So, You Want to Be a Software Tester? Here’s How to Get Started
Testing is a niche field with low barriers to entry. Consequently, we end up with people from very diverse backgrounds, many of whom didn’t ever plan to work in technology. I think there is a great deal of value there.
Maybe you are one of those people at a crossroads. You just finished a liberal arts degree, or maybe you have been working in product support, and you see an opening. You want to fall into testing, but on purpose. What do you do?
The first thing you will notice is a pattern in technical job advertisements. Most jobs for junior or entry-level positions require experience. This makes most people feel stuck. You need a job to get experience, but you need experience to get a job. Luckily, there are ways around all that.
Programmers use open source projects to get experience with different technologies, as tools for developing a resume, or just to work on personal projects. Large open source projects need testers, too. Take a look at Mozilla, Wikimedia (the software used to run Wikipedia), LibreOffice, and other large, commonly used software products. Joining these projects as a volunteer contributor will get you familiar with software development and delivery cycles and what it is like to work with a group of programmers. More importantly, you will be able to get your hands in a real software testing project.
Smaller study groups, like Weekend Testing, are another way to get some experience. Weekend Testing participants meet once a month over Skype to cover a new software testing theme or skill by doing exercises in groups, then having a discussion. One month the group might work on bug reporting, and the next it might be focused on discovering what product usability looks like. These sessions run on Saturdays and last about two hours.
Those two examples are free and welcome anyone interested in participating. There is also a wealth of free and informative instructional material on YouTube and through massive open online courses, web seminars, and white papers. But if you are willing to invest more time and some money, look for testing training. Getting training certification gives employers an idea of what you should already know.
One brief note about certifications: A lot of people use certifications as a tool to get jobs, with a great deal of success. You can pay your fee, take a test, and then get a few letters to add to your resume. Certification programs won’t necessarily help you practice what you will be expected to do every day when testing software for a product release, but certifications lend an air of credibility. They show that you made some effort.
Getting a job is partly about convincing someone that you can add value to a team. If you do not have formal credentials, experience is the name of the game.