Common Pitfalls for Newcomers and How can they Be Avoided?

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    Ronan Healy

    Entering the testing world can be difficult. After spending that time acquiring all that theory, people new to the field are eager to apply their knowledge.

    However as common for many different careers, there are just some aspects of being a software tester that you can only learn on the job. As part of out ‘Learning to Test’ series of discussions, I am curious to ask; are there common issues for junior testers when starting out? Do, for example newcomers learn the theoretical method to do certain tasks but in reality, it can be done completely differently?

    If you are a junior tester, have you come into situations like this?If so, what have you learned from the job that you might not have been prepared for? If you are a tester with experience and/or a test manager, do you see the same pitfalls happening again with newcomers to the job. How do you think these should these be avoided?



    Hi Ronan,
    I am a new tester to the industry with almost 3 months full time experience. I have found that some theoretical work has been proved to be very helpful (as in it helped me get my current job at the interview stage) but I have learned so much more by simply being at work, and taking a hands on approach. My biggest pitfall has been not asking enough questions, especially to the Developers. I still have a sense of intimdation with them, even though they are absolutely lovely. But having very little experience I can feel a little out of my depth. Thankfully I am slowly coming out of my shell and they hate to see me coming, which I secretly love, means I am doing something right. 🙂 I do have some good training behind me such as RST & RTI (James Bach) and I try to use what I can where I can. The only thing I really havent been prepared for has been the complexity of the software I am testing. Its by no means an easy thing to get my head around and this has proved challenging as well as rewarding. I think you are never truly prepared for any testing job, even though the fundamentals may all be the same, the only thing that is different is the software and how complex it may or may not be. This is just my opinion and I am sure others have a different thought on this. It will be interesting to see what others have to say and what issues they face. 🙂

    Ronan Healy

    Hi Emma,
    It seems like most jobs, it is hard to beat getting the “on the job” experience. Indeed it would be interesting to see from a managers viewpoint how they approach new testers coming on board and the common issues they might see with that.


    Hi Ronan,

    what I remember from my career path and talking about junior difficulties where you can’t learn from any testing book – specific area where you start working and game changes.

    1) I started my testing career in insurance company where is specific terminologies, workflows, etc. (also there is other areas with specific approaches like: banks). At beginning it’s hard to know what is talking about and how should it work. One of solution which helped me to know better and understand this area – read books, articles.

    2) When project is at deadlines the testing approach slightly changes – skipping some important steps at testing: no documentation, no test cases etc.
    In most of fundamentals testing books there are written with all happy scenarios, but there is no written what should do when project is not on track and it’s not very good starting school. But you know, all bad things can have positive effect 😉


    Hi Emma

    I remember all those years ago going through the same thing, even the dread developers eyes as you start to pick things up and get into your effective phases. One thing piece of advise I will give you is: Try to get over the novelty and power of causing fear. Over time my personal attitude changed from trying to find holes and generate respect through fear and found that when you befriend the developer and think of it as working together to deliver a quality product of value, i.e. the developer creating and you helping them to produce quality and avoid later heart ache. The relationship gets better and as you become included in the development team you get to learn so much more and so much easier. If you learn with the developer you can also get them to make the product more testable and help you to make testing easier.

    Hi Ronan
    You wanted a Test Managers view: I have employed many experienced and novice testers, even helped migrate a Admin Assistant to the test team as a junior tester.
    There are 3 types of new tester as I see it. Probably more, but in my simple view, just 3.
    1- The ‘On-The-Job’ who has not done the theory, but has some experience.
    2- The ‘Theorist’ who has not done the job yet, but has trained.
    3- The ‘Sponge’ who has no experience, and no training, but is enthusiastic and ready to learn, has an aptitude/understanding

    #1 can either be left to develop and pointed and some knowledge to bring them up more. You have to be careful that they do not think they know it. Even a veteran of testing doesn’t know it all. Careful management and direction is required to ensure this person develops in the right direction.
    #2 needs to be paired with an moderately experienced colleague. After being told to forget the training and cheery pick what they have been told and apply it appropriately. I find formal training to be good at theory and helps to develop the practice, but it’s not that black and white. As Emma has said, the real world software is rarely as simple as training courses. And the environment is so diverse you have to adapt what you know to what you do.
    #3 Needs a patient mentor and starts with more shadowing than pairing. With short term goals that are designed to quickly develop their testing skills and experience. The first shock for a sponge is the amount of knowledge they need to absorb, and just how many ways there are to use what they thought was a simple application, e.g. word. After goals that train the mind to look at a software product in the way a tester does they start to understand how to write simple test scripts and over time build and build.

    All new team members tend to face the same pitfall: It’s not the same as the last job/training you did. You need to adapt and learn very quick.

    My universal advice. Listen, watch, ask and take notes.
    No question is a silly question. If you don’t know the answer, someone else might not either. And nobody expects you to know it all. It’s amazing how many times I’ve asked a developer, PM, or SME a seemingly silly question for them to stop, think and say ‘That’s a good question, I’ll have to find out.’
    Nobody minds someone asking questions, if it means they learn something and are more likely to get something right. But nobody likes the same question from the same person 5 times.

    Don’t be afraid of anyone. Even the CEO is a person and generally every person has a social side. Just know when to talk the them and how.

    Good luck to anyone new to testing, it is an interesting field and frustrating and rewarding and exhausting, but always new.


    My question then is: How does the new tester avoid learning just enough to make it look like they’re getting by at work?

    Bit of background:

    – I’ve been ‘QA’ for just under 3 months now. It’s been an amalgamation of quality assurance and testing (usually end to end… the devs carry out their own unit testing and I don’t have to worry about integration at the moment).

    – I assume that I know nothing and am happy to ask questions of my managers and the people I work with!

    I get on well with my team’s developers but feel that I am not testing thoroughly. I have a reading list as long as my arm but I’m mostly vetting tickets at the moment (does this do what it’s meant to do? Can I do what the developer expects a user to do while making sure that any assumptions I’m making are correct?) I feel like there is a lot of ground I am not covering.

    I don’t have a mentor and am the only person in my position, which is partly why I’m trying TestHuddle out for size. I want to engage more with the product and know how to test well – not so that it’s perfect, but so I can find important things that are wrong rather than spelling mistakes and colours that are a shade out.


    Hi Ari

    Let me know the particular area of testing are you interested in learning more about and i’ll direct you to the correct resources and people to help you out.

    Daragh 🙂

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