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Good testing is about asking right questions: Intereview with Thanh Huynh

Software testing is not just to confirm things, it’s a process to explore, exercise the system to discover potential problems. You can achieve that by asking good questions to the system under test, yourself, your customers, your product owner, your manager, your colleagues, etc.
20 July 2016
Interviews
The article by a1qa
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Thanh Huynh is a tester and creator of online community for QA and software testing specialists. Thanh helps new testers do better job and believes that the key quality for testers is the ability to ask right questions.

Hi Thanh, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your professional experience and major interests?

First off, I would like to thank a1qa. I’m very honored to have been invited to do the interview.

Well, I’m a tester, a husband and father of a baby boy. I’m currently working at Datalogic Vietnam as a full-time tester. I’ve been in software testing for 10 years and played both roles as a tester and test lead. Besides of 9-5 job, I’m also running AskTester, a Q&A site where QA consultants can come and ask their questions. I also blog my ideas on AskTester to help new testers do better testing. While I’m not testing, I spend time with my little son.

You have recently published A Complete Guide to Becoming a Software Tester. What was the reason for doing this article?

This 2016 is my 10th year with software testing. It’s a long and interesting journey and when I look back, I see how lucky I was when I started with software testing. Things have changed a lot since then. Technology has changed, software testing market has changed, competitiveness has changed and you can’t just rely on luck to start your career in software testing these days. I write this step-by-step guide to help those who want to start their career in software testing.

If you haven’t read it yet, check it out. I have received many good feedbacks about that single post.

How would you define a good tester?

If you look up “characteristics of a good tester” on Google, you will find a long list of attributes people expect from a good tester. While those are valid attributes, I would like to put focus on one particular skill: Ability to ask good questions.

Software testing is not just to confirm things, it’s a process to explore, exercise the system to discover potential problems. You can achieve that by asking good questions to the system under test, yourself, your customers, your product owner, your manager, your colleagues, etc.

Besides of asking good questions, I also believe that curiosity and critical thinking are important, too.

How can a person get his/her first job in software testing?

First off, you have to figure out if software testing is for you or not. Basically, you have to find answers to these questions:

  • Why do you want to start your career in software testing?
  • What do you know about software testing?
  • Is it something you want to stick with?

You don’t have to have clear answers to these questions now, the idea is to see if software testing is something you want to do or not.

Secondly, you should learn things in the right way. There are many options to learn software testing. You can take an online course, take certification, do self-study, join local workshop or one-on-one coaching. Choose what fits you best.

Finally, you will have to search and apply for a full-time job. Here’s the order to do this right:

  • Get networking
  • Write a CV that works
  • Prepare for a successful interview

These are basically 3 phases I recommend to get your first job in software testing.

I know it’s not easy, but we don’t expect things are easy, right?

What are job and career opportunities for testers?

According to World Quality Report 2015-2016, budget for QA and Testing has risen to an average of 35% of total IT spend. It means that software testing is in need and most organizations still have budgets for it.

It depends on where you live, but in my opinion, there are always opportunities for testers as long as people develop software.

You believe that testers question things. What is the key to asking good questions?

One of the key things to ask good questions is to seek the answer yourself. Ask yourself the question first and try to find your answers. Don’t be lazy. More often, people just ask questions they even can answer themselves. Also, looking for as much information as possible will help your questions get answered well, too.

Are there any manual testing trends that you follow?

Yes, I do, but it’s not really a trend. I’m subscribed to “context-driven testing” method and still learning about it.

What online resources can new testers use to learn valuable information about testing?

These days you can probably find and learn everything online. Here are a few ideas new testers can use to learn about software testing:

  • Subscribe and follow software testing blogs. Some famous blogs you should know are:
    Developsense.com (Michael Bolton) – Read the interview with Michael in a1qa blog 
    Satisfice.com (James Bach) – Read the interview with James in a1qa blog
  • Learn the basics:
    Softwaretestinghelp.com
    Stickyminds.com
  • Read online magazines:
    TestingCircus.com
    TeatimeWithTester.com
    TestingTrapezeMagazine.com

Don’t get overwhelmed by the list. Just pick one or two that interest you the most and stick with it.

What is the main advice you can give for those who are new to software testing?

There’s nothing wrong when you’re new to software testing, you will learn things along the way. However, here are a few things new testers should put focus on so that they can give a head start in their career:

#1: Learn the basics

When you’re new, don’t get distracted by advanced techniques, tools or trends. You need to learn the basics first. If you don’t build a good foundation, learning advanced stuff may do more harm than good.

#2: Expose yourself

Don’t be afraid of being “newbie”. Be confident to ask questions. The more you ask, the more you know. Remember this:

“The only stupid question is the question that is never asked” – Ramon Bautista

However, to receive the most from the answers, you need to ask the right questions. Believe me, if you can practice and be good at this skill, you will improve your testing significantly.

#3: Work hard

When you are new, you need to work really hard to learn things. I don’t believe in the so-called “shortcut”. It’s all about working hard now to become a great tester later.

Thank you, Thanh, for your time and consideration.

You can ask more questions to Thanh in AskTester community.

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