Katie graduated from our course a year ago and as of this interview has been working in Manual QA for seven months already. Being rather skeptical about the program at first, she was surprised with how things have turned out. What's it like to spend a couple of months in a new company? Let’s dive into her story and find out.
Tell us a bit about yourself: what’s your background? Are you on the East Coast or West Coast?
I didn’t have any tech background before. I attended a college in Denver, Colorado, which is neither on the East Coast nor the West Coast, but rather in the center of the US. In short, I’m still in Denver after leaving and coming back a couple of times.
What has happened since you took the Careerist Manual QA course?
I completed the program and followed exactly what Max and my mentor said. After the internship, I literally just followed their directions, because it does work. The system works, so I would recommend sticking to the directions and if something is not working out, contact your mentor. They will meet with you and work with you on either your skills or your resume on LinkedIn. Keep applying; there is a kind of lag at first, but then you start getting a lot of calls. There’s a moment where that will definitely happen, and all you need is to just keep going and don’t stop.
How much time did you spend actively applying for jobs?
I was pretty much just applying for jobs for three-and-a-half months. It’s the average of what you were saying in the program. I tried to apply to up to 30 jobs a day.
Did you use the Job Application Service (JAS)?
No, I didn’t. I was focused and mainly used LinkedIn and sometimes Glassdoor. LinkedIn was my main source for open positions.
When did you start getting calls?
The first calls started after around two months. The moment when companies were actually wanting me and kind of fighting over me, that was at, I would say, the three-and-a-half-month mark. Later on, in just a week and a half, I got almost five offers, so you could call it a culmination of my job-search journey.
Usually, the first calls come after about six weeks of job searching, so your story is not an exception, but rather the norm. When did you start working at the new place? Did you have any onboarding there?
I started on July 6, 2021. I think that today they have a much better onboarding process than they did when I joined the company, as a lot of people have had input on it since I came on.
Is it an office job or remote?
It's a totally remote job, but the company I’m working for is based in Minneapolis.
Did your prior experience contribute to your salary or play any part in the hiring process?
Absolutely not. Just the active job search and recommended steps by the Careerist people.
How many interviews did you have before you got an offer?
I actually had a bunch of interviews. There were a lot of calls and around 10 next-level interviews with hiring managers. For the other companies I had offers from, I probably had at least four interviews before the final one, and the fifth was the final interview. There were three other offers I could have proceeded with, and I could have turned down the other offers, but I declined. One company gave me live testing doing test cases, but I turned them down too. Speaking about the company that hired me, I had nine rounds of interviews there.
That’s pretty crazy—and rare. Why so many?
There were some drastic changes in the company. In brief, a company with years of experience was switching to a kind of startup. Since startups change rapidly, the hiring process was a bit messy.
Initially, I was going to be on one team but then they wanted me on another team. So I had interviews with project managers and other managers on one team and then on a different team. I felt comfortable because with nine interviews I got to know people well. They were all different ages and they were diverse. I really like them. Our Zoom interviews were really good.
The reason I chose the company I did was that overall, it was the best offer, it was remote, and it was the most money with the best benefits. But the main thing was the money and the remote work. No other company could offer such a good salary for being remote.
Were there any complicated questions during the interviews?
No, the majority were from the interview question list. They were all the questions you’ve provided us with.
Now the million-dollar question: how much money did you get?
The offer I got was for $105,000. In fact, I checked the salaries for my region on Glassdoor before the interview, so I was ready to negotiate the numbers. Glassdoor has a big number of reported salaries, and it gives you a certain picture of what to expect.
The salary you got says you’re totally awesome and the right candidate for that position. So what’s your secret? How did you get a $100K offer?
I knew the questions very well and that was the main thing. The knowledge of talking points, understanding the basis of the role, and knowing how to test helped me a lot. I could show that I knew how to test.
I talked about Jira, obviously, and doing test cases on TestRail. And I was kind of going through that process because they wanted to see how you do testing and break things down in your process. I had open, collaborative communication with them, because you are going to be working with project managers, developers, and engineering managers as well. It’s a lot of people, so showing you can handle it was also important.
So how has it been for the last seven months? Was it complicated? What’s challenging?
I really enjoy the team I work with. Everyone’s very intelligent but no one’s on your back. They give you time to figure things out, and if I don’t know something I can go to a coworker and they can explain it to me or show me. We also have access to certain resources at our company for learning and continuing education. That is nice because I’ll get shown something or someone will guide me to where I can find that information. I have also reached out to Careerist for a couple of things, and you’ve gotten back to me, which was great.
Do you have a big QA team?
