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When I started, the profession of a software tester was not known – interview with Adam Basek | Call for Tech

Hi Adam. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a living?

Hi to you, and hi to everyone. I have been in testing for 10 years, nine of which, about nine of which I have been managing these tests in different environments, in different industries insurance, banking, so-called manufacturing, and several different ones. I’ve managed various teams, that is, say from 5 in a project to 15 in a project, and a large team of almost 80 people already in a larger consulting company. There we had about 15 projects, many clients and there I did little different things there I did a little testing, I paid a lot of attention to recruitment and besides, I taught at the university for a few years on such a course, which was created by my former boss, by the way. there we had a postgraduate course, where we also taught software testing, and then after a few years, we decided that we wanted to go a little different level higher, and with three colleagues we founded a company called 4_testers, a course called 4_testers. We are now training these testers ourselves. And the first edition has just started.

OK, great, so we can sign up all the time?

Now we don’t, but we will probably soon fire off the possibility to sign up for the next edition, which will probably start in the new year.

OK, great. Of course, we encourage you to sign up. You mentioned that you’ve been in the testing business for more than 10 years, so do you think a lot has changed in your profession since then? Is that threshold for entry into the industry in general lower or higher now?

A lot has changed. The main thing that has changed is that when I started, this profession of the tester was not known at all and you could get a job rather by an acquaintance. I also got a job by an acquaintance, by an acquaintance, a little bit much to say, I was doing other things more, and it was just that one of the colleagues I studied with was already working in the industry at the time, not necessarily testing, but in IT in general. He saw that I was doing cool stuff and asked me if I wanted to do it. I agreed, only that I don’t know anything about IT, and you don’t have to – we’ll teach you. Well, they taught me. It was ok, that’s when I got my first glimpse of the profession in general and what it’s for. And with the people who do it, and most of them were also there a little by chance, more by an acquaintance. It was not a well-known profession. And at the moment it’s a situation where a great many people would like to just enter this profession. They are tempted by super salaries and such working conditions, which are also very, very favorable in IT compared to other industries. And that’s cool, that’s cool. On the other hand, at the same time, in my opinion, this supply of people is growing faster than the demand, at least now, and recruiters can choose among those people who are great. Well, this is where the stairs start because when I started, I practically couldn’t do any technical stuff. I had some soft skills, let’s call them there, which made me get that invitation to this profession. On the other hand, at this stage, if we can pick and choose, we select those people who are the best, who are best prepared to start. They have this knowledge a little bit related to tests but also have some technical knowledge in various areas, and at the same time meet certain conditions in terms of let’s call it character or approach to work, or in general such a mindset simply. So these conditions have changed drastically, well, and now it’s not so easy, now it’s not so easy anymore. Now you really have to do a lot of work to have clout in these recruitments, well, because for one position we sometimes have 50 job offers when it comes to juniors, and sometimes 150-200 depending on how promoted that particular offer is. It goes like this.

Okay, okay. Well, that’s right, so talking a little bit about this, this mindset, these technical skills, I think we can move on to this next question, because during the webinar what determines hiring an entry-level tester, you just mentioned that companies are looking for people with skills like test basics, versatility, English, flexibility. So could you say a little bit more about these aptitudes and hard and soft skills that you just need to have to work as a tester?

Sure, when it comes to the soft stuff, I just call it communication, because we have to realize that in a tester’s job we have a certain amount of time that we spend on technical stuff, testing, reporting defects, reading scripts or writing scripts, reading requirements and so on. But we also have a whole bunch of whole, some specific areas of time that we spend simply communicating. We have to talk to the analyst, know how it’s supposed to work, possibly with the Product Owner, talk to the programmer, explain, something, we have various meetings. And some conflicts also arise. And such a person, who is a tester, must be able to communicate often with several of these people and come to how something is supposed to work. Does it realize the real need of our customer, how it can be done, how it is done now, maybe it can be changed somehow, maybe we can improve it, and so on? So this whole environment is very important when it comes to the work of a tester, so this communication is essential. Another thing is that such a person should like to solve problems because these problems are real. Well, and we have testers who say it just doesn’t work and that’s it, but testers who say it doesn’t work and the reason is this, this and this, because I spent half an hour and searched and searched whether in the logs or in the documentation well, and I found answers just sure. And now I see that it doesn’t work this and that, and thanks to that the programmer doesn’t have to spend that time anymore, for example, or you say that something works a little differently than, let’s say, the requirements document. Well, this person will also at the same time go to the Product Owner himself, explain how it should work, talk to the analyst, and then after such a discussion, putting together things involving the programmer will come to how it should work in cooperation with other people.

