Take the 2-minute tour ×
Software Quality Assurance & Testing Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for software quality control experts, automation engineers, and software testers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My intention is for this to be a Community Wiki. Being that I have not been granted the power to make this a Community Wiki, I ask that someone who does have the power make it one before it gets closed.

I have read through all the FAQ's and decided I am still going to post my question.

I'm in a dilemma I'm sure most of you were at some point in the beginning of your careers. I understand this is a Q&A site for very specific and technical questions related to SQA and Testing, which is why I hope someone is kind enough to turn this into a Wiki before the powers that be make it go bye-bye.

I'm about to start my Junior year in college this fall and I major in Information Systems. I currently work at a hotel doing administrative work and have been lucky to make contacts in the software industry.

The people I met have encouraged me to get my feet "wet" in QA before attempting to land a developer/programmer role at their company. My college professors have recommended I do the same.

I feel misled.

As I search job sites for QA Engineers, the requirements present a host of technologies you must be familiar with, none of which I have even heard of, on top of 3-5 years of experience. Software Quality Assurance does not seem like an entry-level role at all - it seems it is its own monster.

With that said, I can program intermediately in JavaSE and Oracle's SQL, have experience with PHP, XML, and MySQL for web development, and have very strong HTML and CSS skills, albeit all skills were obtained through school projects.

None of the above are in the list of requirements for a SQA engineer at any level on the job sites I have found. Why have my professors and peers in the software industry recommended I pursue this? It seems clear I am a much better fit for Web Development.

My Question:

If anyone out there did start in SQA, without the familiarity of the plethora of software suites to do debugging, what were the fundamental requirements you did have to have to get the job?

share|improve this question
3  
Hi Java Bean, and welcome to the site. You're right that SQA is its own monster, and a career path in its own right. I'm not surprised your profs gave you duff advice, my CS profs tended to be rather clueless about testing as it's actually done in the real world too. And it's also frequently misunderstood by non-testers. Your industry contacts may be referring to much more junior "warm body" type roles, rather than professional testing - I doubt you'd see many of those on job sites, they often get filled internally. –  testerab Jun 5 '12 at 8:30
3  
However, going back to your question - you've actually got a lot of different questions in the background, and I think you could do with getting clear on what your most important question is here before we start trying to answer it. Do you actually want to know how to get a job in SQA, or do you want to know more about what SQA experience might be helpful to get you a job in your original desired web developer role? While testing is a good skill for a developer to have in their toolbox, it's important we understand what your end goal actually is. –  testerab Jun 5 '12 at 8:38
1  
Overall hint: searching public online job boards (Workopolis, Monster, etc) for entry level software positions can be a very frustrating experience, because 1) entry level jobs are the minority of jobs posted there and 2) public online job boards are the last resort for companies looking to hire. I would recommend looking elsewhere :) –  joshin4colours Jun 5 '12 at 13:20
    
@testerab - Thanks for the thoughtful response. To clarify, where I want to ultimately end up is in a developer role. I want to be a programmer, not necessarily a tester. If SQA experience will help me become a better programmer/developer, then I'd love to spend some time in that arena and take on the learning curve. My professors and peers made it seem as if this was a "stepping stone" into developing so I was a little confused when reading the requirements on job sites. It was immediately clear to me this was not something you just start in without experience or background knowledge. –  A Java Bean Jun 5 '12 at 21:53
    
@joshin4colours - I'm coming to that hurtful realization. Which really is difficult for me to take in as I work full time outside the industry and cannot afford to quit to take on internships that would greatly increase my chances of getting hired. –  A Java Bean Jun 5 '12 at 21:58
show 4 more comments

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Java Bean,

I think you may want to ask yourself a few questions first:

  • do you want to be involved in testing or in programming? In my experience, colleges are usually less than stellar in the QA domain, and tend to assume that testing is "any warm body" and useful to familiarize someone with an application before they start coding with it.
  • do you like problem-solving, problem-finding, problem-defining? Which aspects appeal to you most? As a general rule, programmer-mindset is quite different than tester-mindset: programmers focus on solving problems, where testers focus on finding and defining problems (these are rarely the same problems - testers tend to look for the gaps in the solution, and ways to work around any gaps they do find). Another way to conceptualize the difference is that the programmer focus tends to be more "building it right" where the tester focus tend to be more "did we build the right it" (the designer is the one who tries to define which it gets built - and yes, there's a lot of overlap there).

That said, there are generalities I'd consider for entry-level SQA positions:

  • Familiarity with software development processes: not necessarily able to code, but having a pretty good idea of how it fits together and how it works. Not all testing needs insight into the application code.
  • Ability to communicate and prioritize - QA people will need to create bug reports and convince others that the problems they report need to be fixed. They'll also need to evaluate the severity of any problems they run into.
  • Fast learner - no matter what level or domain of software QA someone starts at, there's a large learning curve (where I work, we call it a learning cliff. With overhang).

Any kind of programming skill is a bonus because it allows for automating some tests (be wary - if you don't like this but are good at it you could easily get trapped there - one of the rarest skillsets in the SQA domain is the mix of good automation and good test design)

That said, I'd look at why your college people are suggesting starting with QA. It seems a bit odd to me, not least because my experience is that a developer who's in QA until a "real" programming position comes along is bad for both the developer and the QA group.

share|improve this answer
2  
Thanks for the great reply. I definitely enjoy problem-solving and problem-finding as they're coupled in the development process, though if I had to choose one I'd go with problem-solving. I want to be a developer/programmer and by misguidance thought SQA was my "foot in the door," if you will. Thank you for clarifying my misconceptions, and thank you for the advice on what fundamental skill set would be needed to become an SQA engineer. –  A Java Bean Jun 5 '12 at 22:09
6  
As a tester, nothing irritates me more than people that think QA is a stepping stone to development. Why this advice persists confuses me. –  user2136 Jun 5 '12 at 23:47
    
Java Bean - I'm glad I could help clarify this for you. Knowing something about the SQA domain is always helpful for a developer, but that's something that can easily come from working with testers rather than working AS a tester –  Kate Paulk Jun 6 '12 at 10:47
2  
Ry - YES! In my experience that idea is common among people who don't understand that QA is a different field with quite separate demands: it's a misconception born of lack of knowledge. Which of course makes it even more irritating when you see it coming from the people training developers. –  Kate Paulk Jun 6 '12 at 10:50
3  
I recently had a new hire to my team who had been given similar advice from a professor. A difference I often note between developer and SDET is that a developer (often) will get a lot of depth into one or a few area(s) where an SDET (often) will get a lot of breadth in many areas. Also important to note, most large companies (Microsoft, Facebook, Google) require all of their QA resources to write code now days. It is definitely it's own track with opportunities to rise as an individual without going into management, whereas historically it may have been less so. –  Sam Woods Jun 6 '12 at 18:02
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.