Gabriel Simões

Gabriel Simões

How I made my move into software test engineering

How I made my move into software test engineering

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Life's been busy, in a good way. Since my last article, I finally changed jobs! I actually moved to a new role within the same company. As I mentioned here before, I used to work as an IT support analyst for payment terminals, however this role was under the Customer Operations department. After an internal recruitment process I was offered a new role as a QA Engineer within the R&D department, so now I can say my career change has been successfully completed.

Do you want to be a developer?

You may think I was in fact aiming at a developer role, rather than a testing role. Yeah, I thought the same. I have been studying over the last 18 months or so to be a software engineer. However, a few months ago I started to reconsider and re-assess this goal. Was it really feasible? How much longer would it take me to land a developer role? Would I ever land a developer role? Do I really want to do web development?

Also, there was another variable adding up to this complex thought process: I couldn't take my job any more. For real. I'm really grateful for the job I had, it placed me inside a global player in the payments industry, however the fast-paced on-the-phones job was really putting a strain on my mental health, even getting to the point of causing me relationship issues with my family.

When I first interviewed for that particular job I made it clear I wanted to progress into the tech department, so I tried to keep that in mind to endure the roughness of working at the front-line dealing with customers who happened to be the end-users of our products. It was really hard, but there were some great benefits as well. Let's skip to the good part.

Thinking about the past can help you in the future

One of the main blockers for me to land a tech job is that I didn't have any formal, commercial experience in a technical role. All my experience relied on self-learning and some personal projects. Not that they are not important - they are! - but a lot of hiring companies out there require some commercial experience on the job you'll be doing or on something similar. It's understandable, it takes a lot of time and resources to get people with no experience onboard and deeply involved in a project. However, it's also a paradox: hirers want people with experience, but most of them are not open to getting non-experienced people onboard and train them, therefore creating experienced professionals. How then would you get people with experience if there are virtually very few companies willing to provide this experience required?

But one day I was thinking about it and I remembered something really meaningful: I'm not 18 years-old any more, I'm a 34 years-old man with some good and diverse work experience and maybe this could be a an attribute I should go all-in.

Reflecting on my professional experience

Well, I am a bachelor in Geography, worked for 3 years as a teacher. Had some other hospitality jobs while in university, nothing remarkable. Afterwards, I started to work as a translator and there I found something that would be really interesting for this recent career-changing move into tech.

Note: I only decided to move into tech from translation when I left my home country and realised my translation skills in Portuguese and English would not be really useful, as this language pair is not something really in demand in the UK.

As a translator, I used to work as a project manager for a Brazilian company and there I was accountant for 5 branches across the country, leading a range of 4 to 8 people in my team. Also, in a contract basis, I was the sole consultant on-site for a French company, whose core business was translation and localisation projects for big pharma customers. As their consultant, I took over some very exciting projects not only working in translation, but also conducting validation tests and producing quality reports to be sent back to the company for them to complete the relevant amendments suggested by myself based on the validation tests I ran prior to delivering to the client.

This is where I noticed an intersection and possibly an entry gate into tech. I noticed there was a lot of similarity between the job I used to do as a linguistic consultant and the job of a QA Engineer, Test Engineer etc. In other words, if my linguistic translation skills themselves were not very useful to get into tech, I ended up consequently developing a whole skill set that would be very useful for landing a tech job and I should bring the attention of recruiters for this particular aspect of my CV.

Next steps

Ok, so after identifying this strength, this asset I had in my CV, I needed to understand exactly what would the work of a tester look like. I read everything I could find. I started with the basic concepts of testing and how the testing mindset would apply to a tech team, how it would look like within the Agile framework, trying to understand not only the practicalities of the job but also the current scenario and trends.

The first resource I used is not free, unfortunately. My employer grants us access to LinkedIn Learning. If you have access to it, you can take a look at the learning path Become a Software Tester. Further on, I wanted to get acquainted with test automation, understand its basic concepts and do some actual work. The best resource I ever found on test automation is the Test Automation University. This is such an amazing initiative created and maintained by the great Angie Jones, and there you can find amazing courses taught by great and famous testers such as Andrew Knight, Meaghan Lewis and many others. On TAU you can find a series of learning paths put together specially to develop specific skill sets, such as Web UI with Python, API testing with Java, Mobile path with Python, Java or Swift and much more. It's really a great initiative and deserves all the kudos.

After (and whilst) getting up to speed with the groundings of testing and quality in software, I engaged in a conversation with the R&D manager of the company I work for. I wasn't hopeful of actually getting a job out of this conversation, I had the intention of just networking. As I said, I was sick and tired of the job I was doing, it was taking a huge toll on my physical and mental health, so I was decided to either leave this job and the company or move to another role within the company - believing, obviously, it was a lot more likely that I would get another job somewhere else. I was already interviewing, taking technical tests etc. with other companies for different roles, such as DevOps Engineer, Python Developer, Test Analyst, Test Automation Engineer and all sorts.

Against all odds, my conversation with this guy ended up being really good, we got along very well and I was told my timing was perfect, as he was just awaiting the approval for hiring two new QA Engineers. And that led me to a first interview with him, then a second interview with him again and the QA lead, and also a technical test. Spot on, both interviews were great as well as the technical test. The feedback I then received was that my skill set built during my years as a translator provided me an inquisitive mindset and attention to detail in such a way that these would be really helpful in a QA job.

It's been now a month since I started this new role and I couldn't be any happier. I'm working a lot, but it's a lot more satisfying. I'm now dealing with high-profile issues, I have the time I need to work on the test scripts, to think about solutions, to discuss issues with my team, to choose and propose tools to make our work better. Luckily, I've been allocated in a project with a very supportive and welcoming team. No one has ever underestimated myself due to not having a CS degree or something like that, but in lieu they appreciate the effort I've done and am still doing to learn, every single day.

Lessons learned

Be open to new things

I ended up in testing by the hands of fate. Even when I started learning Python and exploring the tech field, it had never crossed my mind. I was naturally taken by the hype of web development. Although I still like backend development, I'm really enjoying working with payment applications. The stack we work with is based on C/C++, Java and Kotlin, which is amazing and exciting, and there is also room for fitting Python in the form of test automation. I had never considered testing before, but now I can say I found my tech niche.

Write that email!

I would never be where I am right now if I haven't faced my insecurity, anxiety and what they call imposter syndrome. Against all these ghosts, I wrote that email and I've sent it. And it worked. Don't be afraid, an email is a lot easier as you don't need to face anyone in person, at first. Go for it!

Do not ignore your skill set

If you're a relatively experienced professional, regardless of the industry you've worked in, and you're trying to move into tech or any other industry, do not ignore the skills you already have. Seriously. Always try to take some time and think about the skills you already have and look for intersections. I would say you might surprise yourself and find something you can leverage while seeking your next career goals.

Hope this thoughts can help someone else out there!

Image: on a commute to Manchester, updating my Linux distro and writing this article.
 
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