My Unexpected Journey to Becoming a Software Tester (From Entry-level to a Manager)

“You build a Successful Life…A Day at a time…”

My journey as a Software Tester started a bit unexpectedly.

I appeared for the initial interview rounds assuming it to be a Development opportunity. To be honest, like every other Computer Science graduate out there, I was a bit skeptical about going ahead with Testing.

But finally, I decided to give it a try. Only with a hope that my curious nature will help me in this field. 

I couldn’t accept the offer without putting up this question – Will I get an opportunity to switch to Development in case Testing doesn’t interest me? :).

Believe me- I never even got a thought of leaving Testing after that.

my-journey-as-a-software-tester

When I appeared for the technical round, I wasn’t prepared for anything more than the basic concept of Software Testing. I guess the only thing which took me through was the thought that I am being evaluated logically and not theoretically’.

This was my very first learning in Testing – I understood how we (freshers) were evaluated.

Even today, I use similar techniques while hiring freshers for my team. I check their logic, tenacity and approach to a problem over anything else.

Recommended read => 4 Important Things I Learned in My Journey as a QA Test Manager

I joined Zycus as a QA Trainee and was allocated a product on some third or fourth day. It was one of the biggest (was in concept then) and most ambitious products of the company. After settling down for the initial few weeks, there was no turning back for me.

We started as a QA team of two and soon after few months I was the only one driving the Testing efforts. In the initial 2 – 2.5 years itself I had logged nearly 3000 defects across different categories such as Functional, Performance, Security, UI, Usability, Multilingual, Multi-Tenancy, etc.

For a considerable time before new additions to the Testing team, I was up against a strong 15-16 member development team. Even after the additions, QC:Dev ratio wasn’t very healthy and I can still proudly say it was a successful journey considering all that we tested, delivered and handled.

The important point I want to highlight here is- All this was from an understanding of Testing in practice and not just theory.

I have been in the Software Testing field for almost six years now. It has been an amazing journey with so many different experiences and plenty of fruitful learning.

Presently, I am working as a Senior QA Manager looking after some 5-6 products and modules. But what gives me real joy and happiness is leading a team of 30+ happy and passionate Testers.

Of course, many people have contributed to my learning, but I can still say most of my experience and knowledge has come the hard way (and probably the best way), i.e. Learning/solving it on my own.

“Experience is the best Teacher.”

While I say this, I don’t at all mean to say that you won’t be benefited from learning or following documented theories about Software Testing. What I believe is, this all will surely help but nothing can beat understanding the concept at the core and facing the problems boldly.

I believe documented stuff won’t teach you real testing, though it can give you some direction and then you are on your own. At least in my case, there were problems which may be not documented to solve my exact problems or I couldn’t find them in time. My only choice was to understand the problem/situation at the core and react to it with the approach I found right.

Examples – How I approached in different situations

Let me explain this with the help of problems/situations I was up against and how I approached them.

#1) Business understanding is a notch higher over understanding testing

Well, you all know this. Testing isn’t just testing few validations and doing some verification.

As a tester, we are supposed to visualize every possible scenario, even the rarest of the rare scenario without fail. We are supposed to consider every possible test data which the actual user might be using.

For all this, we are supposed to understand the business to the fullest.

It won’t be wrong if I say we should understand the business and user base as much as or even more than a Business Analyst does.

I was facing similar odds.

I was supposed to understand complex business scenarios in the procurement domain, brainstorm the new requirements and weigh them from a user’s perspective. I was not only supposed to work out my cases but also contribute in the Requirement and Design phases of each iteration. Even here, no ready reference came to my rescue apart from my thinking and reasoning ability.

To understand the business better and design your scenarios/cases better, nothing works like pen and paper.

Also read => 5 Must Have Non-testing Tools for Testers to Make Life Easier

Before going to Requirement discussion meeting, I used to write down possible doubts/corrections/unclear points beforehand. I used to write down the scenarios I want to try or build test cases upon; sometimes, even drawing your scenarios works like a charm.

When you write/draw, it enters your mind with better clarity and then your mind works on this information and produces more scenarios and gives better clarity. This goes on till you get that feeling of DONE!!!

