A Career in Software Testing


5 Aug 2011
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If you want to be a part of a dynamic and booming industry, then you might want to look at software testing as a career option.
The dynamic Indian IT industry has always lured the brightest minds with challenging career options. Students are also attracted to this field because, apart from getting international exposure, the earnings are usually higher. They also get the satisfaction of being a part of something that could possibly shape the future.
One such career option is software testing. Initially, software testing and software development went hand in hand, but now it has emerged as a specialized discipline in itself. The role of a software tester is crucial as they are trained to pick out flaws, if any, in the software. They test the software using various parameters to determine its ease of use, and flow of operation. They check the software for bugs and also determine whether it meets the business and technical requirements. This then helps the developers to iron out even the minutest of errors and save themselves from the embarrassment of a software failure due to a minor flaw.
The growth prospects are tremendous. As per Gartner Forecast, the industry will be worth $50 million with forecasted CAGR of 14 percent through 2014. According to Asheesh Raina, Principal Research Analyst, Gartner, “Organizations today have rapid cycles of change on the business front. Software testing is increasingly recognized as the cornerstone of supporting rapidly changing business conditions, making organizations more agile. Testing is important for India because it has a large ecosystem of IT service providers. Poor quality standards will have substantial strategic implications for IT service providers. In a few years, the enterprise, IT organizations and service providers will be distinguished by their quality capabilities (encompassing process and service management). Their position in the top tier will be substantially due to their quality capabilities and failure in that will lead to downtrend.”
Professionally trained software testers are in great demand and sought after in the industry. You can either become part of an independent software testing company or join an internal software testing department in a leading firm. We spoke with Vipul Kocher, President of the Indian Testing Board (ITB), to determine the potential of software testing as career.

“Market opportunities for the Indian offshore software testing companies are better than ever with the market recovering from the recent recession. Software companies are looking for software testers to fill that gap in recruitment over the recession years. The need for software testers is boosted with a large part of the software testing pie being outsourced to cheaper markets like India and China. Companies from India and abroad are investing in establishing 'centers of excellence' to effectively tap this growing market. More and more youngsters are now choosing software testing as a career option considering the softer delivery timelines compared to harsh development delivery deadlines. This is also becoming a career of choice with equal growth opportunities compared to any development career, including on-site opportunities.”
- Niraj Agrawal, Managing Director
MindScripts Technology Training Solutions

“With growing complexity of applications and the technology involved, organizations are increasingly focusing on software testing. For India, this is indeed a great business opportunity, given the fact that we garner a lion’s share of 70 percent of the outsourced testing services business across the world. A recent survey conducted by QAI across 90 companies involving over 4,000 software professionals indicates interesting trends in the area of software testing. Fifty out of 90 companies have over 200 dedicated testing members, which is approximately equal to 20 percent of their total workforce. Large companies like Satyam, Accenture, Wipro, and Infosys already boast of over 2,000 dedicated testing team members, and plan to increase the workforce by another 10 percent this year.”
– Pradeep C, CEO
Edista Testing Institute
(a venture of QAI Global Institute)
“Testing is a focused discipline and is to be taken as a dedicated career with all the passion it deserves. The testing discipline has evolved over the years and provides opportunities to experience and excel in one’s career. Gone are the days when testing was looked at as a necessary evil by organizations and development teams, to be rushed through at the end of the life cycle, and looked at as a stop-gap career arrangement by testers. Testing accounts for anywhere between 15 and 70 percent of the software life cycle activities depending on rigor required in testing, with the average hovering at around 25 to 30 percent. The growth prospect in any discipline will depend on firstly the growth of business and secondly on the specialization required. And as the demand for testing is on the rise there will be continued growth in demand for test professionals as well.”
– Renu Rajani, General Manager,
IBM India

“Software testing as a career option has evolved significantly in the last 10 years. Most of the product and services organizations have a dedicated career path for test engineers. Many engineering and management institutes teach software testing as a part of their core curriculum. To be a successful testing professional, an Engineering or MBA degree is preferred. Most of the organizations have realized that testing needs specialized attention. Testers become trusted advisors to the product managers and are responsible for a great customer experience. Being a testing professional also ensures a faster career growth, because the demand for testing is growing faster than many other disciplines. They can specialize in one of the specialized testing tracks. They can also grow into product managers, business analysts, project managers and trusted advisors.”
– Ananda Rao Ladi,
President of the STeP-IN Forum
Head, Testing Business Unit, MindTree

What does the job of a software tester entail?
The job of a software tester entails understanding what the user expects from a software product and evaluating the software being developed to see if it fulfills those expectations. These expectations relate not only to the features the software should have, but also other attributes, such as ease of use, performance, and security. In addition, the software tester has to ensure that even if users make mistakes while using the software and enter incorrect data, the software is able to handle those situations.

How important is the role of a software tester and what are his responsibilities?
Software testing jobs demand that the testers catch as many defects as possible so that end-users are not impacted. At least in today's scenario, the software tester stands between you and an unusable product. Most organizations today have a software testing role with corresponding development roles, and many organizations have a centralized testing team often called TCoE or Test Center of Excellence.
Software testers’ responsibilities, at various levels, include estimating the amount of work, writing test cases, executing test cases, creating defect reports, testing the fixed defects, working with developers to help identify and fix bugs, etc.

