What should I learn to be able to apply for junior positions?

Hello everyone!
I am new here, it’s very nice to meet you all! I’ve been browsing the career switchers topics, but I thought it would be great if someone could give me a more personal advice?
I was working as a hairdresser for 7 years and because of health problems I couldn’t continue my career any longer - standing for long periods of time started being quite painful for me. This is when I decided to study Computing and IT with The Open University - I am currently on 3rd module of second stage of my degree. I was doing my part-time degree alongside my hairdressing job, but later I had my son and went on maternity leave, so a year ago I got a part time job in coding school for kids, I am a tutor there.
My son is almost two now and he started part-time nursery in December and because the teaching job doesn’t bring much money, I have to start looking for some better paying job.

I am interested in going into Software Testing, I think I could be very good in this field and I like that it combines a lot of different skills.
So considering that I have limited time, because the nurseries are very expensive and cost of everything goes up, what skills would give me a best shot in finding a job in QA?
Every job ad I’m looking at, even the junior positions require some experience in the role.

  1. I am learning Manual Testing, SDLC and STLC at the moment, do you think that ISTQB Foundation Level certificate could help me land a role without experience?

  2. Should I focus more on Manual Testing projects to be able to show some of my work and get some experience or is it better to learn some Automation Tools? I can program in Java, I also have some knowledge of other languages. If the automation would be a way to go what tools would you recommend? I see Selenium, Postman and Cucumber mentioned a lot in job adverts?

Sorry for the long post, I know that there is a lot to learn, I just would like to give it a best shot I can for the next 3-4 months, because later I will have to decide between taking my son out of nursery or just looking for any job to be able to support us financially a bit more. And a job in QA would mean that I can start learning at work , get some hands-on experience and be will be able to study more than my usual 1.5h before bed :slight_smile:

Thank you and sorry again for the long reading!

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Hi Paulina

I bit of shameless self-promotion, but it’s free. I wrote a book called ‘how to test’ for people getting into the industry which is about helping guide people in the basics. It should still be free.

It won’t answer all those questions, but should be a helpful first step - I’ve used it a lot coaching new testers.

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tl;dr: there are multiple ways to go and it depends on you which one you want to choose. There is no single best.

Curiosity, doubt, empathy, communication, honesty.

This list is debatable.
At some jobs they just want you to execute stuff quite brainless. Don’t doubt the management!

There are different types of jobs and you often will just find out which by trying.

I would suggest you to read the syllabus, but not taking the course. Imo it’s not worth it.
The most valuable thing is having the paper.
Often it is optional at offers, only some demand it.

I depends on what you like and what is demanded on the companies you want to join.
Imo none of both generally better. Aside the point the automation still includes a certain part of manual work by my experience. And some offers can be for automation, but you still will be assigned to (exploratory) testing.
There are also job offers which do not include automation.
Even some letting you start with zero experience and training on the job.
That is how I started 15 years ago. (And I teached myself some automation and development in that time.)

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Thank you Mike! I will check this out! :slight_smile:

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This is exactly what I’m doing, I bought some Udemy course on this subject and I’m also reading the syllabus. Hopefully this should be enough.

This would be probably the best for me - just training on the job. But I’m afraid my age (33) would be an obstacle here and probably also the fact that I worked as a hairdresser before and I’m a mom.
This is why I’m trying to get a bit ahead, maybe someone will appreciate it :slight_smile:

I think I would probably like to do some automation as well at some point, I’m not to bad at coding, not using it in the future will be a waste of all this hours spent learning :joy:

Thank you for your reply Sebastian!

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This is the right mindset!
Sooner or later you should have success with it.

Also this is something hard to get from a resume (not totally impossible) for a interviewer, but you can bring it over (enforce it) in an interview.

You don’t need to perfectly skilled, but interested and pationated.

