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Can Manual Testers Survive in the Age of DevOps?

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Market trends show that most companies are evolving towards having most of their test coverage come from automated testing rather than manual testing. As more frequent deployments drive a need for higher levels of automation, many manual testers are starting to worry about the role they will play in the development process going forward. For those wondering what the future state might look like, there is bad news, but also good news to share:

The bad news: all testers’ roles are changing, manual or otherwise. In specific, technical skills are becoming more important than ever, especially with growing interest in DevOps. Ever-changing roles and responsibilities should come as no surprise to anyone working in a technology field. We must always adapt to stay current and in demand.

The good news: most testers’ top skillsets are just as relevant as ever. The ability to quickly learn application workflows, collaborate across various team members, and understand customer inputs are critical skills within a DevOps landscape.

As DevOps gains popularity, it is wise to develop a strategy to guide you through the inevitable changes that will come. We’d recommend taking one of the following 4 paths:

👑 Rise above the rest: become the leading manual tester in your organization. As the number of manual testers may eventually increase, the tester with the most advanced skills will likely be the last one remaining. Whether it is proficiency in testing, understanding of business processes, or familiarity with your company’s tools and infrastructure, being the best can only increase your job security.

🆙 Move up into test management: progressing to test management requires a step up in responsibilities and expectations. However, making this move may be more realistic for those with certain skillsets, when compared to trying to shift into a more technical or automation oriented testing role.

💼 Change to a different contributor role: many will assume that moving to a technical or automation role is the simplest way of ensuring job security going forward.  However, testers can often get to value in many other roles of significant importance, with less upskilling required. Customer success, support, business analyst, and product management are common roles that testers target.

🤨 Do nothing: depending on your organization, the future of manual testing may be more certain than in the rest of the market. So long as you remain at your current employer, your job security may be assured. However, be aware that should you need or want to go out into the job market, your prospects may be more limited without investment today in skill development.

Testers should prepare for the future and ensure they are developing their skills in a way which aligns to future demands. We’ve included our top recommendations on things to start, stop, and continue doing in these times of change:

Things to start doing:

  • Taking every opportunity to develop yourself: most companies provide a great deal of development programs. Make the most of these offerings, and check out free/low cost online programs from providers like Udemy, JanBask Training or from great thought leaders in the community, such as: Nikolay Advolodkin’s Ultimate Java Course and Karthik KK’s Execute Automation new learning platform.
  • Taking advice from others: look around at others who have gotten into roles that you are interested in. Understand their development path, hurdles they faced, and realistic timelines for any role changes you might be considering.

⛔️ Things to stop doing:

  • Refusing to do things that are “not your job”: within reason of course, it’s not wise to take on too much additional responsibility. But oftentimes, these opportunities to expand your role can be invaluable development experiences and cement your importance to the team.
  • Setting boundaries around what you are good at: playing to your strengths is always a smart idea, but don’t rule out what you’ve never tried. Many people will label themselves as “not technical”, “not management material”, etc. but have never truly taken the time to understand what is required and assess their capabilities.

▶️ Things to keep doing:

  • Being curious: dig deeper to understand how systems and processes work. Testers are naturally curious, and striving to keep asking why will help to develop your overall knowledge and value to the organization.
  • Collaborating with other functions: testers are often used to being the middle man between development and the business. As agile methodologies increase, the need for collaboration only grows. Facilitating collaboration is any easy way to ensure you are always included as agile teams recruit new members.

DevOps is welcoming in a time of change for everyone, not just manual testers. However, change brings a wealth of new opportunities to those that can take advantage of them. Dealing with this uncertainty and adapting to the future may be the difference between long term success and failure. Make sure to take action and be on the lookout for ways to make the most of these exciting times! 💪

Kevin Dunne

About the author

Kevin Dunne

Kevin Dunne is the General Manager of TestProject, ensuring Tricentis’ commitment to innovation and delivering tools to create better software. With a deep interest in the emerging trends in software development and testing, Kevin is dedicated to collaborating with thought leaders in this space.

Kevin comes to Tricentis from Deloitte, where he managed testing on large government and Fortune 500 engagements delivering ERP implementations and custom software development. As one of the first employees at Tricentis, Kevin has seen many facets of the business working in sales, customer support, marketing, and product management.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University.

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