There's plenty of reasons to go into software testing as a career path: money, variety, challenging work - to name just a few. But first, let's start with a story...
About nine years ago I was sat at my desk, headset on, answering support calls for my employer, a major PC & tech retailer, when a call came in from a gentleman who wished to make a claim against his Accidental Damage policy. I asked him what the issue was and then he explained that his child had spilt a soft drink on the family laptop. I was about to reassure him that he was of course covered when he revealed the plot twist.
In an effort to dry the saturated computer, this customer proceeded to bake his laptop for 45 minutes at gas mark 1.
In what was probably the most impressive display of self-control in my entire life, I calmly and professionally enquired as to whether there was any chance he may have placed the laptop in the hot oven by accident. Missing my implied nod and a wink, he answered with a surprisingly confident ‘no’. I then had to explain that regrettably, cooking the device isn’t covered by our extended warranty and that I couldn’t help him.
This was also the day I came to the conclusion that customer support just wasn’t my cup of tea and started looking for a new career.
The following week I stumbled across an advert for a ‘Junior Test Analyst’ role, applied, got an interview and the rest, as they say, is history.
So what is it about software testing that has not only kept me interested for nearly a decade, but also has me recommending it to others as a career choice? Let me break it down for you…
“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons” – Woody Allen
I’m not going to try to persuade you that going to work every day is a labour of love or that I’d still be doing it if they didn’t pay me. At the end of the day, we go to work because in return we are given money, and we need money for things like food, bills, transportation and Marvel Lego sets (or is that just me?).
My point is that software testing is actually a pretty well paid profession, especially considering you don’t have to be university educated to get into it in the first place. The average salary of a Test Analyst has stayed pretty consistently around the £35,000 (or about $45,290) mark for the past six years, and the average salary for a Test Manager is £56,500 (or about $73,110).
Obviously some roles will pay more, some will pay less, and you can’t expect this kind of salary off the bat, but it’s easily achievable within just a few years in the industry.
“Variety is the spice of life” – William Cowper
Even though day-to-day, you may not have complete autonomy over what kind of testing you do or how you do it, the industry itself has a wealth of choice when it comes to techniques, tools, specialties and opportunities.
This also means that there isn’t just one pre-defined career route to take. You can choose between being a specialist or a jack of all trades, full-time employment or contracting, leading projects or leading people.
All these choices mean that if you ever feel things are a little stale, you can inject some life back into your working day by trying something new or learning something different.
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort” – Franklin D Roosevelt
It’s easy to underestimate the impact testers can have on a piece of software and it is this, that keeps me engaged and motivated each day. Everyone has used good software and everyone has used bad, and the quality of the testing is often the difference. As a tester you can be truly influential as to what the finished article looks like, and that’s a fantastic feeling.
The obvious flip-side is that you will also be held accountable for issues and failures, however this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Although not solely accountable, testers should thrive off the pressures and expectations that come with the territory. If we didn’t care what the end user thought of the product, it would mean our priorities are misplaced and we’d end up making poorer software.
“You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That’s how you know you’re still alive” – Jerry Seinfeld
The life of a tester is rarely a relaxing one. This could potentially be a turn-off for some people but for me, it’s the difference between a day that drags and one that flies by. There is a fast-moving, ever-changing list of challenges a tester is forced to face each day such as tight deadlines, new technologies, pushy project managers, resource shortages etc.
Stepping up to meet these challenges is where we learn the most and grow not only in ability, but also in confidence. Every project has its own challenges, and every challenge has numerous potential solutions, but if you’re willing to try new things and risk some failure from time to time, you will ultimately be rewarded.
Ultimately, as with any career, you get out what you put in. I know some people who eat, sleep and breathe software testing. They spend their evenings at community events and their weekends writing blogs, and they love it. I also know others who are just as happy to rock up, work their contracted hours, go home and not think about it again until the following morning.
Oh, and in all my time as a tester, nobody has ever come to me with a freshly baked electronic device… which is a bonus.