I recently asked myself, “where would I like to take my career?”. This is a blog post on that reflection. From maintaining tech skills to improving my coaching. Here are the things that are important to me.

Keeping tech skills up to date

I’ve been doing software testing now for over 7 years and even though I come from a Computer Science and Engineering background, I’m finding people too easily put me in the box of “non technical manual tester” based on my previous roles. If I do not work hard at maintaining my tech credibility I see a risk that I will be stuck with the “non technical” label for the foreseeable future. So how am I maintaining this skill? I’m working towards the following:

  • working towards a certified ethical hacker
  • Building a mobile app as a side project
  • Attending developer focused conferences

Certified Ethical Hacker

I’m working through Troy Hunt’s and Dale Meredith’s, certified ethical hacking course on Pluralsight. I find security testing more interesting than automation testing and there’s a huge demand for technical cyber security skills. The course is hard to do, there’s 80 hours worth of lecture material and it requires a commitment to regular learning to maintain it.

Wearable app side project

I’ve already spoken at conferences about my example poo tracking wearable app to talk about ideas like privacy by design. I haven’t even built the app yet and I’m using it to teach people. I’m interested in teaching myself mobile app development and how to build basic API’s. I even have someone who’s offered to help build this. Eventually I’d like to use this app to help teach people about different elements of testing.

Attending developer conferences

I’ve always enjoyed attending dev focused conferences. I always learn more compared to software testing focused conferences because it is out of my domain of expertise. I will continue to prioritise these conferences over software testing conferences this year.

Any new role that I start has to help me with maintaining my tech skills first and foremost. This is number one priority I will look at when assessing new roles.

Improve my Teaching/Coaching

I have always loved teaching. I was the kid in school that all my friends asked for help with maths questions. I’ve been tutoring my peers for as long as I remember. I’ve had my tutoring side business for almost as long as I’ve been testing. If teaching wasn’t see as a bit of a dead end low respected job, I would have studied it at uni. I do this stuff for free, that’s how much I love doing this. Being a Quality Coach at Campaign Monitor showed me that there is demand for people to teach software testing skills. In a few years I’d love to be running my company where teaching technical testing skills is my focus. I’ve been running robotics workshops for kids since my uni days. Any job that allows me to practice on the company dollar is a plus in my mind.

Speaking at Conferences

I’ve spoken at 14 tech conferences in the last 3 years. I enjoy getting up on stage. Any role that encourages me to do more of this is awesome in my books. It relates to the enjoying teaching, however getting up on stage is a little different to tutoring/coaching a person one on one. There is an element of entertainment with getting up on stage. The putting on a persona and pretending to be something more that what you feel inside.

All the data

In all of my previous roles, I’ve always enjoyed doing a deep dive into data analytics. From creating dashboard for event tracking testing to helping product understand how our customers were using our apps. I enjoy it all. I’m considering doing a Masters in Statistics in a few years when I’m more on top of my finances.

A bit of job stability

I went through the motions of job hunting 3 times last year. I do not want to do this again and again. Also meeting new people is mentally draining. A bit of stability with my work environment would be awesome. Or at least some having planned turbulence. I hadn’t had much luck with full time positions last year. Maybe this year I do all contracting? I’m still considering full time though.

Have a good culture

I care deeply about having a good social connection with the team I’m working with. I need to feel like I can bring an authentic version of myself to work. That means being vulnerable enough to talk about my struggles with depression and to be comfortable bring my quirkiness to work. It comes down to psychological safety.

Reasonable salary

I’m not solely motivated by money but having a consistent budget compared to my previous role is important for my financial security. I do feel like I’m getting at the expensive end for being a software tester and I can’t even compete with off shore testers in regard to pricing.

Practising a bit of sales and marketing

I struggle with selling testing as a craft where you want skilled people doing it for you. I’m glad I’ve never had to pitch my skills to CEO’s before getting hired as a tester. Someone else has already been convinced of the value testers bring. However with shrinking test teams I think the testers that will thrive in the future will have their pitch just perfect. Any testers who knows how they add value to others and remains relevant probably won’t struggle as much as those testers who don’t. I’m practising marketing through things like my blog and running Sydney Testers. Getting up on stage is related to marketing too. I’m also going to right a book this year as a marketing exercise.

I’m not interested in

Management; this feels like a clear way to let you tech skills go rusty and it’s becoming harder for managers to promote themselves as relevant in today’s agile/self driving teams.

Having QA in my title and working in a role that is only “Automation” testing; I find a lot of companies are demanding QA automation skills but don’t seem to understand the value a skilled tester can bring to the role or company. QA often stands for quality assurance, however building automation doesn’t assure quality, it helps the engineering team deliver code with higher confidence. To me QA stands for Quality Advocate. I can’t assure quality. You will find I never call myself QA anything in all of my online profiles.

It’s rare that I find someone who can clearly articulate why they want automation in a way that drives me towards it. I’ll happily collaborate with an Engineering team to help build this however I have a tendancy to get distracted by all of the other fascinating elements of quality. Like accessibility or security.

I’d prefer to call myself a Software Engineer in Test who is focusing on helping developers own and improve their own quality processes. There shouldn’t be a difference between Software Engineers and Testers in today’s agile teams. We are all working towards building quality products.

Summary

I’ve come to believe that my next ideal role is some kind of developer advocate role. Tech will be the focus, but that blend of marketing, community engagement, technical writing and speaking at conferences is appealing to me. Ideally I’d like to have a Mobile Software Engineer in Test role to help me move towards my coaching/teaching goals and to help me keep up to date with mobile technology.

What are you looking for in your career? Do you have a career coach to help you move in the right direction?

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. In our parts people talk about career only in meaning “career ladder”, and most stay away of that, talking just about changing jobs or “where you may want to go next?”. You may be first person in the world who asks me about career using the word.

    I heard that career coaches exist, but I don’t know here anyone who wants that and wants to pay for that.

    I like programming to some extent and I want to develop this more. My closest aim is to see what is new in Java 8 (I stayed away of that or had no time for a few years) and how that applies to the automation. Jobs I want may depend on it.

    I didn’t lose completely some hope for job with one US-oriented company. Some people I know work there and say it’s a dream job.

    Like you, I want some stability, but not just job stability, also more stability in this crazy world. It looks what with all that “continuous” hype world gone even more crazy. People get pressed for “automating all”, you know.

    Areas I picked so far are: Java, Selenium automation, maybe Swift programming language, working with Linux OS (I want to do some programming under Linux). I formed also a selection of books and documents I want to read. Various subjects: Java, programming, RST and the books recommended by James Bach and Michael Bolton.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I ask about career coaches because I’ve seen a few recent conversations where people talk about their experiences with them. I believe they just help with goal setting and brainstorming a plan to help move your career in a direction. Also that external accountability helps when setting any goal. My biggest goal I want to do this year is write a book, I’m paying a publisher to help me keep on track with that goal. When I’ve seriously wanted to lose weight or develop healthy habits I paid for a personal trainer. Paying for someone to help you achieve a big goal indicates you take it seriously in my mind.

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