Important But Underestimated Soft Skills For Test Engineers

Usually, when talking about required skills for software testing specialists we are referring to technical expertise. However since software testing engineers are more involved in all parts of the project, soft skills become more and more important.

We have already written about the things that will help you become a good tester. Almost everybody has the idea what should be a set of soft skills for a perfect software tester – good communication skills, detail-oriented, structured, ability to see the whole picture, with an analytical mindset, meet the deadlines… This list could be continued with more and more good traits of character. However, there are some underestimated soft skills that are very important for software testing specialists. They are often observable in senior specialists, more and more employers are requiring them, still, the novice performers may lack them. The good thing is that it’s possible to upgrade this expertise.

Scientific research for soft skills desired by an employer

We have trends everywhere, shouldn’t we have one for the soft skills desired by employers? There are multiple research done to investigate the skills employers look for in software testers.

During research, there were analyzed data from 400 job advertisements in 20 different languages for the role of software tester from 33 countries and 5 continents (majority USA, Canada, Norway). Results show that employers prefer software testers who can handle testing in a project from the beginning of the project till the end, from A to Z. Additionally, persons with both good technical knowledge and project management skills were highly evaluated. Often there was an addition that the candidate has to have a passion to learn new things and has to be a fast learner. However, the same research has concluded that for employees, who are highly technically skilled and with comprehensive experience, employers do not pay so much attention to the soft skills of a candidate.

Another research shows that on top of the fast-learning skill, since 2012 there also has been a yearly increase in the need for skills like team-player, ability to work independently, openness, adaptability, and orientation towards customer service. As the flexibility of the software development process has increased, the same is reflected in desired skills of software testers  – they have to be more professionally mature to successfully lead the testing process themselves.

In a discussion about the next-generation software testers, there is emphasized that future testers should have all of them – good technical knowledge, soft skills, and project management skills. However, are there any underestimated soft skills that would help software testers to reach new heights?

Underestimated but powerful skills for testers

Even if mentioned below abilities might not be the first answers that come to mind when asking about characteristics of a dextrous software tester, however, those characteristics play an important role in the everyday life of each test specialist. These outstanding personal traits and abilities are passion, fast learning, collaboration skills, and proactivity. Let’s see what is hiding under those four groups and is it possible to upgrade those skills?

Passion

You are right – even technology giant companies and corporations are looking for passionate test engineers. Unfortunately, passion is hard to train and it is a soft skill that you either have or have not. However, if you have lost the passion somewhere in routine fields of testing, it’s possible to find it again. Just remember what you liked in testing and start small – find one test-related thing that you are passionate about and then step by step grow it larger. Passionate testers keep learning, exploring, sharing with others, and inspiring the whole team.

Is it possible to learn to be more passionate? Or not to lose passion? We all have heard that passion comes from within so be proactive, develop, and maintain your passion. You have to nourish your passion.

  • Be aware of what triggers your passion. Find the things you feel passionate about. If you work in quality assurance, think about what you love in testing, which are the topics you can read and talk about for hours?
  • Sharing is caring. Share your passion with others. Join a passionate community or company (by the way if you want to be part of something amazing – you can join us). A supportive environment where you have other enthusiastic people to share helps to stay passionate about the work. Back up your enthusiasm with integrity and enjoy your journey in testing – excitement will help to grow up your passion.

Fast learning

There are so many different domains, technologies, and approaches out in the world and each of them requires comprehension and a specific set of technical skills. More and more employers are looking for employees who can quickly adapt themselves to different requirements of projects and are fast learners. This is often underestimated but a very valuable skill that each test engineer should keep alive and polish up. Just start with a single domain or single technology and do not stop there. Soon you may have a unique set of knowledge that may outstand you in front of others.

Even if you doubt, you can improve your skills to learn. What to take in mind if you want to become a quick learner?

  • Be consistent. 15 minutes a day each day will bring more benefit than 1 hour once a week. You have already heard this before, right? And it’s true. When you get excited, time flies and those 15 minutes is just a start. When you don’t have a mood, 15 minutes is short enough time you can squeeze not to lose track.
  • Find your learning style. From online courses to hands-on practical testing tasks, there are so many opportunities out there. Test them to find your style of learning!
  • Take notes and exercise in practice. 
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Testing is a great journey of exploration. Niels Bohr who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics said “An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field”. This is so true also for testing – you learn by mistakes. You are searching for mistakes to improve the product. So don’t be afraid and be patient, it will pay off.
  • Train your brain. This will improve your focus. Devote a specific time of a day for your learning. Find a challenging task and practice. Like the muscles, you need regular training to get the results you want.

Collaboration skills

It’s not just communication. It also includes emotional intelligence and respect for the diversity of each project – colleagues, solutions, customer choices, tech stack. Even if it’s not the easiest customer to work with, the framework you don’t like or a team member who hasn’t been on vacation for a long time, using collaboration skills even in complicated situations will keep up team spirit and help to provide the best solution possible.

To have an effective collaboration we need three components – trust, tolerance, and self-awareness. It’s possible to enhance your collaboration skills although it may require you to come out of your comfort zone. The suggestion is to:

  • Find mentoring. Find a mentor who could help you grow. An experienced person whom you can trust and with whom you can share your vulnerabilities can boost your personal growth. And when you are ready, step out of your comfort and be a mentor for somebody else. It will give an extra boost to your collaboration skills.
  • Challenge yourself. Work on projects outside your comfort zone. Be ready to work on something new, go the extra mile, and allow yourself to fail.
  • Be flexible. Keep open-mindedness to be able to adapt at the moment’s notice. Also, willingness to adapt will raise the effectiveness of collaboration.

Proactivity

Testers are more and more involved in different stages of the projects. A specialist who besides the testing can handle different parts of the project, for example, question the design of the software, bring and validate new ideas, find effective solutions for different challenges brings to the whole team great added value. A proactive test engineer understands the needs and true requirements of a customer as well and can spot and report missing requirements or misapprehensions before the piece of code is developed.

  • See the big picture. Although some people may find it difficult to be proactive, try to focus on the future and see the whole picture. Seeing the entire perspective will provide a much better understanding of the project situation and allow you to come with proactive solutions.
  • Focus on things you can do. Do not waste your time and energy worrying about things you can’t change. Focus on what you can control and prioritize your tasks. Get the thing done and then switch to the next one. Switching between tasks takes a lot of resources, so use them wisely.

Remember – only you are responsible for your success, so take the action and see how the project will flourish from your proactivity.

Conclusion

We each are unique individuals with different personalities and different technical skills that we can bring to the team. Although we continue to grow and gain seniority, still, we usually improve our technical skills first, forgetting that polishing up our soft skills can do wonders. They can bring us more fun or even our dream projects simply because the soft skills are the skills that can distinguish each individual from another bunch of good testers with the same technical scope.  And the good thing is – it’s possible to upgrade also the soft skills and grow both in technical and personal attributes.

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