Having experienced several sales-related careers, Herbert was initially skeptical about the chance to get into tech. Despite his hesitations, he took the first step. Herbert's dedication to his goal helped him land a job in tech. Today, as an ambitious specialist, he shares his plans and the challenges of getting a Manual QA position.
What convinced you to try your hand at quality assurance?
I was a healthcare recruiter, and one of my co-workers said she thought I would be great at QA. I asked her why. She said I was always thinking about bugs and why some things don't work the way they should.
How lucky! You found someone who was interested in your career and had enough background to offer that helpful advice.
Yeah, definitely. I decided to look into it and joined the Careerist school when her friend referred me. After one month of working for Spectrum, I got a job. I'm happy because I don't need to talk to people that much anymore—I talk to a computer instead.
What was your overall impression of the Careerist program?
I didn't know anything about QA testing. I just signed up for the classes and learned through the training. The lessons and instructors were great. I loved that our teachers were people currently working in the industry, and my internship was awesome! I got hands-on experience based on what I'd already learned and was able to transfer my knowledge into practice. Then I went on to my mentorship, which was also fantastic.
Being able to describe what you did is very important. That's why we focus on practical knowledge so much. The primary purpose of the internship is to give you an idea of how the job works. You can talk about the project, team, and responsibilities in future interviews. And when your understanding grows, so does your confidence.
How long was your internship?
It was about two weeks.
There is no right or wrong way to do an internship. If you can complete your tasks faster, that's okay. We're also happy to offer additional assistance, no matter how much help you need.
Yeah, definitely. What pushed me to get it done faster was that I lost my job during the internship process. That encouraged me to move even faster to get the job search going.
Sorry to hear that. We recommend that our students keep their current jobs until they secure new positions, but we know that isn't always possible.
Yeah, I agree. I planned to keep my job while doing the program. Luckily, Careerist helped me get a new job quickly. The written-out questions are amazing to follow. The top 15 questions are pretty much guaranteed to come up during most interviews—they're the basics. My preparation for these questions, confidence in answering, and a pinch of energy made me a winning candidate. My current employer told me the reason I got the job was because of my energy, in addition to my knowledge.
How long did you search for a tech job?
I began the search in late April, but my active job search started in May. It took about two and a half months to get the position I have now.
And how many interviews did you have in that time?
I had probably 20 interviews. I submitted a few more applications than Careerist suggested, and not all of them went as far as I wanted, of course. Knowing that the recommendation was 30 applications per day, I did between 50 and 60. I applied for everything that did not have "automation" in the title.
I went through four rounds for my current job, not including the initial call. All the interviews and panels were very different.
How were the on-site interviews?
A couple of them were great, and then I found out that the people who make decisions were on vacation. I ran into vacations a few times, so it took longer to get a response on those interview outcomes. A few companies ghosted me, which is upsetting but happens. While I was applying, some positions were put on hold or frozen. That is why I started applying for more than 30 positions a day.
That makes sense. Perhaps some companies decided to put hiring on hold because they're unsure about the market.
Yeah, I still get emails. I got a message on LinkedIn today about a Manual QA position. Many recruiters still reach out despite the fact I stopped applying.
Can you share a little bit more about your interview questions? What kinds of questions did you have?
Yeah, definitely. My on-site interviews were very tech-heavy. One company was strictly manual, but they were switching to automation. The PM was the only one who did automation, and he was going to teach everyone how to do automation. However, the whole conversation was about what I knew, so I talked about Chrome DevTools and Xcode.
I also had questions about issues with developers, different tickets in terms of software and bug life cycle, and what to do when a developer says they cannot reproduce the issue. A lot of things were repetitive. Overall, I didn't get many questions about testing.
The fourth interview was with the CTO. It was more about what the company was doing and what needed to be done. I was asked some behavioral questions, like how to deal with hostile people.
Did they ask you to write a bug report?
Surprisingly, there weren't many questions about how to write a bug ticket or anything like that. They asked a standard question: how do you write a test case?
What was the weirdest question you were asked during an interview?
They gave me a scenario where I was in charge of an airport. I had TSA check-ins and had to create a program or solution to make the airport workflow more efficient. I had data for the last year and a half showing when the airport was busy or not.
