Finding testers out with the Computer Science faculty

On the face of it this may come across as a contradiction in terms, but the reality is that in the current market this may be a viable option when recruiting for Software Testers.

Is the onus on Universities to increase their own understanding of what Software Testing is?

As most will agree, the majority of professionals working within Software Testing never chose that as a career coming out of University. In my experience, Testers ultimately have moved across into a testing function having begun life within a different IT capacity, mainly Software Development. It got me thinking that is it really any wonder that choosing to enter a career within Software Testing isn’t on the top of a graduate’s list when finishing their Computer Science degree! Software Testing forms such a small part of the Computer Science degree, even then the testing that students would be taught would be around Unit Testing, a very basic level of testing - this would likely be across one module throughout their entire degree. There are varying reasons why this is. One that seems to come up regularly is that testing as a whole is still, to a degree, poorly understood. It may appear that Universities still don’t feel comfortable enough coming up with the curriculum to properly support the current modules on offer at the moment. A Developer is a Developer; yes, the language can change, but a Tester has to bend and shape to any given need which is potentially why it is hard to pre-define or teach this within a university degree other than what is already covered.

The rise again of Software Testing

Software Testing is now an increasingly demanded skill and has been for the past few years, following the initial Apollo period with the likes of Jerry Weinberg, and the subsequent dark age that followed that. Within Software Testing, there is a broad range of roles/functions carried out. One person sitting within an organisation carrying out a testing role could be doing a completely different type of role compared with a tester in another organisation. It is such a varying role; it can almost become a catch-all type of role. Testers can end up essentially being the glue or expanding foam to fill the gaps that other roles aren’t doing. Everyone must do their job, so testers can do theirs. Testers are often the safety net for Developers and can find themselves as the only line of defence rather than the last line! The scope of responsibility becomes wide and disparate as the role is all very dependent on the particular project, organisation or team. It is clear to see that with the nature and breadth of the role a Tester will carry out how important they are to the software functionality of any business.

Is there such a thing as hiring Graduate Software Testers?

In reality, there is no such thing as a graduate Tester. Learning to be a Tester is a new education for someone who has most likely come from a Software Development background or fresh graduates with a Computer Science degree. It has become quite apparent over time that when organisations look to hire a trainee Tester that the natural gravitational pull is towards a Computer Science background. However, if organisations want to enrich the capabilities of their Testing team, it is imperative that they look outside the box. Testing is such a broad role, the majority of the skills aren’t specific computing skills – it’s how to think, the scientific method of how to formulate hypotheses and then test them. Therefore, in theory, anyone from within the science faculty, in theory, could carry out a testing role.

In addition, backgrounds in Psychology and the Arts faculty could come into play as in this day and age everything is about technology and with everyone using technology more or less every waking minute, people coming from these different backgrounds or faculties could potentially be computer savvy enough to join an organisation and carry out a testing role. I suppose the big push for organisations is to push the boundaries and look at targeting these areas for new talent on the market when looking to hire graduate/junior testers. Another point to consider is that people joining an organisation from the type of background we have described will bring a completely different experience to a testing team. This will, in turn, allows a different approach to testing problems compared with the norm of a computer science background and ensure a fresh approach and ideas.

Do Software Testers need to grow their specialist skills out with just Testing?

As we touched on earlier in the article, the testing skillset is now getting wider, for instance with automation which encompasses some more development skills on top of the ability to test. Testing can very much be a T-shaped skillset in that you have generalist skills in certain areas, but your specialism is Testing. Maybe there is a need to look at broadening that to be more of a V-shaped skillset; not just one specialism but deepening the skills in other areas too. This will ultimately come down to what the team/organisation needs, not always what is required to be a tester. Testers may need to also look at design or even be a SCRUM Master at particular times. In essence, it all comes down to the mindset of the person and how they will then adapt their own skills and abilities to an ever-changing world of technology and need for a particular project or client. When we look out with the Computer Science faculty for hiring Testers it allows for different avenues that clients can explore in order to hire the talent with the best potential rather than specific pre-determined skills within a role that can essentially expand or contract depending on the needs at any given time.

If you are looking to secure a role within the Technology and Digital industry or seeking talented candidates to help build your professional team, please contact our Technology and Digital Divisional Manager, John Gaughan.