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.
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:
- Communication skills
- Political skills
- Customer-facing 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.”