Careers in Test

You probably couldn’t tell, but my last post was part of my exploration into careers in test. Which I’m exploring because of my worry that so many of the discussions in test haven’t changed in the last ten years.

I better try to come up with a better explanation before everyone thinks I’m crazy.

A few weeks ago, I expressed my concern about the lack of forward thinking in software testing. I wondered (and still wonder) where the new ideas are going to come from. The “hot topics” in test haven’t changed that much in the last ten+ years, and I wonder if they’ll change in the next ten years.

One possible reason for this is that not that many people stay in test long enough to get to a point where they have both the experience and influence to advance the state of the art. Now, I don’t think everyone with some arbitrary amount of experience in test is automatically going to be a forward thinker and come up with great new ideas and approaches – and that’s also why I think we need more people with extensive experience in test.

And with that thought, I started thinking about careers in test, because without a good idea of what a career in test looks like, people may not stay in test.

And that got me thinking about what I do, and what other testers do -  and whether or not how we describe ourselves can make us a good (or bad…or neutral) role model for a career in test.

And, for better or for worse, that’s kind of the way I think about things. I keep recognizing more parts of the system and then I ponder how they work together, until eventually I come up with something.

Or not.

Anyway – I hope that puts a little more clarity on my recent rambles.


  1. I’ve enjoyed your rambles – and though I dont have as much experience in the test industry as yourself even after a few years I’ve found the same discussions goiing on, the same questions being posted to the STC – so share your concerns about the future and where new ideas are going to come from

  2. That really does clarify a few things for me. Thanks Alan. I am inclined to agree. In any profession, you will always have a few that want to improve it. I think that testing is no different in this regard.

    However, what has changed is communication. Before, forward thinkers would perhaps find themselves alone and discouraged in most teams where they may find themselves isolated from others who think as they do. Now with the advent of social media like twitter, facebook, and Linked in, along with the growing network of Testing and other Tech professionals online, Now it is possible for those of us who look at testing as more than just an ends to sustaining ourselves in life, to actually explore these ideas and spread them out side of the tight geographical, technical, or social boundaries that may have once existed.

    When I think of my home State of West Virginia, I don’t necessarily think of Computer Jobs, be they development, or testing,and yet that is one sector that in the last few decades has grown quietly in certain areas of the state. When I went to school for Computer Engineering, I thoroughly expected that I’d have to leave my home state to work in technical field that interested me. That didn’t happen for me though.

    When once only certain key areas in the country were getting and investing in research, and development in the Tech industries, I think of Silicon Valley, or Microsoft’s Redmond Campus, or perhaps now in some areas in Texas where they seem to be booming. Now, it seems that technical jobs, Testing included are now in need all over the place.

    However, there is one problem, given the nature of how many people come into Testing, the network possibilities are maybe not obvious to those who may not be aware of organizations like AST, STP, or of Conferences like StarEast, CAST, STPCon, and so on. So the question, and the barrier that I think is there preventing some real revolution in how Testing is being conducted going forward, comes down to publicity. How do we get others to realize that Software Testing is not a dead end job, that its not just something that you do from 9-5 (or whatever the hours you keep may be), but that Testing along with Lifelong learning turn it from just a mere Job to make ends meet, into a Career that can see you and your colleagues grow as ideas begin to permeate and spread around the Globe.

    So the question we should maybe be asking is not, where are the forward thinkers, but rather where are the testers who have not yet discovered ever growing global network and community of Testers online and in the real world.

  3. Was it this kind of career plan you where looking for: 😉

    On a more serious note. Actively defining a testing career framework within the organization is a great benefit. It should just be job titles, but relationships between these & growth potential and training for each step.

    Also look into the Hot Topics panel of EuroStar 2010:


  4. Nice post. I think ideas develop as a need arises. I think its changing slowy with baby steps and usually baby steps are not counted in the big idea section. I think there are lots of movements out there in the testing industry. How it will impact a day to day tester… we dont know yet coz testers in several companies are still trying to prove they are needed forget new ideas or innovation.

  5. I am glad to have found this blog, I am reading the book now, and its worthy. thats for sure.
    I was talking with a buddy, and he pointed out i should become a SDET, seems like the role of SDET will fit well, I will be doing it anyways, I find many things that don’t work or are broke. he he. Wish me luck

    Thanks for the book also, nice work.

  6. I think the recession may help here. When Microsoft laid of 5,000 developers in early 2009, I was among those newly out of work. I had no trouble finding SDET opportunities, as an SDET with 4 years of experience. Developers with 10+ years of experience seemed to be having trouble finding jobs. I think we’ll see that a lot of developers are coming to the conclusion that SDETs are needed more than developers right now, and software testing is finally starting to become an appealing career as people look past the surface to see what it really is. I know I’ve been seeing questions about moving from dev to test more frequently than from test to dev lately, and that is a huge reversal of the old trend.

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