3 Perks of being a Technical QA

The IT world flourishes and blooms superfast. New products and services pop up on a daily basis. We all know and work with these trends: while product managers want to ship new product features blazing fast, their fellow QA department invests time to „step back“ and make sure the shipping product increment does, what it is supposed to do. This of course creates a fragile balance in the release schedule. Now if we want to optimize the balance by applying upfront techniques like code reviews, TDD and test automation, the role of QA undergoes a slow but steady change. In my career, i saw a growing number of job offers in manual QA requiring more extensive technical knowledge. At least basic test automation skills and abilities to understand code are often required nowadays.

Following, I’d like to use my very first blog post to point out, why it is a good thing to have the mentioned technical skills in your QA career.

Almost 3 years ago, I joined the ranks of the QA as a Test Automation Engineer. Since then, I worked for many different projects & people in different roles. I met Lead Developers,  testers and CTOs of various companies. One of my most notable projects was the Logistics Department of a major food delivery company, which has a huge impact on the business, and therefore a great demand for quality. The team consisted almost only of developers and one (part-time) product manager. The logistics monitoring tool the team built is based on Ruby on Rails; a huge advantage for me, because my test automation stack is based on Ruby & Cucumber, that fits neatly into Rails. With this setup in mind, lets dive into the real questions: how can technical proficiency help you increase quality?

1. Static Code Analysis & Code Reviews

Highly underestimated in the testing departments, CR-techniques bring quality on a detailed level to the desk. Static analysing tools like Codeclimate or Scrutinizer already automate a great share of the efforts and provide the development team and you with valuable metrics and advice. With code reviews, you can complement these valuable results even more. Usually a task for developers, you as a QA can bring a different, more destructive, perspective to code discussions. This way, you may discover additional potential issues or convention breaks, that the developers may have not seen. Most Git-Providers come with easy diff tools to reduce your effort making all these nice things very cheap.

2. The Glue between Dev, QA & Product

As a technical QA you have many different insights at your disposal. When it comes to  typical discussions in every day’s sprint life, you are in close contact to the manual testers  leveraging yourself to absorb everything from the product design side. Then you can transfer the knowledge back to Dev and, equally interesting, vice versa. You can estimate & answer relevant questions from multiple perspectives.

3. Openings for more

Tech enables you to deliver even more forms of quality. For one project, I coded Performance- and Stress Tests directly in the Rails app using ruby-jmeter and made them part of the Rake-Scripts. Rake is the conventional build system similar to Make for Ruby on Rails – Projects. This enabled me to execute them on demand and could even serve next to your automated functional texts in  scheduled test execution environments. All that while they are managed directly in the project’s Git-Repo as the source code files they are. Another big opportunity is release management, where you can play a big role. As scheduled or on-commit test executions play a major role in answering the question „Can we deploy?“, you are able to actively shape the CI/CD flow directly with the CI/CD-Tool of your choice bringing you directly to the heart of the release process for a lot of companies.

Technical QA – hot or not?

If you feel a knack for the technology around you, and if you want to explore that nefarious destructive glare in your eyes, I absolutely recommend you to go for it. You have nothing to lose and lots of interesting opportunities to gain. I made the experience that the entry is pretty smooth, and the basic technologies around Selenium or Jenkins for example are well known, documented and supported. Therefore, dive into it and prepare for adventure. 🙂

You want to have a smooth quickstart? Check out my minimal Zalenium Setup!

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