The days of being able to get a job as a “manual tester” are no more. According to a panel of QA recruiters at a recent Denver SQuAD meeting, employers are looking for testers who have highly technical skills and specialize in a particular discipline such as security, performance or automation implementation. The panel, which included Bev Berry of Modis, Elias Cobb of Gunther Douglas and Samantha Schreiner of ProtoTest, unanimously agreed that the role of the tester is changing and that employers are expecting candidates who have at least some scripting experience or experience with some of the more popular automation tools, now including the open source tool, Selenium.
The advent of Agile development, of course, plays a part in creating the demand for more technical skills as testers are expected to work side-by-side with the development team, and those testers need to be able to understand code.
This message seemed to confirm much of what James Whittaker had to say at his somewhat controversial keynote at StarWest, “All That Testing is Getting in the Way of Quality.” Eric Jacobson did a great job of summarizing the keynote in his blog, and notes a common theme: “Programmers are getting better at testing, and testers are not getting better at programming.”
Jacobson’s blog also points out suggestions from Whittaker on tester survival that confirm what the recruiters were saying: “Get a specialty and become an expert in some niche of testing (e.g., Security, Internationalization, Accessibility, Privacy), or learn how to code.”
Scott Barber weighed in on the discussion with his own blog post, in which he said: “The state of the testing practice is not evolving nearly as quickly as development, business or products containing or depending on software.”
Should testers be concerned? Certainly Whittaker thinks so. He said to his audience of testers, “You are under threat more than you’ve ever been under threat before.” His keynote underscored the idea that testers must stop justifying the need for traditional testing and get busy learning how to contribute to the code, which he said was “the only artifact that anyone cares about.”
Barber answers the question of whether a tester should be concerned this way: “Only if they are afraid of change, have stagnated in their own professional development, and/or believe what they are doing today ‘is right and will continue to be right’ for at least as long as they will be testers.”
The recruiters, too, advise the testers to be prepared to grow and change. Taking an active part in professional development will make a difference. With all the open source tools available, all testers have the opportunity to learn new technologies, and doing so shows an interest and aptitude.
What if you don’t have the interest or aptitude? The recruiters say that there are growing needs for business analysts (or Product Owners for those who practice Scrum). Technical writing is also a possible career path for testers who are not interested in coding.
But let’s face it. Whether you are a programmer, a tester, a business analyst or a technical writer, if you work with software, things change, and they change at a fast pace. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Be part of it.
Related articles on SSQ:
Is automated testing replacing the software tester?
Are coding or testing skills more important in the corporate world?
Software development: Benefits of pairing programmers with non-programmers