Matt Saunby
Mar 22, 2016
5 mins reading time

Becoming A Software Tester

About a year ago I was driving 3.5T sprinter vans, delivering groceries for a well-known supermarket, considering what I was going to do with my career and wondering when I was next going to be able to use a toilet. Now I’m a Software Tester at Holiday Extras, who are currently 20th on The Sunday Times Best 100 Companies to Work For. This blog is about how I made that change and how I’ve adapted from thinking that CSS stood for Counter Strike Source, to being able to effectively test a website.

The interview process for Holiday Extras was by far the hardest and most challenging I’ve experienced. After submitting my application, there was a telephone interview, an assessment day and then a face to face interview before I was offered the job. As I was really after a challenge, this was a wonderful taste of just how much I would be pushed in this new role.

Holiday Extras do things a bit differently to most other companies. For example, they don’t have a HR department; they have the People Team. They also don’t have a probation period for new starters but rather an ‘onboarding’ process, and this is a fundamental 12 weeks which was probably the steepest learning curve.

The first thing I did was come up with some demanding objectives with my line manager to be achieved by the end of my onboarding. I then spent a couple of weeks rotating around the different pods (sub-teams) in the Web Team where I shadowed other testers and quickly picked up testing processes, techniques and skills. During these first few weeks, purely from the sheer volume of information I was absorbing, my brain genuinely hurt at the end of each day. This wasn’t a bad thing though! If anything, it confirmed that I was really challenging myself. I went on to spend a month or two testing work for the European side of the business, which also led to an unforgettable business trip to Munich. Shortly before my onboarding review I moved to the Trading Pod, which is where I am still residing today.

Having been ‘onboarded’ (and rewarded with a hoody and booze) I set another lot of challenging objectives for the coming 6 months. Most of what I learnt in these 6 months was through watching others and then doing myself, however there are plenty of online resources available in the testing community. At Holiday Extras we have something called “Project Lounge” every other Friday where everyone is actively encouraged to further their own learning, whether that means sitting down to write a blog, or coming up with a new idea for the website. We’re also encouraged to attend conferences to learn more and I very recently attended one of the biggest conferences in the UK for the testing industry. Run by the Ministry of Testing, Testbash was a day of workshops followed by a conference day in Brighton. Meeting others in the same industry but from different companies was definitely an eye opening experience. For example, I was very surprised to hear that one particular company have retrospectives every 3 months in comparison to how often we have them at Holiday Extras, which is once a fortnight.

Being in the Trading Pod has been the best environment for me to understand the importance of testing our work across different web browsers and different devices. I’ve also worked on all of our core systems and platforms which I wouldn’t have necessarily done in some of the other pods who work on fewer platforms. I’ve learnt how to diagnose some issues that I encounter whilst testing by using inspect element in the browser and checking the console whilst reloading the page, meaning that I can give the developer a much better idea of where to start trying to fix the issue. This is important as it saves the Developer time in diagnosing the issue, meaning they can fix it quicker and hand it back for further testing. I’ve been introduced to many tools that I can now use to help me test work, from Gas Mask (to manage host files) to Sequel Pro (to extract information from the database). Other generic tools I’ve discovered include Spectacle (for mac, to quickly resize windows) and Awesome Screenshot (which allows you to take full length screenshots on mobiles for example) which have also completely transformed the way I work and test.

Just short of a year into the role and I’d like to think that I’ve certainly learnt the fundamental skills required of a Software Tester, and for that I definitely have to thank my fellow testers and developers too. Everything I’ve learnt so far has been brand new; working in an agile way, business/product knowledge and technical skills. I still have a lot to learn about software testing and I think the beauty of being a tester, or working in the Web Team, is that there is almost no end to what I can learn, what I can do to better myself, or where the role will take me in the next year!

Tags testing, career, web, testers, qa, software, hx, holidayextras