Testing, but not coding.
December 7, 2011 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Do "Black Box" software testers still exist? Do I have to be a developer to find a job?

I currently work as, essentially, a black-box software tester. I wonder if I should focus on becoming a developer or SDET, since it seems to me that the demand for people who just click on stuff and file bugs is practically gone. Is this actually true, or does it just seem that way? Are there still jobs for software testers who aren't also developers?
posted by seiryuu to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
they exist (three unique listings with 'black box' under San Francisco / Internet Jobs on Craigslist)
posted by zippy at 12:44 PM on December 7, 2011

Are there still jobs for software testers who aren't also developers?

There are, but there are fewer of them, and they generally pay less. If you can add SQL and some sort of automated testing skills to your resume, your opportunities will definitely increase.
posted by BurntHombre at 12:46 PM on December 7, 2011

We don't call them that, but my (non-software) company employs QS testers that don't do any dev.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:47 PM on December 7, 2011

I would say that, yes, there is something of a demand for testers like that, but it's not much and you'd do well to acquire some additional technical skills.

There are two issues that you're probably facing. One, is that the perceived barrier to entry to be a tester without a lot of other technical skills is low. That's going to make it hard to demand much in the way of salary or upward movement. Not a good place to be.

Second, due to the crummy job market and general business climate, I'm aware of a lot of large organizations that have filled up QA vacancies with idled personnel from other divisions. I.e., rather than hiring someone with QA experience, they just take someone who doesn't have enough work and give them a PC and a test script and tell them to bang away. IMO it doesn't lead to great testing, but it has obvious advantages for the client (rather than firing person A and hiring new employee B, they move person A into test).

So yeah, unless you are just looking for stopgap employment, I'd definitely think hard about what sort of additional skills you can bring to the table to compliment your test experience. Software development would be tops, if you think you have the capability and interest to be good at it. If you could get into a team lead position with the help of some project management training (setting aside my skepticism over the actual value of PMP-type certifications, some big employers do like them), that might be a worthwhile acquisition as well, and set you up for more of a PM/managerial role. It all depends on what you think you'd do well in. Do what you're good at.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2011

At my work (in Canada, government), we have lots of testers... some of them are even dedicated testers! but they tend to be people who were the subject matter experts, or systems experts for their departments, are very often have almost no technical skills or any idea how to test.
posted by utsutsu at 1:10 PM on December 7, 2011

I completely agree with Kadin2048: Picking up a few technical skills can go a long way for you. We train all our testers to do simple SQL queries (select * from) starting on day one and the more technical skills you have the better you are at your job. So while there are some opportunities, there are more the more you learn. A certification or something would be great, but even a mentor who can show you a few tools and how to use them will completely jump start your abilities, which will, in turn, lead to more opportunities.
posted by pmed at 2:45 PM on December 7, 2011

Manual test jobs are the first to get outsourced, unfortunately. The next step up to basic SDET skills is not that difficult though, and you'd really do yourself a big favor if you pick some of them up!

1. learn perl or python or ruby or even just shell scripting. If you're smart enough to be a great tester, you're smart enough to get to "competent" in one of these

2. learn even basic selenium. Especially if you are picking up one of the languages above, learn to write selenium code in that language as well. Bonus tip: install selenium IDE. record a script into a language like ruby or python. tweak it. viola, you learned basic automated testing.

3. learn performance testing. we are always looking for folks who understand mobile performance and web application performance. learn how to use tools like jmeter, webtest, firebug, etc.
posted by lyra4 at 2:46 PM on December 7, 2011

I don't know what the market is like generally, I do know my company needs one. Of course it's never going to happen, but it sure would be nice.
posted by Folk at 2:31 PM on December 8, 2011

As you probably know already, being a black box tester in the US (are you in the US? ignore me if not) is unstable, because those jobs are fairly easy to move to India and China. They do exist in the US - offhand, I have one friend who does this sort of work and another who is looking to hire a QA manager - but it isn't something I'd expect to build a whole career on. What do you like doing? The related roles that come to mind:
- Technical jobs: product development, but also release engineering work, production systems support, database administration, etc.
- Customer support: answering phones is probably a step down, but a higher-tier technical support job, or an a job as an implementation consultant, might work. This probably leads to management eventually.
- People management: perhaps managing QA groups in particular, keeping in mind that you may be managing people remotely.
- Product management: specialize in your product/industry, how it works, why it matters, what your company should be doing next.
posted by orangejenny at 6:43 PM on December 9, 2011

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