Coffee next to a laptop

What automation means to testers: Time to get coding chops

Test automation is the latest trend in our industry and its market is growing fast. It was worth nearly $13 billion last year and Transparency Market Research predicts it will hit almost $86 billion by 2024. Used correctly, test automation enables you to test more efficiently, more effectively, and more thoroughly. In simple terms, it enables companies to release better quality software faster. And that’s the name of the game.

There’s no doubt that test automation has its place, but sometimes when you’re holding a hammer everything starts to look like a nail. The truth is that test automation is simply one tool in your toolbox. You can’t shoehorn test automation into everything and you really shouldn’t try to. It’s not going to replace manual testing, but smart testers that develop new skills stay relevant.

World Quality Report 2016-17: The state of QA and testing

Opening doors for career advancement

Learning automation as a tester will open new doors for you. If you learn how to code, you’ll become more valuable to a lot more organizations, particularly with the rise of test-driven development.

One of the main things holding back the test automation market today is the lack of testers with the right skill sets.

As the DevOps trend continues to gather pace and we see more companies pursuing continuous delivery (CD), testers with coding skills have never been more in demand. Not only will you instantly put yourself ahead of the pack and become more marketable, you’ll also become more self-reliant if you develop coding skills. Facing a complex, repetitive task, you can script a solution without having to turn to a developer for help.

Learning to code will also enable you to understand the patterns and logic that developers are employing when they write code. You’ll be able to read unit tests, view logs and error outputs with fresh eyes, and understand the internal workings of the application under test far better than you did before. That allows you to become a much more technical tester and the skills are highly transferable.

In tune with development trends

The cloud and big data trends are transforming modern businesses. The way that software is typically developed has shifted. The underlying infrastructure of the enterprise is changing. It’s important for testers to ensure that they keep up. A lot of companies are now collecting vast swathes of data and testers need to know how to filter, collate, and manipulate that data.

Developing a greater technical understanding will also help you to work beneath the GUI. With the growth of microservices, the traditional UI is not something that you can rely upon to validate your test cases. You have to be able to work with APIs and read XML. As this new architecture grows in popularity, testers without coding skills are falling behind their peers.

There’s also great value in the positive, problem-solving approach. Coding skills don’t have to be confined to specific tools or systems. Once testers have the skills they can apply them in any situation where a potential efficiency boost can be identified.

How to learn new skills

The good news is that it has never been easier to acquire coding skills. You don’t have to enroll in college or pay for an expensive course. Take a look at Codecademy or Udemy. Both of these have proved to be valuable resources in growing my own knowledge. There’s a lot of free info available. Learning a language like Python or Ruby will definitely improve your testing skills and make you much more attractive to potential employers.

If you want to be a successful tester in the long term, then you have to read and study and pick up relevant new skills. Striving to improve is the route to success in most careers and testing is certainly no exception. It’s also worth asking technical testers and developers for advice about how to develop and improve your testing skills.

Test automation is not a panacea, but it’s also not something that testers can afford to ignore. When we consider DevOps and continuous delivery, the rise of the cloud and big data, and the shift to a microservices architecture, it’s clear that the meteoric growth of the test automation market is inevitable. As a tester working today, picking up some coding skills could be the smartest career move you ever made.

World Quality Report 2016-17: The state of QA and testing