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TESTERS: TOP 10 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR JOB, GUEST BLOG BY BETH MARSHALL

Tuesday 22nd March 2016
Tags: guest blog

 Beth Marshall is an experienced software  testing  professional, having worked in a  number of roles  across the UK and US for the past 8 years. Based in  Leeds, she  is  passionate about technology and it's  growing success in The North. In this guest blog  Beth provides some advice to the testing community  on how to ensure they keep in a job.

 So, you’ve got your foot in the door of a great new  testing role  based on your sparkling CV, great  experience, winning technical knowledge and  making  a great impression at your interview - even if you do say so yourself! So what will keep you there, get you through your probation or secure you a contract extension?  A recent article by Frank Battison suggested how well you do your work accounts for just 10% over your overall success.

I’ve formulated a list based upon the responses of colleagues and ex-colleagues in addition to my own experience, to try to understand what some of the remaining 90% might, and importantly might not, entail for us testers. In no particular order, here’s the top 10:-

1. Make work your priority 
When discussing this in the office, this was perhaps the suggestion which most agreed with. We’ve all worked with the QA who thinks no one notices that they're lining up their next job/spending hours browsing the internet or working on their social lives on work time – they’re usually the same people who get defensive and come up with very lofty reasons why they haven’t been able to finish their test execution on time. You are paid to do a job, you need to make work your priority while you’re there.  This is especially important to remember if you’ve handed your notice in but don’t want to burn bridges – however tempting it may be to mentally check out early, it will be remembered if you ever try to come back.

2. Help your boss
Thinking strategically, the most important person to satisfy is the one who signs your timesheets, or decides on whether to renew you – impress this person on a personal level by doing what you can to help them out and this won’t be forgotten.  This may be things which have nothing to do with your day job e.g. standing in for your boss when she’s ill, attending interviews or give a second opinion on some MI report.  You never know when you will work with someone again, and going over and above will push you to the back of the who-can-we-do-without list.

3. Go over and above
It’s surprising how many places would love to embrace new technology, but they simply can’t spare the time away from the coal face for exploration.  If you’re the person who turns up one morning having committed a few hours of your own time into something that instantly adds value (bonus points if it also helps your boss), you’ll be golden come review time.  This doesn’t have to be anything massive or reliant on you to continue to work unpaid.  Think working example of an automation tool running a test on the actual website you’re testing, setting up a wiki for your project or sorting out email groups to improve team comms.

4. Become a ‘go-to’ person
I wrote a recent article on this topic.  If someone asks you something (testing related or not) and you can answer straight away or not give up until you find someone who can, that’s a trait which will make you stand out.  It’s important not to confuse a go-to person with an information hogger – you might think it’s a good strategy to be the only tester has their hands on the batch script needed to generate that vital test data suite, but it’s likely the old saying “if someone’s indispensable you need to get rid of them” isn’t lost on your boss.

5. Listen
People who think they have all the answers and are dismissive of other’s ideas or suggestions – even if they are right – don’t tend to last long.  Stephen Mounsey of CallCredit in Leeds, advocates active listening.  The benefits of listening consciously could make the difference between those around you wanting to continue to work with you or not.  Keep your ear to the ground for up and coming testing initiatives or future projects you may be able to upskill for.  If you know a new mobile app is being talked about, how about checking out Appium, or reading up on iOS design principles?

6. Be easy to work with 
A successful contractor told me “Your CV gets you an interview, the interview gets you a contract, but your personality gets you extended.”  Whilst personality is difficult to define, it’s a good rule of thumb to aim to be someone who your colleagues find a pleasure to work alongside.  This often trumps technical ability when it gets around to promotion/extension time.  

7. Utilise your network

Promote your client/employer on social media, be positive about them at networking events and don’t be afraid of recommending them to others in your network who may be in the market for a new testing role.   

8. Stick to the rules
Everyone can think of at least one example of this. A new, unproven member of the team expects favours before they’ve gotten to grips with the formal, and importantly informal, work culture.  If your office isn’t flexible, it’s not OK to leave early under the premise that “you’ll make the time up”. Anything which directly or indirectly inconveniences those you work with will undoubtedly rub people up the wrong way.  Earn your perks.

9. Own your mistakes
This is sometimes difficult for experienced permies, let alone contractors who’ve likely been hired for a particular skillset.  However, in my experience, being prepared to say “that was my screw up, here’s how I’m going to fix it” (or preferably, “here’s what I’ve done already to sort this out”) will be far more beneficial to you in the long run than both the ‘say-nothing-and-hope-nobody-finds-out’ or the ‘try-and-point-the-finger’ approaches. We’ve all worked with that person, and it usually catches up with them in a bad way.

10. Be flexible
Offer to lend a hand on tasks which stretch your skillset.  This might be by helping the dev in test by doing some automation scripting which they find monotonous (but to you it’s a great new bulletpoint on the old CV) reviewing some analytics or training a new member of the test team.  In my current role I’ve learnt a tonne of new UX knowledge just by saying “yes”.

Of course, these are just some ideas – you may have some of your own.  If so, I’d love to hear about them, tweet @Beth_AskHer with any tips you’ve picked up.
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