Hannah is a Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software to clients in financial services, the public sector and healthcare.

She is a graduate in Character Animation from Teesside University, as well as a STEM Ambassador, and spends much of her free time drawing, painting, dancing, and climbing.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your company

I’m a Software Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a software consultancy specialising in solutions for financial trading, and it’s a fantastic place to work. We sit in an open plan office, which makes working in an Agile environment so much easier.

I sit with my team of three developers, just a stone’s throw from the other testers in the office. It makes fostering both a project community and a test community ideal, and we often share information and tips during the work day.

Did you ever sit down and plan your journey to becoming a software tester?

Becoming a software tester has been an interesting journey for me, and it’s definitely not something I planned. I studied character animation at university, and as a way to get my foot in the door of the games industry, as I’m a keen gamer, I landed a job as games tester. This was my first ever experience of testing, and I fell in love. I figured that if games need testing, other software would need testing too. So I researched what I needed to become a software tester.

I was overwhelmed and underqualified, but thankfully I’m not one to give up easily. I taught myself basic HTML/CSS and JavaScript and created a very simple, 90s-esque website with some of my artwork on it. I studied the difference between Agile and waterfall software development methodologies, and what black box and white box testing were.

In doing this research, I had shown potential employers passion and interest, which is an important part of being a software tester.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a technical role for the first time?

Unfortunately, software testing isn’t something that really gets taught anywhere. If you do a computer science degree, then you might briefly touch upon unit testing, but you won’t study it anywhere near the level required for most testing jobs. If you really want to be a tester, my advice is to be proactive.

Unlike software development, where you can sit down and learn a language and build something, if you don’t have something to test how can you practice?

You could learn automation testing, pick up something like Protractor.js and find some Angular websites to write tests against, but that doesn’t tackle the issue of sapient testing.

If you aren’t currently in a testing job, I’d advise reading, and getting involved in the testing community. I’d recommend Explore it! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing by Elisabeth Hendrickson, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald Weinberg (this is actually the first testing book I read).

You should also participate in conversations on social media, and join local testing or Agile development meet ups. There are two main Slackchats I love: ministryoftesting.slack.com and testersio.slack.com.

And I recommend reading blogs by James Bach, Michael Bolton and Katrina Clokie. Follow them on Twitter too, along with anyone else who has interesting conversations about testing. You can learn a surprising amount in 140 characters.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenge that I face is that I don’t have a background in code. New projects generally mean new technology, and though picking that up might come easy for someone with three to four years computer science experience, it does not come easily for me. I spend a lot of time learning, and I’m thankful that I really enjoy learning (if I could stay at school forever, I would) which helps me pick things up quickly.

The real challenge comes down to Google. It is so difficult to search for things on Google when you don’t actually know what you’re supposed to be searching for! Thankfully this is easy to overcome – simply ask for help. You can’t learn if you can’t hold your hands up and admit you don’t know something. Suffering in silence is detrimental to both you and your company.

If you want to progress as a software tester, it’s a constant learning process. Like any job in technology, things are constantly changing.

There’s always a new bit of tech, or a new process to be used. The benefit of staying at the forefront of the technologies and ideas is that you get to try things out before other people.

This means you get to build an opinion, which you can then share. This builds up not only your knowledge as a tester, but your reputation too if you write blogs and share your insights on social media.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I’ve never been officially mentored as such, since the way Scott Logic’s test team works is we all help each other out. However, the company is in the process of rolling out a new internal coaching programme. Up to now though, I guess I could say that everyone I work with has been somewhat of a mentor. They have all been integral to my professional development, helping me with different test ideas, helping me figure out personal projects to pursue, or helping me get my head around different technical languages.

I have taken part in being a mentor myself, and that opened up a lot of opportunities. I’m involved with the STEM Ambassadors, and over the last year I’ve been involved with many school activities; either practice interviews or giving talks to young students about my role in testing. I signed up for the Newcastle University mentorship program, and was partnered with a second year student who was considering testing as a career choice. This led to the problem of the lack of internships for testers, which I took to our test lead and head of development and within a few months we welcomed our first test intern.

What does the future hold for you?

I’m looking forward to all the future projects I get to be involved with, since every project requires a different approach to testing and new challenges to overcome. I would like to garner enough experience and knowledge to be able to consult with businesses and help them perfect their testing within their organisation.

I also hope to carry on with my work with STEM Ambassadors and help inspire a new generation of people to pursue a career in technology. I believe kids should be informed of as many career options as possible, so they can make more informed decisions as they get older. I also hope to show, courtesy of my odd background in animation, that if you do make an “incorrect” choice somewhere along the way, it isn’t the end of the world. If you have enough drive and passion you can succeed in anything you want.