Skills to Learn as a QA Engineer

Skills to Learn as a QA Engineer

Humans make mistakes.

We commit typos. We forget critical requirements. We underestimate some problems and overestimate others.

We would all be better off with angelic supervisors who help us anticipate, prevent, and correct mistakes before it’s too late.

In the software development field, these watchdog supporters are known as QA engineers – and they’re incredibly in demand.

So what does it take to become a QA engineer?

And how can you maximize your chances of success in this field?

What Is a QA Engineer?

QA engineer

QA stands for “quality assurance,” and it’s indispensable for any software development team. QA engineers are professionals responsible for directing and overseeing the QA process.

QA engineers serve the role of making sure there are no bugs or errors (or, more realistically, as few bugs and errors as possible) in a piece of software when it’s ready to ship. To achieve this, QA engineers typically supervise every stage of the software development process, from design to development to testing and deployment.

These professionals have a wide range of tools and strategies they can use to improve the finished quality of software products. They typically talk to clients, project managers, and developers routinely throughout the process. They examine the code itself and conduct both automated and manual quality assurance tests. They identify problems, track and report on specific performance metrics, and serve as a liaison between different departments and teams.

It’s a big responsibility, but with the right skills, it’s a totally manageable one.

Why Does QA Engineering Matter?

Why do we care about QA engineering?

  •       Minimizing bugs and errors. One of the biggest goals of QA engineering is to minimize bugs and errors in the finished product. Bugs and errors, in the best possible scenario, inconvenience and annoy users. In the worst possible scenario, they can have catastrophic consequences, leading to security failures and breaches. Even the best developers sometimes make mistakes and overlook details, which is why QA engineers are so important to the team.
  •       Improving client/customer/user satisfaction. Having QA engineers means generally improving client, customer, or user satisfaction. If you’re producing software for a client, they’ll be happier to see more polished work. If you’re producing software directly for end users, they’ll have an easier time using your product. On top of that, QA engineers are typically go-between communicators who can better assuage concerns and take action on specific problems causing distress.
  •       Improving productivity/efficiency. Another goal of QA engineering is improving overall productivity and efficiency. They can help streamline communication between departments and individuals, and help identify potential issues long before they disrupt the development process. They can also help identify, diagnose, and chart paths to resolving certain bugs, and can coordinate between developers to facilitate faster, more productive responses.
  •       Making a better product. QA engineering also leads to the creation and maintenance of better software products overall. This is incredibly valuable for any company, as a better software product is going to attract more customers, retain those customers, and potentially earn more positive press coverage.
  •       Streamlining communication. Any software development team knows how important good communication is. Within teams, a communication breakdown can lead to inefficiency and wasted time. Between teams, communication breakdowns can lead to mismatched priorities and interpersonal conflicts. When QA engineers step in, they can smooth out these problems proactively and ensure communication flows smoothly both within and between teams.

And of course, as individuals, many people choose to become QA engineers because it’s a somewhat lucrative field that’s highly in demand across various industries. QA will always be necessary, as will software development, so it’s a practically future-proof career.

Skills to Learn as a QA Engineer

There are several hard skills that can help you start a career as a QA engineer:

  •       Programming/coding. QA engineers don’t spend all day coding, but they are required to examine the back-end code of software products and understand the programming and development process to achieve their goals. Accordingly, it pays to have at least some familiarity with the most popular programming languages, such as Python, Java, C#, and Ruby. Depending on the unique demands of your position and the qualifications of your other team members, you may not need to be a master in any individual programming language. However, you should at least be able to identify potential bugs and errors and make recommendations for how to avoid or fix them.
  •       Debugging and bug database management. The heart of QA engineering is debugging, and by association, bug database management. Being able to effectively identify, track, and manage bugs will make you a highly valuable QA engineer. The best way to develop your skills here is through practice, so get as much experience debugging and tracking bugs as you can to maximize your chances of success.
  •       Project management. Good QA engineers are also good project managers. They’re able to effectively understand and communicate high-level goals. They can break big projects into smaller, more digestible milestones and tasks. They can communicate between team members and stay on track for hitting deadlines. They’re also intricately familiar with project management systems and various project management philosophies. Over time, as a QA engineer, you’ll develop your own unique individual style for handling major projects and initiatives.
  •       Tool/platform familiarity. It’s also helpful for QA engineers to have familiarity with various tools and management platforms that are commonly used in the industry. Tools like BugHerd, Mantis Bug Tracker, Stryka, TestRail, Jira, QAComplete, and TestFLO are commonly used for bug tracking, project management, and resource coordination in QA. Depending on the nature of your position (and the company you work for), you may have some influence over which tools are used or chosen; otherwise, you should be adaptable and quick enough to learn new platforms in relatively short amounts of time.

