As the development lifecycle seemingly gets shorter and shorter due to the rise of the Agile development methodology, effective software testing is becoming more and more critical to an organization's success. This has opened the door for some interesting opportunities for those eager to be involved in the development process on the testing side. These people, known as test engineers, are engineers tasked with designing and implementing the testing process for application development.
Want to become a test engineer, or just work better with people who are test engineers? Keep reading. Below, I explain what it means to be a test engineer and which skills should be cultivated in order to be a successful test engineer.
What Does It Mean to be a Test Engineer?
The job of a test engineer is a crucial one. As mentioned above, test engineers are the QA team members responsible for designing and implementing testing strategies for an application. They are involved in everything from deciding which automated testing frameworks will work best for testing the application in question, through the process of writing and building test scripts that leverage these frameworks — and finally, getting the tests implemented throughout the development pipeline. With the fast-paced nature of today’s development lifecycle, a test engineer will need to hone several important skills in order to be an effective member of the team.
Important Skills for the Successful Test Engineer
With the responsibilities of a test engineer established, it’s important to identify the skills that will make a test engineer effective at his/her job. There are several areas of expertise that come to mind that any test engineer should be knowledgeable in should they wish to be a quality QA team member:
- Detail-oriented/logic-oriented — Software testing is very similar to software development in that it requires a logical and detail-oriented thought process in order to ensure success. Software is often tested on both the component level and the feature level. So the ability to think like a programmer and effectively break down an application into components to be tested individually and as a working feature will help to ensure proper test coverage for the application.
- Strong communication skills (for working with developers to obtain full understanding of the application’s functionality). Being able to communicate clearly will help the test engineer to get the whole story when it comes to each feature that needs to be vetted so that they can be sure the tests they are designing cover each key aspect of the application.
- Familiarity with automated testing frameworks (such as Selenium or Espresso). Keeping up-to-date on the latest and most popular software testing frameworks is critical to the success of a test engineer. These frameworks exist to help automate the application testing process, and in turn assist in making application testing a seamless part of the development lifecycle.
- Strong understanding of the CI/CD concepts — In the world of software development as we know it today, continuous integration and continuous delivery are synonymous with the development process. Producing software in short cycles and leveraging automated deployments is common practice, and being knowledgeable on the topic makes the job of designing a testing strategy simpler. Continuous testing through the integration of automated tests with your build tool will help to ensure software quality throughout the delivery pipeline. This integration process will likely be a major part of the job of any test engineer.
Developing with a Testing Mindset
One vital piece of information that is critical for any DevOps organization to understand is that testing is not just the responsibility of the QA folks any longer. The development team must also adopt an ideology focused on developing with a testing mindset.
One way this is done is by making sure the code written in development is testable and reusable where possible. For instance, if one component can be utilized in several places throughout the application to support several features, then it should be — which will mean that this reusable component can be tested, and will ensure that a component of several application features is vetted properly.
Another possible avenue for developing with a testing mindset is to add a task in which developing an automated test is required for acceptance of the feature as completed. In this manner, testing becomes inherent to the development process, making it all the more important that software engineers nurture their software testing skill set as they grow as developers.
Test engineering is a difficult task, and one of growing importance as the speed of software delivery increases. Developing a set of skills crucial to designing and building an effective testing strategy can help to make life easier as the tools and technologies surrounding the field continue to evolve over time. Familiarity with software testing frameworks for test automation as well as the processes of continuous integration, continuous delivery and continuous testing can prove to be of great value for any test engineer in the effort to design, build and implement application tests for their organization.