AMA: how to cope as a solo tester

Bodda asks…

hey, i like your blog, i’m reading your blog on a daily basis, and i just want to ask you what i can i do to enhance my skills, knowledge and to be a be good in functional testing (manual and automation) IF i’m the ONLY tester in my current company (performing all testing activities), but i feel that i have a mess in my head and lots to learn to be up to date with the last trends.
my question now “What to learn, When(everyday?) and How in case your are the only tester in your company”.

i hope to answer my question soon to make my head calm down

My response…

I have fond memories of a project where I worked as the solo tester on a software delivery team; we had something like 8 developers (including one lead who took on iteration management tasks) and me as a tester. That was it. I loved it because we established really good unhindered rapport with our business stakeholders, and I was always busy!

But getting back to your question: when I was working in that situation it was vital that we had developers working on as much test automation as possible, alongside functional development, since there was just too much functional testing to do for a single person also doing test automation. I found myself spending about 80% of my time just testing new functionality and spot-testing different browsers/devices etc. The remaining 20% I spent ensuring we had good regression test coverage through the automated tests that developers were writing and I was helping maintain. So first and foremost I would strongly encourage you to get the developers you work with to have as much responsibility as possible for automated tests.

If you have this in place you should be able to take a deep breath and spend more time doing quality testing. I have found the best way to learn is on the job, you’ll be in a good position to do this, and often you’ll learn best by making your own mistakes.

learning - 1
via The New Yorker

If you want to know more about how to become better at what you do, I’ve shared some tips in a previous answer. There’s also my Pride & Paradev book which I wrote whilst working as a solo tester on a team.

All the best.

AMA: junior QA professional development

Mark asks…

What advice would you give to a talented junior QA who wanted to advance their career in software testing? Assume that they have no formal training in testing and have worked their way up from a junior IT role in an unrelated area.

My response…

I strongly believe you create what you will, so if someone’s willing to take control of their own testing career then they will have a mighty fine one at that.

I find there’s two key components to a career in software testing, and they’re quite opposite roles/skills so it’s worthwhile focusing on both:

  1. Developing skills in human exploratory testing: effectively finding the most important bugs fast. Whilst this skill can developed, I have found it’s mostly a mindset.
  2. Developing skills in test automation: having the ability to collaborate on and implement automated regression tests so a tester can spend more time on point 1.

In terms of resources for professional development for human testing for a tester I would recommend the following:

Books: some books cover the basics: agile testing, specification by example, pride and paradev.

Blogs: I’ve mentioned some blogs I read. There’s also the fantastic 5blogs feed as well which covers some great testing articles each day – so they can follow that.

Conferences: there’s a good site which lists every testing conference, and coming up in Australia is Australian Testing Days 2016 and the ANZTB Conference both next month and both in Melbourne, and CukeUp! Australia later in the year. Internationally I recommend GTAC and the Selenium Conference(s).

In terms of test automation skills, I am finding software developers are much more commonly interested in automated testing than I have found say 5 or 10 years ago. This has two benefits:

  1. Software developers can up-skill testers on their technical programming and automation tasks; and
  2. Software developers can take on some of this responsibility so technical testers can spend more time testing

In terms of building up test automation skills on one’s own, it’s never been easier or more accessible.

Two of the most popular testing tools of all time (Selenium/WebDriver and Cucumber/Specflow) are free and open source and available in all mainstream programming languages and platforms so there really isn’t an excuse not to learn them on one’s own.

If someone was just starting out and platform-agnostic I’d recommend starting with cucumber and watir-webdriver in ruby (because it’s so easy) and buy Cheezy’s book ‘Cucumber & Cheese‘ to learn how.

If you combine all of these together with a willing attitude it’s easy to develop great testing skills.

Finally, Nas has some good career advice:

I know I can
Be what I wanna be
If I work hard at it
I’ll be where I wanna be