Our instructor Alex is currently a QA Manager in Arizona. He has more than eight years worth of experience in multi platform/web software QA. Today, he wants to speak about his passion for QA. But he’ll also tell us about his fondness for team management, the Agile approach, his love for teaching and he’ll discuss why he likes to help other people become successful QA Engineers.
Alex, please tell us about yourself and your experience as a Quality Assurance engineer...
I currently have more than eight years of testing experience, but life wasn’t always like this.
I couldn’t find myself for a very long time when I was living in my homeland. I was actually an accountant but when I moved to the US I tried loads of different jobs – from being a waiter to being a builder.
Then I decided to study Psychology. I had to take out a student loan and I got some internships. But I had to spend a few more years practising to become a professional in the field and to start earning good money.
At the time, I also worked night shifts as a security guard. I was looking through the cameras the whole night, and I think that was the main reason why I slept so bad at that time.
Suddenly I got interested in what was going on in the job market. Some of my friends and some bloggers I followed were working as testers – I was really captivated by it all. I gave up my studies and went to a bootcamp to learn the skills I needed.
After the bootcamp I worked at uTest. In fact, I had a few offers from various companies back then, but I chose one that dealt with Wi-Fi technologies. After an internship with the company, I received a full-time job offer. I worked at this company for five years and then I was promoted to a senior position.
I then moved from California to Vegas to start a new job. This job was all to do with eCommerce, online games and cryptocurrency. I started my job as a senior and was promoted to a managerial position after a period of time. I started my new job just as cryptocurrency took off. In time, the company's projects got more varied and many departments were outsourced to different people.
Today I’m working in a startup in Arizona. We are focused on health insurance, and our aim is to make communication between doctors and patients easier and clearer.
Why are we interested in this? Many patients don’t know what to expect when they go to hospital. For example, what services are included in their insurance and what should be paid for. So, we have made it easier for them.
How much tech knowledge did you have before you started your testing career?
I guess I knew a little bit more than most beginners.
A few years back I made a LAN-network with my friends, so we could play games together. I was also that guy who helped everyone with their tech problems. I was good at checking the various settings on a computer, and I could help my friends to install a Windows system on a home computer.
After so many years of working in testing, do you still like your job?
The trick with testing is that you are free to do what you like. Yes, the basics are mostly the same, but you can always choose the products you want to test. If there is an area you don’t like, you know that you shouldn't go for a role that tests those products.
The biggest advantage about working in testing is, you can choose the team, product and clients you want to work with. When I started my career I was testing hardware and routers, but when I started working with cryptocurrency it was a completely different story. Even if you don’t like something you can always find a different project for yourself.
Why do you think that the Agile approach is so important for tech companies? Is Waterfall still used?
Projects need Agile and Waterfall.
Waterfall is perfect for big companies as it lets you prepare all the steps that you need to take in advance, so you can follow the system/order correctly. You do have to know where you’re going with a project though. Plus, everything should be thoroughly tested at every individual step.
When a product is done according to the Waterfall approach, this product won’t be modified in the next few years. Why? The team works via a step by step system, so very little can be missed out because you know what you’ll be doing and testing and when. This also means that you don’t have to ask a client for a bigger budget too.
Talking about startups it’s worth mentioning that they use the Agile approach. Why? There is always room in the market for an iterative approach to development. You see this across the entertainment, Snapchat, TikTok industries.
How many years have you been teaching? What do you teach?
I teach Waterfall and Agile. There is also a short SQL basics course that I am involved in.
I have been teaching at Careerist for more than a year now.
I started this new adventure because I was after some kind of professional change. All the knowledge about testing is already in my head, so it’s really easy to share my own experience with students. I always make sure that all of my information is relevant and up-to-date before I go into class.
I think that students understand things much better when they have a teacher who is proficient in the material they teach.
Do you remember your first interview for a testing role?
After my first interview, I realised that knowledge is important, but first of all recruiters are looking for people who can fit into the existing testing team.
A person who feels comfortable in a team will be much better than someone who is like a fish out of water.
I found out that soft skills are very important, especially the ability to learn continuously and communication skills. For example, sometimes testers and developers don’t have the same opinions on various products, and this could lead to conflict. But you should be able to solve this situation without conflict. You should never ignore problems.
Once you start a new role, you’ll spend the first two to three months getting acquainted with the product, learning about your client and the processes involved. Generally, you won’t be working completely alone, and the company will decide if you do get to work alone or if someone helps you.
Anyway, nobody expects you to show amazing results within the first weeks of work. You’re still learning after all.
What is your advice to people who are having doubts about starting a career in testing?
At the very least you should try it.
You may not like testing but if you do study testing you’ll get to have an insider’s look at the real tech industry.
QA is the easiest way to join the tech industry. But, there are so many other ways to grow in tech if you don’t want to stick with QA. You could become a SCRUM master or a developer, for example.
Also, getting to grips with new technologies and joining various startups is very engaging.
Finally, if you are interested in earning good money you should try testing!