You may be a good tester, but do you have what it takes to be a great tester? In my 13 years of experience, there is a common thread that separates the good from the great – soft skills. What exactly is meant by soft skills? They are the characters and traits that help you work more effectively both in your workplace and with others. They are the intangibles that make it easy to be able to work with you. Those that possess these traits not only become the best testers, but they also grow quickly in their careers, to become better team members and team leaders.
From a hiring aspect, we are always looking for candidates that have these strengths. We know that possessing these not only makes you a better tester, but helps the team succeed as well. Strong soft skills are contagious, and elevate the effectiveness of a team.
More importantly, soft skills are something that can be developed over time. With commitment to growth and continued learning, anyone can develop these skills.
Here are the top 10 skills we look for:
This is, by far, the most important soft skill. If you follow industry trends (and you should) you know that teams are composed of many different contributors, often in remote locations. More than ever, the need to read, write, and speak clearly is vital to the success of a project.
Learn how to logically compartmentalize your thoughts. Be open and willing to speak up when needed, and in a way that different contributors – technical and non-technical – can understand. For many this is a natural gift, but anyone can develop this skill by attending industry events or reading blogs, and observing how experts communicate their ideas.
2. Organized, Proactive, and Results Driven
It’s simple cause and effect here – being organized allows you to be proactive, and being proactive allows you to get results. The ability to look at the scope of a project, and organize and self prioritize your activities will help you meet the end objective. It’s one of the most valuable and also one of the most contagious. A tester that tracks their work effectively will motivate others to do the same.
3. Problem Solving
Identifying and articulating “gray” issues – emphasis on gray – leads to better end results. When you’re developing or working on new features and functionalities, there’s always a gray area of “is this feature necessary” or “does this meet the intent of a particular requirement?” A tester must see his or her self as an educated end user, with understanding of what the end user wants or how they expect a product to perform. It’s not always as simple as pass/fail, but knowing the intent and being able to communicate roadblocks, potential fixes, and options that meet the needs of the end user is key to success.
4. End User Empathy & Understanding of Business Strategy
A great tester can step into the shoes of the end user, and has the ability to see the product from a consumer’s point of view. They know how the consumer will use the product and expect it to perform.
They also understand the product developer’s overall business strategy. Great testers always ask “why?” and “what?” Why is this feature being introduced? Why is this designed a certain way? What problem is this product trying to solve? What’s the corporate goal of the business?
With business constantly changing, you must be able to adapt to the environment around you. For projects, new requirements come in constantly, original requirements change, a timeline is adjusted, a fix in one test requires another round of testing in a previously closed case. In business, peers are added or removed from teams, and clients come and go. Being able to adapt and adjust to these changes help you be a strong team player.
6. Ability to Carry a Meeting and Make Deals
From a long term perspective, the faster you develop this skill, the quicker you will progress in your career. You must be able to sort through the input of multiple team members to arrive at the best solutions that not only meet business needs, but achieve a consensus among the team.
Enter meetings with clear goals that need to be achieved. Before you leave each meeting, make sure you and your team are clear on next steps, deliverables, and what each person will be accountable for.
7. Team Player & Great Attitude
In testing, it’s very easy to become negative. You catch a bug and it requires a fix and additional tests. Worse, the project might change completely based on that. This can easily turn even the most positive attitude into a bad one. A great tester approaches it from a positive standpoint and says “it’s fortunate we caught that problem now, the end product will be much better.”
8. Eagerness to Learn
Technology changes constantly – it’s what keeps our job exciting. But that means a great tester must commit to never stop learning. It doesn’t stop with your degree. New tools, new implementation strategies, new testing methods and products, new programming languages, there’s always something new. It’s easy to let yourself be an expert at what you know now, but you must keep up with the trends and stay ahead of them. You never will know everything about everything, instead, learn as much as you can and evolve as a tester.
9. Sixth Sense
Learn how to proactively look at projects with insights of your previous projects. What lessons have you learned from those that will help you spot potential areas of concern in the work you’re doing now? Build an arsenal of insights as a project progresses.
You should also be able to communicate this effectively. When a new project starts, know how to spot potential roadblocks and how to share that with team members to avoid and prevent problems.
10. Knowledge Sharing and Mentoring
You’re a great tester – but bringing your team up to the same standard should be your goal. A great tester isn’t satisfied with improving just themselves, they want to help and grow other testers as their career progresses. Take time to explain what you’ve learned over the years. If someone on your team can benefit from your mistakes, be sure to share them.
While this list may seem overwhelming, developing any one of these skills usually overlaps with another. This year, make a commitment to developing one or two at a time, and by the end of the year you’ll be receiving praise from your team, supervisor, and clients.