Are you graduating? Or have you recently graduated? You’re in an ocean of opportunity, with so many ways to go it’s impossible to go anywhere.
Being a graduate means being inundated with LinkedIn recruiter messages, bombarded with information about programs, deadlines, and online test tips, tricks and hacks, and being told by everyone that their career path is the one you should take because ‘you’ll be perfect for it’ or ‘if you just do it for three years then you’ll be set for life!’.
For most of us, the reality is we don’t know what we want to do, who we want to be, or where we want to end up. You know there is definitely something good going on between your ears, you’re driven, passionate, and resourceful…The problem is there isn’t time to think of the future when you’re just holding it together during finals, and you managed to break a tiny glass tube worth £400 in your final year project.
Now, I’m no expert in how to guide you to choose your career path or show you a sure-fire way to find a job you love, but I will share my small pool of knowledge about what it’s like to start down the road to becoming a software tester, a little and exciting corner of the software world, and hopefully convince you that you can do it too.
Who am I?
I graduated with a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Bath, studying chemistry and pharmacology. I was lucky in the fact that the university encourages all students to look at doing a placement year, escaping the looming deadlines and maybe even getting the chance to earn some money for a year - idyllic right? Imperatively a placement year made me explore. I wanted to experience an industry way out of what I thought was my comfort zone, and testing certainly fit the bill. And now two years later with a degree finally under my belt I’m five months into shaping my career as a tester at Scott Logic. In this blog post I want you to think about making that leap, because testing needs new minds like yours.
So why did I choose testing?
I’ve always enjoyed the critical thinking side to studying science, to question and examine, to adjust and evolve. However, I’d find myself frustrated with the unwillingness for definitive change and the lethargic progress that is an innate part of academic research. I’m still fascinated by pharmaceutical and chemical research and the progress it is making but I wanted something with a bit more pace and a few less rules but that still tackled big problems.
Testing offers instant feedback and allows you to try something, to see if it works and backtrack easily if it doesn’t work out. I also feel more in control over what I can impact in testing - software runs the world now. To be an instrumental part of creating something that helps advance research, finance or data-engineering allows me to fulfil my millennial purpose, which of course is to ‘make a difference’.
What is software testing?
How long have you got? Firstly I would like to assure you that it does not involve sitting alone in a darkened room surrounded by eight screens and a week’s worth of pizza boxes. I think that unlike many jobs available to a fresh-faced, starry-eyed graduate, testing is certainly whatever you make it. If you want a job where you follow a checklist and have your hand held at all times then maybe this isn’t for you - you have to be prepared to fall flat on your face after trying something ten different ways. But, if a challenge is what you want and you want to produce unique solutions, develop original approaches, and work with the very smartest people then I encourage you to look further into this career.
What do you want?
I want to be challenged!
Testing will challenge you and evolve with you; it’s a continual experiment that you alter, adapt and learn from. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not samey. It requires energy, perseverance, and a whole lot of head scratching. It will challenge you to realise where there are gaps in your knowledge and then challenge you to find a way to fill them. It will challenge you to build professional relationships with a whole spectrum of people to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be empathetic, but also decisive and clear. It will challenge you to bounce back from failure to find that neat solution. It will challenge you to ask big questions, and then further challenge you to find the answers to those questions. Big challenges bring big rewards and testing will reward you.
I want to be relevant!
I think I can say with reasonable certainty that software and its development is here to stay. Apparently we’ll all be working until we’re at least seventy so let’s do something where the skills we learn help us mature in an industry with an exciting future. Approaches to testing are as diverse as the people who carry them out - no two testers look at a problem in the same way. You will work with and learn from a development team with all sorts of professional and academic backgrounds and from all walks of life, each bringing their own experiences and skills to the floor. The diversity of testing will allow you to learn any number and combination of skills whether they be technical, exploratory, consulting, problem solving, decision making or communication (to mention just a few).
I want to be cutting-edge!
The world needs testers and good ones at that. Testing and assuring the quality of a product is of ever growing importance to those selling it, buying it, and especially to those using it. As the global market expands and the monopoly large companies once held decreases, users demand smarter, faster, cheaper solutions for their software needs. Delivering something is one thing, delivering it with confidence, knowing that it’s capabilities can stand up to scrutiny is another - that’s exactly what testing achieves. Finding neat ways to stretch and explore software through testing, to discover it’s limitations and capabilities, especially in the world of big data, is certainly new.
I want to be technodexterous!
The umbrella term for testing encapsulates everything from discussing user behaviours to setting up and building production like instances to run continuous integration on virtual machines. Testing can be immensely technical if that’s what you want; you will have the opportunity to learn and have exposure to a huge array of languages, tools and platforms. Learning the technical side of software testing and development will aid you no end, allowing you to better understand the application you are working with, have meaningful and concentrated conversations with your team and helping you to be the best tester you can be. Sometimes the technical side to testing comes with ease, sometimes you have to work harder… it starts to sink in eventually, trust me!
I want to be part of a team that delivers something amazing!
I have found testing to give you those real ‘yes!’ moments. The satisfaction that comes when you find a really weird bug or you master a new testing tool is immense. You’re also part of a team creating something new, and at a speed where you physically see the results day by day. To work as a tester in a team developing an app where you know your input will make a user’s life that much better is rewarding.
I want to be creative!
Thinking outside the box is the aim of the game in testing. You want to find the exception that disproves the rule, to do that you have to be slightly unconventional and approach something in a uniquely creative way. You find the biggest baddest bugs this way (which is the best bit), but you also gain a particularly individual insight into the workings of an application that only a tester could discover.
I want to solve problems!
I absolutely promise you will do this, multiple times a day in fact. ‘How do I test this?’ ‘I need this thingy from there, but I can’t access there… How can I get around this?’
If you’re a problem solver, this box is ticked.
Have you got what it takes?
If you’re a problem solver, passionate, resilient and motivated to make a difference and push yourself, scratch your head and be inquisitive then this is for you. If you have a zeal for technology and want to be a part of the movement enhancing everyday life then this is for you. If you have a hunger to learn new coding languages, development tools and web stacks, or you want to collaborate, communicate and see something you have helped create ‘go out the door’ then seriously consider it.
Testing isn’t black and white, and it’s certainly not a box…
To sum it up I don’t think there is a one size fits all for testing. There isn’t one skill set or personality that means you will be a great tester, you can become and grow into a great tester with any combination of applicable skills. This new and evolving community is always looking for the next new and exciting way to solve a problem and you might just be that problem solver.
For more interesting insights on testing and how to get into it check out this blog on some of the Overlooked Aspects of Being a Tester.