4 Essential Skills for a QA Engineer in an Agile Environment - Modernized Technology & Testing

Aug 8, 2016 1:56:00 PM / by Sanjay Zalavadia

Sanjay Zalavadia


Teams are an intricate balance of skills, cooperation, leadership and willingness to go the extra mile to make a quality product. Each grouping has individuals with specific roles and responsibilities, as well as a chain of command to help guide the team to success. Within a testing team, the QA Engineer plays an integral part that helps testing run smoothly and ensures that all projects are thoroughly evaluated.

Although the QA Engineer isn't the top dog in the team, he or she does report to the QA Manager. The person in the QA Engineer role essentially takes the requirements and test strategies and generates test plans. But that's not all. These individuals also execute these tests, leverage QA testing tools to report issues and analyze test results to mitigate problems and create better tests. This is obviously an important position to be in, but many don't fully understand what capabilities are needed. Let's take a look at some of the essential skill requirements for a QA engineer:

  • Communication
  • Product Understanding
  • Coding and Creativity
  • Automation

 

Communication

Under agile management, people are encouraged to share their ideas and collaborate with one another more than ever before. Communication is key for a QA engineer because a large part of the job depends on it. Individuals in this role participate in meetings and deliver status reports to stakeholders, but communication goes beyond these needs. QA engineers work directly with development and product definition teams to discuss bugs and work through solutions to fix these issues. Communication is critical in this case to keep all sides working well without offending developers when a defect is identified. With a QA engineer involved, they can negotiate through various situations to get things done in a reasonable timeframe and maintain quality standards.

 

Product understanding

Good testing comes from an ability to accurately understand the requirements and specifications laid out by stakeholders. Messina Group Inc noted that intimate knowledge of the product would help QA engineers evolve their test strategy and design capable test scripts. As explained earlier, the QA engineers are involved from the very beginning of a project, allowing them to directly ask questions about how the users expect the app to work and what types of functionality is needed. This knowledge sets great software apart from the pack and establishes a more customer-centric vision that will improve the overall user experience. Product understanding can also help QA engineers account for device and hardware requirements without compromising the quality of the program.

 

Coding and Creativity

Many professionals believe that testers don't have to learn how to program, they just need to understand how test cases work and how to execute them. However, this is far from the truth. Coding knowledge helps QA engineers identify dangerous programming and enables them to test more thoroughly in these areas. Since many organizations are moving away from manual operations, coding is also necessary to transition to writing and running automated test cases. QA engineers must not only create these scripts, but they must also consistently evaluate each case to verify that it's still effective. Any test that isn't pulling its weight must be reworked or removed.

Along with coding capabilities, QA engineers must be naturally creative. Messina Group noted that this attribute could help root out hidden bugs and determine all the scenarios that are likely to detect a defect. There are a number of testing methods that are commonly used, but QA engineers have to look beyond these approaches to use the best tests possible for their situation. This could include using exploratory testing to look at the software from a different view. QA engineers can then use their information to boost test cases and detection capabilities.

 

Automation

Although automation was briefly touched on earlier, this skill is a rising requirement not only for QA engineers but all QA members. This comes from the fact that more organizations are striving to support agile, and automation testing gives teams the flexibility to run repetitive tests without all the headache of doing it manually. It's easy to see why this capability is in such high demand. TechBeacon contributor Yvette Francino noted that QA professionals need to be open to learning the new techniques in this practice as automation requirements continue to climb. QA engineers should also note that adopting automation and coding knowledge will help them become better at white-box and black-box testing, adding another layer to their quality standards practices.

Organizations are made up of a number of teams that collaborate to support products and services. Within the QA team, QA engineers uphold a significant role that affects how applications are tested and the quality of the releases. Coding and automation are major assets to have, but QA engineers will also need soft skills like communication and product understanding to set themselves – and the software – apart from the pack.

 

QA engineers must have intimate knowledge of their product.

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Topics: DevOPs, Agile, Agile Testing, Zephyr, Automated Testing, Quality Assurance, Testing, Modernized Technology

Written by Sanjay Zalavadia

As the VP of Client Service for Zephyr, Sanjay brings over 15 years of leadership experience in IT and Technical Support Services. Throughout his career, Sanjay has successfully established and grown premier IT and Support Services teams across multiple geographies for both large and small companies. Most recently, he was Associate Vice President at Patni Computers (NYSE: PTI) responsible for the Telecoms IT Managed Services Practice where he established IT Operations teams supporting Virgin Mobile, ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile and Carphone Warehouse. Prior to this Sanjay was responsible for Global Technical Support at Bay Networks, a leading routing and switching vendor, which was acquired by Nortel. Sanjay has also held management positions in Support Service organizations at start-up Silicon Valley Networks, a vendor of Test Management software, and SynOptics.

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