I’m pleased to run the 9th interview in our #testerstory series with our guest Helena Hrubesova from Prague, Czechia. She will tell us her journey as a Tester from a completely different background, and how she managed to move her career from lawyer, then a project manager, then a consulting business to the world of software testing.
Hope it will inspire lots of you who are looking to become a tester without necessarily having an initial technical background.
Part 1: Introduction and Career Change
- Tell us about your experience, background?
Thank you, Emna, for having me. I had quite a diverse career so far. I studied law in the Czech Republic because one of my elementary school teachers suggested that to my mom based on my personality. I also wanted to become a lawyer because I was a nobody from a small village and wanted to be somebody people admire and get paid big money. I did not give it any deeper thought at 18, unfortunately. In hindsight it was not the best decision since I loved math. Anyways, I finished law school, worked in big law for a while and hated the long hours. I was paid well but I did not have much of a work life balance. I went to study for my master’s degree in the USA and then moved to Canadian north for adventure. Starting fresh in Canada was great but for some reason I did not come up with a better idea than becoming a lawyer again. Oh well… I took all the exams in Canadian law however could not get an articling student position to be admitted to the Bar. I took a job at the Yukon government and did securities regulation. Not sure if you ever worked for a government, but there I had work for about 2 hours a day and the rest I had to come up with ideas on what to do. That was the time when I learnt programming a bit and remade the website of our department. I really enjoyed it but I was getting tired of the 8-month long winter and – 40 celsius. I moved to Vancouver, and worked there as a project manager in construction. That was a totally different experience but I wanted to give it a try! Law industry was still quite male dominated when I was there but construction was full of males. It did not feel very good and it made my job quite hard but it taught me how to work with men. It comes handy in tech. I learned that I needed to listen actively because most men didn’t talk much or hated to repeat what they had said :-). Anyways, it has been an adventurous journey but I really wanted to try to have my own business. I remembered how hard it was for me to immigrate to Canada and felt like I could help other people in doing so. Having my own business was a completely different beast though. I was constantly overwhelmed by everything that I had to do. I don’t work well under pressure and if the main pressure is to find clients to make money then it can become unbearable. The parts of my business I liked was making my own website, doing content management and social media for it. Then came the point when I was done with entrepreneurship. I like when things are predictable and it was anything but predictable. On the other hand I liked the freedom and possibility of remote work.
After this experience I was thinking what to do next. I wanted to have a job that would fulfill following requirements:
- it was the same around the globe,
- it gave me potentially the freedom to work remotely,
- it was decently paid,
- it was fairly easy to find work in that industry,
- it allowed me to learn new things constantly,
- it included a bigger picture overview, and
- provided a good work life balance.
Social media marketing and tech were both fulfilling the bill. However, I felt more inclined towards tech as that’s where the innovation happens.
- Sounds like you have a different background, which is really great for the testing industry. The more we have diversity the more we are more creative while pairing together as testers. Can you tell us how you joined the world of software testing?
I took a coding bootcamp Praha in the fall 2019. First, I wanted to be a developer. My first job was frontend development and writing cypress tests. Funny enough, I liked the cypress tests more than the development itself. Writing the tests, it gave the big picture of the project compared to the developer job which feels contained more in a smaller area at a time. This job was for a small startup in Vancouver and they ran out of money. Looking back, I feel like the business idea was not strong. It was more labour of love. Then I came back to Czech Republic last summer and was looking for a job in software testing with automation possibility. I felt like I can use my skills and interests in business, finance, law, and user experience together in software testing.
- Making such change requires huge courage to overcome the fear of new beginnings in a completely different career path.
How did you get that courage ? Did you receive any advice like
- ‘You are not from the field why you want to change ? ’
- ‘Are you sure you can adapt ?’
I love starting new things 🙂 so no problem there for me. It’s more sticking with that one thing in the long run. That is why I needed a profession where there are a lot of things I can learn. Learning new things keeps me engaged and as you know, there are plenty of things to learn in software testing.
I talked to a couple friends from the tech industry and they told me that it might be hard to learn coding at first but that there is a future. I even found a couple lawyers on twitter who changed their career to tech and they sounded happy about the change. On the other hand, I also read some reddit and quora stories of people saying that QA testing is dead and changing your career to tech in your 30s is nonsense. I sort of wanted to prove them wrong.
Part 2: From other industries to Testing
- What are the things you got from other industries that helped you in your testing career?
Having a legal and project management background, I think I am quite organized. I make systems and procedures for myself to streamline my work to get more efficient at it. I am also quite detail oriented which helps in testing for sure. On the other hand, the experience of running my own business prepared me for having to work with a lot of loose ends at the same time. Since I am the only tester on my team, there are always multiple people wanting something from me.
