I’m pleased to run the 12th interview in our #testerstory series with our guest Mirza Sisic from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He will tell us the transition he made in his journey moving from customer support to testing and how web development improved his testing skills.
Hope it will inspire lots of you who are looking to change their career and start their journey as a software tester.
Part 1: Introduction
- Tell us about your experience, background?
Since my childhood, I have a passion toward computer science, but I never really thought I’d do it professionally, it was mostly playing around with Windows and Linux, installing and troubleshooting for friends and neighbours – as a hobby, and also, playing a lot of PC games as kid – strategies and RPGs for the most part. Somewhere in 2013 a cousin of mine, who changed careers and went to IT, inspired me to try the same. In 2013 I was doing PC repairs on the side and preparing for a few Microsoft certificates, related to Windows 7, which helped me land my first full time job in IT. It was a remote position and I worked as a customer support rep for an e-learning company.
2. How did you join the world of testing ?
Well, after working in support for two and a half years I was getting a bit bored of it, it was repetitive work and for an introvert talking to customers over the phone, for several hours, was really draining – replaying 100 emails was easier than having five phone calls. So I started asking around for an internal transfer. I waited a little while and I got transferred to the QA department, it was more interesting, but after figuring it out this role became really easy, since I already got very well familiarized with the product while I was in support and we only did manual testing for a small product so I had a lot of time on my hands to learn new stuff. At the time testing (I didn’t know yet how extensive and technical testing can be) seemed a bit dull as a career, because we lacked managerial support to establish any kind of a real process and to make any improvements, so in my spare time I started learning web development.
3. After your first years in testing, did you change your understanding toward testing, did you change your vision ?
A bit yes, but it was mostly at my second testing job, which was after I changed companies, that I really started to fall in love with testing and I found out that I liked it even more than web development. It was, on one side, a lot more technical than customer support, and it offered more freedom than development. I realized that I don’t have to give up on coding if I stick to the tester’s career path. This was when I realized that testing should be done by everyone in the team, to a certain extent, even if you have a dedicated team of testers. Indeed, the project as a whole will benefit if everyone onboard realizes the benefits and the importance of a well tested software product.
In a nutshell testing should be an integral part of the culture, It should be done continuously for any successful company.
4. From your experience, what are the skills that you think every tester needs to have?
The technical skills may differ, from company to company, but in general, a good tester should be a pretty decent generalist and should have a broad understanding of different aspects of IT.
For soft skills, I think communication is number one – testers should communicate a lot, with people from different backgrounds.Being empathic and diplomatic in communicating is a huge asset for a tester. Also, it’s important to be really curious, skeptical, detailed and methodical in your approach and to keep your word – don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
Part 2: From a mixture of “Customer Support” + “Web Development” to Testing
5. As a self-learner, how was your journey with software development ? And how it helped you as a tester?
It was difficult, at first, as a self-tough you have a bunch of doubts and gaps in your knowledge, but after doing a few freelance contracts, and getting really good feedback from the clients, I got more confident about my skills.
Learning about web development helped me considerably to become better at UI testing, but overall, I gained many skills that are still useful to me today: I got used to using git, figured out how to use Postman and Chrome DevTools, understanding REST and HTTP made me better at API testing and learning to code is truly useful today when I’m doing test automation. Another benefit is that it made me see things from a broader perspective and to understand developers better, now I get along with developers quite well, especially when they figure out how technical I am.
6. How your previous role as customer support helped you in your current testing journey ?
This was valuable in a sense that I got to see first hand how real end-users behave out “in the wild”. As an end result, it made me always think that (in most cases) that systems should be as simple to use as possible. Aside from that, I realized that customers don’t always use software the “proper way” so I got more creative, or maybe I should say realistic, when it comes to negative testing and checking the unhappy path, snooping around for edge-case scenarios and the like.
7. Do you focus mostly on technical or interpersonal skills? Which ones do you value the most for testers ?
I would say interpersonal skills are more important, since technical skills are easier to learn and are unavoidable when working for any decent company. A modern tester must be tech savvy, I’d always rather work with a complete junior who is a decent person, compared to working with a top-notch expert who is arrogant, stubborn, narrow minded, etc.
