Ask the Expert

The future of software testing

I am faced with a career dilemma. I worked as business analyst for five years. I was laid off in February and have been out of work since then -- six months and counting. I am eligible for a training grant from New Jersey State Unemployment and was considering training as a software tester. The course I am looking into is a 480-hour course that would teach Unix, SQL, WinRunner, Test Director, and Quick test Pro, as a well as a "live" 120-hour program to put a project on your resume.

However, I hear more and more about the off-shoring of software tester jobs, and I do not want to waste my time and money in a training program that has no future.

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I believe there will always be a place for skilled software testers who are passionate about their craft.

I'm sorry to hear you've been laid off. That's never good news, even if it does give you an opportunity to pursue other career paths. Off the top of my head exposure to Unix and SQL and experience with the HP Mercury suite of tools are all good things to have for a tester. Many companies utilize the HP Mercury tools, and while knowing those tools probably won't do anything for you once you have a couple years of experience, they may be just the boost you need to get a foot in the door with someone looking for entry-level testing help.

That said, I suspect your experience as a business analyst will be even more important. Make sure you highlight that during your job search. Testers use may of the same analytical skills that business analysts use, and a knowledge of the domain is always helpful. For some other ideas on learning software testing, look at a similar post I did on "Expanding software testing skills."

As for your concern about software testing jobs going offshore, certainly off-shoring is a trend in our industry that's going to continue. I have no doubt about it. However, I believe there will always be a place for skilled software testers who are passionate about their craft. And as a hiring manager who is always looking for bright entry-level talent, there is a real shortage of skilled testers at the local level (at least there is at my local level).

I've worked for several companies that have utilized offshore testing services, and all of them retained a large contingent of local testing resources. They all viewed utilizing offshore resources as one way to look at either lowering the total cost of testing or enabling them to do testing they couldn't otherwise practically do (for example, testing 24 hours a day). When I've looked at outsourcing, it's been because I couldn't find the resources locally.

Some of the best advice I've heard on the topic can be found in a post I did in 2005 on a panel discussion I hosted for the Indianapolis Quality Assurance Association. It's a little dated, but I think it's relevant because in the discussion the topics of Mercury Interactive tools, education, and off-shoring all came up. The panel experts know more about these topics than I do, so I'd trust their advice. Good luck in your search!

This was first published in October 2008

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