Archive for August, 2008

Transitioning from testing one sort of application to another, and general advice on job hunting

August 27, 2008

I’ve just started my second round of teaching Black Box Software Testing Foundations for AST members. Besides the obvious benefits of what I consider to be a very well designed and rigorous course, there are the side benefits of meeting interesting folks from all over the world, and the discussions that arise. One student who’s currently between jobs, and has extensive experience testing embedded software but is looking for a job testing web applications asked me for advice.

Looking back on my answer to her, it seems like something others might appreciate as well, so I decided to publish it here as well.

Specific ideas for transitioning from testing one type of software to another:

  1. Consider finding a relevant open source project to help test. I can’t think of an open source web app right now, but certainly experience testing Firefox or Watir sounds relevant to me…and even experience testing something further afield like Open Office shows that your experience is applicable beyond embedded software. The bug reports you file here become a publicly visible portfolio that you can link to in your resume.
  2. Consider reading/learning more about web testing in particular. You might add some of what you’ve read to your cover letter or resume directly, or perhaps it will just inform how you answer questions when you get called for an interview.
  3. Finally, if you’re having a hard time getting the permanent job you want, consider getting a short-term contract to get web testing onto your resume.

And then there’s the general advice:

  1. Make your resume & cover letter shine. When I’m hiring, cover letters that convey personality, communication skill, and intelligence are few and far between. I am *much* more likely to call a candidate with holes in her/his resume if their cover letter is strong – which certainly includes enough personalization that I can tell s/he has thought about working at *this* company in particular.
  2. Are you not getting called for interviews? Ask friends or colleagues who you can trust to be thoughtfully candid to review your resume and cover letters.
  3. Are you getting interviews but not getting offers? Ask the hiring manager why. Five years ago, when I was transitioning from my first testing job and looking for my second. I got turned down for a gig I was interested in after the second interview. I worked up my courage, called the hiring manager up, and said I wanted to know why I hadn’t gotten the position so that I could learn and improve myself. He was very impressed…and in fact after talking for 10 minutes on the phone told me he’d changed his mind and made me an offer. While I can’t guarantee that that’ll happen for you, I think there’s at least a decent chance you’ll learn something. As a hiring manager, I’ve had a lot of candidates who turned me off because of something they wrote or said, or who I turned down because of a skill they appeared to lack. I don’t believe it’s my business to point this sort of thing out unsolicited, but if someone takes the initiative to ask I will often be happy to offer a friendly tip or two for the next place they apply.
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Article on Working With Inattentional Blindness In Software Testing

August 22, 2008

David Christiansen, the editor of the AST Update, has put out a nice new issue…including an essay of mine on working with Inattentional Blindness. It’s available in print and as a PDF, and there’s a lot of good in it. Check it out!

Conferences are for Conferring

August 6, 2008

I’ve been home from the 3rd annual Conference of the Association of Software Testing in Toronto for three weeks now, and am still thinking about all I’ve learned.

This was my 3rd time attending CAST. As always, the keynotes, tutorials and track sessions were excellent…and as always, even better than that was the conferring. You see, CAST knows that it attracts testers with an impressive array of experience, and that making time for them to riff off of each other is very valuable. Toward that end, every single track session and keynote included substantial time devoted to discussion, with an explicit welcome to challenge the presenter or to otherwise test their assertions. Inevitably, the I found the lively conversation spilling over into dinner, or following us to the pub.

While I’ve been testing for eight years now, and have worked on a range of web and client-server applications, all of my work so far is limited to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a tremendous pleasure discussing testing with folks from vastly different industries, and from around the world.

One story of many: Over dinner I mentioned a problem that I thought was best solved by starting a conversation with the programmer. Scott Barber responded with something like “Providing the tester doesn’t get in trouble for talking to her.” I was surprised, and asked if that’s really something that happens much in 2008…and was informed by folks at the table from more regulated industries or on government projects that that’s not uncommon. Partly this made me very happy to be a tester for in very human culture we have at Freebase, but it also served to reinforce how easy it is to overgeneralize about the field of testing, when I’m really thinking about testing in a particular context or contexts.

Discussing our particular challenges, sharing stories, and questioning testers with very different perspectives really made CAST 2008 a joy for me…and I’m looking forward to 2009 in Colorado Springs!