Another thing is that I call it such curiosity about the world, that is, it solves problems one thing, but it also asks a lot of questions. Why do we do it this way? Why should this product work this way and not another? Who is going to use it? How will it be used? Can we see how he uses it? Here we can ask questions about everything, about the product, about the design, about the processes we do, about whether we can do something better, or differently. It’s such an innate curiosity simply. And I think it’s super important in a tester’s job. I see that people who ask a lot of questions simply develop faster, and perform better. So these are the kind of soft things that I think are important. And also I would add here such a little proactivity and a little perseverance. That is, if there are problems then ok – I can take something on and solve it, find something, explain something. This is very much appreciated. That’s very much appreciated in this industry. And that kind of perseverance, because solving these problems or taking on these different potential things to do, not necessarily related to testing, is expensive in terms of energy, in terms of time. And not many people do it. Not many people do it, and yet the people who do it, who volunteer to be there, that I will find something, solve something, propose something. Whether it’s when it comes to some technical things or processes – they’re just valuable. And these are the kind of people we want to work with. I want to work with such people. Managers want to work and the client wants to work with such people too. So this is super important. And when it comes to technical stuff, well, here we have such a fixed set: the basics of testing, that is, so that this person understands at all how these tests are done. What are the types/levels of testing, how to see defects, what kind of scenarios for these kinds of things, and what testing methods in general, yes? The second thing is to work with databases, that is, SQL itself, which is the most commonly used. The basics of programming are not only to write automation for yourself in the future but also to understand how this coding simply works so that it is easier to talk to programmers. And to have some knowledge about the same IT industry, about how it simply works. So these basics of programming, in my opinion, are already at this stage it’s nice for everyone to know, who enters the industry. Then there’s some API testing, mobile application testing, we have test management here or some web technologies. There are some of these things, while I think that in a few months, in six months with such an intensive course it is doable to learn these basics realistically.

OK. Well, and that’s where you kind of answered that next question of mine because I was wondering that a lot of people who are interested in getting into the industry, getting into this testing adventure, are just wondering if a software tester needs to know how to program. From what you say, it’s good for him to know the basics. The question is whether there is perhaps a particular programming language that you just think is worth starting with.

I’m not very technical, so I’m quite reserved in answering this question. On the other hand, based on the experience that I have and also my experience at the university, it seems to me that one of the better languages is simply Python because it is simple, it is possibly to be quite highly versatile and it is just fun to start in it. And then it’s also easier to understand how these tests are supposed to work. Then the change of language is quite maybe not simple, but it is already easier. When I understand the whole mechanism, and how it all works, then I just have to learn how another language works. On the other hand, it’s not that this language is great and the rest are bad. There are several other languages that a lot of people are also starting in at this point like Java or JavaScript or even C#. And it doesn’t matter a bit. The only difference is, I would say, the entry threshold, at the latest the possibility to continue this learning in terms of automation. Because if we’re talking about testers, here we generally learn this programming, among other things, in order to use it later. When automating the tests themselves.

Ok. Well, and being with this science: What would you advise people who would like to start their career in the field of testing? Where should they start? And above all, also where to get knowledge from? Because I assume that there is a lot of this information on the Internet first of all, but which are the most reliable ones?

Yes, yes, the whole Internet basically, a large part of the Internet, now talks about testing, we are all tempted in general to enter the IT industry, and there is also this myth that the easiest way to enter the industry is through testing because you don’t need to know anything, you just go in and test. That may have been the case in the past, but now it’s not the case anymore.

