Does being a QA engineer mean that you get paid for complaining?
Is nitpicking an actual part of your job? Here’s how a QA superhero’s day looks at the HQ. It might help you especially if you’re just beginning your adventure with QA. If you fully understand what this position entails, you can truly help your colleagues.

Being a tester isn’t a piece of cake. You spend most of your time writing test cases and coming up with new ways to break down the system. You really want to make these bugs crawl out of their holes! But this is just the obvious stuff. There are other duties too. The life of a tester requires effort and focus, and often becoming a programmer yourself.

What are QA engineer functions, anyway?

An average day in a QA engineer’s life starts with the daily Scrum. In, we have our morning stand-ups within teams working on specific projects. We discuss all the problems and hindrances that block progress. What follows is a follow up on all the Jira tickets that we have, Jira being our task management tool.

Then we get to work. This entails teamwork, as we often communicate within the team and discuss the situations we encounter during testing. It’s also necessary to fully understand the business context of the software we work on.

The major part of our working days is creating or updating test cases, either manually or automatically if that’s an option. If there is the possibility to automate, we create the automation structure and then apply it. However, if there’s a risk that test cases will fail, we talk with the programmers and re-open the case.

“Are you trying to say you just sit and look for bugs?”

This would be an oversimplification. As mentioned, we dedicate a lot of time to communicate with other QA engineers. We also read or write the documentation and contact other programmers.

If we were to list all the duties, we’d start with getting the specs, creating documentation, planning and performing test stages, writing stage conditions and cases… And many more. We often re-test once tested software.

Requirements and challenges

The perfect QA engineer is not only a programmer but also a person that likes to think out of the box. You need to see what’s beyond the surface, you need to analyze and predict. You need to have a holistic approach to apps and a deeply analytical mind. These are necessary to face the challenges, including these three that deserve separate treatment.

1. Communication

Some say there’s tension between the testers and the programmers, but this isn’t necessarily true. Not in every team. However, to avoid it, you need to have communication skills.

„Wait, so in other words, you need to be able to tell someone they wrote garbage code in a way that’ll make them excited for an opportunity to grow?”

Well no, it’s not that bad. But it helps to be able to clearly define a problem so that the other person knows exactly what doesn’t work and what to do about it. To do this, you need to put yourself in a programmer’s shoes and adapt his way of thinking.

Besides, you need to be able to see things from the perspective of your client, or the target user of your software. They have their own mysterious ways of breaking things in ways that are hard to imagine.

2. Understanding the priorities

You can do just so much within one working day. Thus, you have to understand the big picture and be able to prioritize work. This is important especially for project managers. There are bugs and there are bugs, and it takes a skilled person to tell which ones are more important. It’s not always a matter of knowledge. Sometimes, it’s pure intuition.

Also, as a tester, you have to make peace with the thought that more doesn’t mean better. It does look nice in the report when you find 20 problems. But if these are small problems, they have little meaning in the big scheme of things. It’s usually better to squash one rat-sized cockroach than 20 flies. 

Do you still want to become a QA engineer? Great! Because it’s fulfilling and often fun work. How many people get paid for looking for picking holes in things? 

3. Making yourself too comfortable

It’s all too easy to reuse one GREAT test script you once made. The work is basically doing itself! But this is the shortest way to a bad case of tunnel vision. As a QA engineer, you need to be creative. In order to challenge others’ work, you first have to challenge yourself. Sure, it would be easy to use tried-and-tested methods, but if you’re looking for ‘easy,’ you won’t last in this industry very long. Sad but true.

So do you still want to become a QA engineer? 

Hopefully, yes. This is a fulfilling position that can often surprise you, and in a good way (we wrote about “How to deal with QA absence“ on our blog). At the same time, you are definitely one of the good guys who ensure the high quality of the final product. Just remember about the tricks along the way, and never stop testing your own creativity.