Having some development skills under your belt is definitiv a good thing.
I guess the even at jobs which don’t request it explicitly, you will sooner or later use it on your own.
That is how I started.
Being able to develop some scripts and tools on your own is very helpful.
And when your team and/or boss will recognize it it is likely that they appreciate it.

Be welcome as tester!
You already did your first steps.

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I’ve started to write a multi-page answer to give some insight into thinking about getting into testing, but I’ll touch on a few points now:

  • Decide if you want a job or career. A career often takes more time, work, responsibility and passion, but often offers more satisfaction, interest and money. Both are valid, I predict you’re more interested in the latter and not just for the money.
  • My career was steeped in Context-Driven Testing and the Rapid Software Testing Methodology. I invite you to look into these because at the very least you should know about the option, and I think this research will save you from some tedious roles.
  • It is my opinion that ISTQB is a money-making scam for consultants and the course content is not useful. The actual certification is desired by some companies, although it’s also my opinion that those companies don’t understand testing very well or they wouldn’t trust the certificate. Getting the certification is not very hard, mostly common sense and a little memorisation - the exam does not test the syllabus very well because, in my opinion, it’s in their interest for people to pass. I don’t have one and I had a great career in software testing. It will depend on where you live and what jobs are available if it’s a good idea for you. So yes, it can help land a role, but only some roles, and I’d say it has more utility as a certification than a course so don’t take the content too seriously.
  • You can get some experience testing open source projects, which comes across as interest and passion on your CV. A great place to practice, and you can even raise bugs and give feedback.
  • Consider what skills from your previous jobs are useful in testing. Working with others, solving issues, that kind of thing. Companies tend to want people who can take care of themselves, get on with the people who already work there and not cause too many problems.
  • Customise your CV to everything you apply for. Make it hard for them to say “no” to an interview, without lying. Line up their buzzwords with your replies. Apply, even if you don’t seem to be perfect - often they don’t know what they want, anyway, and someone who is willing to learn, work in a team and is nice to talk to could actually gets the position. Express your passion and excitement to learn and work with others.
  • RST was the best course I ever went on, but might be prohibitively expensive or difficult to attend. You can still read about it online, and if you email James Bach he will likely provide the notes for free (RST Class Materials - Satisfice, Inc.). I am a CDT/RST guy, so that’s where all my advice will come from.
  • If you ever want to message me I’ll try to help when and where I can. This community is also very supportive and helpful so I hope you’ll continue to ask stuff here. You can also look through my post history if you want a lot of reading on different topics to get a flavour of the stuff I go on about - not to understand the working of every single thing, just to see what gets talked about. I write a lot.

I think I could be very good in this field and I like that it combines a lot of different skills.

I think so too, and it does. Learning, problem solving, communication, teamwork, empathy, tact, adaptability, developing strategy, applying test techniques, exploration, satisfying the needs of the company, team and users; and it can be exciting and different every day. I enjoy supporting a team and leveraging my knowledge and skills to enable them to do their job well. Look for a place where you’re encouraged to learn and free to explore, if you can. Absolutely ravage the training budget and plunder the library.

Continue to believe in yourself, ask questions, get your information from more than one person or group, and I hope you find not just a job, but your passion. Best of luck!

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But I’m afraid my age (33) would be an obstacle here and probably also the fact that I worked as a hairdresser before and I’m a mom.

So you’re maturely minded, social, empathetic, proven in previous roles, have life experience, self-sufficient, have experience with complex problem solving, know how to interact with and work with others, have experience with coaching, and good communication skills. Think about what’s transferable, and consider a little sales technique, and I don’t think you’ll have a problem. I’ve met testers from everywhere at all ages, I think from about 19 to 50+ years old. One guy older than me changed from being a forklift driver, I used to play board games with him after work.

Also when thinking of skills and useful additions consider throwing in some hobbies if you have/had any, where relevant.

Edit: I’ve hired before, and between someone who’s interested in testing with a desire to help and learn, and someone with 10 years experience but doesn’t like people and just wants to get by, I’d go with the first person every time.