I generally caution against easy solutions like reading two books and I can get in, or doing a 2-3-4 week course and trying to get into this industry, because there are already a lot of people like that, and I think they don’t find the job as quickly as they would like, that way. What I recommend is to make a decision and stick to it and make it on the basis of ok, I’m devoting six months or a year now. I really learn all these things. I start with tests and then continue with different technical things. I build myself a resume. Ideally, I should do some projects in between. As much as it is possible. Well, and then with this baggage it is easier to look for this job. But it’s important to do it with people who have already gone down this road and who are advanced in this teaching, because now also a lot of companies are being created, or test courses are being created at universities. On the other hand, I recommend working with people who have been doing this for years, who have already practiced this material many times, and who are simply testing themselves. And they have been in this business for many years. People you can listen to at conferences, people you can see on YouTube, or just on webinars. It’s important to learn from someone who realistically, first of all, has proven knowledge, and secondly, has those teaching skills, that’s super important too.

Well, here you can go two ways. In this sense, you can build yourself such a course, let’s call it a full course, by your own efforts and try courses on Udemy or in various other ways. And you can go to a postgraduate course, you can come to us for a course, you can go to some other course and longer testing, which includes all those elements we talked about. This is super important. And ideally, in the end, still those people who run this course should explain and help with building a resume on Linkedin. Well, because it’s also often the case that someone has the knowledge, someone has the skills, this let’s call it, the character to be this tester, but is not able to break through because they can’t build this resume, we don’t do it every day, in the sense that usually these resumes are built once every few years. On the other hand, it is incredibly important to be able to sell yourself later on as well. Also, I warn against short, easy solutions. Here you need to make a serious decision, spend some money, preferably, in my opinion, and do it with people who know this and who will arrange this knowledge for us in a suitable way and also pass it on to us in a suitable way because this is important. This will just make this entryway easier for us.

OK, sure. And could you say a little bit more about what it looks like for you at 4_testers?

With us in 4_testers it looks like this, maybe I will say in general who makes up 4_testers. Well, because there are four of us, there is me, there is Darek Dresden, there is Adam Pucko, there is Adrian Gonciarz, and the four of us. Each of us whether a test manager or was a test manager. Adrian does advanced automation. Darek basically still has a company that also does testing and availability testing. We’ve all known each other for years and worked together and decided that after a few years at this university we wanted to do something together. But we are also working with people who we also know and who have also partially taught at the university. These are 5 more lecturers who we have a lot of confidence in and who are co-creating this course with us. So there are 9 people and each of us has a different piece of the course. One person teaches the basics of programming, another teaches API automation, another teaches UI automation, and someone else kind of creates this course at the beginning, in terms of the basics of programming, I do the soft skills of management, and job search. We have it divided into a couple of stages. The course is 20 weeks long, and it’s an evening course because of the fact that we have this experience after university, but to meet every two weeks for two full days is too much material, that’s one thing, and two we don’t have this kind of constant contact.

And third – we like to relax all of us on weekends, so this is also one of the arguments. So we decided to do twice-weekly meetings of 2.5 hours each, so we give this material in smaller doses. On the other hand, we are also able to verify what’s going on faster and give faster feedback, and on Fridays, we still have additional consultations for those who are willing, and there we solve various doubts. We answer questions, but we also answer these questions in the course on the platform that we have. So we are in constant contact with these people. It’s not that we see each other once every two weeks, but here, on an ongoing basis, we have this contact almost every day and 20 weeks of the course and after 20 weeks the person is prepared, prepared substantively, technically and also, in terms of built CV on LinkedIn, so he is just ready to enter the market and ready to look for a job in this market.

Sounds great.

It’s great 😊

Going a little deeper into the work of a tester, I would like to ask you what is the difference between the work of a manual tester and an automated or automation tester. Which name is correct?

