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I am a former senior software developer who is looking to get into testing, and I would like some advice on how to structure my resume, as well as any general tips on how best to look for work and interview - considering my background.

Firstly, why did I leave development? Long story short, it was essentially a combination of the various factors discussed in this post. My mindset has always been more about analysing things than about synthesising them, but it just took a long time to recognise this because I do quite enjoy programming on a hobby level. But my level of career satisfaction was never very high as a professional developer. I always wanted to pick things apart instead of actually work on putting them together. My talents and attention to detail have always been much better in that direction than the other.

Secondly, other than the self-testing one does as a developer - I have also actually done some dedicated testing work in the past. In one of my development roles, I was rotated onto a test team for about 2 months, for a very major release. This is difficult to conclusively prove though - as the company was small and has since gone out of business, and there is no official record of me having that role (as I was still officially employed as a developer).

Also, in preparation for my career change, I just sat and passed the ISEB-ISTQB Foundation certification exam. I know that the actual value of this is highly controversial, but I thought it would help to show seriousness about my career change and to help me confirm my own internal change of mental direction.

So all in all, I have the following: 10 years of experience as a senior software developer, including ample code review, self-testing, unit testing, some TDD, and team peer review testing experience. I also have two months of actual experience working on a test team, but this one is unofficial and hard to conclusively prove. I am also now ISEB-ISTQB Foundation level certified.

I'd mainly just like to know how all this sounds, and what sort of resume style and interview attitude should be projected in my case. I am thinking of structuring my resume as a "career changer resume" - with a large Career Objective section that describes my wish to change careers, and then a detailing of my development jobs and what I learned from them and how that experience applies to a pure Testing role.

Note: I am prepared to take a fairly junior role to start out with. So this is mainly about getting my foot in the door with a first Testing job at all, not necessarily getting a great one to start with (ie I have no expectations that a strong development background will be an express ticket past a fairly junior testing role to begin with).

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5 Answers 5

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"I'd mainly just like to know how all this sounds" This all sounds pretty good to me!

A few thoughts:

  • You say that you are a former developer. What are you doing now?

  • Tune up your thoughts on "why I want to make this career change". This will almost certainly be a point you will need to convey well during every interview. Career changes are a break from the past, and always a risk from an employer's viewpoint. Make sure that nothing you will say smacks at all of "because dev is hard and testing is easier". Be able to articulate your reasons clearly. You might consider practicing this with a friend until it sounds convincing.

  • You have indicated why you don't enjoy development. But you are focusing on the negative. Instead, talk about why you want to get into testing. Focus on the positive! See the difference here?

  • Be careful what you say in your large Career Objective section of your resume. In general, I don't find a lot of value in this section when reading resumes (I usually ignore it - particularly when it's lengthy), but I have found reasons to reject candidates here. Your objectives have clearly changed recently and may well change again, once you have been inside QA enough to know what is available. While both are important, remember that employers are more interested in what you can do for them, rather than how they can help you fulfill your objectives.

  • The fact that you are willing to start with a fairly junior role gives you a lot of flexibility, and a far wider range of opportunities. But you might want to look for a role where you can leverage your experience as a senior software developer. In the right role for the right company this would help you stand out from the crowd and might allow you to skip the junior level. I've hired people with significant experience, but no testing experience, into more senior roles before.

  • Be prepared to use your experience as a huge plus. Find a way to convey "Why my extensive development experience will help me be a terrific tester in your company". This might require you to tailor your resume and certainly your cover letter to the specific needs of the job for which you are applying.

Good luck!

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Agreed about the Career Objective section, Joe. A single sentence should suffice. –  user246 Nov 10 '11 at 15:24
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+1 for the advice to focus on the positive rather than the negative. –  semaj Nov 10 '11 at 16:47
    
"You say that you are a former developer. What are you doing now?": I burned out early this year and essentially took a self-funded mental health career break. Initially I thought it was just burnout related to the particular stresses of that given job, but on my time off I realised that it was more about programming itself, and not being quite cut out of it. Obviously, this sounds like a pretty dysfunctional breakdown (although it wasn't really), so I'll have to be careful how I sell it. –  Bobby Tables Nov 10 '11 at 19:44
    
