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How to become a software tester

Our very own QA specialist Wojciech Pietka writes…

On the internet, you can find plenty of articles, posts, and various guides attempting to answer this question to a greater or lesser extent. Are they helpful? I don’t know. I don’t know because there is no single, correct recipe for becoming a software tester. It all depends on the individual and where they’re starting from – their knowledge and predispositions.

One could say that in today’s job market, it is easier and more challenging than ever. Why? Not too long ago, candidates for a specific position had strictly defined requirements – they had to graduate from a school with a specific profile, gain practical experience, or even complete specific studies. Then they would be accepted into a suitable job, where they would work until retirement. But as we know, things are different today. The job market is dynamic. Each year, there is a high demand for a large number of workers to fill gaps in various industries. And here lies the opportunity.

In this text, I don’t want to play the role of a testing guru or sprinkle golden advice out of thin air. Every person is different, so I will try to present a few facts based on my own experiences. I hope this text will pique your interest, but even more so, I hope it helps you achieve your goal of getting a job as a software tester.

Where to start?

Begin by summarizing what you know about testing. Since you’ve found yourself here, it means that the topic has interested you to some extent, and you at least know that such a profession exists. When I started, I had no idea about it, and yet I managed to grasp it.

Try to take an interest in the subject and stay updated. I particularly recommend various online forums, Facebook groups, or interesting YouTube channels dedicated to testing. Initially, you can be a passive observer (not for too long, though!). Familiarize yourself with the topic so that you can determine whether you see yourself as a tester and whether it is the right profession for you. If you have trouble finding groups, links, etc., I provided everything at the end of the text.

First steps

Once you’ve made a decision and set your goal, you need to take the first step to achieve it. In this case, it’s called the “ISTQB Foundation Level Syllabus,” and there is no force in the world that can help you skip this step. The syllabus contains all the necessary information you need to learn, understand, and remember – it will come in handy during every job interview. Moreover, if you master the knowledge contained therein, you can confidently aim for the ISTQB certification, which, combined with English language proficiency, can become your ticket to employment in a very short time. You can easily find the syllabus online, and if you want more real-life examples, I recommend the book ” The Art of Software Testing” (Third Edition) by Glenford J. Myers.

Experience – how to gain it?

Once we know a thing or two about testing, have knowledge from the ISTQB Syllabus (and maybe even obtained the coveted certification) and have researched the job market, we can start sending out our CVs. I won’t hide that this is where the challenges may arise… Yes, we have the necessary knowledge, and learned the rules and definitions, but we lack practical experience because we haven’t had a chance to gain it yet, and to gain experience, we need practice. How do we break this vicious cycle? The answer is simple: practice, practice, and practice again. You must immerse yourself in the role of a freelance or voluntary tester, with the reward being the acquisition of a good job. Websites, mobile applications, and all sorts of other software are not free from errors. Use your knowledge and put it into practice. Every day, you surely use many different applications, downloading and running them on your phone. You browse dozens of websites. Why not try to find bugs there?

Pro-tip #1: Install applications that are still in alpha or beta versions. Look for websites of small companies where you can immediately see that they skimped on a well-designed site. Examine them on various devices, browsers, systems, and start reporting bugs in the simplest text editor you have at hand (it doesn’t have to be the simplest, and in fact, you can even write it in a notebook if you want 😉). If you come across a more complex website, try to write your first test case. When it comes to a job interview, no one will be able to accuse you of not doing anything to gain experience.

Furthermore, if you want to have evidence of practice in your CV, I recommend websites where sometimes, for free or even with a symbolic (but always present) compensation, you can get applications to test. Such initiatives will be noticed during a job interview 🙂

We’re just chit-chatting…

As everyone knows, to get a job, you need to send out your CV and unfortunately leave home for a stressful job interview. Ha! But first, someone from the company has to respond to that CV. I won’t go into detail here about how to write a good CV for a tester because there’s no specific recipe for that either. But if you’re interested, dear reader, don’t hesitate to write to us – we’ll try to help you. How did it look in my case? I wrote my CV in Polish and English, then it was reviewed by my friends who have been in the industry for years. Since then, for a long, long time, every day consisted of browsing job offers and sending my PDF wherever I saw a glimmer of hope for success. I did it with the determination of a maniac, using my smartphone and a few helpful applications. Where to look? sometimes you can try Facebook groups and sites with work for IT like (I found my current job here).

However, if you’re reading this text and you still don’t have an account on LinkedIn and GoldenLine, then you must immediately (after reading the text to the end) get to it. In my case, LinkedIn was particularly helpful, becoming my online identifier as a tester. For those who are completely new to the topic, I’ll just say that it’s like Facebook for professionals, where you also try to present yourself in the best possible light, make connections, and stand out among others – in this case, among recruiters, of which there are plenty there.

If you want to see what a top-level profile looks like, you can check it out here:

Job or practice?

One might think that being well-prepared, we should easily find a job. Unfortunately, as it goes in life, some succeed while others, as they say, have a tough time – I know it from personal experience. Some find a job right away, and factors such as higher education (preferably technical), good knowledge of the English language, or possessing an ISTQB certificate may contribute to their success during a job interview. Of course, luck may also play a role. But what if luck doesn’t smile upon us, and we keep searching for an IT job with good remuneration without success?

In such a situation, I chose the option of an unpaid internship in one of the Krakow-based startups. In this case, the entry threshold will be easier to overcome, and the individuals conducting the interview won’t be as demanding as a manager of an advanced team in a corporation. I understand that not everyone can afford this due to their current job, raising children, or other responsibilities. But if I could combine night shift work with on-site internships during the day, I’m sure you can do it too. I believe in you!

Pro-tip #2: Don’t forget that sometimes you need to get some sleep 😉

First job – what’s next?

Okay, we did it. We finally landed our first job, whether in a larger or smaller company. Although working as a tester is generally not as demanding compared to some other professions (I experienced it firsthand), we must remember that working in IT means never resting on our laurels. Aside from the fact that technology develops at a rapid pace, with new things emerging all the time that we need to keep up with, if we want to (let’s face it) earn more money and increase our value in the job market, we must continually invest in ourselves. From being a manual tester, it’s not that far to become an automation tester. All you need to do is take the right courses, learn the basics of programming, familiarize yourself with the appropriate tools, and focus on continually deepening your knowledge.

Or perhaps you don’t want to automate at all? Maybe you prefer to become a project manager or a scrum master? The world of IT is open to you since you’re already in the industry. The important thing is not to stop. For example, if a recruiter asks you what you’ve been doing for the past three years, and you tell them that, in the end, you were just clicking on websites, believe me, it won’t look good… But I’ll write about that in my next post titled “How to prepare for a job interview for a tester position?”

In conclusion, I’ll add perseverance in pursuing your goal and good luck!

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