Highlighting the career of Test Engineers and helping them see their career in Software Testing has always been important to me. However, I’ve also came to the realisation that people do move to different roles. They want to try different things and find their true passion. Luckily as a Test Engineer you have many transferable skills that bode well in other areas of Technology.
You don’t just have to move up a ladder in your career, think of it as more of a wave ,
Let me explain the waves analogy first. There are many waves that reach shore, but you don’t have to ride one wave all the way to the shore. You can move from wave to wave, some waves will be short, whilst some will be longer. Some waves crest and fall before reaching the shore. You need to be looking and scanning for the next wave to join. It’s up to you what wave you ride, you can even go back and join another wave. What does this have to do with your career?
Think of the waves as you being in a role, you can and perhaps even should move to another wave. You can experience different roles, as it will help you become a more rounded individual. Time in a role can be long, or it can be relatively short. It’s important to join another wave when the time is right for you. The great thing is, that as a Test Engineer, you have a lot of transferrable skills that will help you in a variety of roles. This post is going to explore what they are, and the possible roles that may be open to you.
What are some of the transferrable skills of a Test Engineer?
There are many transferrable skills of a Test Engineer, and each person is different, and each role is slightly different. I am going to try and summarise some of the transferrable skills of a Test Engineer may have in their toolkit here. I will then look at how they can be transferred to other roles within Technology.
💻💻 Technical Skills
Now, I’m not just talking about the ability to write automation, but the ability to analyse and understand technical architecture. Being able to drive technical conversations, to improve testability, or to improve the customer experience is important as a Test Engineer. The ability to write code to drive automation is important. Not just about automating tests, but to aid with test data, setting up the state of an application or creating some stubs that will help with your testing. People get too focused on Test Automation being the automation of tests, but it’s much more than that.
I’ve summarised CLIP here, (Communication, Learning, Inquisitiveness and Positivity), and how it helps you as a Test Engineer. The great news is that these are all great transferrable skills. Skills that will help you in any role, any job in technology that requires you to work with others, talk to people, pick up concepts quickly and share ideas with people.
📕📕 Storytelling and Presenting
The ability to present our ideas and testing in a compelling way is a critical skill. One that can shape the outcome of projects and the success of them. How so? The best Test Engineers are people who are able to take their testing, present it in such a way that people can understand just what has been tested and what the risks are. They understand through the storytelling what hasn’t been tested and perhaps more importantly, why it wasn’t tested.
❔❓ Problem Solving
A Test Engineer I was talking to was having problems getting something working, they were getting frustrated. I had to remind them, that problem solving is part of the role. You should be relishing these problems and the feeling of satisfaction when you solve them as well. Test Engineers make great problem solvers, it’s important to not only identify problems, but help with solutions as well.
🧑 ❤ Customer Focused
We are customer focused. Customers can be people who are using our software externally, but also other teams who are consuming an API or working on internal applications. We are thinking of them first, what is their experience like, how can we make it better, all with the aim of making them feel that they want to keep using the software, whether that be spending more money, or just spending more time on the application. Whatever the business driver is, we place a lot of emphasis on the customer.
🌍🌍 Bigger Picture
I love seeing Test Engineers thinking of the bigger picture. Whether that be in terms of ethical, accessibility, end to end impact or even asking the question “What problem are we trying to solve?” The ability to take a step back, and think of things outside of the immediate discussion is critical, and unsurprisingly will help in a number of other roles as well.
What roles are these skills transferrable to?
Hopefully you’ll agree that these skills are important as a Test Engineer, but also, more importantly for your career, they are relatively transferrable skills to other roles. What I mean by that is that they will help you in a number of roles within Technology. I’m going to talk about some common moves I’ve seen Test Engineers make, and how their strengths with certain skills helped them make the transition to a new “wave”.
Test Engineer-> Engineering Manager
This was me. 18 months ago, I made the move from being a Test Architect to become an Engineer Manager. The Engineering Manager role was one that focused purely on the development of people, and working closely with them to make sure they were developing themselves, and that they were happy in their role.
Clearly, having strong CLIP skills, meant that I was able to communicate with them, and help them understand their own learning goals, I was also able to go away and learn new things, I read books around feedback like Radical Candor (you can read a brief summary here), and made sure I was in a position to help them grow. Having come from a technical background also helped me when they came to me with technical problems, or challenges around delivery, meaning they could bounce ideas off of me and hopefully we’d come to a solution that they could then go away and implement/try.
Test Engineer-> Product Manager
Customer Focused. Hopefully it’s clear, the skill of a Test Engineer being customer focused, helps in becoming a Product Manager Their sole purpose is putting in place products that our customers will love. The best thing around this was that the they were so passionate about the move to becoming a Product Manager. It was great to see them flourish and really go after their dreams. Another great skillset here is that of CLIP, communicating with senior stakeholders, and being able to present your ideas around problems, helps massively.
Test Engineer-> Software Engineer
Some of the best Software Engineers that I have worked with have been Test Engineers in a previous role. They may have been a Test Engineer for a short time, but it gives them skills that others may lack. A focus on testability, a focus on observability and the ability to see the bigger picture. I’ve worked with a number of Test Engineers who made the switch and are absolutely thriving in their new role.
Test Engineer-> Business Analyst
Being a Test Engineer and moving to Business Analyst seems, in my experience, to be a fairly common move. I’ve seen people move from one to the other and back again. Clearly, the ability to analyse requirements, understand the business all make the transition relatively seamless. It was even a move I have explored in the past, but ended up staying as a Test Engineer.
Test Engineer -> Platform Engineer
Having strong technical skills and problem solving skills are great to help you transfer to becoming a Platform Engineer. Working with infrastructure, pipelines is what a lot of Test Engineers do anyway, and there is a lot of crossover. I’ve even seen Test Engineer roles advertised as TestOps Engineer, which I imagine being a hybrid role.
What does this all mean?
Clearly, I still want Test Engineers to stay in testing, honing their craft and skills, and being challenged and happy. Ultimately, though, if that isn’t the case, the most important thing is that people are happy and challenged in whatever role that they are performing. I’ve come to understand that people will move out of testing, and people will move into testing. The most important thing is that there are transferrable skills both ways. There are many transferrable skills of a Test Engineer, similarly, people moving into testing will bring their own transferrable skills and then some more. They help to bring diversity to teams, and that can only help them become better Test Engineer, and whatever else they decide in the future.