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Posted January 7, 2016

Re-Energize Your QA Career With Automation and DevOps


It’s time for you to stop being content with the status quo and re-energize your QA career with Automation and DevOps — otherwise, you might find yourself fading away like Marty McFly! I’m talking to YOU, manual tester! And YOU, QA manager! Oh, and YOU TOO, automation engineer! Every one of you who has a vested interest in your career growth needs to familiarize yourself with automation and DevOps tools.

Of Course You Need to Understand Automation

Let’s face it: In this day and age of software development, speed is the key to survival. In order to achieve clean builds, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Agile development, manual testing just ain’t gonna cut it.

Everyone with the QA title needs to continuously build on their skill set, just like a developer. Even if you aren’t actively writing automation code, you still need to understand the capabilities and benefits of each type of automated test, especially the ones written by your development team. The team is relying on your expertise to guide them with acceptance criteria for stories, while bringing QA concepts to the table.

Ok, Automation Yes, But Why DevOps?

How often are you left at the mercy of your DevOps team? DevOps is pulled in all directions with higher and higher priority tasks. Even worse, top tech companies are constantly raiding DevOps teams, so resources are quite often scarce. You can sit there and twiddle your thumbs, or you can learn some basic DevOps tasks to expedite your work, and leave the more complicated stuff to them.

QA teams constantly need special server and data setup. So many of these tasks are redundant. Server crashed unexpectedly? Don’t wait on DevOps, fix it yourself! Problems with certificates? Firewalls? A few quick lessons from your local DevOps team and you will be on your way to self-reliance! And when you have the confidence, you can start learning even more, such as Docker. (Here is a good link to a presentation by Chris Riley about What DevOps Means for QA.)

But How?

If you’re asking yourself this, good! You are asking the right question. So how do you go about reinventing your career? I recommend these three tools as a jumpstart:

  • Talk to a Recruiter - Wait, what? YES! You need all the incentive you can get! When you talk to a recruiter and discuss available jobs, you might find that your skill set is not in demand. But the best part is that a recruiter can tell you what is. This will help you define the direction you want to proceed in. Are you intimidated at the thought of talking to a recruiter? Then do some research online for jobs in your field. Don’t wait until you need a job only to discover the information you need too late!

  • Take Classes - The best thing about modern technology is that you don’t even need to leave your house to take a class. Start small. Learn a simple tool using the tutorial provided with it to gain confidence, and add it to your skillset and knowledge base. You can then work your way up to more structured courses, even at the college level. And — It is probably free! (Check out this blog I wrote to give you an idea of what is available to you online.)

  • Networking - This can be the most effective (and most daunting) tool at your disposal. Networking is powerful, so really consider it! Networking among your peers allows you to talk to people in the real world, see tool demos in action, and make mutually beneficial contacts.

More on Networking

Because this is the most important tool to help your career, it gets its own section.

If you live in a decent-sized city, you should be able to find a networking group for practically any technology field you are interested in. A simple search online should bring you just a few clicks from finding your next meeting.

If that fails, try This site allows you to join for free, and find a local “meetup.” A meetup group is like a club for people who have a common interest. ( Like to play chess? There is probably a group dedicated to it.) Meetups span all topics, and there are regularly scheduled get-togethers. If someone determines there is a need for a group, that person will start one. Or, if you can’t find one, start your own. (You will be surprised how quickly you have members.)

I belong to a couple of QA-related meetups in the DC area, which range from 250-500 plus members. The organizers attempt to meet the needs of the majority, running anything from simple networking happy hours to tool demos and actual study sessions. A simple, recent search on the site using ‘QA’ showed eight meetups within 50 miles. Changing the search to ‘DevOps’ yielded at least 30, from a broad range to a specific focus. (Want to learn about Docker? There’s a meetup for that.)

Many networking group meetings, including meetups, are sponsored by technology companies eager to show off the latest and greatest tool. The cooler the tool, the better the turnout. DevOps meetups regularly have over 100 participants. It’s easy to network when you know you are all there for the same purpose. Don’t be intimidated and think you are a stranger in a strange land.

Make the Time!

Perhaps the hardest part of this whole exercise is finding the TIME! You work late hours on projects. You have a family that needs attention. Your social calendar is fully booked.

Ideally, you can participate in any of the activities covered here at any time. But to gain what you need, you must commit to and allocate a minimum of three hours a week to your cause. It really is worth it.

Joe Nolan is the Mobile QA team lead at Blackboard. He has over 10 years experience leading multinationally located QA teams, and is the founder of the DC Software QA and Testing Meetup.

Jan 7, 2016
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