Feeding your QA Career – Developing Instinctive & Practical Skills

Amy E Reichert

Posted On: November 4, 2022

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Read time9 Min Read

The QA testing profession requires both educational and long-term or experience-based learning. One can learn the basics from certification courses and exams, boot camp courses, and college-level courses where available. However, developing instinctive and practical skills works best when built with work experience.

QA testing requires a combination of skills that are part of your persona or are learned over time. Technical skills are acquired through education done on your own or purchased through an educational source. There are distinct human or personality traits that make the best QA testers. One can learn to code and understand numerous testing techniques and methodologies. However, the skills that set exceptional QAs apart are instinctive and practical, but not necessarily technical.

QA Career

What are the most valuable skills for a QA tester? What are instinctive and practical skills and how can they set you apart as a QA tester? How do you develop instinctive and practical skills when working as a QA tester?

Key Takeaways:

  • What are instinctive skills for QA testers?
  • Why are instinctive skills important?
  • What are the practical skills needed for QA testers?
  • Learn about educational options for technical and practical skills.
  • Discover how to grow instinctive and practical skills and nurture your QA career.

What are Instinctive Skills?

Instinctive skills are human-based. In other words, you cannot learn them from a course or reading material. Instinctive skills can be nurtured and developed, but they stem from a QA tester’s persona or personality. For example, one critical instinctive skill that’s important for a QA tester is the ability to read people. In other words, the ability to discern what the person says from what they mean. Are they honest? Are they telling the truth or simply giving you an answer to send you on your way?

Another important instinctive skill in a software development team is the ability to communicate across gender and cultural lines. In other words, the ability to effectively communicate with anyone in a positive and non-combative manner. Many call it manipulation, but QA testers with exceptional communication skills have few issues communicating with developers, designers, product managers, or CEOs. Instinctive communication skills may be passive or assertive, but they get results without using force, intimidation, or coercion.

Building trust by using exceptional communication skills combined with empathy helps to foster a collaborative and positive workplace. More collaboration equals stronger and more productive development teams.

Other instinctive skills for QA testers include:

  • Ability to distinguish the truth from the fiction
  • A fearless need to discover how objects function
  • Keen understanding of human interactions and personal communication differences
  • Ability to command respect without force
  • Acting in a calm but assertive manner and standing your ground without being combative or defensive
  • The art of persuasion or the ability to convince others to join your way of thinking using logic and reason
  • Remain positive in the face of disorganization and chaos
  • Maintaining resilience during both low and high work experience times

Why are Instinctive Skills Important?

Possessing or nurturing instinctive skills creates exceptional QA testers. Without the need for management intervention or interference, QA testers use their ability to communicate and read or understand human actions to enhance their drive for a higher-quality product. Better tools, improved work processes, realistic release schedules, and reasonable sprint or work planning are all benefits of using instinctive skills.

Instinctive skills go beyond the everyday how-to of practical skills and focus on gaining benefits over a longer term. In other words, the ability to read and understand people’s spoken or unspoken motives, concerns, and needs helps QA testers adjust their working relationships to gain the best benefit for customers. Application quality can often be affected by the trade-off of time versus money. There’s very little time to test and the application release provides the money that funds the continued operation of the company.

Striking a balance between customer experience and speed is essential for QA testers. Many times, the ability to rapidly adapt to change includes testing on shortened timelines to make promised customer dates. How a QA tester manages their workload remains consistent when organization is an instinctive skill. Staying organized under pressure keeps the focus on testing rather than getting frustrated, or negative when work doesn’t go as planned or isn’t as organized or structured as it could be.

The ability to continue to move forward in an organized and effective way is a strong instinctive skill that enhances the enjoyment of the testing job and creates longer-term employees that work towards solutions to improve the business.

What are the Practical Skills needed for QA Testing?

Practical skills include understanding coding to participate in code reviews and demos effectively. Another practical skill is the ability to read and picture requirements and user stories to develop effective test cases. The ability to communicate in writing to create usable reference or training information is also a practical QA skill.

