A big black trunk of experience

New Year 2017 has arrived and well…I know, I know it’s already 11th, but last month was 100% given to my family and I regret nothing! I am not gonna share my New Year’s resolutions with You (dog ate the list, really!). Instead, before we move to today’s part of QA land adventures, I would like to share my 2017 goals.

  1. Have a post for each of 52 weeks at the end of 2017.
  2. Devote more time to learning the hard tech – I wanna feel good about my technical background for testing.
  3. Attend at least two meetups/community gathering each month.
  4. Go to at least 4 conferences ( QA, Agile)
  5. Give at least two presentations/ speeches.

At the end of 2017 there will either be a happy victory dance or public bashing, we will see…

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And now back to QA land and it’s mysteries…

Some time ago I came a cross an article from Gem Hill about tester origin stories. It got me thinking about were do testers come from? Do they come mostly from tech uni as programmers do? What did they do before they wrote a first test case?

Everyone has a path behind them – that is not a new thought. In quality assurance though, this has a new meaning. Lately there has been a survey conducted within QA environment in Poland – over 160 people answered some questions about their carriers in software testing, beginnings and experiences. Out of those people almost half did not come from IT or IT-related educational background. (Proudly I can say that I was of the three girls behind that survey, other two being my colleagues Basia and Paula, both of them also from PGS Software).

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That is consistent with what Rosie Hamilton found out in her study in May 2016. (You can read more at her really awesome blog.

“(…) Two out of every three testers (66.66%) had not studied computing or a computer related subject. Recently in the last couple of years it looks like the requirement for testers to have studied computing has relaxed and computer knowledge is no longer a barrier to entering the Software Testing industry.”

This shows that more and more of us wander in QA land from other places, often from places not related to IT at all. In the same study people were wrote that they studied (and sometimes worked in) fields as interesting as: Geo-information, marketing and management, mathematics, philology, technical physics, pedagogy, EMS paramedics or psychology. As you can see that is a pretty wide range of backgrounds. I’d even say that is amazing!

Rosie looked at work experiences in groups of people divided by how long have they been working as testers an found something:

“It appears that as the years have gone by, fewer testers have entered testing with no previous work experience. Only 20.83% of testers with less than 2 years experience had entered testing straight from education without holding a previous job. In the 10 – 20 year experience group, 31.11% had entered testing without holding a previous job.”

There were also findings about testers education: “The most experienced testers had all studied computing, however in the group of the newest testers (less than 2 years experience) two out of every three testers (66.66%) had not studied computing or a computer related subject.”

This Polish study confirmed it – in group of testers with over 4 years of testing experience almost everyone had IT education, from 2 to 4 years – the results were divided into nearly even parts, while tester with less than 2 years experience only one out of four had IT related education.

What I can add, from my talks with testers and from what I’ve read on community sites – most of people who work as testers and do not have IT-related education, used to work a few years in a variety of non-IT companies before changing their career to Quality Assurance.

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These are the data, but what do they mean and why am I writing about this?

For me those data shows that a lot of us testers came to the QA land from somewhere else, carrying experiences from our past jobs with us. Of course, that usually means that those who come here without the IT-related education have to work harder and learn quicker to get our technical skills to reach the desired level. Software testing however is a job, as most jobs in IT, that will always require for you to learn and improve your skills. That means that on one hand – there will always be something new that you could/should learn  (lots of hard work ahead) and on the other hand… There will always be something new that you could/should learn! 😉 (Loads of new, exciting, interesting things ahead).

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Also, there is an additional benefit in being a tester when you carry that big black trunk of your past work experiences with you – in this job almost everything you’ve ever been through (professionally or otherwise) can come in handy one day. Maybe you’ll test system or application dedicated for an industry you used to work in, or maybe you’ll have to test language version (as you are one person who knows that language) or you’ll come up with a brilliant idea triggered by remembering that one time in your job as an accountant were you had to deal with X or Y. Maybe you’ll have to use those interpersonal skills you improved in call-center once or you’ll think of a good test-case by comparing testing to doing experiment as a lab assistant. One of the most experienced testers  (15+ years) I know once told me: “I am constantly amazed by the backgrounds that our tester have and the value that comes from them).

Being new in QA-land, when you don’t have the solid tech knowledge given by tech education can be sometimes scary, but you should never forget the importance and value of the things you’ve learned and experienced so far. Learn the tech, but while at it, carry the big black trunk of experience with pride. Inside it, there probably is a lot things that will help you to become a better tester and a few that might just save the day once or twice 😉

 

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