An Agile Approach to Managing Your Software Testing Career | TechWell

An Agile Approach to Managing Your Software Testing Career

I recently had the privilege of speaking at STAREAST 2015 on the future of the testing profession and whether software testing expertise is seeing its demise or rebirth.

To be clear, my view is that the need for software testing expertise has never been so critical. With the average consumer interacting with 250 computing devices per day, reliable software is not only a business responsibility; it's a societal requirement.

In my keynote, I went so far to say that as long as people are accountable for software development, there will be a need for skilled testing roles.

If you accept my assertion, how do you think we as testers should evaluate, plan, and manage our career journeys?

The first step is taking accountability for the growth of your expertise. I have written about owning your career already, so I will not repeat that information here. Rather, let's focus on an agile approach to determining your career direction, evaluating the alternatives, and developing a plan.

There are at least four dimensions to consider in evaluating and planning your career:

  • Industry passion: The choices here are numerous: finance, insurance, banking, aerospace, health care, manufacturing, hospitality, education, transportation, retail . . . . What area are you interested in?
  • Technology passion: A cross section of industry studies will yield big data, cloud, mobile, embedded technology, wearables, security, analytics, the Internet of Things, service virtualization, and 3D printing as the hot technologies for the next decade. It would be smart to familiarize yourself with a few of these concentrations.
  • Role passion: As organizations embrace agile, I see four broad roles for those with software testing expertise: test architect (a senior consultant or adviser role), coordinator of testing (a facilitator or project manager role), test automator (technical testing expert), and test designer (business testing expert).
  • Methodology passion: Do you like more structure and a disciplined development approach or a more flexible and agile development environment? Does working on higher- or lower-risk products excite you? Are you more comfortable in an independent QA and testing team, or do you thrive on close, cross-functional team collaboration?

With these four dimensions, you can employ an agile approach to evaluating and planning your career.

In your first sprint (put half an hour a day for ten days on your calendar, as an example) you can select an industry area, a set of companies within that industry, a technology, a role, and a methodology passion to learn more about—for instance, a test architect in the health care industry focused on data security in a compliance environment, or a test automation expert in financial services focused on mobile in an agile environment. The minimum viable product at the end of each career sprint is the information to eliminate career alternatives and move forward to the next sprint with either other career choices or a deeper dive into a desired career path.

Regardless of the career planning approach used, the most crucial step is to just do it. Good luck sprinting your career journey!

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