Additionally, QA testers that learn the workflow process used within the development team, the overall business and then apply it to their workflow would have developed a distinct practical skill. The ability to analyze and apply workflow processes ensures team collaboration and a higher quality testing effort. Another practical skill is developing an understanding of business metrics and applying them to the QA or development team to improve process efficiencies and organization. Another practical skill is the ability to leverage analytics and metrics to innovate solutions that improve the application for customers. Another practical skill is the ability to read code, understand and use code parsers and create test automation to expand the QA team’s test coverage capabilities.

Practical skills for QA testers also include:

  • Ability to organize and re-organize as needed
  • Coding and interpreting code variances
  • Adaptability to change
  • Focus on the task at hand rather than what’s not possible
  • Ability to manage chaos both internally and externally
  • Execute test scripts
  • Understand and fill in missing steps or gaps when test cases are incomplete
  • Eye for detail or noticing errors even without error messages

Growing Instinctive and Practical Skills to Feed your QA Career

The first step is to say yes – yes to new projects, project management, or lead opportunities. Volunteer to start up a test automation project, or research and try out a test management or database tool. Sign up for a variety of options, whatever one stretches your existing skill set and allows you to meet and work with new team members.

Many QAs often hold back either due to being treated badly in a prior instance, lack of trust, or an existing overwhelming workload. The problem with holding back is it keeps you from meeting and interacting with others. Without interacting with others, you don’t learn or nurture either your instinctive or practical skills. Even if you’re overwhelmed with work, consider saying yes to new opportunities or special projects. Take a chance, go out on a limb and if it works, you’ll have gained a piece or two of additional knowledge and refreshed your skills.

Do you tend to be quiet and reserved? Then move out of your comfort zone and tackle something new. Do you find yourself in the limelight and you’d rather just do your job quietly and without being noticed? You think you do, but you don’t. Keep your name out there, command a sense of respect and dare I say, admiration. Even if nothing seems to happen, you may find a network connection later that remembers when you managed a project. It may not serve you immediately, but it may in the long run. Building instinctive skills is an ongoing task.

Build your practical skills the same way. Sign up for new projects or volunteer to manage or run something new. For example, perhaps you volunteer to review workflow processes and find where teams are running into issues. Perhaps there’s a project to reduce the number of tools used or condense development tools used to save time and reduce duplicate work.

Build additional practical and instinctive skills by actively communicating with others. Ask their opinions, give training, ask for insight, and learn new technologies. As a QA tester, find a willing developer who will train or show you how to automate API testing or create unit tests. Whatever it is, learn and communicate it. Then, offer training to others. Nothing solidifies your understanding of a topic like having to explain it to someone else.

QA testers can build on their instinctive and practical skills through performing software testing beyond the obvious. Take your tests further and deeper. Find the hidden critical defects under the surface. Build a reputation for finding critical defects by searching in different areas or areas that are harder to use. For example, APIs, database connections, or other backend processing engines and third-party code.

Building instinctive and practical skills are both important, but the instinctive skills set a QA tester apart. During work, engage with others as much as possible and say “yes” to new opportunities. Observe how people work and communicate and use your instincts to best work with them productively and positively whenever possible. Being positive doesn’t mean accepting abusive behavior, it means starting positive and building a working relationship. If you run into abusive coworkers, stand your ground and report the situation to your manager and human resources.

Offer training, advice, and mentorship and build your skills while at the same time developing trust. Discover the strength of building on your personal instincts to nurture, build, and grow a thriving QA career.

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Amy E Reichert

Amy E Reichert is a Freelance writer for a variety of topics focused mainly on QA testing, Agile, and technology trends. Amy has 23 years of professional experience as a QA Engineer/Analyst within the ERP, healthcare, and business management sectors. Many years of developing test process, leading diverse and inclusive teams as well as testing on mobile and web applications.

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