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How to start a career in testing?

Testing as a profession is gaining popularity and becoming more desirable. More and more people are willing to retrain and become IT specialists, because this area is developing and the highly paid work of the tester seems to be the most accessible. Indeed, it is easier to retrain as a tester than, for example, as a programmer. But over the past ten years the "entry threshold" in the profession has grown significantly. Yet it is still feasible to do so without going through many years of training.

Testing as a profession is gaining popularity and becoming more desirable. More and more people are willing to retrain and become IT specialists, because this area is developing and the highly paid work of the tester seems to be the most accessible. Indeed, it is easier to retrain as a tester than, for example, as a programmer. But over the past ten years the "entry threshold" in the profession has grown significantly. Yet it is still feasible to do so without going through many years of training.

I took this path once and I consider that this transition was one of the most successful decisions I made. I want to give some advice to those of you who want to follow this path.

So, where to start?

Read Some Good Books on Testing Reading is a wonderful and almost free way of self-education. There are plenty of books devoted to testing, but we need to start somewhere. I would recommend the book by Roman Savin "Testing DOT COM, or Manual on Harsh Treatment of Bugs in Internet Start-Ups.". The book uses language that is understandable, and it provides some very good examples. Reading this book will not make you an expert, but at least you'll have some idea of a tester’s job and you will be able to determine whether you want to pursue this profession or not.

Learn English!

Knowledge of the English language is a must have for a tester. Without this knowledge finding a job in this field is almost impossible. Most of the good books on testing are written in English. Technical documentation is often in English. The interfaces of testing programs are very often in English. Also, English is used for communication in many IT companies. Sensibly assess your level of the language. Can you freely read technical literature without constantly consulting the dictionary? Will you be able to create a bug report in English? What about writing an email to a colleague from another country? How about a phone call with a customer? The last one is optional; your reading and writing skills are the most important, and yet if you can also talk, it will increase your value to an employer. Having assessed your level, you should start revising and filling the gaps.

Get an ISTQB Foundation Level Certificate

ISTQB is a well-known and respected international organization which deals with the certification of QA experts. Passing the Foundation Level exam does not require prior work experience or obligatory completion of trainings. You can teach yourself. The exam is not free, but if you have the opportunity, do not stint on investing in your future. This will be your competitive advantage in finding a job, especially in the absence of practical experience.

In addition to the training materials offered by ISTQB, I recommend an excellent book “Foundations of Software Testing: ISTQB Certification” written by a team of authors: Dorothy Graham, Isabel Evans, Eric Van Veenendaal and Rex Black. The book is in English - like I said, most of the good literature on testing is only in English, so here's another reason to learn the language. And even if you are not going to be certified, it is still worth reading this book, because it contains the fundamental principles of the theory of testing, which have to be understood by every tester.

Find a QA Community in Your City

The number of testers is growing and in many cities QA communities have started to appear. Check whether there is one in your city. At community meetings you can listen to interesting lectures from people who have been working in this field for a long time, and meet future colleagues.

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Sign Up for Beta Testing

Many IT companies, from industry giants like Google and Microsoft and small mobile game developer studios conduct beta testing for their products. Almost anyone can participate in beta testing. Sometimes, there are requirements on the availability of appropriate hardware, but the purpose of beta testing is to work with the product end users, so nothing extraordinary is expected. Of course, participation in beta testing is not exactly the same as the real work of a tester, but it will allow you to put the knowledge you gained into practice, and search for defects and their description. At the same time you can win a license for a company's product – beta testers often receive various bonuses. You can even indicate this in your resume – not that it is considered on par with real work experience, but it is still better than a total lack of experience.

Keep Track of Offers from Local Companies


Many companies occasionally recruit testers (and programmers) on the so-called bench, or start an IT school. Bench is a paid internship for beginners, after which, if all goes well and you prove yourself, you will be offered a permanent job. A variety of IT schools are usually free for students, and after such a course (usually it takes several months) the best students are offered a job position. The rest gain knowledge and skills, plus a new line in the resume. Both benches and IT schools select people on a competitive basis; they do not accept each applicant, but the requirements, of course, are lower than the starting level position requirements in the same company. They teach you for free, and sometimes even provide a stipend. This is indeed a great way to enter the profession.

Check if there is something similar in your area and apply for it. Even if you fail, it is a good warm-up before an interview, and a great way to sort out what to expect from that particular employer.

Do Testers Need to Know Programming?


Finally I would like to discuss this frequently asked question. Do testers need to know programming? Of course, if you decide to move towards automated testing, then programming skills are necessary. But for a manual tester this requirement is optional. You can test perfectly without programming knowledge. However, if you have such skills, this is a significant plus. Understanding the basics of programming (such as what a variable, array, and cycle are, what types of data there are, how exceptions are handled, etc.) really helps in terms of testing more efficiently and consciously. So if you ever studied programming, it is time to refresh your memory (and be sure to include the programming languages you know in your resume!). If not, I wouldn’t recommend starting this journey if your goal is to get a job as a manual tester. Programming is still a completely different profession, and its study is a separate long-term project, so I would advise you to focus on what is required for the chosen area, which is testing.

Victoria Slinyavchuk
Software Testing Consultant

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