#2) Performing against the odds and in pressure

I was working on a product which was/is huge and complex enough to make a team of 30 engineers working continuously for three long years to get it to a sellable level.

For most of the initial phase, either I was up (solo) against a team of 15-20 developers ranging from the junior, mid-senior, and senior level or was accompanied by one or couple of other testers. They were all adding new features to product relentlessly, which required equal and parallel attention from the testing side.

Being part of requirement meetings, writing cases, executing them, exploratory rounds, maintaining servers, deployments, nothing was optional.

By then I wasn’t aware of any methodology, best practice, course or a book which can show me solutions to such problems. Even today I’m not sure if there is anything which can precisely help you fight the ground realities as you face them.

What I was rather doing is, aggressive and rapid rounds of exploratory testing (I wasn’t aware of the name by then) on each feature one-by-one and then repeat. This solution works purely on how fast you can shift your thoughts and frame situations/scenarios.

Of course, this demanded real fast and aggressive work but it worked for me.

What I mean by aggressive round is, you target one thing at a time (Say one element of a form at a time) and test it independently and in association with other linked elements/things.

Recommended read => How To Be A Productivity Junkie (Especially as a Tester)

E.g. How to test a Textbox.

What you can test here is:

------------

  1. Whether it accepts and stores data as is
  2. Data type validation
  3. Max length validation
  4. Special character’s handling
  5. XSS handling
  6. Multilingual data handling
  7. Handling of empty spaces/no data
  8. Behavior of tab and enter keys
  9. Error handling (cross-browser)
  10. UI alignment (cross-browser)
  11. Copy paste data/dragging links data to textbox
  12. Most important – the behavior of this field w.r.t. other linked elements (any business expectation linked to this field like populating something in some other field based on the data in this field)

Does thinking about above testing give you confidence that nothing much can really go wrong with this field?

Well, targeting one thing at a time always worked for me and I used to get some work completion too.

#3) When you are up against the ‘unexpected’

Which book do you think will suddenly help you with ‘How to’ when you are supposed to do something you have never done before?

If we talk specifically then- None.

I remember the time when in the absence of our Product lead, I along with few other Junior and mid-senior members were supposed to deploy our application on Demo (was production to us then) instance for the first time. It was very critical for first ever Demo of our product.

Well, we did it, but with lots of Trial-and-Error. Reason being, none of us had expertise on Linux and shell scripting. I remember, there were concerns raised by our IT department (all in good faith) to my then Manager about me running wrong commands on Production servers. Maybe this was just a catalyst and shell scripting/Linux was my natural interest, but in a short while after that, I ended up taking responsibility of maintaining and upgrading five to six environments simultaneously.

Shell and Linux caught my interest so well, that soon I was the one who started conducting internal training sessions on it.

#4) When your performance is measured, your experience is not

Very early in my career, I was getting compared and measured against the very evolved and experienced testers around. I believe many of you must have experienced a similar situation and know what those extra expectations does to you.

The remedy here was to Push myself & Evolve.

The only way forward was to not think about how less experienced I am, not limiting myself by World’s standards of measuring how slow/fast I should grow/learn. Not limiting myself to World’s criteria of how soon one should start leading and the title one needs before doing it.

Well, around this point, I must say, irrespective of which field you belong to, I recommend you read Robin Sharma’s The Leader Who Had No Title. It will help you unleash what lies within you. It will tell you no one except yourself can hold you back.

If I have to bind my experience in few sentences, it goes like this:

“Your curiosity, attention to details, discipline, logical thinking, passion for work and ability to dissect things is all what matters to be a Destructive and Successful Tester. It worked for me and I strongly believe it will work for You. If you have these qualities, it has got to work for you.”

Well, reading this far if you are thinking that I am promoting basic human qualities over deeper theoretical knowledge, then that is not completely true. I believe to start with something and to taste success at it, it depends slightly more on your inbuilt qualities than on information you have learned. However, to go far in any field, you have to learn lessons, principles, and experiences.

In my case too, I had to learn the terminologies, concepts, theories to some extent as I reached further in my career. Reason being, as a tester you have to interact with several people who will talk in those terms and you got to understand it.

