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There’s a lot to be excited about in the world of software quality, even in the midst of an unprecedented and unpredictable time. For starters, the shift to digital-first in nearly every industry has placed quality and the customer experience in the spotlight, elevating the role of QA in the enterprise and making their expertise critical to user-centric products. Second, the field is rapidly becoming a leader in implementing and operationalizing key trends in the software industry, such AI and machine learning as well as low-code/no-code skills.

Quality - whether as a QA engineer, testing specialist, or test automation engineer - also happens to be one of the most unique career tracks in the IT and software industry. Termed a rising “new collar” field by technology leaders, quality roles attract a diverse range of people with a wide variety of skills, backgrounds, and knowledge. Online education sites like Udemy and LearningTree offer accessible courses focused on software testing, and the International Software Testing Qualifications Board provides industry-recognized certifications that reduce the burden of breaking into the field. Plus, recent research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 316,000 new QA jobs will be created in the coming decade, a nearly 20% increase. 

So what does it take to succeed in the exciting world of software quality? 

Soft Skills

The new role of QA and QE requires understanding, managing, and communicating the needs and priorities of developers, product owners, and ultimately, their users. The intersectional role of quality assurance means that everyone in the field, from brand new testers to quality managers, needs soft skills to thrive. 

Critical Thinking

Quality professionals, particularly testers, need to be able to analyze a product from several different perspectives. Though they have an in-depth understanding of their organization’s app or website, they need the critical thinking skills to see it with fresh eyes and identify problems before they impact the user. 

Quality professionals also need the ability to effectively prioritize the needs of multiple stakeholders. Developers will need support testing their code in the code stage and the pull request stage of the SDLC, as well as the production stage depending on the maturity of their testing strategy. Meanwhile, product managers will need regular updates on how products perform in testing and if testing will impact the delivery schedule. 

As the testing strategy of their organization evolves, quality professionals will be responsible for determining what new changes need to be made, what solutions need to be implemented, and how the change will be managed. Critical thinking is an essential skill to ensuring all quality concerns are addressed in a timely manner and that a company’s quality strategy maintains a competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

Empathy 

As we mentioned, quality professionals are on the front lines of advocating for the customer; ensuring that the product meets their needs and provides a seamless, delightful experience. Though the QE team plays an integral role in developing a product, they need to be able to empathize with the perspective of a new customer that’s navigating the app or website for the first time in order to identify bugs that will hurt the UX. 

As the quality field evolves with new technologies like test automation, AI and machine learning, testers and testing managers will lead implementation. This means that quality teams will serve a dual role: teaching and testing. Having high emotional intelligence and empathy will make it easier for quality professionals to support other teams as they adopt test automation and/or other AI and machine learning-backed solutions. As QA and QE continue to lead the new CX as well as the adoption of AI and machine learning in the enterprise, the ability to understand the needs of others will elevate the role of quality assurance.

Communication

Quality professionals at every level will work closely with a wide variety of team members, often communicating essential information like bugs and test results. As such, written and spoken communication skills are critical. As tightly integrated development strategies like DevOps and CI/CD become essential to every software development team, being able to collaborate with developers, product managers, and even customer support will help the entire team understand what bugs the quality team is discovering, how severe those bugs are, and what aspects of the CX are at risk until those bugs are resolved. For features or products still in development, being able to communicate testing progress and impact is a must. 

Effective communication skills also lay the foundation for the growing role of quality engineering in the enterprise. As quality professionals take on leadership roles in improving the CX, implementing new technologies like AI and machine learning, and adopting DevOps, being able to promote best practices not just for an individual career, but for keeping an organization ahead of the competition. 

Hard Skills

In addition to soft skills that build a strong quality engineering resume, testers and quality managers need technical skills that enable them to work with development teams, build tests, and adapt to the digital workplace. Based on data from ZipRecruiter, which analyzed millions of software quality job postings and resumes, these are the hard skills that matter the most in 2021. 

Jira

Clocking in as the top keyword for software quality applicants, Jira is an integral tool for quality engineering. The ubiquitous tool among software development teams for issue and project management is critical for quality professionals at all career levels, especially if they’re interested in working in a DevOps environment. With proficiency in Jira, QA and QE professionals are able to closely collaborate with developers to flag, track, and manage bugs well before they impact users. By developing skills in Jira, quality teams are better able to highlight the critical issues they address, better positioning them to lead CX improvements and other key initiatives. 

Jira proficiency is another piece of the quality engineering puzzle, and quality professionals that can prove competency with the solutions are in a strong position to lead the transition to a fully integrated quality engineering in a DevOps world.  

Test Automation

Another top skill for quality engineer applicants, test automation has become an essential aspect of quality management. As deployment frequency increases from quarterly or monthly to weekly and even daily, testers need solutions that enable them to automate routine tests and allow them to focus on high-impact manual testing and improve overall quality strategy. 

Experience in test automation also allows quality professionals to navigate the rapidly growing field of test automation tools and select solutions that not only reduce the burden of testing, but support the shift to DevOps, democratize test automation, and support greater collaboration across the SDLC. With expertise in this emerging field, quality professionals are well-positioned to play a leadership role on their QA team and across their organization. 

Regression Testing 

As DevOps and CI/CD become mainstream, it’s no surprise that regression testing has emerged as a top skill for quality professionals in 2021. As new features are continuously added, or added quickly to maintain a competitive advantage (see Twitter rolling out Spaces as Clubhouse surged in popularity), regression testing is an essential part of quality management. 

Regression testing also intersects test automation, as many cases can be automated to reduce the burden on a QA/QE team. By combining the two skills, quality professionals can optimize manual and automated regression testing to ensure that users, no matter how creative in their customer journey, have a seamless experience across the app or website. With the right test automation solution, expertise in manual testing strategies are enhanced and made more impactful, so a solid background in regression testing is an important skill for anyone looking to climb the career ladder in quality engineering.

A Bright Future for Testing Careers

Growing demand and an increasing number of certification options are making it easier than ever to build a career in the exciting world of software testing. The combination of hard and soft skills means that people from all walks of life are able to carve their own unique paths through this field, making an impact on the way people experience their favorite apps and websites every day. 

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