They gave me the first half hour to read over the materials, the second half hour to come up with a solution, and the last 15 minutes to present my solution.
That sounds very complicated! Were you asked any interview questions related to API or SQL?
Not everybody asked about API or SQL. They came up in some rare cases, and it's funny because I'm using API a lot now. I learned the basics and can kind of go from there. A lot of things are very similar, so once you know the basics, it's pretty interchangeable.
Is it something you use daily?
I use SQL and API at least a couple of times a week. We're trying to build a library, and I'm pretty involved in the planning. I enjoy sharing my vision as a tester with developers and designers; it makes me feel valuable.
While you were interviewing, I understand that you heard "no" 20 times before your current employer said "yes." Is that right?
Yes. The first few interviews were on the phone and then with the tech panel. I probably had about three on-site interviews.
That's still quite a few! Were you living near Silicon Valley?
No. I'm in Austin, Texas.
And what about the friend who referred you to Careerist? Did she also get a job in Austin?
No, she got a job in Saint Louis. She started at $70,000 after one month of active job searching.
And what about you? How much are you earning?
After I finished the interview, I didn't hear back from them for two weeks. They gave the first position to someone else. Then they decided to open another position for me because they liked my energy and how I answered the questions.
With the bonus and everything, I'm making a little over $80,000. I have a couple of interviews next week, and I want to hear them out to see if I can get closer to $100,000.
Yes, there is no need to wait for your yearly salary review. You can start looking for something better in a few months. Is $80k your highest salary to date?
I would say it's the highest salary I was ever offered, even in terms of a Manual QA career. I'm happy because it was a strong initial offer—I didn't negotiate at all. However, I'll try to increase my salary soon.
Did you have any technical background before Careerist?
Before getting into QA, I worked at Apple for four years, mostly in sales. My background was a general knowledge of how things operate and function. I also had project management and coordinating experience, which gave me a clear picture of the product development life cycle. I mostly followed up with people and made sure things were moving forward.
What is your educational background?
For 15 years of my life, I was in sales. I did two years as a project coordinator and was an account manager for enterprise accounts for a year. Then I started slowly moving away from sales.
Do you have a degree?
No. I don't have a college degree.
What do you have on your LinkedIn?
My mentor recommended I put my previous experience on LinkedIn, and I had another four months of tech-related experience before getting my current job.
And how is your new job? Is it complicated?
I love it! I've already been here for a month. We're a team of five, and most of us work from the Austin office. It's hybrid or remote, whatever you choose. I went into the office for the first three weeks, and then I went remote when school started. Working remotely, I can drive my kids to school in the morning.
Mostly we do smoke and regression testing. We're doing a lot of releases, so I'm kind of being thrown into the water. The person training me is leaving in two weeks to have a baby. I'll be taking over, which is fine.
Do you write a lot of bug reports?
Yes, I do write test cases. I took the template I learned at Careerist and introduced it to the QA team. It's pretty straightforward, and people can pick the unfinished tasks. Last week I probably did about seven or eight bug reports.
The development team is great because we work hand-in-hand. I still do exploratory testing, especially when I don't have any tickets or I have some downtime. Right now, I'm trying to figure out the things I don't know yet.
What about work-life balance? Do you work eight hours a day? Are you super busy all day long?
It's usually pretty chill, to be honest. We recently started web regression testing because our web version is going live soon. It was fun and a little insane—I was done by 2 pm on some days. At first, I didn't have much work. I checked daily to see if I had any tickets and attended QA meetings every two weeks.
What are your career plans now that you landed your first tech job?
I think I'll move to automation. My company has a stipend for learning automation.
Any final words for your peers?
Use the videos. I remember being discouraged at the beginning. Due to motivation from family, friends, and Careerist, I kept going and got a job in the end. The questions are transferable and repetitive, so everyone should learn them.
We appreciate your story. It helps people keep fighting and increases their motivation. Your employer didn't ask for 5–6 years of experience; they hired you because you were knowledgeable. We wish you the best of luck in your further career growth.
*This interview has been edited for clarity.