As a lead or a co-tester, you will have a new tester coming from some part of the world with his/her own knowledge of facts, definitions, and terminologies. Here too, you can’t stay passive towards these things; you got to have a prior knowledge about maximum possible things used/said out there.

Learning is inevitable.

I had to learn more about different types of testing, how to execute those and ways to explain it to people in my team at the right stage. I had to evaluate new ideas, tools and implement those. Learning new concepts and methodologies becomes equally important as you move up the ladder.

Read more => The A to Z Guide on Selecting the Best Automation

Conclusion

Though it is nearly impossible to write down every major and minute thing I have learned over years, this is my attempt to summarize it in a bulleted list.

  • Testing is very tough to define. Someone can do superb testing and might not be able to define it in words. It is as you see it.
  • Everyone can have their own definition of testing. Mine was simple- “You are given a thing – Find faults and make it better.”
  • You don’t necessarily need big theories, complex matrices or ISTQB to be a destructive tester. You got to be curious, focused, and passionate, think logically and have dissect-ability. However, knowing extra doesn’t harm but not at the cost of losing the crux.
  • The traditional approaches/concepts too have their own importance and I have equal respect towards them considering the fact there is a good part of the world where those are a just necessity. Testing alone can’t evolve; the surrounding also has to evolve for that.
  • As a tester, it becomes equally important to learn new tools, techniques, and methodologies as you move ahead. Test planning, better approaches to perform different types of testing, Situational testing are a few to name.
  • As testing is fluid, the definition of being a right fit also differs vastly from organization to organization. Being a destructive or excellent tester might just be good enough to get a pay cheque if you are lucky or it might demand extra knowledge of how testing works in traditional companies. Both are right at their own place. e.g. I hire people according to my definition of testing (which varies a bit as per candidate experience and profile of course).
  • As there is a style of coding, driving, cooking; there is also a style of testing. You might not enjoy it unless you’re doing it your way. What I mean is Testing can have guidelines but it shouldn’t be hard bound by the micro-processes.
  • The effective lead should make his team choose the work rather than assigning. He can occasionally alter it for the betterment of the Product.
  • Try to train your people in their area of interest and along with where you want them to be trained. Align your team’s thoughts and efforts with end objective, which is ‘The Best Quality’.
  • Don’t try to manage your people, lead them. Be friendly and approachable, it makes work a lot easier.
  • Every member of your team should love the work they are doing, have an attachment to the product and are affectionate towards the people around. Then only the best of them will come out.
  • The testing world has to evolve. Considerable part of World is moving to more practical approaches like Exploratory Testing, Context-driven testing (which many people do without knowing it is it) which even others should try and develop more techniques like the
  • More Testing communities should be formed and like-minded people should get together on a larger scale quite There is so much to share, learn, adapt and innovate.

Hope my experience and findings helps you become a better tester or helps you in understanding testing better.

Further reading => From Beginner to Pro: A Complete Guide to Successful Journey of a Testing Professional

About the author: This article is written by STH team member Mahesh C. He is currently working as Senior Quality Assurance Manager having experience of leading testing front for multiple complex products and components.

Will love to hear back. Comment here or reach out to us. Thanks a lot for reading.

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68 comments ↓

#1 Jaimin Acharya

I found this story same as mine up till now. Very nice points taken for this subject. Thanks author

#2 Colson

Very Nice read, thanks for sharing your experience. Never stop learning, sharing, arguing. There is never one good practice, just heuristics.
Jyst a question: Are you still able to test with such a big team of 30 testers you have to manage?
Stephane

#3 DEEP SINGH

I am working in IBM as Test Manager now. Although i am a B.tech student which came as a fresher as Test Analyst but promoted to manager position.
I love my job but only constraint is my salary which is not even in 20’s.
Do i got difficulties in switching as a Test Manager becoz of lack of experience in IT field.

