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My manager has a mindset that automation engineers can be appointed a manual or automation project with same level of efficiency expectations. I certainly can do good enough at manual testing but working purely on an automation project since many months, I am not confident about how well I will perform in a manual project.

Do big companies keep their manual and automation testing team completely separate or is there an overlap between the two? Is my manager's mindset common?

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Manual Testers and Automation Engineers are different professions and the work they produce add different value.

A manual engineer excels in spotting new issues that have not shown them selves before, they are good at allowing for network issues, browser issues, timing issues. They can get around minor changes easily while testing. The downside is that manual testing is slow, cumbersome and not automated as part of the development process

An automation engineer on the other hand has different skills and adds different values. They are good at making sure that tests for basic functionality can be automated, run repeatedly and be part of the automated development and CI/CD system.

Ironically, even 'automated testers' actually do a lot of manual testing - but this is while they are developing the automation, testing it, doing the next step manually to see what to automate, etc. For running tests for the business they just run the tests they have built.

So both professions can make sure 'it aint' broke', but they way that is achieved is vastly different. What works for the company in question totally depends on:

  • product
  • size
  • technology
  • company size and stage of development
  • number of paths through the software
  • availability of manual testers
  • availability of automation engineers
  • How much Unit and ntegrated testing develoeprs are doing
  • vision
  • cost
  • etc.
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"I certainly can do good enough at manual testing but working purely on an automation project since many months, I am not confident about how well I will perform in a manual project."

That's true. The skills to explore a feature are very different than the coding skills to reproduce certain steps. To the point many people prefer to use the term "checking" to the latter and "testing" to the former.

"automation engineers can be appointed a manual or automation project with same level of efficiency expectations"

I have known many people that were very good in exploration and with coding for automation. Were they special/super intelligent? No, they just had the experience. People vary in their skills - it's a individual situation.

Do big companies keep their manual and automation testing team completely separate or is there an overlap between the two?

There are many which do, many which don't. Projects vary, because they are made by people. So, maybe keep different groups is more efficient. However, as a rule of thumb, small and integrated teams work better (Scrum is recommended for 8-15 people, e.g.), because it forces people to develop a T-Shaped skill-set.

Advice for your personal situation:

  • Take the responsibility;
  • Talk and pair with people who are more focused on your new role;
  • Provide small chunks of results to your manager (reports and open places for exploratory charts, e.g.), ask for feedback (no more than weekly).
  • Can somebody like me who has excellent automation skills but somewhat average (or maybe below average) manual testing skills can survive and earn well enough? Ofcourse I am ready to improve my weak areas but that will be a different matter. – Shivam Mishra Nov 12 '18 at 13:31
  • Looking for the situation of already employment, it depends on a number of factors: From the perspective of your manager/company, the market situation, going all to the technical perspective - I couldn't not give a precise answer, such analysis could be a book :). However, the three points that I've highlighted at the end will give you the tools to assess if you are going on the right path - and where ask for help if not. – João Farias Nov 12 '18 at 20:01
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In my previous 2 companies, they separate the Manual QA and Automated QA, but there are no Automated QA that fully perform automation, after all the script won't need to be update every time, except for big update or new feature addition, right?.

So, after the Automation QA done with their script, they'll be back to Manual test.

And yes, the proportion of Manual test will be decrease for them, and some of them only Manual test on technical section, such BI Tracking, Hacking, Load Test, etc.

My Project Manager once said, the Automation QA will slightly loose his/her bug-sense, if they fully assigned to Manual test, but they still have to do it as QA.

  • Can somebody like me who has excellent automation skills but somewhat average (or maybe below average) manual testing skills can survive and earn well enough? Ofcourse I am ready to improve my weak areas but that will be a different matter. – Shivam Mishra Nov 12 '18 at 13:31
  • Of course you will, as you believe on your automation skill, as a qa you should believe that overall testing purpose is solely to seek a quality, right? Quote from Aristotle "Quality isn't an act, it's a Habit" You'll get used to Manual in no time :) – BetaTester Nov 14 '18 at 7:54
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My manager has a mindset that automation engineers can be appointed a manual or automation project with same level of efficiency expectations

It is not quite clear how you (or your manager) approach to compare your efficiency in test automation against your efficiency in manual testing (I am not even talking about the efficiency measures in QA is a sort of holly-war topic) since you have to measure this metric somehow to assess if the levels are more or less the same.

However the big companies tend to reduce staff risks and keep their QA staff flexible. That means that they teach their manual testers to automate and they expect automation testers will be able to handle manual testing tasks.

This doesn't mean your manager is right in your particular case since QA automation engineers are often more the developers rather than testers. They just code the tests but have lack of test design skills. This means that your manager have to teach automation engineers how to design the tests well before assigning manual tasks to test automation devs assuming they expect them to be successful.

  • Thanks for your answer. Is cross training part the norm? Or it happens rarely? I do some amount manual testing tasks anyway like writing test cases, reporting bugs, meetings, etc. I am only worried about the responsibility burden of not missing a bug because I dont consider myself as a good manual tester(I can come up with good test cases but manual testing is not just only that). I am confident about my automation skills though. – Shivam Mishra Nov 16 '18 at 12:37
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As per my experience in my software testing services company, it depends on the current project in which you are working. An engineer should be able to switch between automation and manual testing as client likes hybrid engineer who can work on both automation and manual testing as per project needs.

Any experience in manual testing also helps one when automating test cases as one is well aware of application flow. You can cover multiple test cases in single test script or automate as per application flow.

It helps in saving you from writing more LOC and you can cover more test cases in less test scripts.

So working on manual testing is not that bad even if your inclination is towards automation.

Doing manual testing helps you in becoming a good overall Test Software engineer.

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