Undoubtedly everyone nowadays has the idea of what software developers do in general, but not many people outside IT are aware of what the role of QAs is. Usually when someone asks me what my profession is I have to give a short explanation for the value that quality assurance brings to the final product. Moreover many people consider that you don’t need special skills to becоme a quality engineer and testing is just a matter of following detailed instructions and reporting the deviation of the expected results. Another surprisingly widespread belief is that quality assurance is easy, because it does not require technical knowledge and takes place once the development is completed. In the following rows I will refute all these misconceptions and will present what, from my point of view, are the most important qualities for establishing real QA mindset.
1. Be curious and eager to learn
One of my favourite quotes which captures the essence of the art of software testing is ‘If you are not learning something every day, you are not testing’. Every new day brings a different challenge for QA engineers and in order to cope successfully with it they have to acquire the ability of learning while working. What is more, they have to be able to find appropriate solutions and to аpply them immediately in the testing process in order to improve the effectiveness and control over it.
Natural curiosity is another indispensable part of the testers’ mindset, because it helps them to think out of the box and to find problems in areas where no one else can even think to look at. Remember how, when you were child, you used to take a new gadget to see how it works. In order to test a system effectively a similar approach is needed. If you want to discover the weaknesses of the software you have to break it first.
2. Technical skills
There is no doubt that technologies change every day which leads to the need of quality assurance engineers to be well acquainted with the latest trends. Many professionals deny the need of programming skills for testers, but for me this is a key competence which transforms a tester in a highly skilled expert. Coding knowledge helps QA engineers to identify vulnerabilities and enables them to test more thoroughly in these areas. To be able to communicate with the developers at code level really smooths the SDLC. There is also a rising requirement for automation testing since many organizations are striving to support agile. Automation helps teams to test faster substantially more code, improving the test accuracy so that QA engineers are free to focus on tests that require manual attention and their unique human skills. Aside from programming, testers need to understand the environment, the system architecture and operation system, to be able to investigate them and ask the right questions.
3. Creative and critical mind
Most of the time devoted to testing and finding bugs goes to understanding where those defects actually originated. In this case creative attitude will reduce significantly the time needed to source the underlying causes. Additionally this kind of creativity requires knowledge, intuition, and involvement throughout the process, because it is important not only to understand the problem itself, but also the potential impact that it may have on the rest of the software.
Another important aspect of being creative tester is to be able to think from customer’s perspective. Real-time users prefer learning to use a new product by trying and seeing what happens rather than reading the manual. That’s why QA engineers have to tap into users imagination and be able to plug into their head and experience. They have to consider how software can be misused and all sorts of possible issues that can be faced.
4. Time management and prioritizing skills
Understanding what needs to be done now and what can be delayed is a crucial trait that turns software tester in a successful one. Prioritizing enables to work smarter, not harder and in the same time improves efficiency. Finding the balance between importance and urgency, according deadlines and goals, is a key part in a testing strategy. Тhe first testing principle says that exhaustive testing is impossible which automatically means the whole process must be risk driven. Working simultaneously at people, process, activity and communication level makes the ability to prioritize a must for every QA.
5. Communication and team player
Although soft skills are usually referred as “additional requirements” in job listings they are as important as technical skills for quality assurance engineers because they define the approach towards the whole working process. Since testers have to interact with business stakeholders, analysts developers, administrators and teams, which are sometimes remotely located it is vital to be able to establish effective communication and to be a team player. Whether it is a bug to report, explanation of a blocking issue or clarification on an ambiguous requirement QAs needs to write and speak clearly expressing their thoughts and ideas in appropriate manner. Looking for other people’s mistakes and bringing them to light is not easy to do. For instance when you raise a bug you have to explain it in diplomatic and polite way so that developer doesn’t feel like you are blaming him for the root cause. In order to get things done in a reasonable timeframe testers also need to be a good negotiators dealing successfully with a bit of resistance at times.
To sum up I would say that Quality assurance people serve as proxies toward the software development matrix. From my professional experience at a custom software development company I can tell that QAs understand what users need, help programmers to build what is necessary and ensure the quality of the final product. I hope after reading this article there is no shadow of doubt that QAs require a special kind of profile and they are integral part of every development team. However if you still have any questions or just want to share your personal experience feel free to add a comment below.