Paging through the articles on this and similar topics in order to write my own, I encountered the thesis that a software tester is a profession with a low entry threshold. Some training companies tempt people with no industry experience with slogans like ‘Become a tester in 2 weeks and earn 10k right after the course.’
Looking from the perspective of a person with more than 10 years of experience in the IT industry, conducting the technical interviews for the position of manual tester candidates on a daily basis, I feel that these slogans are rather hurtful. What is often missing is reliable information that:
- The course itself doesn’t guarantee getting your first job, especially since the job position requirements increase year by year, so sometimes even a couple of courses are not enough. Especially if during (or after) the course, there was no chance of testing the theory in practice.
- The earnings indicated in the slogan are possible, but not immediately and not at the level of knowledge of the trainee. Would you like to rebrand if you had to work for such money for 5-10 years?
- There are even dozens of hundreds of resumes submitted for a single trainee or junior tester position, which, when taking this number of documents and time a recruiter has for analyzing them, influences the chance of being (un)noticed, while the competition is enormous.
- The course alone won’t teach you patience, accuracy, curiosity, assertiveness or communicativeness – and these are just a few traits required in the daily work of a manual tester. There are also other traits, typical for the IT industry, such as: self-organization, striving for continuous development, proactivity, ability to work in a team, clear communication or dealing with stress (distress).
Is it easy to become a software tester?
Is it easy to become a software tester, then? In my option – no, not even mentioning the examples above, one can cause harm to each person by telling them that you can become a tester right now and that the job is all roses.
Quitting your current profession or job without proper analysis and preparation (more on that below) for testing, only because IT is ‘in vogue’, may lead to another sad story from tester groups on Facebook, such as: ‘I’ve spent thousands for trainings, sent 100 resumes, but no one replied. What’s wrong with these companies? After all, they said it’s for everyone!’
Myths about the tester’s job
Subjectively speaking, I think not – it’s not for everyone. It’s a myth. And when we’re speaking of myths, I’d like to dispel a couple of them as well, hoping that it may save someone from making wrong (and possibly costly) decision in life:
- ‘I didn’t become a programmer (they rejected me after my internship, I don’t like programming, there was no vacancy for a programmer, etc.), so maybe I’ll become a tester’ – it sounds more or less like saying in medical studies: I failed as a doctor, so I’ll become a nurse, or vice versa. Although a part of the knowledge seems common to both roles, the day-to-day work is much more different.
- ‘Testers only ‘click’ a little bit and check if something doesn’t crash – that’s what their job is all about’ – of course, there are testers and testers. If one wants to be a ‘clicker’, it may look as this for sure. One checks (clicks) to make sure the software doesn’t ‘blow up’. But an experienced tester is more than that – it includes analyzing requirements, planning and executing tests, and reporting results. Skillful use of tools that support testing, knowledge of technologies, testing theory and even the basics of programming.
- ‘It’s easy, a man from the street can do that’ – sure, if you want to be a ‘clicker’ from the example above and as long as there are no better qualified candidates on the market.
- ‘Manual testers have no future’ – I encourage you to have a look at current job offers on the market and to compare the number of offers in each case. Personally, tracking at least the number of vacancies in the company for which I provide services, I see a significant advantage of manual offers over the automation ones. It’s still a large market, very receptive, but also one that requires continuous upgrading of skills.
- ‘Forget about manuals, bet on automatics!’ – this is probably the most common comment I see under the posts like ‘how to start your journey with manual testing’ and as annoying as the first on this list. Without a solid testing foundation, such a person won’t be valuable in a project. The candidate should know what the testing purpose is, how to analyze requirements, or at least how to design tests.
How to become a tester?
So, what will help you to prepare for the role of a tester? What can give you the advantage and set your resume apart from dozens of others?
As I already mentioned, the courses will not guarantee you your first job, but they are certainly one of the elements that will facilitate finding it. All technologies, tools, methodologies, or soft skills have an article, webinar or workshop on their topic in the Internet, both paid and free of charge.
I encourage you to reliably compare not only the price, but also the course curriculum with job offers (whether the course actually covers the market issues), check the number of hours dedicated to practical tasks vs. theory (whether the course leads you by the hand and only presents the materials or forces you to work independently) and verify the experience of the trainer.
