I’m pleased to run the 14th interview with our guest Patricio Miner from New Zealand! Welcome to our #testerstory series 🙂 🙂 

He will tell us his journey being a SDET with a focus on test automation, the transition of roles in agile teams between testers – developers and how developers can contribute to testing.

Hope it will inspire lots of you who want to get a closer look about SDET roles and test automation within the whole team.

Part 1: Introduction and SDET role

  1. Tell us about your experience, background? 

Born in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, I’ve spent the last 12 years working in Testing, particularly as a Test Engineer. Currently I work as a private automation consultant, training teams, individuals and companies to improve their Automation frameworks and pipelines. 

  1. How did you join the world of testing ?

Honestly? By accident! I was studying Geology at the university and needed a job to pay the rent. Given my skills spotting errors and good English, I joined a company outsourcing Game Testing to a big distributor of AAA Games with several studios across pretty much all the continents.

3. What does the SDET role look like ?

It looks a lot like a tester’s role…but also like a developer’s! In my opinion it involves the fine art of developing tools to help testing, which sounds easy, but can get tricky if you don’t have the right mindset which is, at the end of the day, the one of a Tester.

4. What’s the difference between QA and SDET ?

We all know that the official definition of QA is that it is there to assure the quality of a product. Truth is that the QA is there to provide the status of the application under test in a meaningful way, easy to be digested and facilitating the decisions for the stakeholders.

The SDET is there to build the tools that the QAs need to achieve this in a faster, consistent way. This involves anything from building a framework to automate UI or APIs, to build a Confluence page automatically using it’s API talking with Jenkins for updating a page with the status of all the domains of the company based on the jobs executed.

It can be spinning containers with test environments talking with other containers with the automated tests using Docker Compose and avoiding all the setup overhead for the test team.

It involves a lot of creativity and skills to engineer these solutions, and there is where the developer mindset applies. But the overarching role is the one of a tester.  And this is one of the most difficult things to understand for most Test Engineers: the tools built need to help testing and not be another application that needs to be tested.

Part 2: Test Automation Nowadays

5. Nowadays, the need for test automation is really crucial. Can you tell us your opinions ?

This is a trend that never stopped growing. The role of the manual tester feels somehow underrated nowadays in my opinion. There are quite a few tools trying to serve as a bridge between the non-technical (in terms of development skills) testers and automation, offering what we know as “codeless automation”. 

Of course, this also brings opportunities for seasoned Test Engineers, which are usually involved in these tools.  

6. In this fast changing world, test automation could be automated by machines and the use of ML / AI. So the role of software tester will certainly evolve and go beyond the classic one. What kind of evolution do you expect in such roles?

I think we are still far away from that kind of future. There are some timid attempts to bring ML into Automation, in particular related to self-healing tests on tools like Selenium, but the results are far from consistent. I would like to see more open source libraries trying to accomplish this in the near future!

Which is more interesting, this brings another whole discipline of testing related to “how do we test these algorithms?”

One thing is true: The Tester is shifting to the code while at the same time the developers are shifting to testing tasks more and more. One has to look at all the Javascript tools such as Webdriver.io or Cypress, to understand how this movement is flowing.

For those who don’t want to get into the world of coding, there are some spaces I think will develop more and more and which will need a human eye. Ethics, UX (User Experience) will become more important than today, as a consequence of the algorithms and machine learning tools that will serve humanity.

7. Other trends say that automation of the whole organisation process is even more important than focusing on test automation. In that case what are the changes that the automation tester can face in his role?

Well, they are different things. Of course, having the pipelines helping the deployment of new iterations of software is one of the most important aspects of any organization. But focusing on testing should be also one of the priorities. And yes, I didn’t say “test automation” as part of the focus. 

Test Automation should be there to help the testing focus on the important aspects, which is how to get the right information about the status of the system so the stakeholders can decide and prioritise accordingly. 

