Is there something or an automation test tool that is free that I could be using to enhance my skills in automation? My company is not allowing me to grow in my field, and this is not good. They do not see the value of automation. I need a tool that will be able to test both a windows application with telerik grids and a web based application that uses silverlight. All help would be greatly appreciated. Selenium will not cut-it. I like HP QTP, but my company will not pay for license.
While you can use tools like QTP or even UIAutomation directly (the replacement for MSAA in OS's since Windows 7) it isn't really ideal for Silverlight automation. To really have the control you need to write good Silverlight automation you need access to the Silverlight properties in the xap. Here's a list of some tools that work for Silverlight testing:
Note that I have not used any of the above tools, but have heard of/read of them before and they all seem capable of automating the Silverlight side of things. If I were you I would not try to look for a tool that will work for both (although there may be some out there) because Silverlight automation has unique requirements compared to windows applications and there are far fewer tools out there. There are a TON of tools for windows application automation that can be found with little effort by searching.
In your situation I would definitely pick one of the two things to automate and not try to tackle both at once. Once you have something solid in place and have proven the benefit, then you can move on to the other one (hopefully with some support from management this time).
Have you heard of Sikuli?
It automates based on images. So you could use it for windows and web applications. It's pretty cool but a little odd, but may suit your needs. It is everyone's favorite price, free. I never got very far in using it because I work mainly in the web space.
Java, Perl or Python are all free with excellent online resources. You need to sharpen your programming skills, the tool is less important.
Have you read anything by Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin? If you want growth in automation, I would invest some of your time and start reading his books. His books are not tool specific however it covers the fundamental principles of software development which will aid you in your growth as a developer.