This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide: Important steps to improving your QA career
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I'm in a rut! How can I find a stable software testing career path?

You want to move your testing career forward, but your employer isn't helping. Expert Gerie Owen offers advice about taking charge of your career development.

I'm stuck in a rut in an organization that won't advance its development and testing practices. How can I map out a software testing career path?

That isn't an easy position to be in. You might move onto more innovative companies, but they may be looking for skills that you've not been able to develop. You can't move on without the experience, but you don't have a way to get the experience. Many professionals face this problem.

I would start by reaching out within your own organization. You may find that there are like-minded people at the same working level who also want to learn and develop. If you can, reach out beyond your team to those people. You might find common ground with people outside of your immediate sphere of engagement who are also considering a software testing career path.

One approach that some organizations are using is the 'community of practice.'

One approach that some organizations are using is the "community of practice," which is an informal group that meets -- either physically or virtually -- to exchange ideas on how to improve knowledge and practices outside of your immediate project. You can meet informally, create online learning centers and exchange ideas on how to advance your practice within your organization. If you initiate the creation of a community of practice or similar internal organization and take on a leadership role, you can help provide a way for you and your peers to outline software testing career paths.

Of course, there are also things that you can do professionally outside of your organization to improve your advancement. You might consider participating in local or regional testing user groups (there are online groups as well), attending conferences that will help you engage with other ideas or even speaking at those gatherings.

The bottom line is that advancement in your career is driven by you, not your employer. It is helpful if your employer is also driven to move forward, but many aren't. You can learn and move forward on your own without assistance from your employer. It helps if your employer is engaged in technology and your own professional advancement, but most are not. Internally, you should look toward building bridges with other like-minded testers. Externally, you can find resources that will help you develop and expand your skills.

Next Steps

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How do you continue to develop your software testing skills?
First a funny:  Is the software is stable, why does it need testing?

OK, now the serious...

The Assurance of Quality involves so much more than Functional Testing. In fact, historically, such testing was the role of the QC [Quality Control] department, not the QA department. So the first decision point is: Are you interested in QA or Testing?

If testing, is the answer, then one must look at the changing role here. "Definitive Testing" (those tests which can be defined) should be automated - there are many roles around test automation that are distinct from test definition.

On Test Definition, that is beoming more the responsibility of the person/team creating the artifact. If you are creating a "Requirement" then you also define the "Acceptance Test". If you are writing a unit of Code, then you also define the "Unit Test". And many more...

So where does QA fit in if they are neither defining the tests, nor implementation the automation?  SIMPLE:  They are the ones with sufficient knowledge across the board to review the ENTIRE quality spectrum (of which functional is a small, but critical, part) and the work being done by all of the responsible parties in an integrated manner.