10 Ways to be a software tester and utility infielder

I’m a software tester in a large IT shop. As my company moves more and more toward cloud based, there is less and less for me to do. I’m afraid that one day soon I’ll lose my job. Do you have any suggestions?

For those not familiar with the game of baseball, a utility infielder is a player that, because of his/her natural ability, work ethic, skills, and positive attitude can play many different positions as needed by the coach.

There are many people who conceptualize themselves professionally within a single, tightly defined, professional role. There is certainly a professional advantage to specialization, but only if there is ongoing sufficient demand for that specialty. Without this ongoing demand you’re highly skilled, but unfortunately also unemployed.

As you may expect, my suggestion to you is to widen the tasks/activities that you are willing and able to perform without leaving your testing specialty. As an example, if your current specialty is testing web-based applications, try to expand your professional repertoire to include:

1. Integration testing of cloud-based software into your company’s business processes and/or data architecture 2. Usability testing on customer-facing software applications 3. Testing of “apps” on tablets and mobile devices 4. Data quality assurance testing 5. Volume and latency testing

Should you decide to expand your professional capabilities beyond testing, there are a number of associated roles that may also interest you based on your personality, current skills and raw abilities. I’m by no means suggesting that you move away from testing, only that you expand your internal marketability/employability when testing assignments are slim. They are:

1. Technical Trainer: Teaching people how to use the software you just tested. 2. Customer/Technical Support: Providing technical support on the phone and/or in person related to software you have previously tested. 3. Pre-Sales Support: If the software you are testing is being sold to other companies, help the sales force sell the product by doing product demonstrations on sales calls. 4. Business Analysis: Help IT and/or the business define the next round of needed software enhancements. In fact, the roles of Tester and Business Analyst are very complementary in regard to their timing within a specific project. The Business Analysts work at the beginning of the project to define the requirements. The Testers work in the middle of the project to develop test cases and at the end of the project testing the software. Finally, Business Analysts are often then used again in the implementation phase to help roll out the software to the user base. 5. Project Manager: There is no law that says Project Managers have to come from the Programming or Business Analysis world. Should you be so inclined, move to position yourself to lead projects as well as test them. Not only will this enhance your task flexibility within your company, but it will also help position you toward the role of Testing Manager.

Beginning to position yourself toward an expansion of your testing versatility and/or widening your professional capabilities beyond the testing role will require a combination of education, professional branding, and internal politicking. Regarding education, do some work on your own via the web, a night class, a company sponsored course, or mentoring from a friend. This educational background has the dual effect of illustrating your interest in expanding your skills and, of course, gaining additional knowledge. Regarding professional branding, you must begin to get people to think of you beyond your existing role. Regarding internal company politicking, you will have to convince your manager or others to give you a chance to perform these expanded duties.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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