What Skills #MakeATester in 2020?

So in 2016, I started researching into whether Universities taught Testing as I was finding graduates had no idea about our amazing careers. This lead to the realisation that a lot of what makes great testers can’t be taught in a lecture theatre as part of a course. So I asked the community then to come up with a list of the most important things that make a good tester. Below was the top 5 back in 2016, are there other skills which would be seen as more important now or as important?

  1. Curiosity and Question Asking
  2. Good Communication
  3. Problem Solving & Analytical Thinking
  4. Continuous Learning
  5. Coaching & Facilitating

Would love to find out if there are other skills which we now need when starting out…


Looks good & still very relevant. I would probably rank it like this today… but then that’s just me.

Which led me to contemplating: Can you coach without asking questions :thinking: :thinking:


Thanks @sjprior. As a tester who wants to grow their career, it’s all good and well to see skills listed in this way. In truth though, the list by itself is a bit vague and doesn’t help me to take action at all. Sorry if that sounds negative. For each point, I am more interested in ‘How?’ for a tester. All those points could apply equally to a developer or heck, a successful anybody in that case.

My brain: How do I cultivate…

  • Curiosity and Question Asking?
  • Good Communication?
  • Problem Solving & Analytical Thinking?
  • Continuous Learning?
  • Coaching & Facilitating?

Now even though I’ve had 2 years experience, I still don’t think I am in a position to say whether or not I am an awesome tester. In any case, this is what I would say to anyone who is new to the testing world (with your 2016 list).

  1. Cultivate curiosity and question asking. For everything you are given to test, ask ‘Why’ for everything. Why is criteria developed in this way? Why isn’t it done in this other way? Why do I have to to test it this way? Why can’t we test it now but later?
  2. Cultivate Communication Skills. Notice when you disagree with people, how do you respond? How could you respond better? Notice when you spend too much time in meetings or calls. Can you spot where time is wasted on emailing? How do people see you? (are you approachable?)
  3. Cultivate Problem Solving & Analytical Thinking. How much of your work is autopilot and boredom? If you answer all of it then that’s wrong. You need to be proactive, ask yourself what areas have you not explored or applied?
  4. Continuous Learning. Read MoT daily, subscribe to RSS/emails in the testing world. Cem Kaner, James Bach. But don’t just read random stuff, how does it apply to your work? Keep a learning diary to keep track of your own progress.
  5. Coaching & Facilitating - I’m not a coach but even as an average tester like me, you can post on forums here and share your thoughts and knowledge on your testing journey. You can teach your tester colleagues how to do something better.

For 2020, I don’t know what the next top 5 or 10 skills list will be. But my hope is if anyone responds to this post, please expand and don’t just put ‘Be a problem solver’. What does that mean on a day to day basis?

I hope that has helped people here, don’t just read the list, do the list.


Hey @pwong, absolutely, this is not the complete detail and I intend to build out a blog series on the top 5 skills. I did a few blogs and a talk on these topics before but didn’t dive into the details of how you could hone each of these skills.



Thanks for sharing the blog Simon. I would agree with @jesper that the list is still relevant, but maybe each point is relevant in a different way? The context has now changed with more focus on remote work or other testing trends that I don’t know about (I’ll leave that for experts to input on).

For example for remote work, ‘Good Communication’ to me means jumping on calls with team mates (and relevant parties) to get things done. I’ve seen bad examples where people ended up spending too much time in instant messengers (me included). It’s worse when there are disagreements in the chats, you can’t read people through text. Those are better placed in actual calls so they can be settled smoothly.

Anyway, I will wait for the experts to comment. I will be interested in what they have to say since leaders have better foresight than underling testers like me.


Don’t discount yourself, your opinion is just as valid as you are living it and breathing it day to day.

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This happens alot (re people using email/chats rather than calling each other up). I would say to anyone that starts to see this happen, arrange a call :slight_smile:

The skills I would say are 1) courage - don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s never a silly question 2) listening skills - be able to REALLY listen to the customer and what they want (that might be getting info from your product owner and asking thought probing questions). 3) collaborator - talk to your team members and work through problems together. 4) critical thinking - asking ‘what if’ and ‘why’ 5) understanding of what risk based testing is and how to apply it… There’s a few :slight_smile:


@melissafisher I am interested in your last point. Could you point me to other resources on how to apply and hone the risk based testing skill?

Hiya @trevor7

Understanding the definition of risk and what risk applies to your product is probably a good start. If you google search, then there are tonnes of articles out there.
The risk matrix is worth a good look in too https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_matrix#:~:text=A%20risk%20matrix%20is%20a,and%20assist%20management%20decision%20making.

Understanding your product and for example, if you touch this bit of code - it will impact another area is also worth exploring with your team. I think you get better at risk based testing through experience, so being open with your team about risk is a good idea.

Other things like OWASP and the top 10 are another thing worth exploring.

Hope that helps in some way! I’m sure lots of other people would be happy to advise. We could start another post to see what other resources the community can share if you like?

Thank you Simon for the inspiration!

Here’s my blog after watching simon talk about make a tester:

I also created a blog in interview format with @aishwarya how Universities could help us make a tester


Agree this is still a good list Simon - you know my thoughts on how important visibility is to a testers success, but as this could fall under continuous Learning as well as communication it doesn’t change the high level list for me.