In this day and age, hardly anyone needs proof that software testing is crucial to its success. If you are still unconvinced, however, here is an example: in 2015, a military airbus A400M had a fatal crash that was later discovered to have been caused by a programming fault. Could it have been prevented with more extensive testing? The experts seem to think so.
Although not all bugs have such tragic consequences, trying to save money on testing often results in the maintenance costs skyrocketing later on. And it seems that more and more software development companies – in Poland and abroad – are aware of that, as the demand for both manual and automation QA testers is growing steadily. So much, that according to the 2019 research by MarketsandMarkets, in the next five years the global automation testing market is expected to double its value, showing an 18% annual growth.
Finances are one thing, but there seems to be more to testing than that. In 2018, a QA analyst was voted the second happiest profession according to the Careerbliss ranking. And since the job of a tester seems to be satisfying, well-paid, and in demand, it’s no wonder that more and more people are considering it as a career choice. But with that inevitably comes a question – what do I need to be a successful QA tester?
As our software house in Poznań hires some truly experienced and passionate QA specialists, we asked them what traits and skills they find the most important in their daily work. With their help, we have prepared a list of 11 qualities that every tester should possess – read it and find out if you have what it takes.
The question that lies at the heart of QA testing is “What happens if…?”. What happens if I put numerals in the “First name” field or if I press Back right after sending my form? A good QA tester cannot just assume that a feature works as intended, as that is the first step to miss a potential problem. They should be able to look at software from many different angles and test scenarios that no one else would even think of.
- Strong communication skills
Both testers’ and developers’ time is precious – it would be a waste to spend it on endless back-and-forth communication. That is why QA specialists need to be able to report their findings and give feedback in a clear and understandable manner. They should also know how to choose the right language and tone of voice depending on their reader – so that both technical and non-technical people can understand them. After all, if a tester cannot write down steps to replicate a bug, a developer will not be able to fix it.
- Quality-oriented approach
Some say that a tester’s job is all about trying to break the software. While that approach is not entirely wrong, there is much more to testing than trying to find faults in the work of developers. A dedicated QA specialist brings a quality-obsessed mindset to work and remembers that their ultimate goal is to refine the software into a product of the highest standard.
A great software tester is aware of the ever-approaching deadlines and has no trouble deciding which tasks they should complete first. They can quickly identify the most commonly used areas and features of the software and use that knowledge to decide on the essential tests. They should also be able to execute them according to their priority level. And let’s not forget all the project-related documentation, artifacts, and reports – a QA specialist needs to have the organization skills to deliver them on time.
- Attention to detail
Not all bugs are obvious, and sometimes the smallest errors can have massive consequences. Example? In 1998 a NASA’s orbit probe worth over 600 million dollars disintegrated in space because of… wrong time units in the ground computer’s software. That’s why a QA tester should be thorough enough to catch even the tiniest problems – even if they are hidden where nobody else would look. Double- or even triple-checking everything is a necessary habit to learn.
- End-user perspective
Understanding your customer is crucial, and not just for product owners or designers. As a QA tester, you often have to ask yourself: Who is going to be using this software? Why? How old are they? Are they technical or non-technical people? Only adapting the end-user perspective will allow you to predict how the final product might be used and test these scenarios for any potential problems.
- Technical knowledge and skills
While some might think this should only apply to automation testers, we believe otherwise. Although technical expertise and coding skills are essential when you have to decide which tests should be automated (and execute them), there are many other situations where specialized knowledge comes in handy. For example, it might help you decide which testing tools should be used for the particular application. Understanding the code can also make it easier to identify a bug or to better understand the limitations of the software.
- Lifelong-learner mindset
The whole IT sector is constantly changing, and quality assurance is no exception here. New technologies, automation tools, or scripting languages emerge right as you are reading this article, and a QA tester needs to be able to keep up with them. They should always be on a lookout for a new book, online tutorial, QA conference, or a blog entry that will help them hone their skills and improve their knowledge.
- Team player attitude
Cooperation always yields the best results – and software development is no exception. Good testers remember that they share a common goal with developers – even if they are a constant source of bugs! – and that goal is to deliver the best product possible. They can appreciate and support their team and are willing to learn from them – but they are also not afraid to ask questions or challenge the solutions of others.
- Analytical thinking
In the current information overflow era, this is a skill everyone should possess – but it is particularly useful for testers. It can help them comprehend the customer’s expectations and feedback and use it to define the right testing strategy. It’s also necessary for root cause analysis, requirement analysis, or for understanding the data collected from tests and analyzing it for specific behavior of the software.
- Patience and perseverance
Nobody likes dealing with bugs – but that’s what a large part of a QA tester’s work is all about. They need to be constantly vigilant and ready to come up with new approaches and fresh angles on the application. Under such constant pressure, it might be easy to lose focus, get frustrated, or run out of creative juices – but the best testers need to be prepared to push through those obstacles and emerge victorious.
Do you feel that you have what it takes to make it in the QA world, or does the list seem intimidating? Even if it does, don’t worry – most of these skills can be learned with enough practice and diligence. What is important to remember is that testing is not only about hard skills – it requires just as much technical knowledge as it does curiosity and creativity. Fortunately, according to our QA specialists, the job can be as rewarding as it is challenging.