"Some birds aren't meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright"- Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption. This blog is from one such bird who couldn't be caged by organizations who mandate scripted software testing. Pradeep Soundararajan welcomes you to this blog and wishes you a good time here and even otherwise.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

BPO / Support / Call Center / Homemaker to Software Testing

Over the last few years, I have received at least about 40 emails and a couple of phone calls from people working in tech support, BPO, call center, homemakers asking for my advice to get a job in software testing or to make a career in it. I am tired responding to the same set of queries from different people. Now, that doesn't mean I wouldn't be interested to talk to people. I just hope they read this and have a different question or a situation they'd like me to address. 

However, this post is not just for those who want to change their career from BPO or Tech support to software testing but also to those who are hiring managers, interviewing testers and to all those who are aware that they are a part of the future of software testing.

1: Chasing dream versus chasing a day job

A friend of mine gave my number to his friend who works in a Technical Support job at a reputed organization and wants to move into software testing. So he called me to seek my help. I asked him, "Why software testing and not something else?" and he didn't have an answer. That is perfectly fine. He then said he wanted a day job and found software testing as an easy possibility.

I started to probe his dream of what he wanted to be before he landed up in Tech Support. His dream was to be something else. I then explained that moving to software testing might not help him feel any better than starting to chase the dream. He agreed and is now chasing his dream of photography.

2: Turning lemon to lemonade than faking it as orange

Some people have asked me if it would help to fake their experience of a tester of the product they were providing technical support just to get interview calls. I have helped them understand that there is a lot of value in presenting the truth than trying to show it as something else, get caught someday and be blacklisted by NASSCOM and a whole lot of companies spoiling future growth chances.

Having worked in several product organizations, I realize the importance of interacting and collaborating with support teams. If I were to hire a few testers for my team, I would definitely be interested to talk to a support team member. We did that in one of the product organizations I worked. I have talked to hiring managers of large and small product organizations who have done that. I think most of them are internal hiring and some rare cases of external hiring.

To all those who are considering to hire testers, stop doing what you have been doing all this while - hiring those who have been in testing only. Where were you before you started to do testing?

3: Learning software testing in 10 days OR Crash course about how to crash

With many folks wanting to learn software testing, lots of people are making money out of it. For all those in the world of software testing, do you know how many institutes are there per square inch of Ameerpet in Hyderabad who can teach testing in 5 hours if you'd like so and have enough cash? 

Not just Ameerpet, there are lots of chota Ameerpets that I have come across. These kind of training centers are a huge contribution factor for spoiling young minds in India. If God makes me rich, I shall wipe out each one of them.  These training centers run weekend batches for Tech Support folks and spoil their ability to learn testing. 

So, when folks who work in Tech Support and have attended such draining programs (yes, that was intentional) get in touch with me for seeking advice on job search, I have helped them to pick up two books: Testing Computer Software & Lessons Learned in Software Testing. For the most recent ones, I have also suggested Perfect Software & Other Illusions about Testing.

I also have suggested them to hook up with a tester every weekend and try some hands on testing or participate in open source projects for a while. For just one I have helped by doing a paired exploratory testing. One of my student in the Hands on Software Testing Training - India's first true hands on only testing training I delivered for Edista in 2008 & 2009 was in Support and he demonstrated his testing skills to his employer to be moved to testing.

4: Test Report instead of Resume / Profile

When my father started his first job after his Diploma in Electrical Engineering, he applied to the job with a CV / Resume. So, using a CV / Resume is that old an approach which hasn't changed much, except that he used a typewriter and we use MS Word and a Laserjet Printer. Lets try to change.

In the last 3 months, I have 4 emails from hiring managers in Bangalore, Chennai and a country outside India seeking help to hire skilled testers. One of the things I have suggested to them is to not ask people to send their resume unless it is accompanied with a test report. For hiring managers, it would be easy to see what kind of tester they want by looking at the test report. If the person says, "I am skilled at automating checks", so be it, demonstrate it and attach the scripts along with the resume. Needless to say without violating any Non Disclosure Agreement. Open Source software testing suits best. The interviews are actually discussion around the test report rather than "What is the difference between this and that?"

