People often ask what makes a good QA engineer. What skills do you need to succeed in QA testing, and how do you get started? If you’re already in QA, how do you measure your success? Read on for a list of some of the essential skills you need to be a good software tester, as well as advice on measuring your success as a QA Engineer or Analyst.
There’s no way around it — being detail-oriented is the number one skill you need to excel in the world of QA. Of course, being detail-oriented can be an asset in any type of career. But it’s absolutely essential for anyone in QA. When testing an app or website, a QA tester needs to be able to spot not only glaring errors, but anything and everything that isn’t perfect.
For example, most people will notice when an app crashes after logging in. But can you find a less obvious way of using the app that causes it to crash? Will you notice when a field that accepts a large amount of text isn’t expandable, or when it’s difficult for a user to scroll a page on iPad in landscape mode? Anyone in a QA career needs to sweat the details, big time.
On one hand, being detail-oriented (at least to the degree that QA requires) isn’t always something that can be learned. If your personality is more “big picture” and less minutiae-focused, QA might not be your first choice. But on the flip side, if you’re a naturally detail-oriented person, you have the potential to rock any type of software testing — without needing 10 years of experience or a Bachelor’s in Computer Science.
Some people are surprised to learn that creativity is a major asset in the QA field. After hearing about how detail-oriented a QA engineer has to be, many assume that creativity is the opposite. Luckily, this isn’t the case!
Being creative actually helps in being detail-oriented, because it enables you to think outside of the box. When assessing different ways a person might use the app or service that you’re testing, creativity is worth its weight in gold.
Creativity and being detail-oriented are also assets in writing test cases. In QA, it’s usually not enough to say “I was able to sign in successfully, so that feature works.” QA Managers and clients will want to know that it was tested with both free and premium users, and from an admin account as well as guest. The bigger your imagination is, the better when it comes to QA testing.
QA has to communicate with all kinds of roles and people, from CEOs to Project Managers, Designers, Customer Success, and Engineers. And in tech, egos can be delicate! Knowing how, what, and when to communicate with each role is just as important as the testing itself.
The ins and outs of good QA communication could take up a whole book. However, it’s helpful to know early on that communication is the heart of a successful QA career. It can be refined and improved as you progress in your career. But if you’re already a strong communicator, you have a leg up even before you get formal training.
QA needs to know when it’s appropriate to simply file a bug ticket, and when to take it a step further and alert others immediately. Testers are also expected to know how to explain a bug or potential improvement in both highly technical language as well as plain English (in English-speaking companies, that is!). This is important so that every member of the team, from Engineering to Sales, can understand what the issue is and how it affects the product.
A good QA engineer should be respectful and kind (while still emphasizing severity) when reporting bugs to Developers/Engineers. They created the software, so it’s only natural that some might be inclined to feel defensive when being confronted with a problem in their code. It’s important to remember that we’re not here to blame or judge them. After all, QA testers and developers are on the same team, working to make a product or service as great as possible. (Learn more in our article on 5 Reasons Developers Shouldn’t Be Blamed for Bugs.)
It’s also important for testers to be able to collaborate with each other – especially in the case of a large team or job sharing.
Similar to having an eye for details, being organized and great at documenting is a must for a good QA tester. Throughout the Agile testing process, QA has to write and keep track of dozens (if not hundreds!) of bug tickets. It’s beneficial to understand going into it that QA requires strong organizational skills, and being savvy at documentation. (For more details, see our article on Best Practices for Reporting Bugs.)
Everyone should have the right to a life outside of work. So if your main interest in getting into QA is the salary, that’s okay. But there are some motivations that can hinder success as a QA engineer, including:
- Treating QA as a stepping stone to becoming a developer. No one should be prevented from switching careers. So if you end up deciding that you’d rather be a developer than a tester, go for it! However, if you know at the beginning that this is your goal, it’s best to work towards it directly. If you aren’t taking QA seriously, colleagues will usually be able to tell. Doing this can also be difficult for your future career. Many people are (unfairly or not) doubtful of QA testers that try to break into development.
- Assuming QA is an easy, stress-free job. QA testing can get repetitive. Very repetitive. When it’s your 50th round of regression testing on the same app, you might be ready to throw your phone into the ocean. A good QA tester needs to remember that the motivation is finding bugs and user experience issues — even if that means doing a lot of rote work to get there. It’s also not uncommon for other roles to underestimate the importance of QA. (Learn more about how to cope with this in our article on How to Deal with Negative Perceptions of QA.)
How to Measure Success
For those of you already working in QA, here are some tips on measuring your success:
- Bugs found. If you’re finding lots of bugs in an app or website, you’re likely doing a pretty thorough job.
- Praise from developers and project managers. No one looks good if bugs make it to the live version. If you’re finding bugs that are above and beyond expectations, you’ll often get positive feedback.
- Customer reviews. If the app you tested has positive reviews in the App or Play store, that’s one of many signs of good QA. (Note: the reverse isn’t necessarily true. For example, apps can have bad reviews because of planned feature changes, or a product manager approving a release without fixing QA bug reports, due to a tight timeline.)
- Feeling of satisfaction. It may sound corny, but it’s easy to be self-critical — especially in a high-pressure, fast-paced tech career. If you end a sprint feeling good about your work, you’re well on your way to success.
How Not to Measure success
- You miss a bug once in awhile. No one is perfect, so just because you miss a rare bug does not mean you’re bad at QA! It would be nearly impossible for a software tester to find every single bug in every single scenario, if only due to time limitations. While some managers may have unrealistic expectations, it’s important to remember that missing a bug on occasion doesn’t make you inherently bad at your job.
- Critique from developers. Some developers have a tendency to discourage QA from reporting bugs, or brush off issues. This doesn’t mean you should ignore any criticism developers may put forth. However, you don’t want to hold back from reporting bugs out of fear of a developer’s judgment. Doing so could actually impede your success, and result in being blamed for bugs that didn’t get reported.
Ready to Be a Good QA Engineer?
Are you detail-oriented, creative, and a great communicator? Nice — welcome to the world of QA! You’ll do great.
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