By Alex Siminiuc September 18, 2015

How Can You Move From Manual Testing to Test Automation?

Manual testing is not what it was five years ago.

The number of pure manual testing jobs is low and when such a job is available, the competition is fierce. It is common these days to meet manual testers that have a difficult time finding a new job.

Due to budget restrictions for the testing team, there are also cases where manual testers are let go, but test automation engineers retained.

Which doesn't make sense since developers are not great testers.

On the other hand, it is easier for developers to learn testing than it is for testers to learn development.

Considering the market situation, many manual testers are now becoming more interested in test automation.

Some want to just expand their skills by including programming and a test automation framework in their testing toolbox. Others are contemplating switching the direction completely and focusing on automation only.

But how can you find that next automation job when you do not know programming?

Change your attitude first

I know many testers dream about a company that will:

  • discover them
  • see their amazing potential
  • accept their lack of automation skills
  • hire them as automation engineers (even if they are not qualified)
  • give them time to learn programming and test automation

Such testers are so confident in themselves they believe that once they have the job, they will learn the test automation skills and programming quickly.

Needless to say that this rarely happens.

Wooden horse cartPutting the cart before the horse does not get the cart moving.

Companies today prefer to hire automation testers who already trained and, if possible, have prior project experience.

Other testers, more adapted to the real market conditions, look for automation opportunities by applying to jobs advertised by companies.

And some work with recruiters.

Working with an IT recruiter is a fast way to get a new job, due to the wide range of companies that the recruiter has access to. Also, recruiters are directly interested in placing the tester, since they gets a commission for each hired tester.

The manual tester wants to find an automation job, but he does not know any programming.

There is no easy solution.

So where can we find inspiration for solving this problem?

In the movies. Where else?

One of my favorite sports movies is Jerry Maguire.

The movie is quite popular, so chances are, you have watched it already.

The main character, played by Tom Cruise, is a sports agent who has an epiphany one night.

The sport agent business can become less profit-oriented and more meaningful if agents focus less on the number of managed athletes, and more on the quality of the relationships with athletes.

He writes an inspired memo during the night, prints it, and drops copies in the mailbox of all his colleagues, including the boss.

The business does not change a bit as a result of his memo, but he gets fired.

All the athletes he managed before leave him with one exception: Rod, an American football player, played by Cuba Gooding Jr.

He tries to find Rod a better paid job. He tries and tries without many good results.

Depositphotos_64905623_m-2015It isn’t until Rod starts to change his attitude on playing football, and starts helping Jerry to find him a better job, that they can find the best position available.

“Help me to help you, Rod!” Jerry scream in one of the scenes.

So what is the lesson here for manual testers who want to go into test automation?

If you want to change your career from manual testing to test automation, and you don’t know much about programming: CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE.

Of course, this isn't an easy thing to do overnight. The book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath is a great read to give you some insight into how to make important changes in your life.

Help yourself. Improve your skills and become relevant.

Start by researching the test automation skills that are on demand in your job market.

Is web test automation in demand or mobile test automation?

Is QTP experience required by most companies, Selenium or Appium?

Do employers prefer Java, C#, or Ruby as a programming language?

The answers to these questions will help you to narrow down the new skills that you need to learn or refine.

Then…start learning the new skills!

Learn as much as you can about programming, and make sure to learn how test an automation framework.

Do not stop after mastering the basic concepts, but continue with more advanced topics like object oriented programming, code refactoring, design patterns, and building custom frameworks.

As Steve Martin says:

“Become so good they cannot ignore you.”

Help others to help you

Co-workingConnect with local IT recruiters. Contact them and see if they are willing to meet and talk about your career.

The goal is finding a recruiter that you can communicate with, who is willing to represent you.

While learning the new skills, keep the recruiter updated on everything that you are learning. They will be delighted to know that you are becoming an expert in automation skills, since there are so few people with automation skills available.

Who knows, maybe your new job interview will be there while you are learning.

Some companies will hire junior test automation engineers, so the fact that you know the programming and automation basics, and are committed to learning more, are sufficient for getting hired.

If you don’t want to work with a recruiter, find a mentor or experienced tester who would be willing to take you under their wing and vouch for you when you are ready to start applying.

Become visible, different, and interesting professionally

Create a blog about learning test automation and programming. The blog will be your proof, and will showcase your improving automation skills.

It is also an asset that sets you apart from other manual testers taking the same route.

Another trick is to update your LinkedIn profile with your new programming and automation skills.

Write frequently on the blog about new things that you learn and publish the article links on LinkedIn. You can even publish some articles from your blog directly on LinkedIn’s Pulse platform from time to time.

Your articles will be visible to all your LinkedIn contacts, which include IT recruiters and hiring managers.

If you aren’t sure how to get started blogging and networking, check out John’s free blogging course, which will absolutely help change your life.

Do not wait for others to discover you.

If you want to change your career and move from manual testing to test automation, do not wait to be discovered.

By changing your attitude, improving your skills and experience, reaching out and tapping your hiring networks, and working to differentiate yourself by being professionally interesting, a career in test automation is easily within your grasp.

Don't forget to take a look at John's blogging course. For more in-depth information, you can also get a supplementary workbook for the course here.

About the author

Alex Siminiuc

Alex Siminiuc is a Software Tester From Vancouver, Canada. He enjoys blogging about Selenium WebDriver test automation at Selenium Automation in Java. He also answers automation questions on Quora.