Brook is a Manual QA training graduate who switched careers and is now taking his first steps into the tech sphere by working full-time as a tester. In this interview, he shares his story and all of the challenges he had to overcome to land his desired job.
What did you do before QA? How did you come up with the decision to start a career in tech?
Well, that’s a long story. I started with private investigations back in 2008. I was laid off from the company I reported to from 2011 to 2020 around the time of COVID. And then I decided to get into real estate or the mortgage industry because interest rates were so low at that time. It seemed like it would be a good option. However, as soon as the pandemic was over, the interest rates came back up, and nobody was buying houses anymore. So I was laid off again. I felt I had to find another career path. I had always been interested in the tech world in general. I just thought that you always had to start as an IT Tech Support Specialist, and I just didn't want to do that. It would be way below the pay that I'm used to, and starting over in a random career in a new industry didn’t sound too good to me. I just didn't want to talk to customers or ask them whether or not they had their computers turned on. I was also pretty sure you had to do some kind of certification program like Cisco to start in the industry. So I just started looking online for options.
How did it feel to jump into something new starting from scratch? Was it difficult to decide that from now on, you were going to change your profession?
Not at all. When I was in investigations, I kind of reached the top anyway; the only other option for me would have been to become a director or vice president or something like that. Seeing the responsibilities of people in those positions, I just didn't want to do that. When I went into the mortgage industry, I became an underwriter in six months, which usually takes between two and three years. Then I got promoted right after passing everything in the junior program. After that, I reminded myself of the fact that I had always had an interest in computers, and I became eager to learn more. I didn't have the time or the money to go through an actual security boot camp or Cisco certification, or things like that. I definitely don't regret going into tech; it was always something that interested me. I just finally took a deep dive into it.
You were probably choosing between different programs. What made you pick Careerist training?
I compared Careerist to other boot camps, and they didn't have the same features. One of the main features was a guaranteed tuition refund if I didn't get employed within a year. Also, I didn't know what QA was, so I looked into the Quality Assurance Engineering training. I still didn't actually know what it was before I purchased the program. I just learned a little bit more about it. The website, testimonials, and things like that convinced me. I ended up going through the first couple of classes for free. After speaking with Max and being able to ask questions, I was kind of sold on it and just continued with it.
How would you describe your experience with the whole training program? What are the highlights?
As a whole, the experience is awesome. There were some things I wish were more engaging, but not in a bad way. The chat was hidden in order not to distract people, but the problem is you can't see what everybody's asking. Sometimes the questions were the same, but I would like it to be more inclusive and engaging, instead of just an instructor speaking to us and then doing the question-and-answer part. I was very interested in the classes. It's not a bad thing, but I'm not using anything that I learned besides TestRail and Jira in my current job. I’m just lucky I got the position based on my knowledge of Jira and TestRail. But I'm not doing anything with Python or API. Anyway, I'm very, very new, and they're teaching me about basic cybersecurity.
After the training, you spent some time with a career coach. How was your experience? Did you find it useful?
My career coach was awesome. She was always very positive and motivational. I got discouraged, like everybody else does, filling out job applications and always getting “Unfortunately, we're not going to continue with his application” or just no feedback. Every time I talked to her she just helped me continue moving forward. At one point, I wanted to change my resume, because I thought that was an issue. However, my career coach advised me not to do that, and I’m happy I followed her advice. When I got this job, my resume stood out from everybody else's. The Saturday graduate meetings were also very motivational since you can hear other people's success stories and hear Max answering people's questions and concerns. I really liked the fact that my career coach followed up with me afterward.
Did you have the chance to experience an internship?
Yes, we had a project where we had to complete test cases at flexible times. My current job is related to the internship project in terms of similar test cases. I'm making it easier for the next person after me to be able to hit the ground running and execute the test cases.
It's pretty cool that you can apply your internship knowledge to current workflows. When did you start the course? And when did you land your job?
I ended my boot camp in December 2022 and started applying in January 2023. It took me until July 17, 2023, to actually start my job. I guess that was my start date, but I was hired two or three weeks before that in June. Overall, it took me six months to start my career in tech as a Manual QA. I believe I was not applying the way I should have (like a couple of dozen applications a day). I got discouraged after the first two months—sometime in February—and as a result, I slowed down in March.
Summing up, it took me over 2,500 applications to finally get one person to see it. That was my first in-person interview. The other three interviews I had were video and phone calls. I actually interviewed with Cisco in February, but they wanted a Software Engineer. For some reason, the recruiter told me to apply anyway. I didn’t get through at that time because they needed someone with coding experience. At the end of the six months, I started to ramp it up again, and then I found my current job.
It looks like you’ve been there for a month already . Do you still like this profession, or do you regret your choice?
Oh, I have no regrets at all. This has opened up a lot of different opportunities, for sure, no matter whether or not I stay in QA. I'm going to learn a lot more than I ever thought I would. I was actually worried about whether I would need automation skills in terms of quality assurance to proceed or move forward. But the people at my current job told me not to worry about automation unless I want to be a developer. In time, I’ll have more hands-on experience with Linux OSX, networking with cybersecurity, QA Engineering, and other areas, which will make my resume more detailed.