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I got my first job in testing at 41, after returning from parental leave. I had exactly zero coding skills and just a tiny little bit of testing knowledge (I just skimmed the ISTQB materials during the two or three weeks between me learning that this career exists and applying for the job). I learned everything on the job.
It is definitely possible!

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I second what @baysha said. I had to get new full-time testing roles twice in a few years, at the age of 57 and 59 respectively, and me with no formal IT qualifications whatsoever.

It seemed to me that a lot of prospective employers treat the ISTQB as a gateway qualification, though I did hear of someone who put “I do not have the ISTQB and I will happily tell you why”, because when HR departments used ‘ISTQB’ as a search term against CVs, this would pass! :slightly_smiling_face:

The problem I had when automation skills were being asked for was that almost every advert I looked at asked for different tool knowledge, and just when I thought I had a handle on which tools I ought to make myself familiar with, another one suddenly popped up in the adverts and seemed to be the new Flavour of the Month.

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Adding on to people’s talking about ‘it’s not too late’ - I’ve worked with a lot of really excellent testers who moved into the industry late in life.

We have a junior testing starting with us in a few weeks who has an adult daughter. But we saw potential in them from their business understanding and troubleshooting they’ve done being an end user.

There are some places out there who are close minded. But there are a lot of folks who aren’t.

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:flushed: Impressive hack.
Like having on LinkedIn a qualification “No ISTQB”, just to be in the search results :grin:

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Amazing read, and I wish you all the very best of luck with your switch into the testing industry. I switched to testing at a similar age to you, so do not fear :slight_smile:

A few thoughts / tips from me.

  1. Get a LinkedIn profile setup if you have not already, and frame yourself as a junior tester - be honest as you’ve been here in your post. You just don’t know who is reading on the other end and who is willing to give you a break. Your commitment and desire already projected to me here, so why not a recruiting decision maker somewhere out there?

  2. Learning ‘automation’ and learning ‘manual’ testing, in my opinion, is not a thing. As a tester you have many skills to deploy depending on the situation and automation is an approach / set of tools testers can use to help with manual testing. What I’m saying here is don’t think of them as separate things you’ve got to learn. Of course, learn automation, and learn manual techniques to become a more rounded tester… not to become an ‘automation tester’ or ‘manual tester’ exclusively.

  3. Consider creating a github profile. Showcase some of the Java you know in a test automation framework (there are plenty of tutorials online) - just do some simple stuff, like going to an e-commerce site, checking the logo, checking you can assert an item is added to the basket. This will show any potential recruiters that you’ve got practical real-life skills that you can apply in a professional setting. You could expand this into other frameworks too later like Cypress or Selenium.

  4. I personally don’t put a huge emphasis on ISTQB, but I respect that others do. If anything, attaining that qualification shows you’re serious about the industry you’re in. In my opinion, job experience, exposure to projects, software, shipping it and the whole development life cycle is more important. Getting that first break and finding out what the role is about, and growing in it, is what is going to make you into a strong tester.

I can think of lots of other tips and things but there are plenty of other posts here supporting you.

All the best and good luck!

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Thank you for all the advice and encouragement ! I didn’t expect to get so many replies :slight_smile:

Thank you for the book Mike, I’m just reading it and it’s very helpful - it answers a lot of questions I had, but couldn’t find the answer in the Manual Testing courses.

I’m glad that some of you started working as Testers a bit later and have a good career out of it, after Chris’s post I also know how to sell myself a bit better :joy:

I was thinking the same thing with ISTQB, probably the biggest value of it is that I could get through the recruitment process and their filters. I’ll try with a LinkedIn profile and some work portfolio on GithHub first and if I won’t be getting any responses I can always just pass the exam.

Thank you everyone!

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That’s amazing, @paulina.k.u. I’m totally inspired by your story and ambition.

