I have been working as a QA since almost ~5 years now. While I am one of the senior QA in my team, and have brought in other quality aspects to the table, my automation skills are still "beginner". While my jobs have always been manual : automation as 70:30 or best 60:40, I haven't in all these years been able to improve my skills. I will be specific in that -

  1. I seem to take quite more time to complete an automation task / user story as compared to my other QA team mates
  2. It takes me time to understand code - I can do it myself, but i take time - again not as fast as my team mates
  3. I am not happy about my debugging skills, though I am actively trying to learn from colleagues and myself
  4. Also, I am not quite there when it comes to adding value to the automation framework

My issues and concerns:

  1. Am I too slow on my growth curve? This is affecting my performance and I am not sure if this may cause my termination?
  2. Should I drop the idea of improving or putting in efforts to harden my coding skills?

Please advise as I am finding it very tough to motivate myself, I often feel directionless and feel this weakness is causing me to not gain the credibility in my team in the automation area.

  • Is the "this is affecting my performance" a self-assessment or have you been given feedback from a supervisor about this matter? – user8365 May 17 '16 at 20:30
  • @JeffO - it is self assessment – nysa May 17 '16 at 21:18
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    Most of the complaints on your list are set up so that you really can't tell if you improve. For example "I am not quite there" -- even if you improve, you could always look at your quality of work and believe (probably correctly) that you could still add more value, therefore dupe yourself into thinking that you are still "not quite there". Similar situation with your other items. – Brandin May 18 '16 at 6:41
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    What you need is a mentor. It can be difficult to find someone like that but it is the best way to improve. A mentor can answer all of the questions you have once they understand you and your context in detail. Also, in the early stages of improvement, it is always helpful if someone else can "model" skills and behaviors so you understand what your goals should be and know what progress looks like-- this provides "direction". – teego1967 May 19 '16 at 10:48

The answers you are looking for are primarily opinion based and can not be answered by anyone but yourself. Slow is a relative concept. If your department is full of people who are fresh college grads, who used the technology while studying somehow or they are more adept due to what they did, of course they will be faster than you. On the other hand, fast brings errors with it. If you are a slow but careful member, your work will always be leaps and bounds ahead of others.

The only thing I can suggest here is, look around and see if your skills or lack there of, will be an obstacle for you to go ahead in the promotion scale. If you can be promoted with or without how fast you can code, debug etc, the point is already moot. But if you think that management will not look at you warmly and will promote a fast performer, then by all means you need to improve your skills where you lack them. Of course this is true if you are planning tho have a career with this company as a software QA tester. Otherwise, your next job may not need what you think it is important for your current workplace.

You see, there are too many scenarios in play. Hence, opinion based answers and you can not fit all possible answers into this measly space. You are the only one to make this decision.

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You are as you stated bringing more to the table than just your coding skills. Don't try to be a jack of all trades. Do what your Job requires you to do and improve if not perfect your good Qualities, which got you your current Position before trying to do other things.

And if nessesary reschuffle work, get more Manual work and get People who are good at Automation to do Automation. This will definitly improve Efficiency and should be encouraged.

Now I could be misunderstanding your Position, but isn't your Job to try and break Software?

Also coding is an endless circle of learning. Don't be demotivated, if you enjoy trying to do coding continue. If all you are doing is learning to be better, quit. We arent made to do Things we don't want or enjoy doing. Sometimes we don't have a choice, but make the ones you have to be fun.

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  • Raoul - Thanks! But i did not get this point "If all you are doing is learning to be better, quit". Ofcourse i want to imporve...? Did not quite understand this – nysa May 20 '16 at 22:31
  • I am makeing money to make money. That Does not work. You are doing something for a goal. Not to stack money skill ect. – Raoul Mensink May 22 '16 at 8:29

Am I too slow on my growth curve?

How could we possibly know? Your growth curve is something you decide, and its dependant on so many factors that nobody but you can make that call. Its more about how much you want to grow rather then some arbitrary set of expectations. You've mentioned this is your self asessment. Everybody asesses differently, and self asessments always carry a huge bias, one way or another.

Should I drop the idea of improving or putting in efforts to harden my coding skills?

That depends. Do you want to improve your coding skills? Is it important for your job and or career growth? Is it important for the career path you want to take or continue? If the answer to any of these is yes then its worth giving it a shot.

Ultimately, unless you get a negative or bad performance review, you likely don't have to worry.

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    Actually, the best time to "worry" and take action is before getting a bad performance review. Reviews are poor feedback mechanisms and can only signal the important, actionable stuff when it is too late. – teego1967 May 19 '16 at 10:43
  • Good point. So ask your manager for an informal review. It's midyear; that's a very traditional time for doing so. – keshlam May 19 '16 at 12:42

If you've been working successfully as a QA Engineer for five years now, you have a lot of skills and experience to bring to the table! Don't give up hope on automation, but consider other skills you may have with your experience - propriety application knowledge, SQL skills, api skills, or even just the ability to spot potential bugs a mile away. You could take some time to 'pair program' with your faster automation buddies: You tell them what they should be testing for, and they show you how to do it.

Another option is to learn by copying and pasting - get your coworkers code, make a copy, comment out sections and run it, and then see what it does/doesn't do. It will be painfully slow and teach you patience, but you'll actively understand what your coworkers are doing and how they accomplish it.

Keep in mind that this can be challenging to accomplish if you're in an environment where all the QAE's are always on call to help out in an emergency. If you're the most experienced and therefore always rushing to fix stuff, it will be challenging to take time out enhanced your skills. You might have to let go of 'urgent' requests, or work with your management to set aside time for you to focus on these skills . . .. unless you'd rather be the person who's always reactive! If that's the case, you might want to investigate Application Support as a career instead.

One person I worked with was a manual tester for 15 years before learning automation, and three years later he's a senior automation lead. So don't lose hope.

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  • Thanks for the response. I am indeed one of the QAEs who is kind of on call for any high severity issues that come up. This leaves me with very little time to improve my automation skills... – nysa May 20 '16 at 22:29

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