Why I Became A Software Tester
The good, the bad and the ugly
Software testing can be seen as a pretty dry place to build expertise in. Perhaps, it’s also not as sexy as being a software developer because essentially, software testing is concerned with finding bugs. It’s the process of executing a programme or an application purely to locate errors or faults. These errors can quite easily come about through the development of a piece of software, and locating such errors, often called defects, is key to getting quality software working the way it’s intended to.
Curious as to the career journey of a software tester, I approached Lala Arceo, who kindly shared her ideas on why she became a software tester.
Why tech and what led to your journey as a software tester? What kind of work were you exposed to early on and what did you like or not like about it?
Lala : I’ve always wanted to work for gaming companies. As a kid, I was quite fond of computer games and was always curious about how they worked. In fact, there was a particular game I played that I was so obsessed with. My goal was to meet the creators of that game. I loved the way they delivered the storyline and it was around that time that I began to see the many amazing things that could be created and developed with technology. On top of that, most of my family members are in the tech space. My brother and a few cousins are in IT and engineering fields and they’ve been quite encouraging and supportive of my pursuing a career in this space.
So, I decided early on that I would find a company that was closely related to my passion. I took a two-year programming course as a way to kick-start my dream of becoming a game developer. I then followed this up with a Bachelors in Information Technology. Around this time, I also took on a few jobs so I could practise. Mostly, I was involved in creating simple coding projects but I knew then, this was insufficient for what I wanted to accomplish.
After graduation, I found myself working for a company that supports online games. I felt pretty lucky that my first job was so closely related to my dream. Although I was now part of the game development industry, I knew I was still quite far from my goal. But it was a start and that was important for me.
I got involved in quite a few things in the company and I learnt all the inner workings of the gaming industry. In particular, I was in customer service. I had to manage players dealing with a host of issues from problems in-game to account and payment related issues. The most common type of problem was issues in-game and bugs that could be exploited by unethical players which could then lead to financial losses for the gaming company. It was then that I got introduced to the world of QA (Quality Assurance) Testing.
At first, all I did was take reports from different players about bugs they would find in the games. Then, I would try to recreate the steps the players took. If the bug could be replicated, I would then send a report to the game developers. It was quite a simple process and back then, it never occurred to me that what I was doing was essentially, providing a good quality product to our customers. All these improvements, over time, led to more revenue.
What kind of work did you do in manual QA? Did you like it? Did you have many challenges in the early days?
Lala : I started working on manual testing, focusing on estimation and creating test cases and then, moving on to test execution. At first, being rushed into projects, I would have very little idea about what was going on. It was challenging in many ways. But over time, I began to love the work I was doing and decided I would pursue this path.
I tried different things, moving from manual tester roles to taking on automation testing and other tasks. And then one fine day, I was given the opportunity to get some formal training by my company. I soaked it all up, learning about requirements gathering and analysis as well as different types of software testing. These were good times as I enjoyed learning about all these tools, procedures, processes and techniques. I wanted to be involved in delivering a quality product.
What are the hours like, are you working in a team environment and what are your deliverables? Tell us a little more about what a software tester does.
Lala : Well, essentially a tester is someone who tests the quality of a product to see if it satisfies the needs of the consumer or client. Usually, a tester will work side by side with developers but sometimes, also with business analysts. The hours vary. In many ways, it depends on the project itself, how the team approaches it and the project methodology they use. Usually, an agile-centric project will be fast-paced. In such an environment, developers and QA teams usually work within shorter timeframes which are called iterations or sprints.
The work can sometimes be a little repetitive. So, when I find this happening, I switch to other tasks to keep myself fresh and sharp. I might attend an offsite seminar or meetup and during my free time, I usually read up on QA related articles. I think this is useful because it opens me up to new opportunities like meeting with like-minded people to share and learn new ideas and tools.
I work as part of a team and we typically report to the QA Lead on the status of our tasks at the end of each day. My deliverables? Quite simply, to deliver quality testing results that ensure that the system is working as intended. There’s no specific course you need to take in order to become a QA. However, being in the tech space, doing computer related courses will be a definite plus. For me, what’s more important is having integrity and a good eye for detail.
Looking specifically at software testing, why is it that identifying various scenarios is hard? How well do you have to know a piece of software in order to test it and how do you approach your work?
Lala : Exhaustive testing is really quite impossible because there is a limitless number of possible scenarios to test. There are also a lot of testing methods you can use to test various scenarios. A happy path is a default testing approach wherein you will test the system based on the functionality provided by the requirements, while negative testing attempts to stress the system by providing invalid inputs to check if the system will reject or tolerate the bad data.
As for knowing the software in depth, it depends on how available the software is. Sometimes, their system is already online which gives you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with it. But often, you only get a bunch of requirements so you need to match the expected results to the user stories provided by the business analyst. What you can do to get more familiar with the software is to read up on the requirements and user stories. And of course, if the system is already online, get on it and familiarise yourself and explore it. As for my approach, I create different test cases because I want to ensure that all the primary scenarios are checked. So there are many variations created. I use the Happy path and the Negative Testing methods to do this.
How do you learn and where do you go to learn new things?
Lala : There are different types of automation testing tools out there. The most commonly used one, based on my experience, is Selenium. I learnt Selenium with Java through a QA boot camp but you can also learn it online because there are a ton of resources available. I’ve subscribed to Guru99 and I also look for various online courses at Udemy. And in terms of meetups and seminars, I usually find these on Facebook. I joined a QA Group ‘Software Testing Philippines’ and they regularly conduct seminars for free. So this has been good.
Do you plan to stay in software testing? Do you want to get into more managerial or technical roles?
Lala : So far, I am enjoying my career in QA. Yes, I’m planning to get into managerial roles in a few years. I’m currently undertaking certification and other training programmes to enhance my current knowledge base. My mid-term goal is to be able to properly lead a competent team that can provide outstanding deliverables to clients.
Currently an IT Consultant with RCG Global Services based in Makati, Philippines, Lala Arceo brings more than three years experience in the Tech space. Although she started out initially in customer support handling game-related inquiries and in-game transactions, she spent two years as a Software Test Analyst focusing on manual testing of CRM related technologies using Test Management tools such as HP ALM and Defect tracking tools like JIRA and Rally.
This has enabled her to have lots of experience in test planning in relation to test case creation, scripting and estimation of test cases. Additionally, she has worked on test execution, filing of defects, filing of observation documents for verification as well as having intermediate skills in testing tools such as ALM and Jira.
Working within a team environment, she had led a few projects as well as been in charge of onboarding for interns assigned to various projects. A few months experience in automation has led to experience in using automation tools such as Selenium IDE and Eclipse Java for creating and modifying scripts to the creation of batch jobs in Jenkins.
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