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What are the top software testing skills? Start by being fearless

The software testing profession is changing rapidly, thanks to DevOps and automation. But some of the skills you'll need to keep up are surprisingly old-fashioned, like persistence.

What are some of the software testing skills I will need for the future?

Testing outside the lines means, literally, testing fearlessly. Quality assurance (QA) testers shouldn't shy away from areas that are difficult or because they require digging around in error logs or back-end processing engines. Testing outside the lines means you're not afraid to test in areas developers may attempt to steer you away from. In fact, when fearless testers are encouraged to avoid error prone or fragile code locations, the more likely they are to test and retest in those areas. Software testing skills require the ability to test outside the lines or outside the confines of a test script.

When searching for exceptional QA testers look for those who find answers, solve problems on their own, seeking help when necessary, and who aren't afraid of being disliked. Exceptional testers don't let peer pressure or the human need to fit into the group deter their ability to test in a professional manner.

Quality assurers need software testing skills that enable them to dig -- and dig deep -- to find defects that are deeply buried and not visible to the UI. Exceptional QA testers can work with developers and learn, almost like a private detective, where to find defects. The ability to test outside the lines is not a training issue, but more of a personality trait. QA professionals who test outside the lines are go-getters, whether they appear quiet and shy or loud and bold. These aren't software testing skills you can see -- they are traits you have to detect or observe.

As a quality assurer, I may need to first satisfy my job duties and execute the test cases as they are written. But when I run the test scripts, I test around the issue looking for problems in related areas to the test case. How do you know if your QA job candidate has these software testing skills? Ask them their philosophies about QA testing: Is a test case sufficient test coverage? Do they follow the test script exactly?

If you want QA testers to execute the test script as is every time, automate it. Coded automated tests will execute only the test script as it's written. If you want to truly find defects before customers do, then supplement your automated test scripts with manual testing that tests outside the lines.

Those with exceptional software testing skills will look for scenarios that will create problems for users. In essence, they find defects hidden in the logic that a human customer would uncover. For those customers who use an application fully, it's imperative to have testers on staff who test outside the expected, or scripted, test case lines. Hire qualified testers who enhance your automated testing, rather than repeat it. Go beyond and you'll deliver a higher-quality software application.

Next Steps

Testers, you need to up your tech game

Why you might want to think twice before automating everything

Respect your software testing career -- it matters!

This was last published in May 2017

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