Actually, my team is comparatively small. My company is a completely unique experience, but overall the company is not huge but mid-sized. There’s me, one more Manual QA person, and we also had two automation people, but one left.
How many women are there on your team?
There’s a woman from India who has done QA for 10 years, and she’s a senior analyst. She joined the team after I did. We have an automation guy and a couple of leads who are women. It’s mixed, but it’s not 50-50.
Do you write test cases there?
Yes, we do. We use Jira and TestRail, and we program using Java at our company. I didn’t have to learn Java, since it’s something our developers use. It’s cool because you are learning something new. But there’s nothing complicated, nothing you can’t learn in a couple of minutes.
What about API and SQL, do you need that?
No, but I also want to go into automation, so my manager said if I want to go that route I can have a look at it. They give you an option, but you don’t have to.
That’s very nice. By the way, in API or SQL you don’t need automation, but sometimes if you know that you want to learn automation in the future you can automate that as well.
My QA manager specializes in automation. He says if there’s an API ticket I can take it and try. But if I don’t, he won’t tell me anything, because it’s not my responsibility.
Are you testing mobile or web applications?
I’m doing both: web and mobile. Today I’m actually a principal for my team, a principal Manual QA. It’s pretty cool because anything that comes into my team automatically goes to me for testing and anything else.
Do you enjoy working from home?
Yes, it’s much better than going into an office. There’s a lot more freedom, and they are fair. If I have to go to an appointment, I just let them know and they’re okay with that. I’m always available on Slack whenever they need me. The biggest plus is I don’t actually take blocks of time, like half-day off, if I need a couple of hours to go to an appointment. Summing up, I love working from home.
Do you have a lot of meetings? Are there any with other departments? Do they expect you to tell them something? Or do they just want you to be present?
The majority of meetings every day are with our team. We have a stand-up meeting, and it’s required for us to be present. The other ones are necessary for us to see what they are doing in development. We just need to be aware of what’s going on because it always changes. We have recently started making design demos, which are really important, so we’ll be writing requirements for testing. There are whole-company meetings once a month. The only time I have to say anything is during QA meetings.
Have you had any kind of review in your job so far?
I just had my year-end interview, despite the fact that I haven’t been there for even a year. I haven’t had any issues during this time. Actually, I got a raise that day and became a principal of my team, which was a complete surprise and is very cool. My salary also went up. It used to be $105K and is now $108K.
How is your day at work? What do you do from the morning to the end of the day? Do you work for eight hours, or do you finish your tasks even faster than that?
We used to have a stand-up meeting at 9:00 am at first, but later it moved to 10:45 am, since a few developers from the West Coast joined us.
Personally, I start working at 9:00 am, but I have the flexibility to choose. I constantly check up with my manager on upcoming tasks and release dates.
Do you follow Excel- or Jira-based test-case tickets?
It’s Jira tickets. My company’s going through a transition at the moment. We started writing test cases in TestRail. But we don’t have to if we can keep a scenario in our mind. In that case, you just start testing to make sure it’s the most updated release for web or mobile.
I do testing just for myself on Android Studio or Xcode simulators and then actual physical devices.
Wow, you’re testing simulators? How do you test on simulators?
Yes, and physical devices as well. I suggested using BrowserStack, but they decided to use simulators instead because it’s related to Jira, and they want to do things in different ways. We also use TestFlight for our applications.
Different companies have different approaches, and that’s fine. Different tools are great. Are you busy all the time?
Not all of our days are full. There are days when we are waiting for developers to make a hotfix, like something was not working correctly. Locally at our company, we have started learning development, so I study development and automation whenever there’s lag time.
How do you send your daily report? Is it Jira or another tool?
Everything regarding daily or weekly reports is done via email. Jira only collects data on the bugs that you may use for your reports. There are always prompts to follow if we need anything.
Now, looking back, what helped you to stay motivated while searching for a job?
It was both my desire to get into tech and understanding how important it was for me. During my job search, I was in my mid-30s, and there were many other interviewees along with me in their 40s.
I overcame the initial lag with the calls by joining graduate meetings and reading our Slack channel.
Any final words?
Interviewing gets easier over time. The more interviews you have under your belt, the better you get. Even practicing in front of the mirror works well.
Confidence is a huge thing, too, so be confident. Keep that in mind because companies want to work with confident and happy people.
Katie, thank you for motivating others; it’s what we appreciate in our graduates.
Even if you don’t work in big cities like New York or Los Angeles, Silicon Valley or Monaco, you still have an awesome opportunity to earn $100K+ as a Software QA tester, QA Analyst, or whatever you might call it.