What I’ve learned in my first weeks as a tester

The first few days in a job can be intimidating and full-on, to say the least. There is learning the office etiquette, figuring out everyone’s role and let’s not forget all the name learning. And all of that is without doing any of the actual job you were hired for. But before you know it, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years and you know exactly what you need to do and when. But often, when you reach that point, it can be easy to forget what it is like to be a new starter.

Whether a newly qualified ISTQB tester or a long-term CEO, it is always important to consider what it is like to start a firm and what will make people want to stay and work hard. Edward Basham is a software tester at WorkForce Software and is a total newbie to his role. After working as a teacher, Basham went into the world of IT and in deciding to become a tester, he gives his account and advise on what it’s like starting fresh in this area.

You know nothing

Less than a month ago, I started a full-time position as a software tester. I was excited to join, as I had been an enthusiast for a long time, attending testing talks and reading online literature. I would be joining an agile team within a global software company, completing QA of their updated product. I had a couple of weeks of previous experience but this would be my first real foray into the world of testing. One month on, I would like to let you in on what I’ve learned from my first few weeks on the job.

When I started, I had already taken a training course in testing at a previous employer and read countless articles online. Whilst these provided a useful background, I quickly found that they would only be the very beginning of my testing knowledge. I have spent the last few weeks attempting to absorb knowledge in the manner of a sponge absorbing liquid. In the last few weeks, I have been gaining knowledge of among other things: the product I am working on and its place in our broader suite of products, testing tools, working within an agile environment, company work practices and practical testing techniques.

 Ask a ridiculously large number of questions

As soon as I got through the door, various questions starting forming in my mind. During my induction session, more trickled in. As the days progressed I found more and more started coming. Everything from the mundane ‘what is this?’ type through to the fiendishly complex ‘why is the system behaving like this?’ type. This has continued unabated for the last few weeks. ‘Why are we doing things this way?’ ‘How does this software work?’ ‘What am I looking at?’ ‘Is this a bug?’ The list goes on. I’m naturally eternally grateful for my colleagues’ patience, though especially my mentor who has borne the brunt of my incessant thirst for every scrap of information I can acquire. Anyone coming into the trade should remember however, that information gathering is –initially at least – their core role. The more you can up-knowledge and upskill, the more valuable you are to your team and company.

Get stuck in

You can read around the topic, ask hundreds of questions and even get professional qualifications, though at the end of the day, at some point or other you will need to get your hands dirty. Personally I knew I wanted to get moving as soon as possible when I started. I’d heard and read so much, and I didn’t feel I would truly be a tester until I started practically completing practical work. About 2-3 weeks into my new position, with the direction of my mentor, I started writing and executing feature tests. This was very satisfying as not only was I now proving my mettle as a tester, I was also learning an enormous amount as I went. Since starting, I have learned among other things: how to communicate my ideas to other testers, how to write up test documentation, how to write bug reports and a lot about the technology and domain I am working in. I’d have never gained this much otherwise, no matter how many meetings I attended or online articles I read.

Back yourself

One of the things I have found since joining my company is that I will often be asked to expand upon my viewpoints or provide an opinion on some matter or other. ‘How long will this work take?’ ‘What testing will need to be completed on this feature?’ ‘What do we need to do in terms of regression?’ At first, I was rather taken aback that I was being asked to give my ideas into these since I obviously knew far less than my more experienced colleagues. Through these experiences though, I have learned the importance of elucidating and explaining your views as you see them, even if they’re naïve in some way. Similarly, I’ve discovered the importance of pushing to get an answer to a difficult question. As a tester, your worth lies in your advocacy for the customer, and more broadly to the pursuit of software quality. Defending your views is one of the most important things you can do in this field.

Have a laugh

Finally, there comes a time when you have to put work aside and enjoy the atmosphere. Indeed, one of my companies’ core values is ‘celebrate our success’. Our culture is ‘work hard, play hard’ in style and there is always lots of laughter, as well as board games and table football at lunch!

Written by Edward Basham, software tester at WorkForce Software.


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