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Should software tester training include finance?

How much do you need to understand about the product and industry you're testing in? Expert Gerie Owen thinks the answer is probably more than you'd think.

I will be testing a software product in financial services industry. Do I need to learn about finance?

There are several possible answers to that question. I'll start by answering yes. The more you know about your application and real-life problems it tries to solve, the more effective you will be as a tester. You can read requirements and develop test cases against those requirements, but then you will be a checker, not a tester.

First, it helps to have some software tester training to make sure you understand the underlying context of requirements or user stories. If you have a good idea about the work being done by users, you will understand what is important to them. You can focus better on things, which matters to application users. And to have some domain knowledge gives you that understanding.

That doesn't mean you need to go back to school and become an accountant or financial analyst. But you should have a good understanding of the process underlying application features and how users are interacting with a product. It would be good to have some software tester training that includes industry terminology so you can get familiar with some of the concepts you will be testing.

And there are testing roles where domain knowledge isn't too important for doing a good job. For example, if you are a test automation engineer, you probably don't need as much domain knowledge as you would if you were writing and executing test cases, or working with users on user acceptance testing.

But testers don't operate in vacuum. You will be much more effective if you are familiar with the problem domain. The more you know about the software you test, the more likely you are to identify errors and inconsistencies.

Further, if you speak their language, you are more likely to get users' respect and support. This can manifest itself through better relationship with users, more insight into user needs, better quality software and more respect throughout an organization.

Next Steps

Do your homework before you apply for a testing job

It's time to lean in to your software testing career

Breaking in to the quality assurance profession

This was last published in September 2016

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How much vertical industry knowledge have you received during software tester training?
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That would be zero. I didn’t gain industry-specific knowledge until I started working specific industries.
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I’ll agree that it can help to have knowledge of the industry, but the key thing is to be able to apply that knowledge. I’ve seen far too many candidates whose resumes claimed knowledge of an industry, and they can talk about the industry, but they can’t apply that knowledge when they test.
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Can you expand what you mean by "applying that knowledge"? Thanks!

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