Interview with Maciej Lorenc – Lead Software Tester in Hicron
We asked a Quality Assurance specialist what should be done to achieve a high level of expertise and experience, how to become a tester and if it requires studies in QA. Below is an interview with Maciej Lorenc, Hicron QA specialist.
Hicron: How did your adventure with software testing start, did you have any special prior knowledge?
ML: Already towards the end of my studies I started looking for work as a tester. I received a degree in technical physics with a major in computational physics, so I had the basic technical expertise. I learned the theory of testing on my own, using blogs or articles on the Internet. Most importantly, however, my studies have let me develop the traits necessary for every tester – inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, scrupulousness, the ability of logical thinking and a certain “distrust” (e.g., the ability to challenge certain assumptions).
Hicron: Is QA important? Can a project be closed without tests?
ML: Quality Assurance refers to more than just tests – it includes a wide range of activities that should be planned and carried out to achieve the desired quality level. Every project can be closed without tests – it is only a matter of the business risk we are ready to take. It may work, but it is more likely that, for instance, the software developed will be completely inconsistent with the client’s expectations, or it will be so “buggy” that the costs of removing the bugs will make this approach uneconomical. A bug that is discovered late is more expensive to remove.
Hicron: Can one have a degree in testing?
ML: When I started working as a tester, software testing studies were only just being created. Now, you can get a degree in this area from several universities in post-graduate courses.
Hicron: What should you do to become a tester if you have a degree in something else?
ML: At the moment, the labor market is saturated with many novice testers. The tester profession may be a good way to get into the IT industry, which as viewed as an El Dorado. This is indeed true, but, unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to find candidates having the basic traits of a tester – perceptiveness, inquisitiveness or ability of logical thinking. Ever since this profession became popular, many opportunities to gain knowledge have appeared on the market – through training combined with an internship at certain companies or through post-graduate studies in this area. You can also gain the necessary knowledge yourself, provided that you know a person that will guide you well and perhaps even help you in getting an internship.
Hicron: What would you recommend to young people entering this profession?
ML: Most importantly, they should always improve their knowledge. Often, after getting stuck in the routine of testing, we put our own development on the back burner. I recommend following blogs on testing or application security, participating in conferences or simply reading books on QA. It is also important to remember about the basic rookie mistakes – the first of them is the failure to remain inquisitive and ask questions to other team members (“they wrote so, so it has to be right – or hasn’t it?”, “maybe something has not been predicted?”, “what were the underlying assumptions, maybe they are incorrect?” or “I will not ask because this will reveal that there is something I do not know”).
Hicron: What knowledge should a tester have?
ML: Extensive. The tester profession demands continuous development of technical skills (testing methods, programming required for automation, familiarity with the technical aspects of the tested product, etc.) and domain-specific knowledge, i.e., related to the business aspect of the given application. It would be difficult to imagine a tester testing a bank system without knowing anything about this area. In my opinion, it is domain-specific knowledge that should be every tester’s very strong point.
Hicron: What should you focus on during tests?
ML: On everything, errors may be hidden anywhere, even in the requirements delivered by the clients or owners of the products. They may even be found in the test cases according to which tests are sometimes performed. A tester should be perceptive and inquisitive by nature. Sometimes also distrustful. Usually, the “most interesting” errors are found when the tester “thinks outside the box”.
Hicron: Manual tests or automatic tests? Strengths? Weaknesses?
ML: Automatic and manual tests cannot be compared. The aim of automation is to support the testers’ work, relieving them of repetitive and frequently boring duties. They certainly give feedback faster. Let us not, however, forget their weaknesses – for instance, the constant repetition of the same test cases, which may lead to the pesticide paradox (plants become immune to the applied pesticides; a similar phenomenon may occur during software development – errors appear outside of the tested path). In my opinion, the boundary between automation and manual tests should be appropriately set depending on the project.
Hicron: Thank you very much for this interview. I hope that your advice will come in handy to future testing specialists!
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