While technical skills are a prerequisite if you are an IT product, solution or system tester, a broader skill set is required if you want to be truly successful. According to Mandla Mbonambi, CEO of Africonology, many people mistakenly think of testers as technical geeks only, overlooking some of the softer skills required to drive success.
“Testing also requires creative and analytical thinking, good communications and relationship management and, most of all, diplomacy. You need to understand how to frame and put together the issues and, more especially the defects, in such a way that it is not seen as a personal attack. In a testing environment you must point out the things that are wrong and could be detrimental to the entire solution, therefore diplomacy is critical so that the developers of the solution understand that it’s about the work and not the person,” he says.
Mbonambi adds that testers must be flexible, able to adapt to different environments and a continuous learner. “As a professional tester, you do not only deal with one system, solution or product. You must be able to adapt to different products, solutions and verticals. So, you need to be flexible enough to toggle between different industries, and capable of developing an intricate understanding of the industry, business and the systems relatively quickly. Finally, you must be able to understand the legal frameworks and regulations of that industry so that you can ensure the system always complies to those,” he says.
Understanding the client and being able to translate that into a deeper understanding of their clients is also critical. “You must understand the business, their pain points and where the component you are testing fits into the bigger scheme of the organization,” says Mbonambi. “In most cases, testing is the last phase in the technology implementation, which is wrong. You need to look at the entire business ecosystem.”
He suggests that young people get involved in hackathons, internships and holiday work to see whether they want to embark on a career in testing. “Testing is fun. You get to break things and get paid for it. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing if you were not involved, people would not love a product as much as they do. Seeing people using a product that you tested and knowing you have contributed to a product that has changed people’s lives is amazing,” says Mbonambi.
A person’s state of mind is also very important. “We need the vibrant, spirited people in this type of environment. That said, you need a combination of the young and the experienced,” he concludes. “Test is one of those careers where you can truly be yourself. I’ve seen the younger generations come up with very interesting frameworks because they are so eager, intuitive and view the world through lenses of their own. That combined with the traditional testing principles is truly powerful. The key is not to put testers in a box, allowing them to think creatively while ensuring that they deliver the best possible results to the client. Once you apply your creativity, apply it within the frameworks and principles of testing and have that understanding of what you are looking for and how to find it, the world is your oyster.”