A SDET position at a large company like Microsoft could benefit greatly from a tester with lots of development experience. IMO as an SDET with 5 years experience mostly at MS, you would be a great asset in such a role. I don't think you'd need to take a junior role in a coding-heavy test position. –  Ethel Evans Nov 10 '11 at 19:44
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"I burned out early this year and essentially took a self-funded mental health career break - I'll have to be careful how I sell it" Yup. It happens, and hiring managers can understand it. But you'll have to explain it carefully, so the hiring manager can feel comfortable that you won't burn out in their shop and that you aren't simply seeking an "easier" job post-burnout. –  Joe Strazzere Nov 10 '11 at 20:23

My experience is with working in the United States. Your StackExchange profile says you live in Australia. I believe interviewing in Australia is a somewhat different from in the United States because the laws in Australia make it much more difficult to fire an employee who does not work out. I do not know how those considerations impact how you write your resume or how you approach interviews -- perhaps Australian employers are more risk-averse about interview candidates -- but I suggest you take the country of origin into account when you consider the advice you read in this forum.

Focus on your strengths. We are human, and we have weaknesses, but what will set your resume apart from others will be your strengths. When I was a developer, I was more interested in (and more deliberate about) testing than many of my colleagues. There were several times when other developers were delighted to use the tests I wrote. In retrospect, I was better at testing than development. I eventually burned out as a developer, and someone offered me a test lead position. I was productive in that role. When I interview, I focus on my success as a test lead. If someone asks why I switched, I am honest about it, but otherwise I do not mention it.

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+1. For the record, I also suffered a massive burnout as a developer. Essentially took a career break when it got too much earlier this year. But I'm trying to package this in a way that doesn't sound like a totally dysfunctional breakdown (it wasn't really, but it's hard to describe without sounding it). :) –  Bobby Tables Nov 10 '11 at 19:38
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BTW, in Australia it's basically standard to have a 3 month probationary period in new jobs where it's essentially entirely "at will". But yes, after this it's fairly hard (by US standards) to get rid of someone, unless they're very blatantly not working out. –  Bobby Tables Nov 10 '11 at 19:40

If you like testing and coding, you could consider roles like automated tester/developer in test. In these roles, you write and maintain test code and tools. You mention unit testing, but there are all sorts of testing that can be automated (GUI testing and user simulation, creating build tools, static code analysis, etc). If you want to get into testing but still like writing code, this could be a good option. At worst, it could be a transition from being a developer to being a tester and give you some experience in QA. For roles like these you seem quite qualified, and I would play up your development experience. As other commenters have said, perhaps talk more about why you want to be a tester as opposed to why you don't want to be a developer.

More generally, being a good tester involves good communication skills, so make sure that whatever you put on your resume, it is nicely formatted (not ugly or hard to read) and well-written. Watch for spelling and grammatical errors. If you want to persuade someone you have "attention to detail" but have many spelling errors and have used eight different fonts, you're hosed. Also, talk about what perspective you can bring to testing as a developer; testing is often about perspective and context, so show employers what you can bring to the table.

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Like you I made the switch - 20 years as a dev then made the switch to test. I had to take quite a salary hit at first and take a junior role. It can be done - not easily, took me 6 months to find someone prepared to take me on

Problems you will face will people asking why you want to change - be prepared to have a good story why and be convincing that you are prepared to 'put up' with a junior role

Are you active in the testing community ? - having a blog, being active on sites such as the Software Testing Club, taking part in a weekend testing session -being able to show this can help with some vacancies

This blog from Trish Koo might give you some ideas - and maybe even worth contacting her for advice http://trishkhoo.com/2011/05/how-to-find-a-good-tester/

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Bobby,

I think that you really need to focus on what you can bring to the table that other testers cannot. The first thing that I personally would do would be to get my hands on the latest version of selenium, crack it open and start building tests.

As someone who is back on the market personally as of two days ago thanks to the GFC, I am now in the same boat as well so I can tell you what I am personally doing.

  1. Make your resume stand out from the crowd, for example I just built my own native iPad applicaiton to hand across the table in interviews, as a way to make an impression.

  2. Network, network, network. In a small country like Australia it is all about who you know. In Australia, testing consultancies are taking more and more of the work, and a lot of it is going offshore, so your best bets will be to get in with one of those. Linkedin is a great asset here.

  3. Make sure the company CARES ABOUT QUALITY I cannot stress that enough.

  4. Bleed testing. If you are truly passionate about testing, let that show when you talk and that will be the best thing you can do.

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