I am writing a whole big book on software testing interviews. A publisher just rejected the book but that's OK.

BTW, don't send me your resume and ask me to refer to those hiring managers.

5: Why some developer guys from India suck big time?

Nothing about their programming skills. I have done career counselling almost all through my career for others and myself. Hey, its a skill with which we are born, at least that's how we behave when someone approaches us for advice :)

So, having worked with some testing institutes, I volunteered to take up any work I could that would let me to speak with testers and potential testers for my own learning purpose. My blog, as you know, has brought me a lot of people with varied kinds of queries. So, I have some experience dealing with those developer guys who walk in months after their marriage, looking for a job for their wife.

These great developer guys come and ask, "I want my wife to take up a software testing job, do you offer job guarantee courses?". So, to the question, "Why software testing?", they'd without any bit of shame, answer, "I want her to earn and come home on time so that she takes care of office work and home work in a balanced way". 

One guy tried interviewing me to see if I know enough testing to teach his wife and help her learn testing. Not just me, one of my student, Arindam, was inspired to coach testers and works for an institute in Bangalore part time. That institute runs a special batch for home makers. Arindam shared his experience with me about the batch. He too said what I had already experienced. My advice to all housewife / homemakers whoever you want to call yourselves as is to read Parimala Shankaraiah's blog & Meeta's blog. Hey wait, there are quite a few others in India. Read their blogs to understand how passionate they are, how difficult it actually is to be good in testing and how they manage home and office work.

6: A break / sabbatical in career is just fine

Some women testers who take a break or sabbatical, try getting back to the industry but the industry treats them bad. Most hiring managers are blind in noticing people with break. They think they would be at loss of value if they hire them. 

I think stopping someone who is passionate in testing but had no other option than to take a sabbatical or break not getting a job is a big hindrance to the entire software testing industry. If I were Parimala Shankaraiah's employer and she needed a sabbatical, I would welcome her anytime she wants to come back. Not hiring her is like fooling myself and my company HR policies.

7. The actual meaning of "Our company is an equal opportunity employer"

There is a VERY BIG company who has an office even close to my home who has this statement, "We are an equal opportunity employer" in their website but didnt allow me to even apply to an opening just because I didn't have an ISEB/ISTQB certification. Let me tell this to you: I felt blessed by God to be not eligible to even apply to such companies because such company environments wouldn't have made my career strong.

The company which actually is an equal opportunity provider is one that selects its employees based on skills and not if they purchased a certificate. So, if you dont get jobs in such places, feel blessed, you really are. Keep demonstrating your skills and jobs will come to you. 

Santhosh Tuppad, my student with just one year of testing experience (and tons of experience in finding and reporting bugs) got an offer to be a Test Lead for one of the top companies in Asia. Although he couldn't take it up then but I just wonder if he had to be a Test Lead at some of those fake equal opportunity providers, how many white hair he should have had.

So, here are some points to ponder:
  • If you choose to be misguided by what others say then you deserve it.
  • If you have some other passion and want to be a software tester because you think its an easy job, you are spoiling an opportunity to help your children see you as their inspiration to pursue what they want to be.
  • If you are OK to live others dream, don't question, just follow. Never crib / complain in life.
  • If you want to test out testing, do so with open source projects and by collaborating with some good testers around you.
  • No job is easy but all jobs can be done in an easy way.
  • Fakers will get caught.
  • Build your testing skills and demonstrate them.
  • Attract employers don't always get attracted.
  • Build your own brand. Get organizations proud about hiring you and not the other way.
  • Many services companies count heads - not brains. Target tech start ups.
  • If nothing works out and still you dream to be a tester, start your own testing services.
  • Its OK to fail.
  • Its important you succeed chasing your dream irrespective of whether your chase was successful or not.
  • Chasing your dream is the only way you can know if you can really be successful
As and when I encounter more points or more different questions, I shall update this post.