This I will quickly clarify. We correctly say automation tester, because automation would imply that we are robots and something is happening. A human is doing it, so it is an automation tester, that is, it automates its work. By its work, on the other hand, I mean part of its work. There are, of course, different configurations in specific companies. Sometimes we have people who do both manual testing and automated testing. Well, it simply looks like this person is simply a tester, who collects information, writes scenarios, tests himself manually, and then automates part of his work. And we also have such configurations, where, for example, we have a team of manual testers or in general saying manual testers is a mistake. Simply testers. We simply have testers and we also have a team of testers who automate. And then they get specific automation scenarios and they sit down and just write code. That’s how they maintain that automation and that’s it.

On the other hand, both are automation testers. It doesn’t matter if I’m just automating, if I’m gathering requirements and writing scenarios, talking to everyone around me and automating, we’re talking about automation testers, so the only difference is that the tester who doesn’t automate executes scenarios manually, that is, he just reads them to himself and performs all these operations manually, and the other one writes himself code that performs these actions automatically. It goes like this.

Ok, ok, and the words repeated by many that in order to grow as a tester you need to move to automation sooner or later – is this true or is it a myth?

I don’t agree with that. I know people who have been in this profession for several, several years and have never automated. And they are super valuable employees. These are the people who will take on a few extra tasks first. Let’s agree testing is not just doing tests. Sometimes you have to do something with the environment, explain something, talk, change a process, talk to a customer, or make a presentation. There are a lot of things that go on in this testing, they are such a surrounding of this testing. But it has to be done. Well, such senior testers are also super necessary because they have the knowledge of how to design these scenarios, they have the knowledge of how to train someone, they have the knowledge of how to create a process, how to talk to the customer, and they have super knowledge of just running these tests. So such a person is really essential, especially in large projects. When it comes to automation, we also have projects where it is essential and it just pays for itself. When it comes to financial, quality, and also time issues. We sometimes have projects where it doesn’t pay to do it or it pays to do it at a very basic level and that’s it. So I’m personally of the opinion that this is not the natural way to go. To do automation. You also have to have a certain mindset to do it and like to just sit in that code, and you can develop yourself in many different other ways. In testing itself, you can grow in terms of test management. When it comes to testing design, we can go into security testing in general, we can go into other areas of IT in general, we can become a Scrum Master, we can go into analytics, and we can go simply into programming. Their paths are very many and automation is one of them. It is, it is very popular now, well, because there is talk of super cool salaries. On the other hand, I believe that this is not the best way. It is a path that is good for those who really feel like sitting in code and who like it. And here I also caution, because a lot of people start the road with automation by going into a project, learning Selenium, and doing copy-paste. When any more serious problem arises well then I already need a senior. I personally think it’s better to start with programming, then learn further, further and further, devote more of that time and only get into this automation, because then we also enter with a certain foundation, which will make it easier for us to grow in this later.

On one of your webinars just held at 4_testers, you shared such a mind-map with development directions and there were such positions as just Scrum Master, Product Owner, Developer, and DevOps. And I wanted to ask what you think about this approach. In that case, is the tester profession a kind of stage in one’s career, or is it more of an individual thing and one can be a tester for life? As you mentioned that you have this friend who is this manual tester and he has no intention of sort of moving these automatic tests. So the question is what is your approach?

I think it depends on the person. I know testers who have re-branded themselves as analysts, as programmers. I know programmers who have re-branded themselves as testers. automation. These paths are many. I generally so personally recommend just changing what you do for yourself. It could be changing projects within testing to learn something. It could be a change of company, but it could also be a change of role. I can be a tester for a bit, I can try my hand at being a Scrum Master, and then come back, for example, and try to manage. In my opinion, this is super cool. There is also this so-called T-shaped model, which says that each person has a number of different competencies. I can be a bit of a tester, and here I can be a Product Owner, here I can have experience in programming and do some automation. Such people who are also able to learn these other things are needed, because usually when we go into a project it’s ok, we have some of our skill set that I go in with, but it’s also often the case that I need to develop it. First of all, those tools I lack, but sometimes in projects, there is a need for such a role a little bit on the side for 1/5, 1/4 time, and then I can also get involved and do that. This is also something I recommend, as I am in a particular company and there are opportunities to do something extra.

