April 8, 2016

Switching Careers in QA: From manual testing to automation development

"Are you a manual tester? Are you attempting to switch careers in the software industry? Are you trying to break into automation development? In this article, I will outline how I made the transition from being a manual quality assurance engineer—a technical position that deals with next to no actual coding—to an automated testing position, where I am programming in Selenium and Java daily.

"This transition didn't come overnight. It took years to lay the groundwork for this career shift. Because I found the transition difficult, I'd like to share some pointers with other software testers who are in a similar situation in order to make their career shift easier than mine was".

... I've always enjoyed writing, from classes in high school and college, to technical writing at the workplace, but I have only been writing regularly for the past year-and-a-half with this blog. What started out as a form of interview prep became a public space where I could grapple with new concepts I am learning on-the-job, and bounce off ideas with others attempting to hone their automation development skills.

I decided in February that I wanted to branch out. I saw that TechBeacon, an online magazine by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, were searching for contributors. I wondered if I could transform any of my eighty-plus stream-of-consciousness rambles into an actual article?

"I have been part of the software testing industry since the dot-coms first started roaming the earth, and for most of my career, it has been pretty much the same. My job as a software tester has always been to act as an end-user advocate. I provide a voice for customers of the web application that I am testing. After distilling both the product requirements and the user interface design into test cases, I execute them as a manual tester, using the same tools our customers will use: a keyboard, a mouse, or fingers on a touchscreen". 

My First Published Article, on TechBeacon!

Two days after expressing interest in writing an article and submitting to TechBeacon my blog as a writing sample, the editor Robert Mitchell sent me an email to see if we could chat about a blog post of mine that might be a good fit for the magazine. We decided on the April 2015 entry, "How to Switch Careers in the Software Industry". Robert drafted an outline based on the blog post that he could present to the review board for approval.

"[...] The relationship between development and QA shouldn't be the same as the relationship between an artist and an art critic. It should be more like the relationship between a writer and a copy editor, both applying their specialized skill sets to make a quality product".

Within two weeks of being approved, the article was content-edited to smooth the structure, and copy-edited to fix a typo or two I had missed. I can spot a typo from a mile away, but am completely blind to mine own.

"Coders learn to code by going beyond the classroom, experimenting on their own with writing programs and apps. Automated testers do the same with random sites on the web: How would I test this web page, and what tests would I write?"

... So, that is the story how I got paid for my very first article!

If you care to read the whole thing, it is here. I am quite happy how it turned out! :) ... And around five cents a word, too. Not bad! :)

-T.J. Maher

// QA Engineer since 1996
// Automation Developer for [ 1 ] year and counting!