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Sam E. Lawrence
Sam E. Lawrence

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How I would begin a career in software QA

The world of software is vast and broad, but there aren't many obvious entry points for newcomers, unless those people happened to decide they wanted to work in tech before they were 18. Those people got CS degrees, but what about the rest of us? This article assumes that you want to do technical work in the software industry, probably programming - you may have some self-taught technical skills today, but I will try to make the following thoughts helpful, whether your skills are basic or advanced.

It turns out that there are several areas where it's possible to get started in the world of IT, but they each come with challenges and roadblocks. Before I landed my first job in QA, I had tried to get started working in tech via sales, consulting, and support. In my opinion, maneuvering out of those departments into something more technical and interesting will depend far too much much on the size of the company, how departments interact, and how much exposure you might get to the real "guts" of the engineering team.

This essay will specifically focus on the role of a QA Engineer, and my thoughts on how I would try to start working as one if I were beginning today. Whether you think of this role as an SDET, QA Analyst, or QA Engineer - I'm describing someone involved in testing software. This is the area I work in, now as a QA Lead, and I was able to develop my career with no college degree or background in programming as a teenager.

In contrast to areas like sales, customer support, and design - I believe that getting an entry-level job in QA is only slightly harder than a completely non-technical role, yet will open up significantly more opportunity to get working on real programming and other technical work. For that reason, I recommend it as the best place for aspiring technical people to begin working in the software trade.

Here's Filip Hric sharing his perspective on this:

If you're already writing code, I advise you to go straight for test automation skills as part of your toolkit. There are theoretical aspects to QA that you will need to know in order to be a good tester, but test automation really is such an important part of the industry today, and you'll command a much better salary much faster if you can contribute automation. If you can't code today, I recommend learning the basic of programming as quickly as you can, and try to get a job using manual testing skills.

Opinions vary on this, but if I were advising someone to get a job as quickly as possible, my personal recommendation would be to learn Cypress. I've used a few different automation tools and the reason I recommend Cypress is just the ease of setup. It's a great tool for beginners because you don't have to know too much to get started. You will need to know some of the basics of Javascript to learn Cypress - so if you're not coding today, start with learning Javascript.

While I think test automation represents a huge part of the future of testing, some good concepts you will want to take into interviews with you are The Testing Pyramid, and some basic terminology like functional vs. unit testing. I think you should also know some terms around typical team structure - know what a UX designer, a Product Manager, and a Project Manager all do, but you shouldn't get asked too much about their work, only about how you would interface with them.

The best piece of advice I can give is to just get started trying. That means getting your resume together and firing off applications. Spend some time in LinkedIn each day, as well as job boards and forums. The last time I was on the job hunt, it was brutal and I hear things have only gotten harder. You should expect to hear a lot of No's, but ask for specific feedback after each rejection and you'll get better faster. If you can track your job applications in a spreadsheet or something similar (I used Airtable), it'll help you stay focused on the best opportunities.

If you do land a job, get started by just doing the work assigned to you, but continue the process of learning in the background and start asking questions of people who have been there longer than you. I wish you all the greatest success in your career, and feel free to reach out on Twitter if I can answer any helpful questions.

Cover Photo by Lukas from Pexels

Top comments (1)

walmyrlimaesilv profile image

That is fantastic advice. Thank you!