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  • Writer's pictureGraham

21st Century Soft Skills - QA Edition - Part 2 - Redux


This is part 2 of of the soft skills I think enhances by a modern tester continuing on from part 1 here

What are soft skills?

According to Wikipedia, they are traits, qualities, behaviours and more that basically make you who you are. According to Collins, they are desirable qualities for certain employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge. They are, as you might think, the opposite of hard skills.

For example, using a fork - hard skill, coding - hard skill, using a map - hard skill. If you are a single developer, working on a single artefact with no interaction with other people then soft-skills wouldn't be high on the priority list. However, working in a cross-functional team, these hard skills have to be supported by soft skills.

I heavily promote the understanding of soft skills from a QA perspective as I think they are massively under-rated by managers, recruiters and employers. Pick some recent job specs, make a note of the prominence of the 'essential' provided shopping list. Now make a note of the soft skill references (if any). I'm happy to modify my thinking based on actual evidence.


Never lose sight of the end goal.

Always be that end-user, no matter where you are in the stack.

Decisions made in the API, will, in some form or other, bubble to the surface layer.

Decisions made at a story level will impact the entire stack, from designer to developer to team to organisation to user.


Educate those around you. Be passionate in what you do, talk about the concept and application of quality in everyday objects, suggest ways to improve, become an authority in your field. Give lightning talks, impromptu show and tells. Genuine passion is hard to fake and can be infectious.


Be aware of other people and their feelings, that defect you found may have great value to you and your ego but that Developer / PO / BA has a million and one things on their plate. That feature you convinced to misbehave that necessitates rework, that was the product of possibly hours of work and effort by a team mate. Mistakes and assumptions happen despite our best efforts, it’s one of the reasons you are gainfully employed. Play nice.


You may have put a great deal of time and effort into crafting that scenario, that design, that charter, that report.

Business priorities change all the time.

Be mindful that change is inevitable.

Be like Bruce.

Bruce would have been a great QA

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”


You may think your way is the best way but it isn’t the only way, it is ‘a’ way.

QA efforts will frequently boil down to modifying your ideal, gold class, iron clad approach against the wants, needs and expectations of your team and organisation.

Actively Listen.

Active listening is an invaluable skill.

When you communicate (at any level), the utilisation of active listening will yield far more value than merely being an attendant. Other participants will value the shift in attentiveness with the subsequent increase in your perceived value.

Terry would have been a great QA

“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”


New technologies, frameworks, approaches, methods, tool-sets appear all the time.

Read, and read some more.

Digest, question and apply.

Resources are virtually endless, 10 minutes a day reading a developer / agile / QA blog will add up over time.

10 minutes a day conversing with a dev about their unit test / deployment model / coding approach / thought process will make friends.

Every conversation is a learning opportunity.

Every stand-up is a learning opportunity.

Every 3-amigos is a learning opportunity.

Every refinement is a learning opportunity.

Every planning session is a learning opportunity.


You need to be okay with understanding your limitations, being incorrect and being corrected in turn.

It's okay to be wrong.

It's not okay to squander the learning opportunity.

A colleague offers advice, thank them and mean it.

Understand that if you don't make mistakes, you aren't learning.

It's easy to skate along in your knowledge bubble.

Note, being humble != doormat.


Being aware and mindful of these skills will make you a better tester. Practice and refine these skills daily, they don’t require coding or any real technical ability, but they do require effort.

They will enhance your effectiveness both within your team and on a wider organisational level.

It’s worth stating that these skills are not unique to a QA, application of some, or all, will enhance any individual, regardless of specialisation but they are absolutes that will make you a better QA.

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