Previous software development experience can be helpful as it provides a deeper understanding of the software development process, gives the tester an appreciation for the developers' point of view, and reduce the learning curve in automated test tool programming. Judgment skills are needed to assess high-risk areas of an application on which to focus testing efforts when time is limited.
What makes a good Software QA engineer?
The same qualities a good tester has are useful for a QA engineer. Additionally, they must be able to understand the entire software development process and how it can fit into the business approach and goals of the organization. Communication skills and the ability to understand various sides of issues are important. In organizations in the early stages of implementing QA processes, patience and diplomacy are especially needed. An ability to find problems as well as to see 'what's missing' is important for inspections and reviews.
What makes a good QA or Test manager?
A good QA, test, or QA/Test(combined) manager should:
- be familiar with the software development process
- be able to maintain enthusiasm of their team and promote a positive atmosphere, despite what is a somewhat 'negative' process (e.g., looking for or preventing problems)
- be able to promote teamwork to increase productivity
- be able to promote cooperation between software, test, and QA engineers
- have the diplomatic skills needed to promote improvements in QA processes
- have the ability to withstand pressures and say 'no' to other managers when quality is insufficient or QA processes are not being adhered to
- have people judgement skills for hiring and keeping skilled personnel
- be able to communicate with technical and non-technical people, engineers, managers, and customers.
- be able to run meetings and keep them focused.
Critical. (Note that documentation can be electronic, not necessarily paper.) QA practices should be documented such that they are repeatable. Specifications, designs, business rules, inspection reports, configurations, code changes, test plans, test cases, bug reports, user manuals, etc. should all be documented. There should ideally be a system for easily finding and obtaining documents and determining what documentation will have a particular piece of information. Change management for documentation should be used if possible.
What's the big deal about 'requirements'?
One of the most reliable methods of insuring problems, or failure, in a complex software project is to have poorly documented requirements specifications. Requirements are the details describing an application's externally-perceived functionality and properties. Requirements should be clear, complete, reasonably detailed, cohesive, attainable, and testable. A non-testable requirement would be, for example, 'user-friendly' (too subjective). A testable requirement would be something like 'the user must enter their previously-assigned password to access the application'. Determining and organizing requirements details in a useful and efficient way can be a difficult effort; different methods are available depending on the particular project. Many books are available that describe various approaches to this task. Care should be taken to involve ALL of a project's significant 'customers' in the requirements process. 'Customers' could be in-house personnel or out, and could include end-users, customer acceptance testers, customer contract officers, customer management, future software maintenance engineers, salespeople, etc. Anyone who could later derail the project if their expectations aren't met should be included if possible. Organizations vary considerably in their handling of requirements specifications. Ideally, the requirements are spelled out in a document with statements such as 'The product shall.....'. 'Design' specifications should not be confused with 'requirements'; design specifications should be traceable back to the requirements.
In some organizations requirements may end up in high level project plans, functional specification documents, in design documents, or in other documents at various levels of detail. No matter what they are called, some type of documentation with detailed requirements will be needed by testers in order to properly plan and execute tests. Without such documentation.