8. What are the steps or skills that are required to make such a move to the world of testing ?
A lot of dedication, curiosity and a will to learn new things. There are always new technologies and testing trends to help us keep up with the new trends, and I think being an active part of the testing community is very helpful in achieving that.
9. How do you convince hiring managers that you are able to make a move to testing without having the exact background ?
I’ve been told that I have a way with words and that people respond well to my cheerful disposition, but that’s not the main reason, even though it does help. I usually start by asking questions about their product and how is testing done in their company. After that I describe how I did it so far, if I think they’ll be receptive to it, I might give a few suggestions on how I’d improve their testing process, to save them money – managers love hearing this part! And lastly, when applying it is always a good idea to research the company and to give hints about it in the interview, it shows people that you are interested and that they are not just one of 200 places where you applied at, even if that may be the case.
Part 3: In Testing
10. How do you describe your activity as a tester ?
Right now, I’m on the way of becoming a senior, so I have a lot of meetings, both with developers, BAs, and managers. I finally get to have some say in making testing related decisions, especially on new projects. Aside from that I do a whole lot of API testing, pair programming with the developers while working on a new testing framework and I’m working on documenting the testing process so we have guidelines which are accepted by everyone.
11. I suppose test automation is the easiest part for you as you already have a software development experience ? How do you define your test automation strategy in your team ?
I do love test automation a lot, it’s sort of like backend coding, but less stressful, compared to regular development. Maybe with the exception of UI automation, which can be a pain to maintain, if not set up properly at the very beginning of a project.
For defining the test automation strategy, it’s important to sit down and have discussions with everyone involved, aside from having general rules, such as keeping the automation code version controlled, and implementing design patterns to keep it clean, more organized and maintainable, I think the most important part is getting well acquainted with your product so your automation framework should be tailored to the needs of your product.
- After 4 years in Testing, How do you see your career path, more technical challenges/ or more into management skills in testing ?
I’m pretty satisfied with the way my technical skills have progressed, and as someone who’s a computer geek, I’m always learning new stuff and playing around with different technologies. Eventually I think I would like moving towards test management. Since I get along with people quite well, one day I’d love to be teaching other people how to test, probably full time!
Part 4: Conclusion
- What advice do you give for both developers and customer oriented roles who want to get into testing?
For developers, I’d recommend trying to be more skeptical and keeping an open mind, having a software that is tested only by its author (the developer) is not enough, due to the well known author bias, also another advice for the developers looking into testing would be not to ignore manual testing – testing is not only technical activity, to be good at it you need to know both manual and automated tests, you need to understand the domain knowledge so you don’t waste your energy automating things you don’t understand fully. For customer oriented roles, my advice would be a bit more opposite – get more technical, learn to code and start practicing test automation by automating simple things and as you progress over time automate more complex workflows.
14. Anything else you want to share with the testing community ?
We live in pretty trying times, so being kind and patient is even more important than before, and don’t just do it because it’s the right thing to do, it will also make your life easier. Focus on becoming a better communicator, since working remotely can be challenging in getting the right message across, due to lack of non-verbal communication and the lack of physical closeness. Also, don’t be a slave to any specific technology or tool, keep an open mind, since there is no silver bullet that is applicable everywhere, be analytical and keep the realist needs in your mind.
Stay well, stay safe and thanks for taking the time to read this.
Special thanks to Emna for supporting the testing community!
Thank you so much Mirza for being part of this #testerstory and for sharing your outstanding journey being a software tester from a different background. Also for the useful tips you got from the mixture of different domains with testing. Indeed the trend today to be a T-shaped tester with adaptable and creative mindset to live in this fast changing world.
I encourage you to continue your brillant journey, wish you all the best in your career.
Thank you for reading this new #testerstory ! Get inspired by previous series you can find them via this link
You also ? Do you have a ‘testing story’ that you want to share via an interview in this blog format ?