Welcome to the Ministry of Testing community. We’ve totally got your back. As you’ve experienced already, it’s full of brilliant people who have brilliant things to share.

If not on your radar, check out the following:

Plus do consider applying for the Ministry of Testing Scholarship Fund. The community donate a lot for their fees to this fund to support folks who are looking to make the break into a software testing career. The fund offers free access to a Pro membership or free access to an online or in person conference, called TestBash.

Please do keep the questions coming.

Good luck and see you around.

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And I’ve also just been reminded that there’s an excellent podcast with Gabbi Trotter.

In an island first, we welcome a recruiter into our midst, as Gabbi Trotter swims ashore to discuss some of the challenges with hiring software testers. We look at both sides of the coin: what can candidates do to better position themselves for their dream roles, and what can companies do to attract the right talent?

We get some insider insights on how the recruitment market has evolved since the pandemic began, the perks of interviewing over Zoom, and the rising debate around remote working. And in an unlikely coincidence of scheduling, we once again get into the topic of how you can build your personal brand, especially when you don’t have the time or energy for content creation.

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Hi Paulina

I’ve have been on many recruitment panels for various testing roles and the of course depending on the level you are applying for (e.g. junior, intermediate or senior) determines the experience needed.

However, there are a few skills needed for any level and often they are the skills that are the hardest to find when recruiting. To be a successful tester you need to have excellent communications and be able to communicate with various personalities and stakeholders. I have found there are many applicants who either aren’t able to communicate to a team or they are scared to talked to Developers, especially when they are on opposite sides of a discussion. Another skill that is difficult to find, is the ability to work alone but also collaborate. I’m also surprised at the number of applicants who want to work alone and find it difficult to collaborate with their team. In all the interviews I have done, the hardest thing to find is someone who can think outside the box and not be expected to be told how and when to do a task. It is important to be a self-thinking and curiosity for how something works is fantastic. It’s always best to ask the question rather than think you know it all.

Testing qualifications are important, but life experience plays a key part in being a good tester.
Good luck with your career.

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I’ve found lots of employers over the years give you an opportunity in testing without having many skills, if any. As long as you show that you have a good passion for it and have a high attention to detail.
Out of the last 4 candidates I have employed at my workplace, 3 have no coding skills, only 1 had completed the ISTQB course and none of them had any testing experience.
I was hired about 14 years ago without any of those skills, no uni experience, and a high school drop out :stuck_out_tongue:

So, it’s definitely do-able without spending lots on courses and online material, but I’m sure some small things will help, and also show that you’re serious about it.

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I’ve interviewed a lot of testers over the years and often the level even with lots of years experience is not good in my experience.

A lot went certification route and then practiced the exact same things in there job, even people in senior positions talked a lot about SDLC, creating test cases and executing test cases but struggled to explain the value of testing and what its all about.

If that is still the market the good thing is you can probably fast track yourself above that level very quickly.

You do need to gain a solid understanding of testing fundamentals, books can do that. Lessons learned in software testing, perfect software and other illusions about testing plus maybe one focused on test techniques can allow you to talk comfortably about testing very quickly.

Courses, RST is highly recommended but out of a lot of people price range. BBST has free course materials, its videos look a bit dated but it covers the fundamentals that are still very relevant well.

Being able to code is a big plus. Emphasise that and get some basic automation, free courses online.

Being technical is pretty much essential these days, that’s not so much just automation but learning dev tool basics and api’s for example for web testing is essential. Technical testing 101 course, bargain price will often put you way ahead of the crowed.

Things like accessibility testing is becoming high demand, these are very human things alongside empathy could be strengths here.

To build skill though you need to be testing. Communities online may help with that.

Best of luck.

Thank you Simon, Romina, Chad and Andrew! Now I have a lot of great recommendations and know what to emphasize on potential interview :slight_smile: One more thing - would you apply on the jobsites like Indeed and Reed or try to go directly to companies?

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