I recommend doing it. First of all, it will develop us a little bit in terms of the life of the company, which means I’ll do a test, but at the same time I’ll also take part in some webinar or some client meeting or something just cool, and I’ll see a little bit broader perspective than the tests themselves or my project. But also through that, I’ll build some new relationships that maybe sooner or later somewhere in this career will help. So that’s also the path I’m suggesting.

We’ve already discussed a little bit about these stages related to learning, and stages related to career development. Let’s now move to that recruitment interview. Well, what sample questions during a job interview can a tester expect?

Here I would so honestly prefer not to answer because I would not like to create such, let’s call it questions, which are always asked. On the other hand, there can definitely be high-level and low-level questions, let’s call them. That is, how would you test an ATM, a ticket machine, or any device? It could be a question about a specific part, some sheet or how to do specific tests with a specific example. What I generally like to do a lot in recruiting is to give real problems to solve, so for example, I give a very simple requirement, one page of text, and I say OK, design me tests for that. I generally suggest such a model that I give some tasks or questions or both. To write down for yourself, you have half an hour – 40 minutes. Think it over, come up with solutions, and then talk about it. And this is cool in my opinion for the reason that then I can see how the person thinks. Then also this person calmly asks different questions. And this is also super valuable because I can see what he is asking, what is important to me. I see how he is trying to solve this problem. Well, and at the end, we talk about the problem itself, about what the solution should look like. This is the way I propose.

On specific questions, I prefer not to comment, because first of all, everyone has a slightly different style. Each of these managers or test managers or just recruiters. Well, here there can be all kinds of questions.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I’m not kidding, of course. This is the kind of question you know you don’t ask because it’s funny. On the other hand, it is often asked.

I like them so honestly.

Really? Then why don’t we talk about this topic?

Maybe not in 5 years, but, for example, in a year, in three years. In such a perspective more like you plan your development? Yes? What would you like, want, and what you like, what you don’t like? Such questions I like. I look at these recruitments from different stages. Partly I conducted them individually, when I was the first and last point of contact, and I also had the pleasure in my last job where there was a team of senior testers and managers who recruited, and I only conducted the last interview, where I cared more about getting to know the person so personally and just to check whether he or she fits into our team and the company, because each company has a slightly different culture and it is also important to match such a person.

Is there any advice you would give to recruiters or hiring managers who are currently recruiting testers? Or is there anything, in particular, they should pay attention to?

What I think is important – I also worked with different recruiters and recruitment companies. It’s communication between the hiring manager and the recruiter himself, and it’s two sides. To make it work. On the one hand, to train this recruiter a little bit about our company, about our projects and technology, and what we just do, so that such a recruiter is also able to tell this new person what’s really going on here. Well, because it’s just cool, on the principle that if already at this stage it rarely happens, because most of the time it’s like I’m talking to the recruiter and details about the project, then at the next stage, and in my opinion, the super value is that already the recruiter can tell something about the project or about the projects, if there are any, about the technologies and about the team itself. How many people there are, what they do, how they share, where they are, how many do automation, in what, etc? There are cool things simply. So I recommend + additionally what I always liked to do is such a short training on how to look at a tester’s resume.

And here we are already talking about making sure that this recruiter understands the tests themselves, that is, to distinguish between types and levels of tests, to know what is valuable in this resume, what is not necessary, and what, for example, is worth asking about. And on the other hand, this conversation with the hiring manager is also essential so that we understand who we really need. Because sometimes it’s the case that we write ourselves these requirements, then it turns out that some of them are unnecessary, and some of them are not necessary, just unnecessary, and we end up rejecting some of the people we shouldn’t reject. So this communication between the two or more in my opinion is key. I’ve always enjoyed doing it, and I’ve always seen that the recruiters are happy with it. There was value for them too, also they learned something new, and they would be better able to pick up different vocabulary words later on, or on LinkedIn to search by other keywords. That was valuable for both sides. For me, it was always important that there was this communication at a very high level between these people. And later, when we were already talking about candidates, that was important too. And it was important that together we defined, for example, what questions could already be asked at the level of this first conversation, this screening, which is not so complicated as to compromise this person or recruiter somewhere, and at the same time give us some answers that we don’t have to ask later. And even after the screening itself, we can already look at our feedback after the interview and we can already see if it makes sense or if it doesn’t make sense to move on. When we are talking here about recruiting, say, 10-15 people per month, it makes a very big difference. And simply, if we’re even looking for one person a month or 3 months in general and we want to find someone of value, so as not to waste the time of both parties, I think this is a valuable technique.

