Q&A with a Software Tester

What is a QA software analyst?

Develops, publishes, and implements test plans. Writes and maintains test automation. Develops quality assurance standards. Defines and tracks quality assurance metrics such as defect densities and open defect counts. Requires a bachelor’s degree and 0-2 years of experience coding in C, C++, Java. Must have a working knowledge of quality assurance methodologies. Familiar with NT, UNIX and/or Solaris environments. Relies on experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Works under general supervision; typically reports to a manager. A certain degree of creativity and latitude is required.

What is a typical day in QA like?

Typically, a QA member will:

What is the career path?

Note: There is no formal system or naming convention.

  1. Software Tester –  Entry level testing positions (testers) that do black-box testing.
    1. Requires an aptitude for PC troubleshooting
    2. Executes Test Plans
  2. Analyst – More experienced testing positions do white-box testing.
    1. Requires knowledge of programming logic and design
    2. May also require security testing proficiency
    3. Writes and Executes Test Plans
  3. Automation Specialist  – Uses white-box testing to design for test automation.
    1. Requires knowledge of Computer Science, generally a Bachelor of Science
    2. Converts Test Plans to automated tests
  4. Team Lead – Provides peers guidance.
    1. Can be a Tester, Analyst, or Automation Specialist
  5. Manager – Guides the efforts of the team and makes process adjustments

What are the differences between a developer and an automation specialist?

Both require programming knowledge, however a developer has more. A developer is responsible for writing clean and efficient code to run in production environments. The automation specialist’s code is often only seen and used by QA. That is like how the unit tests are only seen and used by developers. QA’s code is written in large nets of error catching and handling. The program might just try to get record 13 but the tests would have to make sure 13 exists, the call to delete was made, the record 13 was deleted, and no errors were returned.

How do I become a tester?

Like most jobs the education requirements are to scare off people with no confidence. I have seen people hired with no prior QA experience. As long as you show yourself capable of critical thinking you will be fine.

Should I get certifications?

If you want, sure. Will it help? It shouldn’t. You can learn a great deal about testing and even show you retained some of that information for a short while. The problem is that you can take these tests and pass by simply remembering the vocabulary. This does not equate to proficiency.

Instead, I recommend doing some reading on testing. Also, it never hurts to get an online Master of Science in Computer Science for $6,600 from Georgia Tech.

How do I hire a good tester?

There are tests on ProveIt, but those kinds of tests mark you off for clicking a button instead of going to File->Open.

I recommend making your own test:

  • Use a VM snapshot that you can revert to with each interview
  • Give them the tools they need – Internet access and/or pre-installed software that is used by your team
  • Give them 30 minutes to take the test
  • Have a number of bugs ranging in difficulty
    • Easy Bugs – Ones found during Happy Path Testing
      • Example: Clicking ‘submit’ on login form causes 404 error
    • Avg Bugs – Ones found during Negative Testing
      • Example: Entered a letter in a number field
    • Hard Bugs – Ones found using tools
      • Example: Javascript errors in Developer Tools