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Software developers are usually able to build up portfolios of projects they may have worked on and prospective employers might carry out programming tests to determine the level of their abilities.

As a tester that dabbles in automation I do have quite a collection of scripts, but they aren't really something I'm proud of as they are quite simple and were quickly cobbled together to help get things done faster.

So what do people usually do as software testers?

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I'm not necessarily convinced that automation output per se can demonstrate your skills. You must see automation always in the context of the problem you've tried to resolve. Anyway, automation is just one of the tester skills. If you look for what makes up a tester's portfolio, see related questions here and here + See "Realted" section on the right :-) –  dzieciou Mar 12 '12 at 21:01
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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Testers too can build up portfolios of projects they may have worked on and prospective employers might carry out testing tests to determine the level of their abilities.

When I'm hiring testers, the most important part is a grasp of concepts. A "virtual portfolio" which demonstrates your grasp of concepts would let you show specific instances where you used a particular concept. By "virtual" here I mean the ability to say "yes, I did that... let me tell you about the project where it applied".

Something "simple and quickly cobbled together to help get things done faster" is a pretty important concept in my shop, and one I look for every time.

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Interesting point about virtual portfolio. Do you have / remember any good examples of how this would work? –  Chris Kenst Mar 14 '12 at 3:18
    
Sure, testing a website's Search feature would be one. Internationalization and Localization of a website would be another. The key is to be able to talk about the approach, the process, the tools, etc. - not from a hypothetical or academic point of view, but from real-world experience. That's a virtual portfolio. –  Joe Strazzere Mar 14 '12 at 11:10
    
+1 for "simple and quickly cobbled together to help get things done faster". A good tester should know her way around a scripting language for two. So helpful! –  joshin4colours Mar 15 '12 at 14:48
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One answer would be to contribute to open source projects as a QA resource. Most open source projects are desperately in need of some people to beta test new versions and provide feedback as well as in need of automation, unit tests and documentation, all of which could be contributed by a competent test engineer. This would be a very public display of your abilities, you could point to specific bugs you found and filed and/or specific tests that you automated.

Another would be to write a public blog where you can show off your testing knowledge and help others out as well. Another would be to participate on sites like this and you could point to answers you were particularly proud of and/or an overall rating.

Mostly though, I think employers are going to be interested in having you demonstrate on the spot (during an interview) that you are a good tester by asking you questions like "How would you test a webpage with a form like this: ..." and looking for thorough answers, understanding of all of the types of testing, boundary cases, how/if you would automate it, understanding of how a web page and form works (if that is applicable) and a questioning personality that does not make assumptions. Any other portfolio type work may help get you in the door, but will almost never get you the job.

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Being able to talk about what you've done with the product (product under test) and how you tested are the biggest parts to expressing your ability to testing. It's all about test framing and then telling your testing story.

Michael Bolton on Test Framing and Testing Stories (via the AST website):

Test framing is the set of logical connections that structure and inform the test. To test is to compose, edit, narrate, and justify two stories. One is a story about the product–what it does, how it does it, how it works, and how it might not work–in ways that matter to your clients. The other is a story about your testing–how you came to know and understand the product story.

Framing and creating a story plays a important part (or at least it should) in an interview, working with teams inside and outside your company and even in writing a blog. This can be a major stumbling block for testers when they have trouble explaining what they did, why they did it, and being open to new ideas or admitting things they might never had considered.

If you've got a compelling and accurate testing story for those "cobbled together scripts" you'll do just fine when it comes time to express what you've done.

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I have to second Joe's comment. If you recognized a need, independently implemented something to get it done better/faster and it improved the overall testing & confidence in a project that is a good thing. If you have done it multiple times even better.

You should be proud of that contribution to your project(s).
When selling yourself that is exactly what you should be showing. That you are able to help move things forward instead of sitting around waiting for a tool or for someone else to do it.

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One way would be to use a tool called Screenr (I work for the parent company), and create Screencasts showing people how to build test scripts. It has become really popular to do this in the web development and eLearning fields as a way of marketing yourself.

This way you can actually show a potential employer that you know what you are talking about.

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