Unfortunately, the wave of popularity of re-branding causes the creation of more and more courses that are to be led, e.g., by persons with one year of experience in testing or programmers that had little to do with it.
Participating in webinars, conferences, thematic groups
The issues above are a mine of information with the opportunity to make interesting contacts and exchange experience. In larger cities, there are periodically held (or at least they were before the pandemic) tester meetings like ŁÓDQA, WROTQA, KRAQA.
When conducting technical interviews at the intern-junior level, I always ask the candidate where they get the knowledge of testing from and whether they ‘do something’ after hours – proactive activities are the advantage.
Something that, in my opinion, is rarely used, but gives a great advantage at the same time. One person in a hundred (according to my experience) sends a resume with a link to their portfolio where I can verify how, for example, they created test cases using test design techniques, how they reported bugs, what the subject of tests was, etc.
It allows to ask more precise questions during the interview, e.g., about the chosen technique, start a dispute about its effectiveness, examine how the candidate puts theory into practice. There are portals that are specially created for testing (with a ton of bugs), on the basis of which you can build your portfolio. What stands in the way in creating your portfolio basing on the tests of the already-tested Sii website? 😉
Access to an unlimited network of contacts, recommendation systems, articles and industry groups. Something that, in my opinion, everyone should build for themselves, a kind of personal business card. Interestingly – when preparing to the interview with a candidate, more than once I found additional information on their LinkedIn profiles that wasn’t included in their resume. It’s also a place where job offers falls into your hands ‘by themselves’… 😉
Mentoring (Facebook and LinkedIn)
Paid or not, it’s available at your fingertips in groups like: Tester oprogramowania – wsparcie na starcie” (FB). [English: Software tester – support at the start]. The support of more experienced person undoubtedly has a significant impact on the first steps taken in testing. It will help to avoid making the same mistakes, dispel many doubts connected with the profession, inspire and help to plan the career path.
Something that can make it easier to find your first or next job. Making interesting contacts (even at workshops or industry events), positive opinion after working together – if someone recommends another person, it means that they had a chance to get to know them at least a little bit (check in a sense) and this person has given a positive opinion. This gives you an advantage compared to people who have a clean record.
A new trend (at least for me). I don’t know anyone after such studies, but after analyzing the curriculum, I could compare it to a more extensive course with more emphasis on practice, and… cheaper.
Portals for freelancers (extra job)
I often see posts on testing groups from people entering the IT world that they are required to have experience they don’t have and can’t get without starting their first job. Such a closed circle. And indeed, that’s the way it is, even when recruiting for an internship where no job experience is required. Those who have some – even a little – experience will get a chance first.
The intern-junior market is an employer’s market. They have candidates to choose from. That’s why I encourage you to build your portfolio and take up additional activity, e.g., by joining freelance portals (you’ll find specific links on the testing groups and at the end of the article).
Frankly speaking, nothing makes me more tired at work than analyzing dozens of documents created on the basis of various templates, font sizes and colors, with more or less text, where once the knowledge of tools is described on the left, and sometimes on the right, and sometimes at the very end. So I appreciate that companies are following the practice of rewriting resumes on their own template.
I recommend everyone to send their resume to their friends to get feedback on whether it’s transparent, pleasing to the eye, or whether the information does say something about the author and is directed to work in IT. You can also always ask your mentor or experienced colleague in the industry for feedback.
Books and blogs
Sample recruitment questions, job offers, topical articles, rates per seniority, manuals for beginners as well as for the advanced, recommended training courses. I encourage you to follow especially blogs of people being speakers at testing events or authors of books, such as: Adam Roman, Radosław Smilgin, Jan Sabak, Piotr Wicherski, Bartosz Kita, Michał Ślęzak, Emilia Lendzion-Barszcz, Remigiusz Bednarczyk and many others.
Co-organization of events
Don’t have experience in the industry? Check where the meetings are held, whether you can support the organizers in something (e.g., creating a mailing list, advertising the meeting, co-organizing). I remember one recruitment interview where the candidate took her first steps in IT this way. Knowing very little, she was looking for places and people from whom she could learn, observe how they working day looked like, what they were dealing with or what they were learning from. After time, she went from being a co-organizer to being one of the speakers.
How to enter the job market?
Above I described the advantages that, from my point of view, can help you get your first job. Below I’d like to suggest ways to get there.
