Are Australian Software Testing Jobs at Risk?

The other day I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at a small software testing conference in Melbourne. The invite also included a request to sit on an “Experts Panel” to discuss current and future challenges within the Australian Software Testing market.

The most surprising challenge (from my perspective) was that a significant number of the attendees were worried about their ongoing job prospects. Quite a few were concerned that their technical skills were insufficient, while others were concerned about the continuing shift of software testing jobs offshore. My response to these concerns was to provide an insight into how I approached my entire career in software testing.

Firstly, I stayed current with technology as it developed. I’ve worked with computers since 1971 and can honestly say that I was always looking for the next trend or innovation. Technological advancement has been relentless for as long as I can remember and continues to gather momentum. Agility (the desire and willingness to change, not Agile techniques) and flexibility (to have a go at every opportunity that comes your way) are essential to remaining in demand as a professional software tester.

Secondly, I specialised at various times in my career in specific technologies and techniques. I spent the 80’s specialising in banking software, I spent the 90’s learning the basics of software testing and the 00’s were spent becoming a strategic consultant. Every 5 years or so I took stock of where I was at and where the technology sector was at in order that I position myself for the next 5 – 10 years. I took responsibility for my own career and never relied on my employers.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately regarding software testers acquiring coding skills (I wrote about this late last year) but I don’t subscribe to this. I agree that technical skills are useful but that doesn’t have to mean writing or coding software. There are many technical aspects to the software testing world and coding is just one.

From my perspective, if you are good enough, you will always be in demand. If you take responsibility for your own career you will have a better chance of staying current with technological advances. I often say that I was fortunate to never be out of work during my entire career but the truth is, I wasn’t fortunate I was professional, proactive and flexible.

If I was to give just one piece of advice to young software testing professionals it would be to specialise in a specific area of our craft and be the best you can be (become an expert). If I was pushed for a second it would be to always be flexible with what you work on and where you work. Don’t be proud about a specific role and don’t restrict yourself by geography.

You don’t need luck to remain in work, you need a defined strategy and a plan to execute it.

Dateline: Melbourne, Monday May 26, 2014

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6 thoughts on “Are Australian Software Testing Jobs at Risk?

  1. Pingback: Testing News – 5/25/14 – 5/31/14 | Testing Curator Blog

  2. Hi Colin

    Pretty much what I see too.

    I think anyone that sees testing as a profession and puts in the effort will always (in relative terms!) Have somewhere to go.

    Who should be worried are those testers out there that do testing as a job. 9 to 5 and no effort or interest beyond that. Not that I’d expect any huge effort but at least keep learning a bit to stay current and knowleagable. And that is on- AND offshore!! I think bad testers in all countries are doomed to go.

    This certainly won’t be tomorrow or the day after but once companies wake up and realise good testers can square away the work of whole teams the economics will make it a no-brainer.

    Whether that can be done offshore will be seen but I doubt it very much. It really depends on what you are testing. Some things might be abstract enough to survive long distance.

    In my book Agile and scrum are the biggest dangers to outsourcing as they bring back efficiencies onshore. So actually I see testing come back into fashion…but only for good testers 😉

    Cheers
    Oliver

  3. Hello Colin,

    What specific technical skills that testers needs to acquire through their career ?…Please tell us few. Because whenever i heard technical term first word that mind relate to is Programming.

    • Hi Anurag,

      Thank you for your interest in my Blog. My perspective on technical related to software testing are both broad and deep.

      Firstly, any testing that is not “Black Box” I consider to be technical. If you are looking under the covers this usually requires some kind of technical skill. Of course, programming is the most obvious but there are many other aspects.

      Test Automation requires technical knowledge but not necessarily at a programming level. Performance and Stress Testing also require technical skills but again not necessarily programming. The manipulation or management of data (whether it be masking or generation) also usually requires technical skill. Fault injection is another area where technical skills are usually required.

      My view is that specialist domain/business skills are far more important than technical skills as programming skills are far easier to ascertain.

      As I said in my article, if you specialise and work on your problem solving and cognitive skills and concentrate on being the best you can possibly be then you shouldn’t have too much trouble securing and retaining as much work as you can deal with.

      By the way, last year I wrote about ISTQB certification and the fact that I don’t see this as a differentiator any more.

      • hi Colin, I really like this para…

        “As I said in my article, if you specialise and work on your problem solving and cognitive skills and concentrate on being the best you can possibly be then you shouldn’t have too much trouble securing and retaining as much work as you can deal with.”.

        Thanks very much for very valuable response.

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