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Just to put the question at top:

How can I 'break' into the Software Test Lead or Software Test Automation world from being a tester?

Is there any suggestions for what to study to advance within the Software Test world?

I am looking for a position in Northwest Florida (Essentially, an IT void). I am currently in QA but I need to move. I am looking for a position there and having very little luck. I was curious as to what others have had luck with and what would make me stand out.

My background in the field is limited but I have done amazing work at my company. My skill set is closer to a developer but I have a strong passion for testing. I have developed several testing applications for my current company. I am finding jobs for Software Test Lead and Software Automation but, while I feel I am qualified, my resume isn't up to par and I know very little for these positions.

So, what can I learn, where can I study and what should I know when applying for a test lead or test automation position?

Is there any certifications or communities that could be of assistance with developing and furthering my career and skill set?

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How are you looking for jobs? Are you active in the online test community? –  Phil Kirkham Feb 21 at 4:19
    
Phil, what communities? I am looking on Dice, LinkedIn and quite a few other job boards. I have not been in the IT world professionally for long at all. –  PaulDonny Feb 22 at 6:22
    
Blogs, Twitter, Software Testing Club - when I was looking for a job a couple of years ago I found opportunities because of mt online tester friends –  Phil Kirkham Feb 22 at 20:54
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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In addition to what the other responses have said:

It's a lot easier to get a position in automation or as a lead if you're already doing the work of one whether you have that position formally or not. It looks from what you've said that you have the experience to claim this in terms of what you've done if not in terms of "number of years experience" (my first year in testing I wound up managing a remote team of testers as well as doing projects from inception through deployment - that year was like five years somewhere with a more sane pace).

Things you can do to make your ability to do the job stand out (I'm presuming here that you're applying externally, although this can also apply to internal promotions depending on the way your company works):

  • Customize your resume for each position you apply to. If you start with a base document that lists everything and don't worry about how big it is, you can do this relatively easily. Make sure you save the customized version so you have a record of what you said in which application - if you're actively job hunting you can easily lose track of what you highlighted for which job application (been there, done that...)
  • Go through the position description or job ad carefully, looking for the things that they really want. For each of those, you want to give a short description of something you've done that demonstrates that you can do what they want. As an example, say an ad is for a software developer in test and includes high in the list of responsibilities "develop tools for the team to use". You'd include in your resume that as part of position X you built a tool to collate automated test results and post them to the company project management system. Or a tool to automatically collate manual test results and post them to the company project management system. Or... you get the idea.
  • Make sure you start with the things you've done that match the position's needs best.
  • Put the keywords in. You'll need to do this to get past the HR filter (if there is one). In a lot of places, the HR people have no idea what the position actually requires and will simply make sure the resume has all the right keywords before they pass it on (this isn't their fault and I'm not criticizing them. They're doing the best they can in a difficult position, as a rule. Let's face it, software geek, whether programmer or tester flavor, is its own language a lot of the time). If you've built automation against .NET applications, list .NET as one of your skills. You don't have to say how many years experience you have in that skill, but do make sure to include something in the list of things you did at your previous and current positions that covers that skill.
  • Be prepared to elaborate on anything in your resume at any interviews. And I do mean anything. I've had questions about my long-past experience as a field geologist at interviews for software testing positions.
  • If you have gaps in your resume, make sure you can explain them and explain them well - but don't be tempted to lie.
  • If you've got a lot of jobs in a short time-frame (I've found that anything less than 2 years with a job will raise questions) be prepared to explain that. "The company went into bankruptcy" is a good explanation. So is "The company was having financial difficulties and laid off a number of its higher paid employees including me and my manager." (that one happened to me).
  • Wherever possible, try to send resumes to the IT managers, particularly if you're cold-sending (not applying to a particular job).
  • Do cold-send your resume. By the time a position is advertised, the company has usually tried to fill it internally and gone through any resumes they have on file for likely candidates.
  • If your current employer is amenable, you can consider having a position defined around what you're actually doing. Some places will do this, others won't.
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To be promoted to team lead at a current position you there first needs to be a vacancy. Obviously you can't get the job if they have someone they are happy with. If there is not currently a lead you need to demonstrate your leadership by being the decision maker on the team and guiding the other testers. You also need to make your employer aware that you are the one making test plans, strategy decisions and guiding other testers. Find ways to improve the teams productivity and implement them, then make your employers aware of what you did and how it benefited them.

If you're applying for lead positions externally you just need to sell yourself in the interview. Have specific examples of process you improved at your current job.

The easiest ways to get into automation is just to implement some form of automated testing at your current job. Find a specific area of your testing that would benefit from it and convince your employer that it will improve the quality of the product. Start with a small proposal that won't require significant resources (maybe just a proof of concept) anything to get the ball rolling.

For automation you will want to learn Ruby, Python and/or Java and automation tools/frameworks. Selenium is probably the most common. If you can't learn these things at work do it in your spare time, get the source of an open source project and implement an automated test suit for it.

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Great advice and thanks for covering both external hire and internal promotions. I have performed as a lead, along with nearly every other role in the Software Development life cycle in the past (I worked for a bankrupt company, I had to do everything). Any suggestions for how I should put this on my resume? –  PaulDonny Feb 21 at 1:09
    
Post the highlights in your roles/accomplishment section, be specific and avoid general statements. Tell them how you were a leader, decision maker and/or mentor. Use your cover letter (which should be customized for the posting to which you areapplying) to fill in the details. Look up some information about how to conduct interviews and filter resumes directed towards IT managers. This will give you some perspective into what they are looking for an how they think. –  Merch Feb 21 at 1:22
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I've been searching for a job in test automation too and from what you wrote I think it matches a lot of offers I've seen.

Having background in development and having built testing applications is a must if you want to succeed in that area.

A lot of offers I've seen go like this (including one from microsoft in ireland and red gate in london):

"Experience developing applications in C#/Java/ruby" "Experience working with open source automation tools like selenium or cucumber" (you have to work on this one if you don't have it) "Experience working in an agile environment"

Seems like a fit....

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