First and basically the most common way is standard job recruitment. How to increase your chances of beating your competitions was described above. Here I’d like to enumerate a couple of things that helped, e.g., me, more than once, when I was changing / looking for a job:
- Preparation for the interview – it’s worth reviewing the profile of the potential employer, so that you don’t fail with the first question: ‘Do you know something about us?’. Job offers contain a description of the position and the required technologies, for example. Even if you haven’t had a commercial experience before, spend an hour, two, or five, to at least learn the theoretical basis. It’s always better than saying ‘I don’t know anything.’
- Feedback after the interview – even if you were rejected, it’s always worth asking for a reason or for indicating areas to improve. Feedback works both ways – after interview, you can describe your impressions after the meeting, which can improve the recruitment process. If the company doesn’t reply by the agreed deadline, I encourage you to remind yourself. The reasons for not getting a response can vary: illness, a mess in documents, simple ‘forgetting’, a change in the recruiter’s job, vacation, or a message in a spam folder.
- Rejection – something everyone was coming through more than once. Sometimes, the reasons don’t depend on us – the project was closed, but the recruitment wasn’t canceled, a person recommended by someone else (or a friend) was hired, a weaker but cheaper candidate was chosen, four other candidates were as good as we, but someone other than us was chosen.
Does it mean that we are worse? No. I want to emphasize that the rejection reasons don’t always mean that it is ‘us’ who lacks something. Rejection is also a kind of lesson for us – we draw conclusions on what went right and what went wrong, we practice our self-presentation, rhetoric, learn to speak clearly and to the point, we deal with stress, get to know market requirements and company we’re applying to from the people working there who can tell us something we won’t read on their website. Each and every interview gets easier because of this.
Perfect for those with no experience (in theory), but with the greatest competition. As I mentioned earlier, due to the theoretically easy entry threshold and fashion for IT, the most resumes fall into the trainee position. Recruiters are free to pick the ‘best’ ones from the list, meaning, the most experienced or those who stand out from the best side.
Nevertheless, getting into the program, taking advantage of this opportunity, and learning effectively is a 99% guarantee of continued employment.
Changing profession within the parent company
Changing a profession within one company gives you quite an advantage. If a person is already proven (has positive feedback from the team, is a good person to work with, is diligent, etc.), it is easier for an employer to trust that person than to risk recruiting a new and untested candidate from the market. Observing various companies, I noticed that priority in recruiting for a position is given to people from inside the company, and later from outside.
It’s worth considering whether to start your career in another position, so that, for example, after a year you can retrain towards testing (after solid preparation, of course).
To summarize, I’d like to point out that the testing profession, contrary to the popular opinion from advertisements, is not for everyone. It’s worth thinking about it carefully before you quit your current job and potentially get stuck in the intern or junior tester market, where many resumes fall into one position.
However, if you make a conscious decision (not driven by advertising impulse, current fashion, or ‘because your brother-programmer said it was easy’) and you are ready to learn, you’ll increase your chances of finding your first job by using one or more of the ways I wrote about above 😉
Sources worth using to prepare for a tester’s job
Links to the aforementioned websites:
- Crowdtesting platforms (gaining the tester experience without being employed):
- Tools for practicing bug reporting, creating test cases:
- Tester groups on Facebook (available in Polish only):
- Blogs/Fanpages (available in Polish only):
- Roman Adam: ‘Testowanie i jakość oprogramowania. Modele, techniki, narzędzia,’ [English: Testing and software quality. Models, techniques, tools]
- Roman Adam, Stapp Lucjan: ‘Certyfikowany tester ISTQB. Poziom podstawowy,’ [English: Certified ISTQB tester. Elementary level]
- Adam Roman, Karolina Zmitrowicz: ‘Testowanie oprogramowania w praktyce. Studium przypadków,’ [English: Software testing in practice. Case study]
- Smilgin Radosław: ‘Zawód tester. Od decyzji do zdobycia doświadczenia,’ [English: Profession – tester. From decision to experience]
- Tilo Linz: ‘Testing in Scrum: A Guide for Software Quality Assurance in the Agile World’.
Finally, I’d like to thank Emilia Lendzion – Barszcz, Maria Degen, Remigiusz Bednarczyk and Wojciech Chrząszcz for their substantive support and proofreading of the article.