#4 Manu Singh

Very nice article.
I also have same views on software testing job.
I started doing job below a salary of 10, but in only 1.5 years I scored a salary of 30+.
Its all about how soon you capture things and concepts, how much efforts you put in understanding your field’s basics and some extra ordinary concepts.
I started as a manual tester, and invested my initial 6-7 months in learning manual testing itself at the best level. After 6-7 months I started putting my efforts in learning and thus implementing automation tools like selenium and Jmeter. Because of all that dedication of mine, and the extra efforts I gave, now I am switched from a profile of Manual tester to Automation tester.
My increased salary is an output of the same. :)

Gud Luck testers!!!

#5 Hater

Really, Really, Really Do you love your job. Then answer my questions.
1. what is your salary right now? What is the salary of a developer equal to your position?
2. How many on site opportunities you got till now? short term or long term? How many developers got the on site opportunity? Short or Long term?
3. From your experience what is the on site opportunity numbers for developers and testers?

Answer my questions with Loyalty. Don’t support Testing only. Make a decision in middle…….

#6 Vikram

Hi All,

Superb Article.. Lots of things in such a small article..

Keep posting the same… it enhance our skills and learning curve for us..

Thanks

#7 Abhishek

Good one Mahesh! Was pleasure working with you :)

#8 sam

wonderful article. It is a boost for new testers. Thanks for a nice posting.

#9 Bindu

Really nice post and gets lots of positive energy to the freshers.

#10 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks a lot @Jaimin. Hope I will keep on adding value to Testing community in some way. Glad to share similar story:)

#11 Mahesh Chikane

You spoke absolute truth @Colson about how the approach of a tester should be. Thanks a lot for you kind words.

Coming to your question, I’ll be honest. I don’t get time to work on stories or features as such, but I do test when there is a production issue and I need to jump in. I test when someone from my team needs an opinion. I test when our PMG needs opinion about the new ui/usability revamp. Hope this answers your question. Feel free to revert.

#12 Mahesh Chikane

Hi Deep,

I will only suggest that while you will have to keep a watch that designation wise your career graph shouldn’t see big dip, don’t restrict yourself to exact same designation. Give priority to enriching your experience and skillset too. Good compensation should follow then. Thanks for your question.

#13 Mahesh Chikane

Nice to know that @Manu. Glad that you are progressing and happy. Thank you for your kind words.

#14 Mahesh Chikane

Hi,

Thanks for sharing your view.

I have equal respect to all fields, including Development. One should choose wherever his/her natural interest lies.

#15 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Vikram for kind words. Will always try my best to contribute my tiny bit.

#16 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks a lot @Abhishek. If my guess is right, let me thank you for being my first ever Mentor in Testing:) My pleasure.

#17 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks much @Sam for your kimd words. Glad that it was helpful and motivating. Will try my best to help community.

#18 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks a ton @Bindu. Happy that it helped you in someway.

#19 Anu

i like this article too.thanks for posting.

#20 Swapnil

Very nice Article.
I have one year experience in manual testing,currently i am searching job in other company from last 6 month but not got job.Other company required candiate who has experience in automation but i dont have exp in automation.It not possible to me to join private institue for automation bcoz they demand 22k to 25k fees for course and not teaching very well.
I want such company who hire me trainee and give me training on automation testing.
But no one organization hire me without automation knowledge and experience.They req only exp. Candiate.No one give me platform.if any company give me on job trainging then i will give my 100% efforts.But its not possible.

I want to your help,please suggest me.
So my question what i do?

#21 Swapnil

Very nice question

#22 Hater

Hay Swapnil, Before job search read my comment, I understand your problem, because I am also the same platform. Solutions is instead of learning automation learn any Coding skills and become a developer. Because testing jobs always sucks. :(

#23 Carol

Thanks this was very educational.
I was a Snr test analyst in a huge corporate and now intermediate simply because I was once a developer and now I do not want to code/script test. I feel I wanted to be a ‘hybrid analyst’ Manual /Functional test analyst / business analyst my SQL skills are also great even considering a BI course…. Do I really have to do automation simply because the market in South Africa is forcing us to be a manual & Automation Test Analyst?

I don’t care about titles I just want to be an analyst I don’t have to be a Snr or lead, or intermediate.

When I left development I had my reasons, when I’m an analyst and when I have a problem I need to solve I think about it while at work , while driving, while cooking , while washing dishes unlike being a developer I’d need to be in front of the PC with code and possibly another environment besides my local machine.

