Guest Post: 3 Reasons Why You’re Not Advancing in Your Testing Career

You’ve mastered the technical skills, but why aren’t you advancing in your QA career? Joel Montvelisky, a tester, test manager and QA consultant with over 15 years of experience in the field of Quality Assurance, tackles this question in the following guest post.  You can read more about Montvelisky’s views on testing, agile, training and more on his blog – QA Intelligence.

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While presenting at a recent training session to a group of testers, one of them asked me what were the most important skills I thought a tester should have in order to advance in his career.

As I had my “mentoring hat” on, I immediately asked the whole group what they thought the most important skills for testers were.  They started throwing out all sorts of ideas, like analytical thinking, the ability to “read” code, knowledge of web and mobile technologies, automation, an eye for detail, etc.

I guess I should have expected that. Working as we do around programmers and engineers, the testers focused only on the hard and technical skills.  And I don’t blame them either, since these skills are incredibly important. In fact, I even wrote a post about being a technical tester in my QA Blog.

But in a sense, this is also one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a tester; to focus solely on the technical skills and not develop the “softer” skills that are also vital to performing your work well.

If you look at the testers who are the most valued by your company, in addition to technical skills, they also possess a number of other skills that help them to contribute more and to distinguish themselves and their work.  These are also the testers with greater chances of advancing to higher managerial positions.

Wouldn’t you want to be one of those people and have those opportunities yourself?

Well, I can’t sell you a potion for that, but I can explain the softer skills that are helping these most valuable testers, and how can you develop them too.

There are many soft skills a tester can acquire or develop, but after interacting with a large number of testing teams and development organizations, I’ve identified three skills that I believe are the most important for a tester. These 3 skills are:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Political skills
  3. Customer-facing skills

Communication skills

Communication skills are the single most important set of skills a tester should have – even more important than any technical skill you can think of.

By communication, I don’t mean only the ability to write a clear test case or an informative bug; it goes much further than that.

Communication starts with the ability to listen to what other people are saying and to translate that information into action.

In a QA Blog post I published in the past called, “Of Testers & Soldiers” I likened the role of testing to that of an intelligence officer’s in the army whose task is to seek information from multiple and scattered sources, and then piece it all together in order to map out a complete plan of risks and actions for his commanders or managers.  This can only be done if you are able to both listen and process the information quickly and effectively.

An additional aspect of communication is the ability to transmit your message clearly and in a way that will encourage your audience to listen to what you have to say.  As an old colleague of mine once told me, “We are all salespeople.  Some of us sell cars, others sell ideas.

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Guest Post: Windows 8 Design – Where Will It Take Us?

Windows 8Inge de Bleecker has been working as a User Interface Expert specializing in mobile for the past 12 years. Here’s her take on Windows 8 and why users may or may not ultimately embrace the usability change.

I recently was fortunate enough to attend a series of Windows 8 training sessions for user experience (UX) designers. Attending the sessions gave me valuable insight into Windows 8 design.

I am not here to give you a full list of the good, bad, and ugly of Windows 8. A quick Google search will reveal a number of links to articles that already cover that. What I am wondering about is what the Windows 8 user experience over time will evoke in its users.

The goal behind any good user experience has always been to provide the user with an interface that is easy and intuitive to use. With the advent of the iPhone, the interface also had to be fun to use. Usability and user delight are now top priorities.

During the Windows 8 training sessions, it quickly became clear that the Windows 8 user experience team has put a lot of thought into all aspects of user experience design. Based on that, they have created a vast number of rules; rules about what can be displayed on an app’s landing page, what needs to be stuck in menus, where menus reside on the page, the look and feel of page elements, and so on. There are so many rules that it is a bit overwhelming.

The good thing about rules is that it makes it much easier to design an app: just follow the rules, and the end result will be passable at the worst.

Consistent use of rules also leads to uniformity. For users over time, uniformity breeds familiarity. And familiarity promotes ease of use. To some extent.

