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Why a successful software tester's skillset is more than just technical

How can you become a good software tester? It requires more than just technical expertise. Here are some important personality traits QA pros need to have.

While software testers should have technical skills, instruction and certifications relevant to quality assurance, truly competent QA professionals also possess specific soft skills. The best testers are creative, curious and deft at communication.

Software testers need technical skills

Capable QA professionals possess a combination of technical skills. The more they have, the more valuable they can be to an IT organization. Examples of some important software tester technical skills include the following.

  • Database query skills. Testers need to know how to view, query and understand how databases function.
  • Programming language knowledge. Testers should be familiar with a programming language, but it's not strictly necessary.
  • Test automation, API and back-end testing skills. Testers should be familiar with these processes' concepts and tooling.
  • Security testing knowledge. Another important software tester technical skill is knowing how to perform penetration security tests.

Testers should be creative and curious

A creative tester knows the conventions and rules of testing, and can also uncover patterns or responses that haven't been tried before.

Key technical skills will always evolve

Technical skills and experience are important for a software tester due to the technological nature of the position. However, the specific technical skills needed depend on what a company uses and 'what's in' during the given moment.

Generally, QA professionals need the ability to learn and self-educate. They must keep up with the current state of the QA profession by reading articles pertaining to the field. After all, the mix of tools and processes in each corner of application development will be ever-changing. Testers should be aware of such changes.

This approach involves a willingness to test not just the happy paths. Creative software testers imagine combinations of configuration settings that contradict each other or go against the known rules of the application. They also tend to develop more in-depth test cases or scripts that provide more comprehensive test coverage.

Imagination is important for software testers. It enables them to piece together acceptance criteria or requirements into a workable mental prototype and to develop tests. When testers need to think like a customer or user -- rather than an IT professional -- an active imagination can help them separate normal thinking from an outside perspective. Exceptional QA professionals are imaginative in that they test beyond the user story, software requirement and use case.

Testers must persevere and be passionate

Capable QA professionals also display passion and perseverance, and maintain a focus on quality despite endless setbacks. They can withstand criticism -- just or unjust -- and are willing to make mistakes to better learn their craft. Additionally, passionate software testers research bugs to understand where they come from and share that valuable information with team members.

Similarly, it takes perseverance to succeed as a QA professional. One must be able to handle a constant barrage of expectations that can change at a moment's notice. Software testers need self-confidence to question others when needed and turn to professionals outside the QA realm, such as developers, product managers and business analysts, to get the answers they need. Passionate software testers also prioritize quality and customer experience above all else

Testers need to be diplomatic, effective communicators

Exceptional software testers should have proficient verbal and written communication skills to deal with both individuals and groups.

Professional and diplomatic communication skills are major components of a successful software tester. Regardless of who's on the other end of the communication, a software tester should converse in a professional manner at all times.

Also, more generally, good communication skills enable a tester to get along with team members.

Testers find certifications useful

QA professionals have a growing number of educational opportunities. Coding bootcamps and other software testing courses teach valuable introductory level skills. For example, AT* offers instructional courses -- ranging from Foundation (Beginner) to Advanced -- and certifications in many software testing skills.

Certifications never hurt, and having one could provide a current or prospective employer with valuable information on the depth and breadth of a software tester's skills.

Instead of focusing on a specific tool certification, testers should consider courses on programming languages, database querying or security testing. Coding, database and security-related skills are an invaluable asset to help expand one's career.

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