Squashing down the bugs
October 15, 2010 9:47 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to get a job in fixing bugs in computer or mobile software?

I constantly find bugs in Apple iOS devices, such as the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. I send these in as bug reports often with images, video, and whatever is necessary to convey the bugs. I download beta versions of iOS software so that way I can help fix things well.
And at times, I'm the first one to trap certain bugs, especially UI bugs (like buttons not working, font not changing, screen not rotating, certain behavior occurring that isn't expected) or problems with connectivity not occurring when I do certain tasks on the device.
Occasionally I also send in bug reports for Mac software not functioning properly, such as in certain situations that I create either on purpose or by accident, Mail.app showing a negative inbox count.
Is there a way that I can get a job that will pay me for similar activity? Where can I find such a job?
posted by antgly to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sure, you could become a software test engineer. Software testing is a vital part of the software development cycle, but it's more methodical than just using applications and reporting bugs you stumble across.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:54 PM on October 15, 2010

If I were you, I would make a portfolio of bug reports and post it online. Then, I would link to the online portfolio in your cover letter. If you have a couple stand-out bug reports — say, ones where they were quickly resolved thanks to your ability to trap the bugs — you might consider outlining them in your cover letter.

It sounds like you could put together a good cover letter and resume. Be clear, and hit the important points: your ability to trap bugs, your clear, and sufficiently detailed bug reports, and your passion for finding bugs.

It says you're a student. I don't know what you're studying, but I think the position you're outlining is "software tester." If you get a computer science degree, you would probably be even more valuable, and you could go for "software engineer in test."

Good luck!
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:09 PM on October 15, 2010

Another term that you might want to include in your job hunt is "QA", or Quality Assurance. Most software/hardware companies of any size will have a QA department, consisting of people who, in a nutshell, extensively test every aspect of a product, finding and reporting on the bugs. This involves creating and following test plans, documenting exactly how the duplicate the problem, and generally providing enough information such that an engineer can find and fix the problem. It's a vital role in assuring any product is in a shippable state.
posted by cgg at 10:49 PM on October 15, 2010

I'm not sure if you have programming experience, but learning it would only make you more valuable in potential employer's eyes. Sometimes you might need to test code that has no GUI.
posted by elerina at 11:56 PM on October 15, 2010

I would say get some evidence of your ability, show how you were able to track down and reproduce the bug, and if possible how you were able to suggest possible reasons for the bug to the developers. When you submit your bugs to the developers, make your input detailed yet concise. They should be able to read your report and know exactly what the problem is and already be halfway to solving it.

If you're thinking of a particular company you'd like to work for (Apple in this case), keep notes on all of the bugs you've spotted and as someone else suggested, show that as evidence when applying for a job.
posted by Biru at 6:40 AM on October 16, 2010

Another area you might consider, and closer to what you've described doing up to now, is usability testing, where the object is to discover and elicit the ways in which the software meets or doesn't meet real users' needs and expectations. At least part of the process would be to observe real users trying to use the device in whatever ways make sense to them and documenting your and/or their observations and frustrations with using it.
Software QA is a much more methodical process of testing the software, step-by-step against a testing script written (perhaps by you, perhaps by the developer or another SQA engineer). The script is written to test each of the requirements the software was designed to meet. It and has to be adhered to strictly during and documented every step of the way. To the extent that SQA addresses bugs, it usually tests fixes of bugs discovered and reported by other people, though of course the SQA tester would report any bugs s/he discovered in the course of the test.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 6:51 AM on October 16, 2010

If you want to move to Finland, Nokia's constantly hiring. I'm sure apple has a similar page, but no RSS that I can see. In general, the search terms you should look for are "software testing" or "quality assurance".
posted by pwnguin at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2010

You are the perfect QA person. Many QA folks are mediocre engineers waiting for their "break" into engineering. Someone who's passionate about finding bugs, and skilled at isolating, repeating, and documenting them... perfect for QA.
posted by Netzapper at 11:37 AM on October 16, 2010

Out here in Microsoftland, there's a pretty constant need for entry-level usability and functionality testers -- which is the kind of testing you're talking about. These positions are inevitably contract/hourly, and require native intelligence, self-directedness, and the ability to think outside the box, to use a bunch of corporate buzzwords.

The best way to get such a job is to find the contract agency that supplies entry-level testers to the big clients in your area and apply directly to them. If there's areas of your skillset that need improving to make you a strong candidate, the agency can not only tell you about them, but possibly provide training classes. Out here, Volt Computer handles the lion share of this kind of contracting; do a search on CareerBuilder or whatever for "contract QA" to find out who does it in your area.

You sound like a great fit for this kind of work, honestly. For bonus points, it pays pretty well; certainly better than most other entry-level work. Good luck!
posted by KathrynT at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2010

The usual QA cycle doesn't involve fixing the bugs - some companies have dedicated software engineers for fixing bugs, some that are more feature-oriented will have devs assigned to specific features and bugs get filed against them. But if you're not into doing that, QA is exactly what you're looking for, and its a great way to work on a really cool product without being an amazing developer.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2010

I am an SDET (Software Development Engineer in Test) in my current position. I spend my days writing programs that automate the testing process. I sometimes work with an STE (Software Test Engineer), who is someone without the programming skills required to write new automation, but with enough computer skills to use the automation tools, or manually test the target software. It sounds like you would want to start looking for STE jobs.

As a general rule, when we do hiring for STEs and SDETs, we do NOT look at brag sheets about bugs found. We are looking for the resume of someone who has experience with the software industry, preferably someone with work experience in the same area as our software. At my employer, that means unix software in general, and secure communications in specific for my department. We also look for people who understand the current methods of choice for software testing, people who can explain the difference between an acceptance test and a regression test, for example.

We have hired interns fresh out of college that had no direct experience in our field, but showed a good general grasp of computer programming and testing. I suspect that Apple QA would be looking for similar qualifications, but they are supporting a much broader selection of softwares, with OS, iTunes, iPhoto, etc, and so would have a much broader area of interest.

Here's the bad news; We have never looked at a resume for someone who doesn't have a degree of some sort, and in today's market, a big company like Apple can make the same sort of gatekeeper requirement. What this means is that HR will weed out any applications without a degree before the hiring manager ever sees it. In today's world, resumes are evaluated by keyword searches long before a human ever sees them.

Don't get me wrong, your passion for testing will be helpful, but only once you get to the interview stage.

The other bad news is that you might find the job frustrating, if your goal is seeing bugs get fixed. In commercial software development, most of the bugs you find are too minor to justify the cost in time spent, to fix. A simple little UI bug may only take 3 seconds of developer time to fix, but 6 hours of QA time to verify, when you take into account multiple hardware platforms, different languages and character sets. When a project is already planned out to the minute, some bugs just end up getting deferred to the next cycle forever. If you can find joy in the finding of the bug, then no problem. If you are going to get angry because some project manager just doesn't see the bug as worth putting on the schedule.....
posted by nomisxid at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2010

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