While familiarity is one of the principles we strive for in design, discoverability is another one. I found that some of the Windows 8 design rules result in a lack of discoverability. To give an example, one of the rules states that actions should not be displayed on-screen, but instead provided in a (by default hidden) menu that can be opened through swiping. While users can become familiar with this and understand that they may need to look for something in a hidden menu, it impedes the discoverability. Yet usability testing time and again shows that users want actions at their fingertips, on-screen.

This example brings about some questions: Will familiarity in time overcome the discoverability issue and result in an experience that users find easy and intuitive? Will it make for an enjoyable experience?

My exposure to Windows 8 so far has definitely made me think. I am curious to see how users over time will rate the ease of use and enjoyability of Windows 8 applications. I’ll report my findings in this blog once I’ve gathered enough data. Stay tuned.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Guest Post: Why Functional Testing is Important

Make a good first impressionLucas Dargis is a software testing consultant. He has led the testing efforts of mission critical and flagship projects for several global companies. He specializes in the development and implementation of testing strategies. 

There is an age-old expression that says “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” This is a hard truth in today’s world of instant gratification. If your product fails to deliver the first time, your customers will simply move on to the next thing. In-the-wild functional testing, as provided at uTest, is similar to a dress rehearsal for your application. Your application is exposed to a group of people who accurately represent your potential user base. They can identify and report the issues (that would have negatively impacted your customer’s first impression) before your customer ever has the chance to see them.

A functional tester has the ability to evaluate individual features of an application. They are familiar with typical application behavior and have the skills needed  to look objectively at a feature and see what’s wrong.

Perhaps even more valuable is a functional tester who is able to analyze individual pieces of an application within the context of the entire application. A functional tester looks at a particular item, identifies integration points between that item and other parts of the application, and then formulates a plan of how to inspect those touch points. Applications are usually weakest in places where different parts come together. A strong functional tester knows this and knows how to exploit those weaknesses to identify any lurking bugs.

Functional testing will only be successful if an organization’s underlying quality fundamentals are solid and everyone clearly understands how testing helps achieve the goals of the business. Functional testing is only one of many activities that collectively comprise a comprehensive testing strategy. Depending on the needs and expectations of your company, different testing activities such as performance, load, and security testing should be considered. Functional testing differs from other types of testing in that it most closely reflects the experience of the users. While performance effects the experience and security issues add risk to the experience – how the application functions IS the experience.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Guest Post: uTest – My First 100 Cycles

Lucas DargisLucas Dargis joined the uTester community in March 2012. He joined with an eye toward expanding his knowledge base and getting widespread experience. To help him stay on that track, Lucas set three goals for himself. Today’s guest post will tell you how he achieved those goals ahead of schedule and what keeps him coming back to uTest. You can laern more about Lucas by visiting his uTest Profile or his blog.

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So I’m a little late, I’m actually at 138 cycles, but I wanted to give an update on my uTest experience now that I’ve got 100 cycles under my belt.

Accomplishments

When I first signed up with uTest I set a few goals. I really had no idea how realistic they were, but you have to at least have something to shoot for right?

By the end of 2012 (9 months from when I started) I wanted to:

  1. Earn my gold badge in Functional testing
  2. Become a TTL (Test Team Lead)
  3. Develop a strong reputation within the uTest community

Gold badge

I got my functional badge within 30 days of my first test cycle. At first this was actually a disappointment. I was really looking forward to the challenge of having to work hard for that badge.

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Calling All Software Experts: Share Your Knowledge

Do you have a great software-related story or experience you’re itching to share? Submitting a guest post is a great opportunity to share your thoughts and gain exposure. If you have a blog post that covers software development, mobile apps, web apps or real world testing you should consider submitting to blog@utest.com.

Being a crowdsourced software testing company, we aim to share insight from the people who know software best. No one knows software better than the developers, testers and end users. From development or testing experts who share their biggest challenges or thoughts on agile development, to freelance tech writers who experience the software themselves – no matter what your software background we’d love to hear from you. So what should you write about, and how do you submit a post?

Depending on your topic, your guest post may be published on one of the following blogs (including this one):

All posts should be original content. To review the guidelines for submitting a post, or to get ideas for what to write about, please visit the Guest Blog Post Submission page.

 

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing