21st Century Soft Skills - QA Edition - Part 1 - Redux
Updated: Jul 4
What's the problem?
Technology moves at a fair old pace these days. Organisations are overflowing with technical experts promoting the latest bit of shiny. Organisations are overflowing with teams implementing the latest bit of shiny. One thing that gets forgotten about in the race to shinytopia is that the implementation is undertaken by real people. These people have real needs, wants and expectations. These people have unique perspectives, biases and personalities.
As a representative of the QA function, you are more often than not, seen as the master of doom. The person that’s always judging, always complaining, always critical. In the world of development, perception is 9/10th’s of the law, that perception can help or hinder your efforts.
Mitigating the negative perceptions and amplifying the positive perceptions can bring unique challenges. Soft skill development can go some way towards solving these challenges. Whilst technical skills can enhance your value as a QA. You could get by without an in depth knowledge of [insert language of choice here]. You will have technical experts in the framework of choice. Or at least the underlying concepts to assist you in implementation.
In the context of this post, tester, means someone with the sole function of creating and implementing simple scripts based on known requirements or user stories. QA means someone who moves beyond simple script creation to someone who involves themselves throughout the process and is an advocate for quality.
The soft skills outlined here can enhance your value as a QA and your value to your team / organisation. If you become proficient in at least a few of these, it will make you a valuable asset beyond that of a simple tester.
If you work on nothing else, work on communication. From how to build rapport through to non-verbal skills. Regularly practice both written and verbal communication.
The ability to communicate ideas and concepts in a non-technical manner is one of the central tenets of a QA.
It is also one of the core skills of a great QA.
Work on improving your grammar and spelling.
Write blogs (even if you are the only view).
Ambiguity kills kittens. It can have negative effects on the delivered product. It can have negative effects on the customer. It can have negative effects on the organisation.
The panda eats shoots and leaves' is a famous example of non-critical ambiguity. Ambiguity in relationships has negative effects which last long beyond the initial exchange.
Engage with those around you. The Developer, the Product Owner, the Scrum master, the Business analysts, other QA. Ask for opinions on your efforts, may be surprised. This will enhance your skillset and by extension, the deliverable. You may even garner a little respect. Be precise but succinct. It will avoid confusion. Busy people will appreciate and absorb the message better. You are not an island, you are but one small part of a developmental ecosystem.
“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.”
You need to come to terms with feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable. Talk with your peers, your team and the organisation. Talk about those things that others would prefer not to be discussed. You need to be okay with being the one person in the room that sticks their hand up to disagree with an approach. You need to be okay with being the one person that wants to have an informed opinion on every facet of the development process. Especially where it pertains to a quality aspect or goal. You need to be okay with the possibility that you are incorrect. See all those nodding heads at the standup…they have questions.
This is your battlefield. You’ll never, no matter how hard you try, be an expert in every technology, framework, tool-set, language and approach. Choose your battles. Be honest with yourself, admit your weaknesses and seek out people who want to help. People are, on the whole, good. They want to do the best job possible with the information they have...like you. Be realistic about the 'now', change what you can, attempt to influence what you can't. Don't confuse pragmatism with fatalism.
Look at the value in everything you do. Inspection of stories. Clarification of assumptions. Scripting a test. Undertaking an exploratory session. Raising a defect. Discussing a feature. If what you’re doing doesn’t have intrinsic value then stop, seek advice, prepare to rethink, rework and adapt. Part 2 coming soon.