More and more we are conducting our lives digitally.  The minutiae which once required face-to-face contact … Banking, holidaying, dating, food ordering…are now held in the palm of our hands via an app on our smartphone.

Digital solutions have never been more needed or used – particularly over the last 18 months.  The increase in demand for software and our reliance on it goes hand in hand with the need for efficiency, ease of use and viability.

Some software is better than others…more intuitive, with fewer glitches, bugs or crashes.

Behind the scenes are a team of IT professionals making sure that the apps and software we use are fit for purpose…functional, reliable, and user friendly.

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This week our CV Essentials blog focuses on QA Testers.  Quality assurance (QA) is a system of testing which guarantees that the customer is given high-quality software free of critical errors.  No piece of software is ever completely bug free. Unfortunately, they are a fact of life in software development.

A QA tester works alongside the development team to release the highest quality product possible.  Every company, big and small, uses QA testing.

QA Tester jobs are high demand, low supply, and predicted to become more so as the tech industry continues to grow. This is a wonderful melting pot of positives for prospective QA testers. By becoming a QA tester you’ll have a wide range of interesting companies and technologies to choose to work with.

So how do you get into QA testing?  What skills and experience should you have on your CV, and what are the tools a QA tester needs to have in their arsenal to ensure a long, varied, and challenging career?

Read on for more.

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Education.

Due to the technical nature of the role, it is common for QA testers to have a degree in Computer Science or IT.  However, the role is open to graduates from other disciplines.  Graduates can forge a career in QA testing following study in Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Engineering.

The role of a QA tester is complex and technical. It’s important that QA analysts have a deep understanding of the tools they are using to test the software; something which usually requires formal education.  For example, among other things, a QA Tester will need to know about data structures, artificial intelligence and assembly languages.

However, there are less formal routes open to those seeking a career in QA testing.  For example, should you be looking for a career move, the tech field is becoming less strict…even Google no longer requires a bachelor’s degree for their programmers.

In this instance, an online study that teaches computer software, preferably one which gives you a strong portfolio to demonstrate your knowledge of computer systems, will often be enough to make you an attractive candidate.

QA analysts don’t need complete mastery of programming languages – they are not programmers (though some do transition into a development role later in their career).  However, due to the nature of the role, they do need to understand how each one works to be able to test it thoroughly.

Further Accreditation.

There are several industry-recognised qualifications and certifications that a QA tester could have on their CV.

Industry standard  QA certification helps with strategic thinking and long-term sustainability across the industry.

When choosing your certification goals, it is important to match your experience with the level of the QA course.

Here are a few of the possibilities.

Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST)

This certification demonstrates a foundation level understanding of QA testing and technical features in software for IT.   It also recognises that the individual can use the techniques learned in the course itself. It is good QA training for the beginner.

Certified Test Engineer (CSTE)

This certification is for those who are newer to the industry and looking to boost their CV and experience.

Having a CSTE certification gives affiliations with a professional association, good career advancement, and demonstrates the ability to advise management.

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Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)

This certificate is more advanced than the CSTE.  It covers both quality control and quality assurance. The course is taken once someone has attained their CSTE and moved along in their QA roles.  This qualification requires a degree and a minimum of 2 year’s experience in the field.

Certified manager of software quality (CMSQ)

Having this certification on your CV shows that you are professionally competent with the principles, skills, and abilities of software QA and that you have the management skills to lead a QA team.

ISTQB

This certification is one of the most widely accepted across the globe and is great to have on your CV.

The International Software Testing Board is an internationally recognised software testing certification board.

ISTQB Certified Tester is a standardised qualification for software testers and is offered by the ISTQB.  Since its 2002 inception, over 1 million ISTQB exams have been delivered and over 721,000 certifications issued.

There are gradations of qualification available.  The current ISTQB Foundation Level certification is suitable for anyone who needs to demonstrate practical knowledge of the fundamental concepts of software testing. For example, testers, test analysts, test engineers, test consultants, test managers, user acceptance testers, and software developers.

 It is also suitable for individuals who need a basic understanding of software testing including project managers, quality managers, software development managers, business analysts, IT directors, and management consultants.

The different Advanced Level exams are more practical and require deeper knowledge in special areas.

The Foundational certification has no prerequisites for entry, other than a suggested 6 months of practical experience. Advanced requires the Foundational level certification as well as practical experience.  The Expert level requires Advanced certification and further expert-level modules. It also suggests seven years of practical experience.

Certification is valid for life (Foundation Level and Advanced Level), and there is no requirement for recertification.

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Career Path.

There is no one route to becoming a successful QA Tester.  Many QA professionals start out as interns, sacrificing salary for valuable commercial experience.  Others will begin as junior QA team members, working under the guidance of a more experienced member of the QA team.

In a junior role, it is likely that your CV will document responsibility for test case execution, bug checks, and reporting.  In later roles, you may start to work more independently, without the need for direct and structured supervision.

After executing tests hundreds of times and becoming more familiar with the various testing tools and techniques at your disposal, the junior QA will notice trends about where applications tend to fail.  You will then come to develop a deeper understanding of product development. It is at this stage that your CV may begin to list QA Analyst roles, in which you will assume full responsibility of a QA analyst.  These include planning and executing test cases, documenting bugs and errors, and reporting these back to the other members of the QA team and the developers themselves.

Skills and experience.

The skills needed to be a QA tester go beyond just the basic knowledge of QA.  To have a top-class QA tester CV, you need to be able to demonstrate many technical and non-technical skills.

The Technical skills needed to be a QA Tester.