Thanks for your article I feel my vision of being a ‘hybrid’ analyst can live.

Kind Regards,
Carol

#24 Parul Dholakia

Very nice article. Very truthful. When I was lead , iI always liked assigning work, i mostly did not believe in team member choosing work. but I can say if the team is matured enough, that is good style to lead too.

#25 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Anu for the kind words.

#26 Mahesh Chikane

Hi @Swapnil,

Tough to know that you faced rejections because you didn’t knew automation. Were those profiles expecting automation knowledge in Job Description? If Yes, they were right as they were clear with their expectation.

Coming back to getting hired as a manual tester, there are lots of companies who hire separately for Manual and Automation testers. Even we do the same. So don’t think that only lack of automation knowledge is causing problems, may be there is something else to it too. Keep working on yourself, your logic, approach to testing. Don’t give up.

Again, it should be your personal call to choose between manual testing or automation testing. Take your call. Even if you want to learn selenium, joining classes is not the only option. There are many many free tutorials online for selenium. You can have loom at them.

Best luck.

#27 Mahesh Chikane

Cheers @Carol. I believe we can be anything which we can dream of. Wish you luck in your journey. Thanks for the kind words.

#28 Mahesh Chikane

Hi @Parul,

Thanks a lot.

You are right. It depends on team maturity. I take care of that in hiring process only so that later I can lead the way I believe.

#29 Chiranjibi Sahu

very motivating and encouraging article Mahesh, thanks for sharing your experience.

#30 Raj

Really a motivation for we tester with little experience.
Learned a lot from this article.
Thanks sir!!!

#31 Sangam

I don’t have words to describe you.

Thank you so much …

#32 pragya

Wow your story is truly inspiring and gives us a lot to learn
Thanks for sharing it with us.

#33 Rahul Singh

Mahesh,

Nice article describing your journey in Zycus. Your article is inspiration to many who are in dilemma of taking up QA as career.

Thanks.

#34 Paresh Balar

Hi Mahesh,

Nice article mate.

Defintely QA is essential part of our software developement cycle and one must not ignore testing job just because they feel lack of opprtunities or most importantly other people’s mindset.

Your article will surely inspire poeple out there and help people who are serious but hasitate to choose testing as career.

I have to say “Software Testing” got respect in my eyes just because of you and our QA team at zycus.

Keep sharing your experience and inspiring others :)

#35 Eswararao

nice inspirable experiance .thanks

#36 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Chiranjibi for your kind words.

#37 Mahesh Chikane

Glad to know that it was of some help @Raj. Thank you:)

#38 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks you for the kind words @Sangam. Means a lot.

#39 Mahesh Chikane

Glad to know that @Pragya. Thanks a lot.

#40 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks a ton @Rahul for your kind words. Hope it helps as many readers as possible.

#41 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks a lot @Paresh. Will try my best.
It was pleasure working with you bro:)

#42 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Eswararao for the kind words.

#43 Shwetha

Hello Mahesh,Very useful article and good insights about software testing experience.

#44 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Shwetha. Glad that it helped.

#45 Pollet

Thank you it was very helpful to me

#46 Mahesh Chikane

Thanks @Pollet. Glad that it helped.

#47 Industrial Computers

I much prefer being an analyst rather than a developer.

Superb article – lots of information, yet also concise!

I share similar view to you on software testing jobs. I have been truly inspired by your story and feel really motivated! Thank you!

#48 Mahesh Chikane

Thank You @Industrial Computers for the kind words.

#49 rahul saxena

thank you so much for sharing your exp….i will help us in our future.

#50 Mahesh Chikane

Glad that it is of some help @Rahul. Thank you.

#51 Ravi

Good article Mahesh. Threre are three things that I like most in this article
1. Need to have good understanding of complex business scenarios
2. You were given a product and were asked to find fault with it to make it a better one
3. Related to above point, unless one has the curiosity, focus and dedication, he / she will not be able to find faults to the product better.

At times one has to have the satisfaction of earning over knowledge and suggest you to focus on knowledge.

All the very best for your future assignments.

