Testing has always been a skilled job that demands a mix of skills, dedication, and patience. But testing is changing rapidly. Nowadays, AI offers companies an unrivalled ability to test in depth and at scale. This means the traditional skills of test engineers also need to change. So, how can you upskill yourself and make sure you can get the most out of AI-powered test automation?
The traditional QA skills
The original software testers had to rely on manual testing. Their role was to vet software thoroughly just prior to release. They also had the tricky task of replicating bugs that had been reported by users. This required certain skills that set manual testers apart from most others in the software development world.
Accuracy and concentration
Manual testing has always demanded a high level of accuracy. It is essential to follow each test plan perfectly and to log the results at every stage. This level of concentration is hard for most people to sustain. Imagine sitting your school leaving exams every single day and having to score perfect marks each time. That’s what we have been asking manual testers to do for years!
Needless to say, repeating the same tests over and over again requires patience. Especially when you expect the same outcome every single time. Clearly, many other jobs are repetitive like this, but most of them allow you to get into a routine. Testing is different because you are trying to spot subtle changes in outcomes.
Another important skill is tenacity. When analyzing the steps to recreate a bug you have to stick at it, trying idea after idea, and making precise notes as you go. This requires a dedication to your job and a determination not to be defeated. A good manual tester won’t like to admit being defeated by a bug!
The final skill that sets apart manual testers is curiosity. You have to be driven by wanting to understand and replicate bugs. This is especially true when a reported bug only happens very rarely. Here, the ability to think laterally about all the factors that could be at play is essential.
Skills in the era of scripted automation
Test automation was brought in to address two problems. Firstly, even the best manual testers can end up making mistakes with repetitive and long-winded tests. Everyone has off days, or times when their concentration slips. But computers don’t have that problem. Thus, test automation can be used for the most routine and repetitive testing tasks. Secondly, humans need sleep, rest, and holidays. Computers can run 24/7. That means automated testing is a continual process, ideal for churning through tests in your regression suite. But what skills did test engineers have to develop?
Needless to say, the central skill for writing test scripts is being able to write code. I sometimes hear test engineers being described as pseudo-developers, but that is really unfair. The fact is, writing test scripts is a different form of software development. Some developers specialize in frontend, others in full-stack or backend. Test engineers specialize in creating test scripts.
Test scripting requires deep knowledge of how web UIs work. You need to understand concepts like CSS selectors, XPaths, DOMs, etc. More to the point, you need to know how these impact your test scripts. On top of that, you also have to understand how the UI is meant to behave. That means a good knowledge of UI/UX and the ability to understand design documents created by the product team.
Test engineers also need a fair degree of patience. That’s because almost every time a new build is pushed all their test scripts will fail. As a result, they spend large proportions of their time fixing and debugging tests. Imagine how frustrated a typical developer would get if every single pull request broke all their old code? Well, that’s just normal life for a test engineer!
Skills for AI-powered test automation
Recently, test automation has moved into the AI era. Here at Functionize, we have been leading this drive because we believe testing needs to get much smarter. So, what are the new skills you need to get the most out of AI-powered solutions such as ours?
Tools like our Architect allow anyone to create smart automated tests in minutes. But it’s important to make sure you don’t just start recording tests blindly. Instead, you need to have a really good understanding of how the application under test really works. Our AI-first approach relies heavily on machine learning. When you create tests, you need to give it hints about what should be happening (we call these verification steps). One of the key skills is understanding what makes a good verification and how many of these you need.
Functionize allows you to test at an unprecedented scale. That means you will have far more test results available than you ever would have in the old days. In turn, these need to be analysed. We have added all sorts of smarts to our platform to help you. These include visual verifications, visual completion metrics, and more. However, you still need to be able to understand and classify the results. Fortunately, you won’t be alone, because our integrations and unlimited license make it easy to share test outcomes with anyone in the bigger team.
AI allows us to offer new test capabilities that simply can’t be done in traditional scripted testing. For instance, testing 2-factor authentication in login flows or automatically validating PDFs that are created by your application. We also allow you to store and access variables within and between tests. Making the most of these new capabilities requires lateral thinking. You need to break out of the strictly linear way of thinking required in test scripts and think bigger.
Trying it out for yourself
Do you think you have the skills to make a great AI test engineer? Or are you intrigued to see some of the advanced features I mentioned above? Perhaps you are skeptical that AI really can achieve so much more than scripted testing? My advice would be, book a demo with one of our sales engineers and see Functionize in action.