8. Do you have more inputs about the future of test automation ? 

I can see the Test Engineer role moving towards the development of codeless tools more and more, which on the other hand will bring the manual testers closer to the automation of the tests. 

As I said above, I think the manual tester will be playing a key role regarding the UX and ethics of new ways in which the technology will help us in our lives.

9. What are the steps or skills that you think are mandatory for today’s testers to start their first experience as a test automation engineer  ?

Being proactive is the key one. That leads to seeking more knowledge, understanding of the tools and processes and, in the end, being a good teamplayer.

The culture fit that is so trendy now with the interviews and recruiting teams is, I feel, an underrated aspect that not many take the needed consideration. It doesn’t matter if you are a coding superstar, if you lack the social and soft skills needed to make your team thrive, doors will close.

Part 3:  Developers Boost Testers and whole Team Approach to quality

10. It’s great that testers and developers becoming more and more collaborative, we even talk about coaching in the team as mentioned in the 4th modern testing principle

“We care deeply about the quality culture of our team, and we coach, lead and nurture the team towards a more mature quality culture.”

How can developers help testers in an effective way ?

One way I always aim with the teams I lead is by getting everyone on the same page about owning the quality of the product. Everyone is responsible for this. If the whole team owns the quality and communicates to each other, the processes are frictionless and the roles are flexible enough to get things done under the various challenging situations we encounter daily when developing software. 

11. As you already mentioned, developers are also taking part in test automation. Indeed, they contribute to building quality not just by shifting left but by starting it ASAP. What are the most common practices or daily activities that today developers tend to make to boost testers?

There are tools, as I mentioned above, that aim to help the developer automate the tests for their applications. These same tools are getting a huge adoption from the testing community as well, which brings some of the caveats they have to the table. They need to get sorted by collaboration between developer and tester. From how the locators are being created for the webelements on a webpage, to how the APIs work behind the scenes. 

This helps greatly the testing teams by giving them the flexibility of manipulating the state of the application and setting the conditions needed to test the scenarios they’ve designed.

Another good side effect of these tools is that, by using the same language and technologies as the developers, contributes to knowledge transfers from them to the test team. NodeJS, Javascript …they are powerful and great technologies to get yourself into testing thinking in the future.

12. What’s the impact of this mindset and whole team approach to quality ? 

Amplifying the feedback circles. Faster, earlier and better feedback means we are walking in the DevOps way of working and the issues are caught soon enough for the team to handle them accordingly. 

Part 5: Conclusion 

13. What advice can you give for testers who want to go into more automation roles and in particular to SDET?

Forget about Selenium. Dive deep into Object Oriented Programming, then you can pick the tool you like the most and you will understand them fast and well.

Javascript is the future of UI Automation, check the amazing tools the market has (Cypress, TestCafe, Webdriver.io) and, of course, NodeJS. 

Finally, don’t forget about Performance Testing and containers! We need more people knowing how to take advantage of Docker, Kubernetes in the testing world!

14. What advice can you give for developers who want to switch into SDET? 

You need to get into the tester mindset. A good way is looking at the amazing documentation and certifications there are for iSTQB for example. 

The hardest part will be, in my opinion, keeping aside the temptation of over engineering solutions. Remember, you are  there to help testing, not to make the next Facebook.

15. Anything else you want to share with the testing community ?

  For the ones starting your journey now: This is a never ending learning process, don’t forget that and keep your skills updated!

For the ones already with many years on their shoulders: The same as above, but also…be kind with the juniors, mentor, guide them and participate more in the communities! 

Thank you so much  Patricio for being part of this #testerstory and for sharing your great journey with test automation being a SDET and also on how developers can boost testers and whole team approach to qualityI encourage you to continue your brilliant journey, and wish you all the best in your career.

Interviews History:

Thank you for reading this new #testerstory ! Get inspired by previous series you can find them via this link

You also ? Do you have an inspiring story being a tester and want to share it via ‘tester story’ via my blog or via Racket ?

Get in touch via twitter @emna__ayadi or linkedin Emna Ayadi we will plan for it !