Take control of your own career

During my career, I’ve come across numerous testing colleagues with no experience in automated testing who say things like “I’d love to do automated testing”. They expect to be put into an automated testing role so they can learn automated testing.

I don’t think it should work like that. Your employer shouldn’t be solely responsible for you enhancing your skills and progressing your career.

And, the thing is, it’s never been easier to pick up some new technical skills.

If you want to learn programming start by learning something like Ruby. If you want to learn about automated web testing learn Watir. If you want to learn about behavior driven development tools learn Cucumber.

I taught myself Ruby. I taught myself Watir. I taught myself C#, Python, Selenium, Cucumber and Jenkins. The list goes on.

The barrier to entry has never been lower. Try codeacademy, try ruby koans, download the free watir book, buy Cheezy’s cheap eBook about Watir & Cucumber.

So, instead of watching television or going out for drinks, spend your nights and weekends learning some new skills and taking control of your career instead of expecting your employer to hand it to you on a plate.

You’ll then be able to say “I’m learning all about Watir at the moment and I would love to apply that on a project” instead of “I’d love to do automated testing”.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.

2 thoughts on “Take control of your own career”

  1. Good post. A follow up to that would be how such colleagues can apply their learnings to a project/application to learn further. It’s not always the case they’ll have an opportunity to try it out at work or on a work-based project, so they’ll have to find something to apply their learnings to. Because just learning the theory & concepts from all the tutorials & books isn’t all the useful, you learn a whole lot more getting your hands dirty trying things out. This may be an area colleagues may get lost in – once they’ve learned a bit, how to apply it to learn more…

    Another suggestion I have for such colleagues, for those who’ve learned some skills already (e.g. basic programming, etc.), is not necessarily go after some specific (hot) language, tool, framework, etc. but in terms of the workplace, find things or areas that need improvement that you could possibly do with your (newly learned) skills. Not all such things require programming type skills either, some just require a mashup thinking of how to combine things to improve or create a solution. In the QA testing workflow that includes system/software configuration & deployment, manual testing, automated testing, and performance testing, there is a lot here & there that can potentially be improved with scripting & automation that people don’t necessarily think of, especially at places that are not heavily CI and agile. Even the manual testing parts can be sped up or improved with some scripts to streamline some repetitive & monotonous work, even if it isn’t 100% automated for the whole manual testing effort.

    In my past work, I’ve created little scripts here and there that facilitate system configuration, software deployment, querying/extracting data (rather than do manual data extraction via GUI, this included memory dump info), and cloning/restoring drive images. These are some other things one can do to improve the work environment, learn some more, and get noticed by your colleagues and managers for other opportunities later like automated testing.


  2. Hi Alister,

    a sweet and concise blog post that I enjoyed and something I’ve been struggling with for some time. As indicated by my below forum post:


    Something you touch on above is basically, just start! Which is something I agree with. However, I wonder what your advice would be in my current situation. I’m employed as QA with a view to me being the ‘automation expert.’ They have some automation in place which I’ve still not been allowed to see, all I know it we’re a c#. NET desktop app and the current automation was done using windows workflow.

    I’m struggling to find a starting point for my learning. For example I could go the cucumber and cheese route but what is the point if I know my application at work won’t go this direction? There will of course be useful transferable knowledge but I think it would be best to stick closely to what exists already and go from there.

    So what would you suggest for someone working on a c# .NET application where they’re looking to automate? At the very least I know the existing automation is using windows workflow but I’ve no idea what it looks like or if it’ll need overhauled when I finally get my hands on it.

    Perhaps this is too specific and I need to think of some questions I need to ask to narrow down potential languages to learn to get up to speed on automation?

    Thanks in advance, I hope all is well!


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