The IT industry in India grew at an amazing pace between 1998 to 2018. Boon or bane, it opened several avenues for graduates in the country to contribute to the economy. Software development is one of the most common career choices that we hear about in the news, however Software Testing is another job function that seems to be quite popular with the women. We have with us Afsana Atar, an expert in the field of software testing who brings over insights from over a decade of experience in IT with both in-house and outsourced domains working with various MNCs.
What qualifications are needed to become a Software Tester? How did you get started?
A software tester’s primary task is to ensure quality in the software deliveries being made. I started my career as a software tester after completing undergrads in computer engineering. Software testing doesn’t get the same coverage in undergrad courses as compared to software development which results in students favoring the latter when they join the workforce. The onus is then on the companies to train freshers on industry practices and processes. I too received training in the software testing function at my first job. There are thus no barriers to entry in this field and is only limited by a person’s aptitude and work ethic. Once you become a part of the workforce, you need to focus on learning about the business and quality processes to explore ways to improve it.
What are the key skills that make a successful software tester?
Education does provide the foundations to the technical skills needed for the job. But to become successful at testing, the person needs to develop their “test to break” attitude and being creative and curious helps in the learning process. However, the most important skill to have in this profession is “communication”.
It’s strange that you mentioned “communication” to be the strongest skill a software tester should have. Why do you attribute so much importance to communication in a primarily technical function?
The tester’s primary role involves finding defects or faults in the application built by the development team. The software developers and software testers are at loggerheads all the time. Effective communication is key to smoother resolution of disputes and fostering team learning culture. Communication is also crucial since one needs to understand and manage issues diplomatically when dealing with high profile stakeholders. The gist of it is that, the “fault finder” has to be a “smooth talker” to avoid rubbing someone the wrong way.
I understand you recently published a book on testing. Would you like to share some details about the book?
Yes, my book “Hands-On Test Management with JIRA” was published last month. Please do grab a copy at: https://amzn.to/2IsJact. The book delves into helping the testing professionals and test managers to streamline their test management processes. Writing books, videos and articles in international magazines and online journals are some avenues I use to share the knowledge I have gained over the years. I believe that there is a dearth of good teachers in the industry. I would like more industry experts in Software testing to share their knowledge with the new generation. This helps in fostering fresh ideas and brings new blood in the profession.
The market has always been biased towards software development and the primary reason is that there is not much awareness about software testing as a profession. People have this notion that software testing is a woman-oriented role and doesn’t provide for good career growth. However, this is far from reality. It is true that women do figure as the majority in this profession, but it is the pay-gap for women that shifts the numbers for software testers to below market rates. But I believe the situation is changing with the advancements in technology especially automation and artificial intelligence. Software testers will have a more pronounced and lead role in the new AI age.
That’s an interesting perspective you bring to the practice. Now that we are talking about looking at the future, what are your thoughts about AI and its effects on the market.
AI is a game changer and has already affected all the industries. Automation is bound to affect the job market and will make a lot of jobs obsolete. But these will be the ones that are primarily labor intensive and repetitive. The good thing is that AI is still software based, so testers will need to become more specialized.
How would you advise recent graduates planning to join the industry in software testing?
It is a good time for recent graduates since they would be joining the market at the beginning of the second IT boom. The market abounds with jobs for candidates with skills in automation and analytics. Quality is paramount in any of the AI and analytics products out there. The market also sees decentralization efforts in the form of Blockchain technology. Exchanges and blockchain companies are offering huge bounties for finding defects in their platforms. All in all, this is a good time to be entering the market.