These soft skills are also imperative to develop if you want to improve your effectiveness as well as your rapport with others:

  •       Analytical reasoning. QA engineers strongly benefit from analytical reasoning. In other words, you need to be able to think logically and quickly to determine the root cause of various problems and the best courses of action for fixing those problems. This is going to come in handy in more than one area of your job. The most obvious application is that it’s going to help you better understand the root causes of bugs, so you can better prevent or address them. But this is also helpful for analyzing potential obstacles that could stand between you and a successfully met deadline – or analyzing and addressing miscommunications between teams.
  •       Communication. Speaking of communication, it’s also vital for QA engineers to be able to communicate concisely, clearly, and effectively to multiple types of people. Even people outside the software development industry understand that clients, project managers, and developers all have different experiences and perspectives that can sometimes lead to crossed wires and misunderstandings. Good QA engineers are able to communicate to people within all these groups, and do so in a way that allows everyone to understand the issues at hand and do their jobs better. It’s a tall order, but one that successful QA engineers can fulfill.
  •       Critical thinking. QA engineering demands critical thinking as well. Not all bugs are obvious and not all problems are easy to solve. You need to be able to identify and diagnose key weaknesses and limitations, even before software projects begin to be developed. The more carefully and specifically you’re able to scrutinize software products, the more appreciated you’ll be as a QA engineer.
  •       Creative problem solving. Similarly, you need to master the art of creative problem solving. Programmers and developers share this need, but QA engineers must apply it in a different range of circumstances. For example, QA engineers must be able to creatively solve problems related to bugs and errors within a software platform. But they must also be able to creatively solve problems that arise from communication breakdowns within teams or goals that can seemingly no longer be met.
  •       Time management. Any good QA engineer is going to have strictly disciplined, sharp time management skills. In a given day, you might be required to attend several meetings, coordinate multiple tasks, oversee automated software testing, and begin helping with the design work of a new software project. Finding a way to keep up with all of that, while simultaneously responding to emails and ongoing communication, can be a headache. Properly compartmentalizing your time and working more efficiently can help you navigate this.
  •       Precision. When even a small issue could lead to a catastrophic security failure, there is no room for silly mistakes. And as a QA engineer, you’re going to be the last line of defense – the safety net – responsible for catching everyone else’s mistakes. Absolute precision is an absolute must if you want to be consistently successful in your job.
  •       Empathy. It’s tempting to think of QA engineers as back-room computer nerds who keep their heads down and their keyboards clacking. But in reality, QA engineers spend much of their day communicating with and managing others. Accordingly, some of the best QA engineers are ones that can practice empathy; they understand the limitations and concerns of others, and can talk to them in a way that makes them feel better. Good QA engineers are excellent collaborators and are generally supportive human beings.
  •       Flexibility. While we’ve outlined many key responsibilities and skills associated with QA engineering, it’s important to note that every workplace and every situation is unique. Different employers may have different philosophies on what QA engineering is or isn’t, they may use different tools, and they’ll certainly develop different types of software products. Even within the same job, your responsibilities may fluctuate from day-to-day. That’s why it’s important to develop flexibility and adaptability if you want to increase your desirability and value as a QA engineer.

Are you interested in building a career as a QA engineer?

Or are you looking for a QA engineer to join your team or help develop your product?

We might be able to help you.

DEV is a software development company that offers robust QA testing services. If you’re ready to start the conversation, contact us today!

Chief Revenue Officer at Software Development Company
Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue-generation activities for marketing and software development activities. He has helped to scale sales teams with the right mix of hustle and finesse. Based in Seattle, Washington, Tim enjoys spending time in Hawaii with family and playing disc golf.
Timothy Carter