An understanding of software

A QA tester does not need to be a master programmer; however, they do need some knowledge of software development. As a tester, understanding how software works (and how it’s developed) gives you a significant advantage in finding and fixing bugs.

An understanding of the basics will help with many tasks, such as scripting automated tests. It will also allow you to communicate with the software developers about the product if you are able to speak their language.

Over recent years, there has been a blurring of the lines between the role of QA tester and developer.  Google for example enables consistency by expecting their QAs to also be developers and vice versa. Google expects their developers to test their piece of code, while testers provide them with the necessary infrastructure in order to do this.

Test management tools

Whether your work is about capturing requirements, designing test cases, test execution reports or informing other team members about the testing progress, knowledge of test management tools is vital.  These come in a variety of forms, paid, free or open-source.  Each has strengths and weaknesses depending on the job at hand, but they are a great resource to help you find and manage the bugs that matter so you can focus on building better software and a better software development process.

Selenium

One of the most popular Test Management Tools is Selenium.  This crops up a lot in the QA Tester job descriptions we receive at Ignite HQ.   Selenium is a free browser testing software that can be used across many browsers and platforms.  Selenium has full support of multiple programming languages including Java, Python, C#, Ruby, and Php. It is usable in both iPhone and Android testing and can simulate key presses and other keyboard actions.

Selenium is popular due to its ease of use. When it was first introduced it overtook many of the testing techniques already out there.  It has since become the go-to web automation testing tool.

Its popularity means that most recruiters and hiring managers look for Selenium on a QA Tester CV.  It is something of a QA staple skill; at some stage, most QA and IT companies will use Selenium when they need to automate their web testing.

Mobile and web technologies

A QA Tester CV must demonstrate an understanding of web and mobile technologies. This is to demonstrate comfort with build, scalability and to apply a suitable course of action for its testing.  QA Testers should keep up to date with web and mobile technology advancements as this will guide their work in delivering effective QA solutions.

Database / SQL knowledge

Software systems have a large amount of data in the background.  This data will be stored in any number of Databases, such as Oracle, MySQL, etc in the backend.  In the work of a QA Tester, there will be times when that data needs to be validated.  When this is the case, you will have to use SQL queries to check whether proper data is stored in the backend databases.

The ‘Soft Skills’ needed to be a QA tester.

Communication and reporting

A key element of the QA tester role is reporting.  A QA tester needs to have excellent written and oral communication skills.  A QA tester must be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders.  They need to update the status of the project to the clients, inform requirements to the team, communicate issues to the developers, translate requirement documents to test cases, and prepare reports for management.

Good communication also demonstrates comprehension of the task which in turn helps in conveying insights and giving technical and non-technical feedback logically and rationally.

The ability to report the exact status of the test project and application under test to stakeholders is crucial.  It gives better transparency regarding test cases executed, bugs encountered, and release timelines to the top management which allows them to make the right decisions at the right time.

Creativity and intellectual curiosity

QA testing is not a routine or mundane task.  It is a process that requires creative and intellectual thinking.  Using creativity and intellectual insights, testers can explore different test scenarios, identify defect probabilities and seek possible solutions for delivering effective product quality.

Test planning and Documentation

This is an essential skill for every QA tester.   These processes help to identify the right requirements and in taking the appropriate steps.  It also helps track the changes in requirements, check test processes, and trace deviations. It also helps in the reporting and logging of work.  A well-documented test process can help both individual testers and enterprises to allocate the right budget and resources to a project.

Project Management

Showing some understanding of project management processes will instill problem-solving ability in testers and prepare them to be accountable and answerable for their work to stakeholders and developers.  It also encourages QA testers to think about the end-to-end lifecycle of the process.

Customer Support

Modern-day test projects demand testers to provide customer support and think from the user’s perspective.  A QA tester is no longer a back-of-house role; QA testers are an integral part of the success of the project.  A quality QA tester CV should be able to demonstrate examples of where they have been available to respond to and support customer requirements.

Rational analysis and logical thinking

Applying rational analysis and logic during the testing process helps understand the complexities, identify errors, assess unfamiliar behaviours of the software, and test them accordingly.  Good analysis and reasoning will help validate applications against different scenarios, examine its elements and workflows against pre-defined standards. In so doing, a solid QA tester can assess relevant information, raise questions, and identify strengths and weaknesses without bias.

Takeaways…

  • QA analyst jobs are in high demand, low supply, and predicted to become more in demand as the tech industry continues to grow. This is a wonderful cocktail of positives for prospective QA analysts.
  • There will be many exciting and challenging companies and technologies to choose from!
  • Due to the technical nature of the role, a formal education in Computer Science or a similar discipline is favoured by employers.
  • Additional qualifications are necessary. It demonstrates professional growth and knowledge but is also essential for maintaining consistent quality in the industry.  When choosing the qualifications that are right for you, research the course pre-requisites and make sure these align with your commercial experience.
  • A QA tester may start out in junior roles needing direct support and supervision. As you become more experienced, you will then come to work more independently
  • The testing market is gradually shifting towards a unified role of a testing professional that can automate, develop testing tools, and even write production code when necessary.
  • A QA tester requires a combination of technical and soft skills to perform effectively. This duality of ability allows a QA tester to fulfill the whole 360 requirements of the role.

Are you a QA tester looking for your next opportunity? What skills do you have on your QA Tester CV? We would love to hear about them.  Do you agree with our essentials list, or have we missed something?

We have a number of QA tester jobs at the moment. Our clients range from disruptive startups to household names; leaders in their field.

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About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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