Starting IT from scratch: what challenges you need to be prepared for when you change your profession to QA Engineer
The number of vacancies in the IT field is growing rapidly. It is great news for those who dream of “breaking into IT field“, but worry about a lack of the necessary background. Today an increasing number of people think about changing their profession and becoming QA testers. Moreover, QA Engineer is one of the most optimal specialties for the transition.
But, there is also some bad news. Once in the job market, switchers (people who change their specialty) often cannot find their first job for months or even years. In addition to high competition among graduates in this field, they have to fight for a place under the sun with other switchers. Because of this, many disappointed candidates return to their past work.
How not to become one of them? Be prepared for all the challenges that await you on the way to the desired profession and do not forget about its benefits. Moreover, you already have strengths compared to yesterday’s students, such as work experience, understanding of work processes, self-confidence.
And we hope that with the help of this article, you will get an advantage over other switchers. So settle down more comfortably, a course of a young QA fighter is waiting for you.
Challenge # 1 – Orientation in the Dark
The first thing to do before deciding to change profession is research. Read articles on QA, walk through the forums and go to well-known job searching sites. Till now, you have met familiar positions (sales manager, accountant, marketer) when looking for a job. But reading IT vacancies, the newcomer gets the impression that they are written in Klingon (Middle QA Engineer, Junior QA Manual Engineer, QA Automation Engineer, Tester in the Agile team, Tester in the Game, etc.). The requirements look appropriate and frighten untrained candidates.
But, it is not as scary as it seems. You will be able to deal with everything. It is important at this stage to assess your knowledge and skills, to understand what is missing and whether you are ready to fill the gaps (learn). The easiest way is to go through the job sites and study vacancies for positions of Intern QA and Trainee QA. It should be among the first steps for those who are in search of information about the employers’ interests, future responsibilities, and options.
The only nuance – most likely, in the salary column there will be either too big scatter, or this field will remain empty. To understand how much you can earn in the early stages and the future, the easiest way is to go through a few interviews and find out how real companies evaluate the specialist with this level of knowledge?
Challenge # 2 – A Hard Decision to Make
The appeal of starting from scratch is clear, but these fantasies usually do not take into account that a career change is always a challenge and a bit of an adventure. Try not to romanticize IT. Of course, this is a career that can be envied, but no one will ever pay for air. You will have to learn a lot and show all that you are made of. Employers in this area do not like it when your only motivation is: “I want to work in a promising field” and “I want a decent salary.”
This does not mean that changing the profession to QA engineer is a bad idea. It just requires a lot of preparation and perseverance.
The switch is a very difficult step for people who have spent 3, 5, or even 10 years in another field. But if you feel inward that you want it and it’s time to do it, and you realize that you CAN do it, then do not be afraid to take the next step. If it does not work – you can always return.
Many switchers are afraid of “zeroing” their careers. Yes, most likely, after the change of sphere you will have to start from the Intern position, the very first level in QA. On the other hand, you will not have a ceiling for growth. If you are talented, you have a lot of ideas and energy, you will develop here much faster than anywhere else.
Challenge # 3 – Training and Education
It is impossible to make a switch without education. It may take you from 2 to 6 months to gain the skills and knowledge needed to work as an intern tester, depending on how much time you spend studying, whether you plan to combine it with work, and what resource you have chosen.
There are several options:
- to master the specialty independently, from books and online lessons;
- enroll in courses (online or offline, paid or free at the company or independent). For example, we have a QATestLab Training Center and offer free courses of basic QA knowledge for those who want to take the first steps in QA.
- remember that you have to study QA all the time – this is the specifics of the industry. If it is difficult – this is normal. But if it is not interesting, it is unlikely to go far. Learn not only applied technologies and tools but also pay attention to the theoretical basis, fundamental disciplines, computer science. Also, always try to test new knowledge in practice.
Another important skill for those who see themselves in a company working with the international market – English. You need Intermediate+ level for writing reports and reading test documentation, and also for communications with clients. If you don’t, it’s okay – go on language courses and learn it in parallel with the basics of testing. Many companies allow studying English for free after employment.
After training, it is good to find a mentor and walk with him through the problematic moments, improve your skills and get objective feedback on the current level.
Challenge # 4 – Employment
Successful employment always depends on 2 stages: a strong resume and an effective interview.
So, it’s time to hone your resume in the IT field and train to properly present your experience, so that it will be interesting for your future employer. Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing a resume:
- For all beginners, the question is what to indicate in the resume, if there is no real experience. For switchers, another one is added – whether to indicate their previous jobs that are not related to IT. Recruiters recommend that you do it, but do not paint too carefully. It is enough to indicate the position, company, period of work.
- To strengthen the resume and highlight it from hundreds of others, try to add a summary block at the beginning of the resume and write 3-5 sentences there about all your strengths and skills that will be interesting to this employer and his project.
- Include in your resume:
- Mentions of listened to profile courses, seminars;
- Practical profile experience: pet project, open-source, freelance;
- Mentions of gained skills.
- The level of English if it is a company working with foreign customers.
If possible – always support your resume with a personalized letter, which indicates why you are interested in this position and how you can be helpful for this company.
So you have passed the first step and they invited you for an interview? Congratulations! It’s time to prepare for it:
- Be honest.
- Think about how you can present your previous experience: don’t just talk about responsibilities, but show with concrete examples what benefits you achieved for the company.
- Don’t expect everything to work out from the first interview. Just don’t take failures as a defeat but as an experience. This is a chance to work on mistakes and be better next time.
The interview process for a junior switchman is the same as for an IT student or graduate, but it is important to make it clear that you have a genuine interest in the major, that you are actively willing to learn something new and to grow professionally.
If you are interested in a vacancy, try to show that you and the company are on the same page as the interviewer. This applies to both the style of behavior (appearance, manner of speech) and the general values of how flexible and open you are to develop.
Another important point – most likely you will be given a test assignment or asked questions from the “Basics of Software Testing” course. Do not be afraid of it, because it can determine 50-60% of the success of you as the candidate. Do not be afraid of it, because it can determine 50-60% of the success of you as the candidate.
Challenge # 5 – Development Plan
If you thought you found a job and you can relax on it, then no. Aren’t you going to hold the position of an Intern tester during your career? Of course, you can sit and wait until new knowledge comes to you in the form of an interesting project sooner or later, but it is better to take matters into your own hands.
In large companies, any newcomer will receive a personal development plan from his mentor. It will take into account your future career expectations, your background, and the skills you would like to develop. You will be able to access information and tools that will help you to achieve your goal.
So, when you come to the company as a QA engineer, you have the following career options:
- Horizontal – growth in the specialty from Intern to high skilled Senior
- Vertical – growth from a tester to a specialist who manages projects
The decision to change your field is not easy, and switchers are often tormented by doubts and fears. We can say that no one of those who passed all the tests and became a tester, has yet returned.
It may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort. And there are a huge number of positive cases that speak for themselves.
We wish you to find a company that is not just ready to hire switchers but also to help them learn a new field or profession so that in the end they could get the most out of the process. Good luck!