What skills must a software tester possess?
There are different types of skills required for different types of testing jobs. Anybody who possesses those skills or who is willing to develop those skills can become a software tester. For example, banking software often requires knowledge of banking. Desktop publishing software testing requires knowledge of desktop publishing. This is called domain knowledge. Then there is need for knowledge of testing i.e. how software testing is done, how it is managed, etc. There is another stream, which requires knowledge of programming. Automated testing, performance testing, and security testing are some examples of streams that require technical skills of development. Other skills required are excellent communication, eye for detail, and analytical skills.

What are the challenges involved?
There are many challenges. Knowledge of the domain, good testing skills and changing technology are some of them. There are other challenges such as lack of clarity of what the user wants, adversarial relationships with developers, and unrealistic expectations from the management, who want testers to magically remove all defects. Testers can only identify the defects, but not remove them. It is the job of developers to see that they produce fewer defects and not rely on testers to find all defects.

What are the educational qualifications required?
While there is no obligation to have any particular degree for being a tester, it is a good idea to have a degree in Computer Science, especially for the technical testing roles like automation and performance testing. A Bachelor of Engineering degree in CS/IT or any stream, or MCA, is a good qualification to have.

What is the scope for software testing in India?
There is huge scope. The Indian Testing Board has certified 30,000 testers in the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) foundation level exam. It is an international certification for testers. The huge numbers make up about 10 percent of the industry, or maybe less. With these types of numbers, it is already clear that testing has huge scope in India. There are many pure play testing companies, while most big companies have a dedicated testing department.

What is growth prospect and salary like?
Testers get paid good salaries, starting from Rs 2 lakhs per annum. Testers are paid as well as developers in most companies, and in the case of some smaller firms, they may even get paid more than the developers. It is difficult to find a good tester, and the growth prospects are huge.

While some institutes offering software testing courses seem to be affiliated with the Indian Testing Board, a few others are not. Which institute should one go for?
Indian Testing Board accredits training courses based on Foundation Level certificate of ISTQB. It means training organizations have to create good content and also it has to be in line with guidelines set by the ISTQB (http://www.istqb.org). Not all organizations can do that and some don't want to do that. We suggest that all courses and training institutes should be judged on a number of criteria, such as duration and contents of the course, trainer's profile, institute's reputation, accreditation, post-training placement assistance, and exposure to both theoretical and practical aspects of testing.
What are the various course levels? Is this certificate valid abroad as well?
ISTQB has three levels - Foundation, Advanced and Expert. This forms a comprehensive testing career ladder. Some other certifications that Indian Testing Board offers are IREB (International Requirements Engineering Board) and QAMP (Quality Assurance Management Professional).
There are over 47 national and regional boards spanning six continents, which are part of the ISTQB. There are over 150,000 ISTQB-certified testers all over the world. This is a truly international certification, which is recognized and respected all over the world.

Renu Rajani, General Manager, IBM India, who is also a STeP-IN Forum Steering Committee member, Evening Talks and Webinars, charts the various career paths one can choose in software testing.

Technical and automation
Today, engineering-oriented organizations encourage technical career paths. One could start with a Test Design/Test Execution role and specialize in use of right techniques to optimize testing design and execution and move up the career ladder. Many software labs today have positions of Senior Technical Staff members, equivalent to the Director level in the management discipline.

One could be a Business Analyst/Test Analyst to (a) analyze requirements for test-ware creation, (b) analyze defects, or (c) carry out trend analysis on historical defect data and apply techniques for defect prediction. Such roles could grow up to Defect Manager/Defect Coordinator, and are considered critical roles in test teams.

Domain consulting
Testing projects have a strong need for domain specialists (Financial Services/HealthCare) to know, understand and apply domain knowledge to test optimally. Domain knowledge is important to create adequate tests/analyze defects to test optimally. Many practitioners with a domain background find enriching careers in Domain Consulting for test projects.

Test consulting
Those who have a flair for best practices, process/method/tools for test projects and various software engineering life-cycles, added with excellent client-facing skills, are suited for helping clients implement world-class test processes. Usually, Test Consultants come from technical/analytical backgrounds.

Test architecting
This is a niche area and is in high demand. Good Test Architects have a flair for application and technical architecture, to help determine levels and types of testing, traceability, architect master test plan, and work closely with test managers to help execute overall test strategy. Many organizations are creating drives to nurture architectural thinking and create test architects from technical/analytical streams.

Test project/practice management
Most IT services organizations that offer test services have test-only projects and practices dedicated to test projects. Coming from any of above streams - technical/analytical/domain/process/architect, one could move up to lead test projects for one/multiple clients, participate in new solutions, and lead specific test offerings/practices.
In summary, the choices and paths are many. One must choose a path based on interests, skills and value one brings in to the discipline. One must choose a path based on interests, skills and value one brings in to the discipline.

Source : Chip magazine
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