We’re glad to hear you have plans to grow professionally. What does your workday look like?
To start with, I work hybrid. I started with two days on site while being trained, and now I travel to the office just once a week. I know how to get through the day without having to ask too many questions. Usually, I start the day by just going through existing tests to find the test cases that I'm currently working on. It’s a bit of structuring of the existing stuff and adding new stuff. I confirm the tests with my trainer and move forward. I'm just trying to make it easier for the next person who comes after me. There is one person who was hired with me; they are actually focused on switches and routers, and I'm focused on the end point. So later on, we're going to switch.
Are your current colleagues and teammates helpful and supportive?
Yeah. They’re very helpful and experienced. One of my teammates has been at the company for about five years and another one for around two years, but they've been in the industry for a lot longer than that. I do ask a lot of questions, but nothing that I would be able to find anywhere else. I literally have to spend hours googling the basics of what I'm about to ask to understand it. For anything that is very technical and specifically related to our product, I have to ask the team, and they don’t mind explaining it to me.
Were there any skills you obtained at Careerist that are helping now in your job?
I think the highlights are knowledge of Jira and TestRail. The fact that I was already exposed to them saved me a lot of time and effort. I would have been completely lost if I didn't have the opportunity to write the test cases or even understand the way they should be written. I was used to writing the test cases myself and going back through them step by step to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Otherwise, I probably would have been doubting myself a lot because it's just a lot of vague information I would not know what to do with.
It might be a bit early to ask, but has your life changed a lot since you started to work at this company?
No, not yet. And that's not a bad thing because like I said, it's only been a month. So it hasn't changed yet, but the plans for my life have definitely changed. Initially, I was focused on getting a job, and now I can actually start planning and changing goals for the end of the month and end of the year.
Hearing from people who had no experience, came from different backgrounds, and got a job after taking Careerist training was inspiring. I've been actually looking at people who also got their first break into tech, what they did after that for the next year and a half, and where they are now, which is motivating as well.
I have goals about where I want to be. But it's only for 2023 and 2024. So yeah, I have a set plan. And I know by next year, my life will have changed for the better.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have no problem staying in the same job, especially with the people I currently work with now. I have no problem staying there as long as I'm able to contribute. I’m so grateful for the team’s and company’s support. They offer continuing education through LinkedIn Learning, which is completely free. I would like to stay with the company as long as possible, although maybe not as a QA. Eventually, I could see myself as a Cybersecurity Analyst or Cybersecurity Engineer. It doesn't really matter to me as long as the work is interesting and I can keep learning from it. Once my day becomes boring, then I'll look for more of a challenge somewhere else.
It sounds like a dream place. What is a QA Specialist in your opinion?
They’re the one who is trying to break stuff—trying to find out what the flaws are. They are the person who collaborates with the development team to fix issues before the product gets released.
Nice answer! Could you tell us a bit more about your current project?
We’re working on our product, which is a cybersecurity thing that can be implemented into your current network. I'm on the compatibility team making sure that our product is compatible and stays compatible with their product, whoever our client is.
Looking back, is there anything you would like to change or do differently?
I would not stop applying, and I would keep pushing my job search. If my fiancée were to go through the same class, I wouldn’t let her stop applying just because she got discouraged. I think I would have found her job a lot sooner. Honestly, where I ended up is awesome, and I don't have any regrets about it now. But if I had to do it again, I probably would just focus on applying every single day of the week.
That’s a very good point. If you were to address the person who is still struggling with whether or not to become a QA Specialist or go into tech, what would you advise them?
If they want to be a QA Engineer and they just haven't been able to break into tech, I would just tell them to keep going. I'm doing it now on the Slack channel—I talk with people who are discouraged. I ask questions like: “What does your resume look like?” “What does your LinkedIn profile look like?” “How many times have you talked to your mentor on exams you're applying for?” “Where are you applying?” “What are your search criteria?” If they're doing everything right, I know they'll easily get a job. Still, there are people who are maybe eight months out of the program, or even a year or more. They refuse to apply to certain types of jobs because they don't think they'll get one of those. They're afraid of the words “coding” or “automation” in the job description. Max says not to worry about what's in the job description if the title says “manual.” I would also highlight that it’s possible to get a job with minimal experience, and I’m a living example.
And the most important thing here, I suppose, is just not to be afraid of refusals and not to be afraid of a change in general.
Yes, don't be afraid, and don't get too discouraged. I mean, we're all human, and we're going to get discouraged if we keep being told “no.” But it literally does take only one “yes.” I know that probably sounds clichéd, but the more you keep applying, don't look at the rejections. Look at the ones that say, “Okay, we want to schedule an interview,” and then go from there.
Well, that's a very motivational speech for those who are about to jump into Manual QA training with Careerist. I suppose that it will be very interesting to meet with you sometime in the future after you have had a long career. We are looking forward to your insider stories!