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I've been trying to hire a tester for a few months without success. I really want to find someone who is both a tester and a developer, not because I want them to do two roles, but because the kind of testing I want them to do is all about automation and therefore I think they need to be able to at least programme in a scripting language like python to a reasonable level. Agencies tell me that it's not realistic to aim to find such a person, and I think their reasoning is something like: a good developer would rather be a developer than a tester (more money, more prestige).

So, my question is: is it realistic to try to find a developer turned tester or a tester who has learned to develop testing code? If not, what's a good alternative approach?

Edit: Great answers, guys. Thanks so much: this has been genuinely helpful. If anyone here is interested in a test automation development role based in London, let me know!

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Are you offering the same money and prestige as a developer? –  Joe Strazzere Jul 26 '13 at 16:23
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@Joe: yes, we are! –  Ben Jul 26 '13 at 21:27
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that's good news then, and at least one aspect where the Agencies are wrong –  Joe Strazzere Jul 26 '13 at 23:33
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That's very good - there are too many places that don't! –  Kate Paulk Jul 27 '13 at 22:56
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@Ben That is exactly what I am. I was a non-programming tester and got offered a job at another shop that used automation. I learned java and am able to write Selenium test cases. It's possible, you just need to look for the right people. –  squeemish Jul 30 '13 at 11:41

7 Answers 7

up vote 24 down vote accepted

In addition to what everyone else has said, it's absolutely realistic.

With respect to what the hiring agencies are telling you, here are some reasons you could find difficulty convincing a developer that they want to be part of the test team:

  • if your automation specialists are paid significantly less than your developers, you'll be asking any developer to take a pay cut. That usually doesn't end well unless you're offering other compelling benefits (in the form of training, recognition, opportunities to attend the industry conferences on the company dime and particularly autonomy)
  • if your test team is the red-headed stepchild of the organization (their warnings are ignored, their requests for resources are always last in the queue, they have to make do with everyone else's cast-offs for their systems, they have to fight for access to the tools they need to do their job... that sort of thing), you will have trouble attracting developers, much less keeping them
  • if your automation specialists are repeatedly pulled away from automation to perform manual testing because of the latest "emergency", you will lose any developer you bring in.

I wish I could say these were rare conditions - the reason the recruiting agents are saying you're being unrealistic is that too many places look on testing as a luxury at best, and an unwanted money sink at worst.

If your organization is prepared to treat your automators as developers and respect their judgment, you should have no difficulty bringing good people in - as long as you make it clear that you're not just expecting them to do brainless coding and you appreciate that writing software to run and test software is a challenging and interesting career path.

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I wish there was an option for multiple likes. You hit the nail on the head! –  Suchit Parikh Jul 26 '13 at 20:55
    
Yes, great answer. Logical and obvious. –  djangofan Jul 29 '13 at 17:16
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"writing software to run and test software is a challenging and interesting career path" is exactly my thoughts of my position! –  craastad Nov 19 '13 at 10:33

I like the idea of having developpers responsible for the quality of the code they produce, and, as a consequence, responsible to sw-develop automated tests that will proove their code. And when I say "responsible", I really mean it.
I am fed up with poor quality code. Test stages that need sw development should be part of dev team.

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I hired more than one Developer-Tester, and I am a Developer- Electrical Engineer and a Tester...

But don't expect finding one to be easy nor fast. We spent months and dozens of interviews finding a good combination.

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As someone in this role, I feel I can add some insight:

  • I began with a Computer Science degree and moved arbitrarily into test - manual and automated.
  • Frustrated with not having an impact on the code, I moved into software and quickly to senior at the company.
  • I then went overseas to travel + contract as I went. I found that there was a gap forming - an area where people needed testers who could code, and code well. Microsoft has SDETs - Software Developers in Test (which I was for a while), and other titles have included Test Automation Engineer, Test Analyst, Software Automation, Test Automater and other similarly-awkward titles, but the point remains - there's a real need for this role.
  • more and more, I have recruiters contacting me as companies are asking for this. I've worked in teams full of test automation engineers who don't do manual testing - it's a different type of skill. We get paid well, on-par with developers, and indeed in some contracts, more than I would have as a developer - we're still a rare breed.

So, if a recruiter is telling you that your demands are unrealistic, I humbly recommend a new recruiter. Advertise for testers, but the two key words that should be in the title or first paragraph - "test automation". If you want to give it more prestige, "Test Automation Specialist". You'll get the right candidates.

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Yes, it's certainly realistic to find such folks. I am one, and I've hired many.

What is more difficult (and might be what the Agencies are saying), is to convince a current developer to become a tester. That sort of career change is a challenge, as is any career change.

But there are many, many testers with automation experience who used to be developers and might welcome your position.

Look over your job description, and try to get feedback from others as to how they read it. If it reads as "seeking a person who is developer and tester", that might be difficult to fill. If instead it reads as "seeking a tester who also has these (development) skills...", you may be better served.

Good luck.

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Yes, its realistic to find these folks. They form the majority of the teams that I've lead.

You may want to adjust the title to be Software Engineer in Test, or just Software Engineer.

In my org, the pay scale, and prestige for the software engineers in test are the same as software developers.

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+1 for giving all testers a Software Engineer title. I did this whenever I hired a tester for Etsy, and never had cause to regret. –  Noah Sussman Nov 30 '13 at 19:48

There are plenty of testers who have learned to develop and there are also many testers who began their careers as developers. It is absolutely possible to find these kinds of people. There may be other hindrances however, such as availability in your area who have all of the skill-sets that you require, especially when it comes to specialized skill-sets.

a good developer would rather be a developer than a tester (more money, more prestige).

More money is pretty relative, and in a lot of cases, not quite as important as some people tend to think when compared against combined compensation. This line does make me wonder, are testers paid less in your organization? If so, are you planning on paying them as a tester, or as a developer. If you do pay your testers less, want to pay the person as a tester, but want them to do almost pure development, would you want the job yourself?

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The same thing goes for prestige. IME, "prestige" often translates into "respect and support to do my role well". I've often had to deal with huge amounts of overhead because helping the tester do their job just wasn't a priority for the team, even with 10-to-1 dev / test ratios. –  Ethel Evans Jul 26 '13 at 19:05
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@EthelEvans - this is SO true. When testers have to battle for the basic materials they need to perform their role, you get demoralized testers who resist anything that comes down from the management side. Gosh. I wonder why that could be... –  Kate Paulk Jul 26 '13 at 19:42

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