I think these are very cool tips, also thanks. I’d like to go back a little bit just to how you’ve been working these last few years. And you also just mentioned that in one of the companies you worked for, you led a team of over 70 people. So I’m wondering if there were any situations where the testing team didn’t quite get along with the other employees. If so, how did you deal with them then?

Perhaps I can start by saying that I had the pleasure of working in a company that was at a very high level in terms of both technology and communication, and in general the level of this communication. We paid a lot of attention to this when recruiting. We simply didn’t hire people who didn’t fit into this organizational culture, which was at a high level, even if they were technically good. And that was cool. So the kind of cases you’re talking about were extremely rare. They happened, of course, because if we have such a large team and we have, let’s say, 15 projects or 20 projects, some clients are easier, and others are more difficult. So already at this level, there can be some pressure. Well, and also there are often situations when you don’t get along with the programmer, and everyone wants to do well as they want to do their job well, and so does he. So here, either I or one of the managers or the test manager would then get involved in such a situation and talk, because it’s all on the level of conversation. Why it’s happening from the tester’s side, what’s happening, what’s happening on the other side, well, and we explain what’s going on here. But there’s never been a situation, at least with me, in my career, where there’s been some really serious escalation and there have been some serious consequences because of it. Usually, it always managed to be resolved. And so I think, however, people in IT largely just understand that sometimes these conflicts are needed because it makes us more productive. Sometimes you need to say hey, I don’t like something or I don’t like how we do something or how you specifically do something. Of course, the form here is of great importance. On the other hand, this is sometimes needed and these conflicts arise. And this is the natural order of things. We all want to work better so that we are simply more pleasant in this work. This is part and parcel of the process, and it’s up to managers or the people themselves to resolve these issues. And sometimes it’s enough to just talk to that person, and offer some potential solutions, and ideally that particular person, that own communication problem should be solved, instead of involving others. But one and the other option I think is as ok as possible, and that’s also what we are here for as managers, to help and support. This is how it has been in my career.

OK, sure. Well, and just to finish, I would like to ask you, how do you imagine the future of your profession? Could tester jobs be replaced by machines and artificial intelligence?

I am very far from thinking about what will be next. When I started testing well I often heard that in 10 years we will all be just automating and there will be no testers who do tests manually. Life shows that this is not the case. The trend goes on. We are automating more and more, and we are getting better at automating. On the other hand, it’s still the case in most companies, at least in most companies I’ve worked for or with clients I’ve worked with, and I think it’s going into dozens of companies. There’s a trend that those testers who do testing manually usually are. To a large extent, maybe. 5% of the projects I’ve seen were such that there were only testers who were automating, and in fact, it turned out that often those people were also doing testing manually because there was no time to automate. So I’m far from fortune-telling, especially since the current world is changing so fast that here it’s hard to say what will happen. I think it’s possible, while I always say to myself then that someone will have to program this work anyway and decide how they should work, how they should, how they should create their algorithms. So people will be needed anyway.

OK, so that’s the message testers can rest easy, yes?

I would say: testers develop. In different areas and in different directions, but develop. Because I’ve also seen that not testers alone, but IT people in general, who sit in one company for 10-15 years at a time, and often in companies that are not very much ahead in terms of technology, and after such 10 years you suddenly have to find a job and it turns out that a few my skills no longer fit the market. And the nice thing is that for 10 years I made good money and was comfortable. Whereas now I have to roll up my sleeves and learn very quickly to get back into that market and not necessarily for the same good money. So I would say develop, in different aspects and then it will be good.

We wish you the best of luck in your development. Thank you very much Adam for this interview.

Thank you very much also.

It was great to talk and see you!

Also, thanks a lot and see you there.