Over the past 5 years, transitioning into a QA/Software Testing role has been an interesting journey. As a person who transitioned from a career in Design and Business, I have learned that there are key ways to make a positive impact on software quality with transferable skills. In this blog post, I'll share some ways that transferable skills can be applied to and improve software testing.
Transferable skills (sometimes called portable skills) are abilities or talents relevant to all professions and facets of life. Simply put, these are skills that can be transferred from one career to another. They include both technical and non-technical skills, like the ability to lead, communicate, solve problems, manage time, and organize.
I've put them into three groups in this diagram: Business Management, Software Testing, and Design. The top skills for running a business are on the left, and the top skills for designers are on the right. You can see the top skills you need for Software Testing in the middle. There's no doubt that some skills are shared but these are the top 3 skill areas:
Here are some ways to be a secret weapon on your software testing projects using these skills.
1. Use your visual communication skills
According to Pracitest, communication skills are considered the most critical tool for software testing success by 81% of software testers. Visualization techniques are the most effective ways to communicate in graphic and interior design. Similarly, for software testers, visuals can be your secret weapon in by making it easier to understand important business requirements.
You can use visual communication skills to:
simplify complex business logic
brainstorm ideas for test scenarios
share a lean test strategy and test plan
share test summary and coverage reports
From my experience, using visual diagrams such as mind maps, flow charts, and mock ups are the three most important visual diagrams that can help a team communicate better.
MindMeister.com has a public template that my team and many others in the testing community have found useful. Learn more about how to use mind maps to increase your productivity.
You can also read more about these and other business facing visual tools that can be used to help improve testing.
2. Use written communication skills
If you're skilled at writing, you'll be able to tackle difficulties involving a lack of communication more quickly and effectively. In particular, by giving detailed test documentation.
According to a recent PractiTest survey, 76 percent of users say that bug reports are the most common type of test documentation used by companies.
It's important to be clear and direct by adding all the necessary details to bug tickets. Use this mind map bug report checklist/guide to make sure that your bug tickets are clear.
Bonus Tip #1
If you want to improve your written communication with tools like JIRA's comment features, you can use a guide on how to communicate clearly by using JIRA comments.
3. Use verbal communication skills
It's important to have good verbal communication skills if you want to work together and give valuable feedback.
When dealing with complex business logic, talking to your team about what expected behavior for scenarios can be helpful. During these in-person or remote sync sessions, talk about your ideas for testing and use a flow chart or a mind map to map out how the business logic works.
Here are a few books that have helped me refine my verbal communication skills over the years:
4. Use organizational skills
Tip #1 Keep test suites organized
Analyze the data, figure out what the risks are, and improve how QA works. With a test management system in place, it is possible to organize and reduce the number of duplicate test cases, as well as to ensure that all tests are current. Having good organizational skills can help you make a better test suite and plan out how to test an app.
I recently learned about the "SFDIPOT" heuristic by James Bach and Michael Bolton, which helps with this. With the help of this Product Coverage Outline mind map, which was inspired by them, I can keep track of all the important parts of the software system.
Tip #2 Apply time management to software testing during test and release planning
Time management skills help software testers figure out how much time is needed for testing before a release to production. This is done during the release management and planning process. When there are over 500 test cases in a regression suite and a looming deadline, the only way to test with confidence is to make good use of your time and focus on the most important things.
Here are some pointers that have helped me over the years:
Ensure to add important features to an automated regression test suite and monitor the test run execution times in your CI/CD.
Time-block testing activities on your calendar. Take into account the time needed for session-based exploratory testing as well as buffer time for issues that may arise during User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
Take short breaks when testing features. Using the Pomodoro technique to plan 30-minute sessions can help keep you from getting burned out. Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes or a different point of view to find those bugs.
Always participate in sprint planning meetings and give test time estimates. The team will be able to meet release deadlines if they can accurately estimate how much time and effort testing activities will take.
Tip # 3 Use your knowledge of design principles and attention to detail to improve front-end testing.
User interface design and user experience are two areas of expertise for designers. Leveraging this knowledge of design principles such as typography, alignment, colors and contrast to conduct front-end testing. This includes checking responsiveness, design accuracy, and device compatibility.
Ensure the software's usability and accessibility by doing cross-browser testing, visual regression testing, and other testing methods.
Pair with designers on your team to get information and feedback on user activity from tools like Hotjar. This will give analytic data of cross platform user behavior that can then be used to guide testing priorities and activities.
4. Apply people skills
Continuous communication with the product owners, close-knit interaction amongst the developers and involvement of the whole team for QA testing are all necessary for Agile software testing to be successful.
Tip #1 Keep the end-user in mind
Continuous communication with the product owners, close-knit interaction with the developers and involvement of the whole team for QA testing are all necessary for Agile software testing to be successful.
Remember who you're testing for: the person using the product. Having empathy or putting oneself in the shoes of the user is made possible by gaining a thorough understanding of the user experience. My work in design has given me a better grasp on different sorts of users.
When you have access to more realistic use cases and scenarios, you can catch mistakes earlier in the development process. This knowledge is invaluable. This information is priceless.
You may work with your marketing and design teams to create or get access to user persona profiles for your app. A helpful tool for creating user personas is HubSpot's Make My Persona app. Use this tool to create these personas and then keep them at the forefront of your mind when testing
Tip #3 Collaborate with developers and management to improve testing
Pairing for DEV+QA: You can work closely with developers to improve testing as this allows you to learn more helpful and important details about the application, such as system architecture, database set up, APIs, etc. For example: Database knowledge can be used to easily generate test data and improve the overall testing efforts.
Pairing with PO and Management: You can ask your PO for examples of what to expect for business requirements. This allows you to get clarity on expectations and help to reduce rework. You can also share feedback about your testing activities that may help the team make major decisions regarding product development.
To be a better tester, you should be open to working with other people and learning new things.
Persons with backgrounds in design and business have transferable skills that can positively impact software quality and testing.
If you're new to QA, you can use these tips to help with software projects and move up in your career. Keep in mind that your transferable skills can make you a secret weapon for software development teams.
If you are a manager or a leader, you should talk to designers and other people who work in management to find out what skills they have. Encourage them to use their business and design skills in testing.
Thanks for reading!