5 Practical Steps To Help Improve Your Testing Skillset
Whether you’re looking to start a career in quality assurance or you’re a veteran tester with multiple tours of duty under your belt, there are always ways to improve your testing skillset. Building transferable skills dramatically widens your potential career path, and it enables you to do a better job in the here and now. It’s easy to say you should be more creative or analytical, but how do you actually develop these skills? Here are some practical steps you can take to boost your testing skillset.
1. Improve your communication skills
The beauty of working on better communication skills is that they are necessary for just about every job on the planet. This skill also can have a positive impact on your personal life as well. Effective communication starts with empathy, so put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to communicate with.
Tailor your style for the audience. A programmer, a manager and a designer will all respond best to different approaches. Think about what they need to hear or read. Listen to your co-workers. Ask questions and remember the answers.
Work on cutting out superfluous fillers to make your communications concise and specific. The ability to effectively describe a defect verbally or through a database entry is vital. Improving your general communication skills will boost your performance and your prospects. The best way to improve your writing is practice. Even working on a blog about your unrelated hobby can help to hone your writing skills and it will greatly impact your testing skillset.
2. Learn to emulate the end user
As a tester, it’s important to be able to act as an advocate for the end user. You have to make some attempt to think from their perspective. What is the customer going to want or expect to see? How are they going to use the software you are testing? Sometimes it’s necessary to build some domain knowledge. At least read up on basic concepts in the industry your software is aimed at, and then talk to potential customers in the target group to gain insight.
If you can learn to think like the end user, then you can test much more effectively. You’ll also learn a lot of interesting things along the way.
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3. Study software development
Read up about software development with a particular focus on the methodologies that your team is employing. At the shallow end, gaining a basic understanding of the complete process will enable you to find more defects and communicate them more clearly. It can be valuable to sit with a developer while they troubleshoot a defect in order to gain a better understanding of the process.
At the deep end, you will dramatically boost your career prospects if you are capable of scripting, automating and coding. There are lots of free resources online to help get you started. You can also ask your employer about courses and accreditation they may be willing to support you through. Training staff internally often offers a better return on investment for employers than hiring in new talent, so it’s worth asking.
4. Be inquisitive
Ask questions when you don’t understand something. Don’t allow yourself to become jaded or build an adversarial atmosphere. Everyone working in the company should be pulling in the same direction. Sometimes you need to be inquisitive to ensure you are making yourself valuable. It’s also naturally a good trait to have in your testing skillset. Understanding the why can help you make great suggestions and uncover defects that others may have missed.
Exercise your inquisitive nature and don’t accept things at face value. Be open and honest about why you’re asking and avoid being aggressive or combative. If you have the interests of the company or project at heart, it will always stand you in good stead. If you don’t flex that inquisitive muscle, then it’s liable to wither away.
5. Keep an open mind
Staying creative is easier said than done, but it will enable you to find more defects and improve the product. Practical ways to prevent yourself from zoning out in the face of repetitive tasks include: taking frequent short breaks, and automating as many of the mundane tasks as possible. When you take a break, engage in conversation about something unrelated or play a game. It’s important to take your mind somewhere else. When you return to work, you might see something from a fresh perspective.
There’s a real danger with testing in that we continue down well-worn paths. In doing so, we miss major insights that lie just off the path. Continually assess your process and look for ways to change it up and add some variety. It will make the work less boring, and it will improve your chances of finding new problems.
Really effective testing requires creativity, critical thinking skills and an open and inquisitive mind backed up by process and domain knowledge. Work on these areas and you will excel in building your testing skillset to help advance your career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Simon is an experienced freelance technology journalist covering mobile technology, software, and videogames for a wide variety of clients in print and online. He regularly contributes to Digital Trends, Tech Radar, and Android Authority, and he ghostwrites for CEOs in the technology space. After completing a Masters in Scottish History at Edinburgh University, he began his career as a games tester, progressing to lead tester, game designer, and finally producer, before leaving the industry to write full time. He is passionate about the potential for good software and hardware to improve our lives, and strongly believes that thorough testing is a vital prerequisite for greatness.