cost (sometimes free) and easy-to-use sites like Udemy or Codecademy. Becoming familiar with programming languages and automated tools will allow you to get a sense of how developers think and code, which in turn enables more thorough and technical testing. Testers who have exposure to coding practices are better equipped to communicate clearly with developers, and as such their observations and recommendations will be taken more seriously when expressed in developers’ language.
4. Increase domain knowledge of software testing.
No matter the industry, focus on the intricacies and dependencies of your domain. Companies are moving away from generalized testers and aiming for more business and domain specialization. Thus, you are no longer restricted to solely heads-down software testing, but encouraged to go beyond and learn about the business as a whole. If you become a subject matter expert (the proverbial BA/QA hybrid) in your field, you become crucial to the organization. So take advantage of all available in-house opportunities to learn. And as the role of testers becomes more proactive than reactive, it is essential to understand your domain from a business perspective to make sure that beyond simply verifying the functionality of a product, you’re providing a product that is usable and delightful to the customer. Increased industry specific knowledge will allow you to make these proactive suggestions.
5. Be aware of what happens to your team’s code after it leaves your hands.
It’s important to understand your organizations’ build and deploy processes and production support activities. Become more familiar with the capabilities of the tools used in code versioning, deployment and trouble ticket management (e.g., Subversion, GitHub, Jenkins, ServiceNow) as well. You need not be an expert in these tools and processes, but it is critical to understand how code moves to production and how it is supported once there. By understanding who does what (and when), you’ll be better equipped to respond efficiently and effectively to defects that appear in production.
The role of software testing is not going away but is instead becoming a shared responsibility across the software/product development life cycle. Similarly, the old paradigm that “unit testing is a developer’s job” is breaking down, and your participation is (or should be) welcome. So embrace these blurred lines, strive to learn more about the goings-on in development and operations, and invest yourself in the industry as a whole. Take advantage of the opportunities in your current role, but be sure to expose yourself to new tools, technologies and challenges on your own time as well. It will take a commitment to personal development, but will be well worth it as you advance your career in the years to come.