Becoming a software tester is many people’s idea of a dream job. But there’s more to it than sitting around at a computer all day. Well, okay, you will be sitting around at a computer all day, but you won’t be procrastinating. You’ll be tasked with verifying a computer system/program to ensure it meets a select criteria. Your work will be scrutinised and reviewed and so high levels of accuracy and performance is a must.
If you’re starting out in software testing, the typical career path is as so: test executor, test designer, senior tester, technical tester, test leader/ manager. Different organisations call these different roles different things. But that’s the general path. In order to advance yours, you need to advance yourself. That means becoming better. Better at your job and better at standing out. This is achieved by focusing on your skills.
Consider this: you could be the greatest software bug finder in the world, but if you regularly turn up to work late, you won’t fit the organisation. You could show great proficiency for designing simple test cases, but if your attitude stinks, you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons. Being a good software tester is about more than being good at software testing. It’s just as much about being a good professional.
What you need is good analytical skills, communication skills, organisational skills and a good attitude and passion for what you do. These are the non-technical skills required to advance your career. They are in fact essential for any career.
Identifying the non-technical skills you could work on is the first step. Communication skills can be learnt, so too can analytical skills. Organisational skills can take some time because they often require breaking routine and bad habits. Stick with it and try to become a better you; a version of you that you yourself would work with.
Technical skills (the good stuff)
With your bases (non-technical skills) covered, it’s time we move onto the technical skills you need to do your job. Chances are, you may already have a BTech/ B.E., MCA, BCA, or BSc in computer science. They’re incredible qualifications to have, however, may not necessarily help you to land your dream job due to covering much higher-level content than is required to be able to test software. In addition, their value in the office fades over time, which means you need to do more to develop yourself.
If you’re a current or aspiring software tester or designer, a relevant certification to achieve for the next stage of your career is the BCS ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL). The accredited CTFL course is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills in the application and analysis of the basic software testing concepts.
The CTFL is as much relevant to those that do not have a computer science degree too. It is a nationally-recognised certification evidencing that its holders possess the relevant knowledge and skills in software testing, therefore, providing a good stepping stone for those wishing to enter this profession.
If you are an experienced or senior tester, then the BCS Software Testing Intermediate Level certification would enable you to certify your status and progress further within the software testing domain in your organisation. This certification is the next level of competency in software testing after the CTFL. The Intermediate Level certification has a more practical approach, it equips candidates with proven analytical abilities and enables them to gain knowledge and practical skills in the key topics required for practising in a software testing discipline.
Achieving the Intermediate Level certification will highly likely make you more qualified than most other testers working in similar roles as you. This could give you an edge when advancing your career.
Do not neglect the prospect of becoming a test manager. This can be a very well-paid position and is what many testers work towards. In addition to possessing a good software testing skills, employers often expect candidates to demonstrate additional specialism areas for such roles. Therefore, those of you who want to progress into management should consider expanding their specialism knowledge in the following areas: PRINCE2® (Project Management), AgilePM® (Agile Project Management) and/or ITIL® (IT Service Management). Having at least a Foundation-level certification in these areas will drastically improve your application for a more senior role and help you pitch yourself for promotion.
Lastly, always look for opportunities to learn at work. If you are offered the opportunity to attend webinars and events, then go. If you get given the opportunity to take NVQs or other relevant qualifications, take them. Listen to your boss, listen to your peers, and always seek answers to what you don’t know to become informed and develop yourself further.
Advancing your software testing career is a challenge, but not an impossible one.