- Do you focus mostly on technical or interpersonal skills? Which ones do you value the most ?
I think I value interpersonal skills a lot and I am naturally good at them. Although, sometimes I can be quite blunt. I always strive for good communication between the team members and whenever possible give feedback to people around me. I prefer to work in an amicable and respectful environment. Sometimes, however, people get on each other’s nerves when they work together day in day out. It is good to always strive for having empathy towards each other and find out a solution to the problem. I would say that I am a solution oriented person I don’t like when there is a lot of talk and no action.
On the other hand, the technical skills are very important too and I am working on improving those as well. I am trying to get good at cypress and jmeter currently.
- What are the steps or skills that are required to make such a move to the world of testing from other industries ?
In my opinion, you need to be curious and enjoy testing. You need to have a bigger understanding of testing as well. That it is not just clicking through an app and finding out that everything works. Analytical mind, orientation to detail, and can-do attitude are also very valuable. I actually wrote a post on my blog about this exact question. I started my blog recently to keep track of what I learn and also help others to understand what it takes to become a successful tester.
- How do you convince hiring managers that you are able to make a move from a non technical background to a tech job in general or testing in particular ?
I think you need to show that you are genuinely interested in tech and testing for that matter. And then you need to prepare for the job interview well. Have some basic understanding of software testing and being able to apply it. When coming from a different industry, it is also always good to think about your strengths and transferable skills from your past jobs. And then use those to your advantage at your interview. The most important thing which I heard from the hiring managers is that people looking for a tester position usually say that they want to do it to get into development or somewhere else. I don’t think that’s smart because nobody wants to hire you knowing you will run away as soon as possible.
Part 3: From a Tester Perspective
- How do you describe your activity as a tester ?
I make sure that our product looks and works great from the business, finance, marketing, legal and UX point of view 🙂
- Do you find it easy to talk with technical oriented people ?
I love talking with tech people. They usually have an in-depth knowledge which is easier for me to acquire by talking to them about the topic or watching them work on it than reading about it myself.
- I suppose test automation is the hardest part to be familiar with ? How do you start dealing with programming ?
As I mentioned above, I took a coding bootcamp. It was 3 months and I felt I would need more time to get good at it. I am still trying to get good at cypress and the only way is through practice. I think programming is a completely different way of thinking, but once you understand one language/testing tool, you will see that the same patterns are applied in other ones as well. I recently started learning jmeter and the way it is structured is very similar to cypress.
- After 2-3 years in Testing, How do you see your career path, more technical challenges/ or more into management skills in testing ?
I would love to try product management/ownership in the future, as it would give me an even bigger picture of the product itself. But before that, I want to master automated testing.
Part 4: Conclusion
- What advice do you give for both people from other perspectives and backgrounds who want to start their career in testing and make that move ?
I would advise them to read about testing to get an understanding of what it is, so they know what to expect. Then I would tell them to pick a couple of their favorite websites and apps and try to apply testing principles they just read. And then do the same thing for a couple days, try to come up with new ways of testing those sites and apps and see if they still enjoy it. If they do then they will for sure enjoy their job. Then maybe take some courses and get ready for a testing interview.
- Anything else you want to share with the testing community ?
I started a blog https://youintechnology.com/ where people from different backgrounds who are thinking about changing their careers to testing can learn about my tips and tricks on how to do it. I will be also including the tools I am learning and my success with them. People can also reach me on twitter as @coderHelena. I am hoping to get more active there too.
At the end, I want to add one word of warning to everybody, who would like to join testing as a career. Get ready for a serious professional deformation: Whenever I read something now I always check if everything works well and how it looks like. And when something is broken I am always very tempted to contact the author (and I sometimes do :-).
Thank you Emna for having me!
Thank you so much Helena for being part of this interview and sharing your brilliant move to the Testing world. It’s a really inspiring and courageous career move, your experience is unique as it gather different industries before you join the testing world.
I encourage you to continue on your successful journey, wish you all the best in your career and looking forward to hearing your indepth experience with test automation then product management.
- Interview #1: Being a Freelancer from Tester Perspective
- Interview #2: Driving quality forward with a customer first mindset
- Interview #3: Overcoming the struggles of being a tester from student perspective
- Interview #4: Being A Remote Agile Tester Story
- Interview #5: Being a Tester from scratch and working in an Agile Team
- Interview #6: Data Science from a Tester perspective
- Interview #7: Becoming a Tester From an HR perspective
- Interview #8: Master your Test Automation journey
- Interview ##: ….. if you have a ‘testing related story’ reach me out to tell more about it in interview format. Get in touch via twitter @emna__ayadi or linkedin Emna Ayadi.