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My 8 Year Tech QA Software Testing Journey


I was tricked into becoming a software tester. No one I know grows up saying they want to be a software tester, especially 30 years ago. I recently did a career day at my old high school and started reflecting back on my career journey from the last 8 years. I started out as Software Developer and now I am Software Tester, so what happen?

College/University/Education

I got my education from a small school in NY called Farmingdale State College where I also played basketball(captain) and was a Resident Assistant in charge of the freshman dorms. At Farmingdale I obtained my bachelors degree in Computer Science because I wanted to be a developer. While at Farmingdale I got an internship, which sounds amazing, but it was an internship in networking and fixing hardware.

After graduation, I figured I would have jobs flooding my inbox with offers. However, as I mentioned, my internship in networking and fixing hardware, which is cool to know but wasn’t going to really help me get a job in software development. So I went back to my job at the airport in the meantime because I had to pay bills and started applying to jobs daily for a few MONTHS.

This process was very frustrating because I would feel I did well on an interview and then either never get a call back or get a simple “we decided to go with a different candidate” email. I was stuck in the problem of everyone wants someone with experience, but no one wants to give you that experience. After going on a few interviews in that span, I finally got an offer.

Job Hunting Process

After applying to hundreds of jobs I actually got 2 offers in the same week, I was on top of the world. Now I went from nothing, to having to make a decision. One would be a further commute, 50 mins, and paid less, but made some big promises about a bright future. The other was more straightforward, and only a 20 minute drive from where I lived, so it seemed like a no brainer.

In the interview for this closer company, they mentioned that they had failed to release this new company software twice already and this would be the last push for it. They also mentioned “this is not a temporary job” which should have been a red flag, but I was young so I ignored it, I was just happy to get a job. They have me my start date and then I went off shopping for some new professional clothes to wear to my first job in tech!

Job 1-Software Developer

I worked in a small R&D team in a big manufacturing company. Many of my team members had their master degrees from fancy big colleges, while I was just a bachelors from a small college, so it was very intimidating. The software we were pushing out was supposed to be the saving grace of the company and used by everyone from the factory workers to cashiers to our sales team.

For the next 6 months we had a lot of late nights and often I had to work 6 day weeks. Normally for the company you were forced to work 6 days a week for your first 3 months and then coincidentally the 3 months after that my team had to start really pushing to meet our dead line which lead to 6 days a week becoming the norm for my entire team.

The day finally came and we pushed out this new groundbreaking software and then went out for drinks to celebrate. I figured everyone in the company would cheer us on and thank us. The opposite happen, people don’t like change I quickly learned and backlash was frequent. People used the old system for 20+ years and quickly got frustrated because they had to learn something new which became stressful.

To help ease some of the stress my Team Lead put me in charge of creating desktop applications to ease the learning curve and make our application more user friendly. This actually worked out well and I started getting positive feedback about our new application. This maintenance phase of supporting all of the software’s problems and helping the users get used to it lasted for about 3 months. After that everything seemed stable and our jobs became very easy, until I got that late afternoon unexpected meeting.

It was a Friday afternoon right before it was time to leave for the day and my boss asked to meet with me, which was weird but I didn’t question it. He then said that he was sorry to inform me, but the project went extremely over budget because of the previous attempts and they could no longer afford me so they had to let me go because I was the last to join the team. He kept reassuring me that I had not done anything wrong and if I needed to use him as a reference or anything else in the future, to just let him know. He then proceeded to hand me a letter of recommendation and walk me out. I was back to be unemployed, but at least I got to get unemployment checks this time.

Job 2-Software Developer/Tester Consultant

Now that I finally had experience in the field, getting my next job was a lot easier. I quickly got offered by another company looking for a developer. However in the interview I noticed they also inquired about my testing skillset. At my previous job we did both the developing and testing so I brought that up and didn’t think much of it. I also mentioned that I made a basic mobile application for referees(I am basketball and lacrosse referee), and told them about how testing that was so important.

I got the offer, but had to sign a 2 year contract which seemed mutually beneficial for both parties because I’d be able projected to have a job for the next 2 years and they would have a worker. Also this company was located in the heart of NYC, so I didn’t mind the commitment because I got to explore and enjoy the city daily. On the contract my role was developer/tester. I thought it was weird but they explained that I would be developing and testing things for different clients. I now was a QA software tester.

They had an internal Bootcamp that taught me the basics of software testing for about a month and then consult me out to different companies for my services as a software tester for both manual QA and automation. Being a consultant had its pros and cons

Pros:

  • Got to work in different environments frequently

  • Got to work with different technology at different job sites

  • Made a lot of connections

  • You get to see what teams that are run well look like

Cons

  • You get to see what teams that are run poorly also look like

  • Some companies reminded you that you are just a contractor and wouldn’t invite you to their company events

  • You are limited to what the company needs you to do. Because you are consulting for a company if they need you to just do manual testing, that's all you did. If they needed you to work using outdating legacy tools, that is what you did.

  • Long term you didn’t know where you would be working next. I worked at places 15 mins driving from where and I lived as well as places 1.5 hours each way that I commuted to daily.

So I stayed here for about 3.5 years and loved it, but felt that I was reaching my ceiling growth wise. I can at any point be sent to a client that just needed basic remedial things for a long period and I am not learning anything. Which might sound cool if I was older and wanted to coast, but I was young and wanted to continue to develop.

I started interviewing and because I have experience got a lot of recuiters and HR people reach out to me fast. However it is a lot harder to do interviews when you have to still be at your job all day, so I had to get creative. Many sick days, lunch breaks at coffee shops, and extended bathroom breaks. They probably thought I had serious health problems in hindsight.

Finally I found a place that was a mutual fit, I no longer wanted to be a consultant and wanted to be at a place where I would code daily as a tester. The process was going well and then they asked for my references. I couldn’t ask my current employer to be a reference because that would be like asking your current spouse for a referral for a new spouse that they had no idea about. So once again I had to get creative. In one of my first projects I was solo at a company and became friends with 1 of my bosses that I worked closely with.

It had been years since I had spoke to him, but I had no choice. Now for my second reference, remember that boss at my first job that let me go that said I could use him as reference, yeah I would need that favor now. It had been 3+ years so I was scared he wouldn’t even remember who I was. I gave in my reference list to this new company and prayed for the best. A week later I got the call and negotiated a start date. The next Monday, as much as it hurt, I put in my 2 week notice.

Job 3-Software Developer Engineer In Test(Automation Engineer)

So I am at another new company with a lot more growth now, everything is exciting. I learn a lot on a daily basis and interact with people with 20+ years of experience, in the testing, development, and architecture niches so I have tons of resources for help and information. I have now been here for 3.5 years and still seem to learn something new every week somehow. Our company actually went public 2 years ago which is an exciting process to be a part of.

My role now is Lead Software Developer Engineer In Test where 80% of my time is spent on writing, reviewing, and maintaining automation test case, 5% carrying out manual test, and 15% doing development for new features for our applications. Also anyone else who does automation, must have their code reviews done by me. It has been an exciting because my company is hybrid, 2 days in person and 3 days remote, so I get to go into the city (NYC), twice a week for the bright lights and then get more family and friend time the rest of the week.

What Is Next?

Career wise, I am not sure. I plan to graduate from graduate school this year with a degree in computer science with a focus in AI, my software testing channel on YouTube is steadily growing and gives me a creative outlet for testing, and I also been partnering with Bootcamps and other companies as either an instructor and webinar host. Will I stay a tester, go back to being a developer, or use my new degree to jump into the red hot AI field right now? I am not quite sure but I am open to feedback.

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