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Like to Break Stuff? You May Have a Career in Software Testing

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By: rcubed

December 20, 2016

Software Testing CareerWere you the kind of kid that loved to take stuff apart to see how it worked? As an adult, are you constantly coming up with suggestions for how things could be better-designed and built? Do you have a pit bull-like tenacity for making sure that problems are acknowledged and resolved? If this sounds like you, then you may be ideally suited for a career in Software Testing. It’s a broad field and is part of the broader field of Quality Assurance. And you know what’s even better? It’s possible to break into the field of software testing without a degree or much in the way of formal training or experience. This is something I was able to pull off at the start of my own career in IT.Before I share my insider tips for getting your foot in the door to a career in software testing, let’s have a look at current demand and salary ranges for software testing professionals. According to, salaries for entry level QA testers start at $21,000/yr. for a Contingent Tester and hit $112,000/yr. for QA Automation Engineers. The median salary for a Senior QA Tester is around $65,000/yr. This is a wide range for salaries and of course includes a number of vastly different positions with different levels of required education and experience. The primary takeaway should be that demand for QA and Software Testers is growing in concert with the demand for software developers and engineers. Someone needs to test what developers produce.OK, here’s where I lay on you the well-kept secret for breaking into the field of QA and Software Testing. As with much of IT, there really aren’t any formal degree programs at major institutions of higher-learning for software testing. Many software testers migrate into their positions from other fields such as software development. In fact, a relatively new software testing position has emerged over the past several years known as Software Developer in Test or SDET. Having a background in software development is a big advantage when performing software testing. Instead of merely being a “tester” (a term I personally loathe), you are able to work directly with the Software Development team on debugging and also providing insight and recommendations on design-focused issues. It also puts SDETs more into the "White Box" category of QA testing: having insight into the inner workings of the product under test.In addition to Software Test Engineer, there are several other direct and associated positions within the field. The famed “Double-Vs” of Quality Assurance are validation and verification. Validation  deals with validating that the product meets the product requirements and Verification assures (verifies) that the delivered product functions properly, i.e. it doesn’t contain any bugs. Business Analysts work with the stakeholders and Project Manager (PM) in deriving requirements and acting as a liaison between the stakeholders and the QA team. The Business Analyst produces and maintains a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM) which drives the product testing efforts of the Software Testing team.An important component of software testing over the years is test automation. When I broke into the field back during the late 1980s I was performing QA testing on the first generation of V.32 dialup modems. A key task of our manual test procedures was to punch in the Hayes command to dial up various online services to test the performance of the modem software. We’d run the famous “Quick Brown Fox” test sequence, hang up the connection, and repeat the process for the next dialup speed. We’d do this same monotonous procedure for the entire day until our brains spilled out our ears. To add insult to injury, sometimes we’d miss a bug even after nine weeks of such torture. It wasn’t until I took it upon myself to automate the manual test procedure that things began looking up. We could then run these repetitive tasks overnight and check on the results in the morning. With new software releases coming out several times a day, it was a lifesaver!Today, there are several commercial as well as free, open source automated testing platforms. HP’s HPE Unified Functional Testing (UFT), formerly known as Quick Test Professional (QTP) is the prominent one for enterprise QA. It provides both functional and regression test automation along with a host of pretty neat features for scripting and test automation. On the mobile side, there are quite a few automated testing platforms, again both commercial and open source. A popular open source automated mobile testing platform is Calabash maintained on The ability to write test scripts for any of these platforms will put you in high-demand as a Software Tester.The first step to breaking into the field of Software Testing is to assess your current skills and experience. Take advantage of any training or certs you have. A big leg up is any computer security training and certs you have under your belt. Developing secure software is a pretty big deal right now and for obvious reasons. Install the eval version of UFT and the Calabash project for mobile app testing. The Android SDK comes bundled with a suite of debugging and profiling tools if you’d like a taste of mobile app testing. Take these platforms for a spin and begin writing some basic automated test scripts on your own. Go the extra distance and read all you can about the QA and Software Testing field. There are many excellent resources online and plenty of books on the topic offline.Then it’s a matter of seeking out entry-level Software Testing positions. This can range from getting referrals from your professional network or even angling for a promotion from within your current job if the opportunity exists. It’s going to involve some self-promotion, but if you demonstrate the desire and initiative, good things usually follow. My secret weapon in recent years to finding hidden technical opportunities is Craigslist. Before you laugh, take the time to check it out. Many employers are turning to CL to find qualified applicants. Ignore it at your own peril.As an added bonus I’ve created a custom Google Search Engine to search all of CL for QA Testing jobs along with a few other job categories. Then be sure to check out Olivia’s excellent post on putting together a winning resume and take her advice and tailor it towards the position you’re after.We realize that many of you are here on because you have a passion for all things IT and Cybersecurity-related. Passion for what you do is a wonderful thing. But we also realize that landing a good-paying job in the IT field is pretty important to many of you as well. The key to getting your dream job is to stay flexible and to keep moving forward.  Keep on learning and training!
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