What do software testers do all day? Our post guides you through the daily tasks that can make up the average work day for the software tester.
Software testing offers one of the most exciting and challenging careers in tech. A highly skilled tester is incredibly valuable, with more being expected of today’s software testers than ever before. This article walks through the typical tasks a tester will perform each day, to provide a clear picture of a day in the life of a tester.
Working with an Agile team
To manage the increasing complexity, and to drive collaboration, testing organizations are turning to modern practices like Agile development and DevOps. In this context, QA engineers work with developers daily to continually develop and ship new features and bug fixes. Often, testers will be embedded with their development team to allow them to gain a deep understanding of a set of services or a functionality domain. Testers will attend daily standup meetings with their team, and every couple of weeks attend sprint planning and retrospectives.
Documenting new features
Every day, testers engage in the feature planning process so they can point to holes in the functionality, ask questions, plan the QA approach, and infuse the process with a quality mindset. The process can be tedious, but a software tester can bring a lot of value to a requirements planning session by thinking of edge cases or implications that the product team may not have been considering.
Testing new features
Skilled software testers approach each feature with an open and curious mind – always refining and clarifying the software’s expected behavior while asking a tester’s favorite question: “How can I break this?” Testers have to keep their eye on the product as a whole, while understanding the complex relationships between all components.
Before beginning testing, QA engineers typically research and understand the system requirements. This can be done either by dissecting the charter to develop a test plan or through exploratory testing to discover the application’s capabilities. After the test plan has been created, testers explore the product then execute their plan. They simultaneously look for edge cases to exploit and verify that the user experience is as close to effortless as possible.
These functions reduce risk for the organization, and a great tester brings tremendous value to the organization every single day by catching bugs early in the cycle, so reducing the cost to fix them.
Investigating and cataloging software defects
When software behaves in unexpected ways, it’s a tester’s chance to “play detective.” Solving these malfunction mysteries is another daily practice every tester performs. Great testers are expert troubleshooters and go deeper than the “what” of a bug – they dig into the “why.”
After a root cause is determined, testers must catalog the fault with a detailed bug report so their development team can fix it. A great bug report includes a thorough description of the fault, along with steps to reproduce it and any helpful context, such as logs, screenshots, and network traffic. Where appropriate, testers will design and implement new regression tests for bugs, to make sure they are not reintroduced in future builds of the application.
As a software tester, test automation expertise is no longer optional – it’s the price of entry. Every day, modern testers write maintainable, high-quality test code in the form of an automated test suite. This test suite is comprised typically of a combination of the following:
- Acceptance tests, which verify that new features and components meet the chartered requirements
- Regression tests, which ensure defects are not introduced with new builds
- Integration tests, which verify components work well together
- API tests, which verify an application’s REST API
- UI tests, which confirm the views with which users will be interacting
These tests typically become part of a continuous deployment pipeline, which enables teams to ship new code quickly and with confidence.
Troubleshooting failing tests
Failing tests block builds and delay delivery to the end users. When a pipeline test fails, it is the job of the team’s tester to determine the root cause. Each day, software testers must troubleshoot failing tests under pressure to get new builds out while maintaining a high degree of accuracy. Modern applications have thousands of dependencies. How can a tester guarantee their tests are validating the services their team owns while remaining resilient and self-healing when a dependent component is down? Testers lead a never-ending crusade against this kind of test “flakiness.”
Keeping skills fresh
World-class testers are lifelong learners. They are continually growing their skills with a daily self-development practice. Whether it’s learning a new framework, a new language, or the “soft skills” of communication, leadership, and teamwork, testers are always improving. In addition to developing these practical skills, testers must stay on top of technology trends by reading industry publications, following thought leaders, and joining communities. By continually learning, a tester will increase their value exponentially and will find themselves commanding the respect of their peers and a healthy salary to boot.
Software testing requires a diverse array of skills, and the day-to-day of a tester is varied, challenging and rewarding. A tester must be a product expert, a creative thinker, an expert troubleshooter, and a great programmer in their own right. While software is always changing, one thing is for sure – the daily life of a tester is never dull.