The job of a Quality Assurance Engineer is to verify that the software being developed works correctly and to report any bugs or discrepancies with the specification. Software testing is said to be the profession of the 21st century. Indeed, the demand for testers shows no signs of slackening. Websites for job seekers in the IT industry list many QA engineer openings. The positions differ not only in terms of requirements, but also the scope and methodology of testing. There are many variables, and different companies may expect different qualities in candidates for the position. This is why, when describing the ideal QA, I will refer to our company as an example. If you are considering a career in QA, I hope this text will help you decide if this is the right job for you.
For the sake of brevity, I will use the masculine forms throughout, but it is worth pointing out that QA jobs are open to women, too – at our company, we welcome all talents, regardless of gender. In addition, I will use the terms “tester” and “QA” interchangeably. If one were to look deeper into the subject, one might write a lengthy article about the differences between the two, but I will treat these terms as equivalents.
Constant dropping wears away a stone
An inquisitive tester is always treasured, and patience is the key to success. Testing many different aspects of an application, asking questions, ferreting out bugs – these are extremely important tasks. Confirming the correct operation of the intended uses is just as important as testing the negative paths. These procedures help eliminate bugs which appear during development. This repetitive process, carried out step by step, fosters patience and perseverance.
The ability to communicate information about the application being tested is also extremely important. Excellent, if not exemplary, communication between the tester, developer, analyst and client is a must. Any problem that has been detected should be described in detail, so that code can be fixed effectively. Proper communication facilitates the entire process of software development. Bugs – that is, errors – detected at an early stage, and later fixed and retested in the context of the whole application, have an impact on the final product. This is why it is crucial that complete and accurate information is available.
Quality Assurance is directly related to the work of the entire project team. Very often, testers are the first to grasp the current version of the application as a whole. This makes good teamwork and communication essential for success. Cooperation on the front line, that is, between testers and developers, is particularly important. The two work in tandem towards a common goal – the development of high quality software. The more bugs get detected, the better the final product delivered to the customer. In this cooperation, all criticism should be constructive.
One could say that an expert software tester should always be inquisitive. He or she should be able to spoil things so as to avoid problems in the post-production phase. His or her knowledge and experience translate into effective execution of tasks. A good QA engineer should start with manual tests and then interleave them with automated tests. He or she also knows how to use the two methods in the right proportions. The tester must constantly learn – which is why it is a good idea to take advantage of training courses and workshops, and to keep up to date with developments in the industry by reading. The desire to grow, to explore new techniques and tools is invaluable.
Efficient time management is crucial in the daily work of the tester – for this reason, good planning is of the essence. SCRUM helps you think ahead. This agile methodology defines a general framework for the tasks to be performed in a given time, and serves as the basis for a more detailed plan of action for the entire QA team.
Assertiveness is another important skill of a good QA engineer. Refusing to be ignored is often a challenge – particularly for a beginner. A good tester checks if the application’s behavior is consistent with documentation and requirements. It is not uncommon that a report pointing out a bug or ambiguity is met with counterarguments, attempting to deny that there is anything wrong. Therefore, the tester must have patience and confidence. By calmly presenting the whole picture, preferably in a broader context, he can help other members of the team understand the root cause of the problem.
In addition to extensive technical knowledge, an ideal candidate for a QA position should have certain qualities and soft skills, be communicative, assertive and eager to learn new things. To be sure, these attributes are difficult to verify in the recruitment process. Hence, only a skilfully conducted interview, supported by an experienced QA engineer, can ensure the right candidate is selected to join the team. Remember, you can always fill the gaps in your knowledge by reading available literature and attending seminars, even as you make the first steps in your career as a tester. You acquire this knowledge gradually, especially with the growing number of projects you participate in. Do try your hand at IT, especially if you know or feel that you have the above-described qualities. You will put your new career path to the test and – who knows? You may decide to pursue it for years to come!