Regards
Ravi

#52 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Ravi for kind words. Best luck to you too.

#53 Vaibhav Laddha

Hi Mahesh,
Your article is wonderful indeed with lots of deep insights that a tester must possess in order to move ahead & grow in his life.When i work or i test a software i just have four words in my mind said by Steve jobs “Stay hungry,Stay foolish”.I think our QA requires a lot of innovation,curiosity & learning.It felt great reading your thoughts as a QA.Hope to see more such wonderful articles from you.Happy testing..:-)

#54 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Vaibhav. Glad that you liked it. And yes, we all have to play our role in taking this field ahead. Happy Testing:)

#55 Ashwan

Hi Mahesh,

I went through your article. Great one!
I am working as Junior lead and I am building myself to take the responsibilities of a team lead.
However, due to the transition from Waterfall to Agile (and now DevOps), I am having difficulties in so doing. On the other side, the organisation I work with wants me to up-skill with my certification. I am currently looking for materials on Agile ISTQB certification. I would be very much appreciated if you could please guide or advise me on any materials that I could be looking to complete the corresponding syllabus.
Thanks.
Ashwan

#56 Amol Bidrolkar

Hi Mahesh,

Very nice article, Thanks for sharing your experience and this is how one should be open to share knowledge, Because I also believe in learning and sharing policy.

I too had some of the difficulties mentioned in your article , but until you learn by yourself and tackle to solve it, than it proves what ability you posses. So all my dear testers be positive and committed for up-skiling yourself to become knowledgeable and skillful tester.

Thanks Once again for motivational article.

#57 Mahesh Chikane

Hello @Amol.Glad that you liked it. And yes sharing our learning is best thing we all can do:)

#58 Hetal Rathod

nice inspirable experiance .thanks

#59 Mahesh Chikane

Thank you @Hetal

#60 Snigdha

Hi Mahesh,

I was a manual tester (Senior Quality Analyst) with a telecom company till 2010. After that I took a break due to some personal reasons. Now I want to work again. The only problem is I am residing abroad for the next 1-2 years. I anyways want to work as a freelancer for these many years till I am here. My question to you is do you think I need to upgrade myself in learning new technologies/automation/certification in order to get a job? Or my testing abilities are enough to lend me a job?

#61 Soji

Good job Mahesh. I am entirely new to testing. I just came across it out of curiosity. Keep encouraging people. I have lots of experience in IT support but considering a foray into testing. Need to know what else to do as a rookie and if I can do well even though I never really had a flair for programming and what are the start up tools and resources needed because you said experience is the best teacher. How do I get that experience? Are you willing to help me out or give me a chance to work? Thanks.

#62 Mahesh Chikane

Hello @Snigdha,

New technologies, automation you should try to learn. Staying with market always helps. Keep testing different applications, and test them in multiple ways(types of testing) as and when you get opportunity.

#63 Mahesh Chikane

Hi @Soji,

Read as much as you can about Testing. I won’t be able to tell if you have inbuilt qualities to be a tester right away. You have to experience it, as part of some job if you get it or without that just to practice. Can’t assure if I will be able to get you testing job, but will surely try. Keep your cv sent at mahesh.chikane@zycus.com

#64 Eman

Thanks for the effective motivated article
You give me a power to start

#65 Deepak

Very nice and motivational blog and knowledgeable too.. Vijay sir I am also a fresher in testing and doing purely manual testing and have very basic knowledge of languages..so please tell me how can I grow in testing as alone manual testing cant help me to grow..
Whatsaap-9540254393
Mail- deepakgpt277@gmail.com

#66 Kavita Badgujar

Hi,

Marvelous Journey!! and an inspirational one. Thanks for the guidance.

#67 Meenakshi Agarwal

Utterly informative, great reading for every professional into the testing domain. It is touching upon both the behavioral and technical aspects of software testing.

#68 Arvind

Hi Mahesh,
Thanks, for sharing your wonderful career journey. It is really inspired us. Thanks a lot.
As a Test Engineer, I felt Testing is a theory ambiguity. For example-
Smoke Testing = Build Verification Testing (BVT) = Sanity Testing = Build Acceptance Testing (BAT)
Am I right?

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