A Testers Portfolio

portfolio

I’ve been recruiting for both testers and developers recently and one thing that struck me was the difference between the two disciplines when it came to a body of work.

As a developer you are nothing these days without a Github account. It’s expected that you have one, that it has code in it 🙂 and that an interviewer will take a look. So much so that most developers will gladly advertise their account and repo’s on their CV.

In my most recent piece of testing recruitment I was looking for an exploratory tester and a tester with more automation skills. One automation tester was able to give me a link to her Github account; this was the first time this has happened to me when interviewing testers and was a positive thing to see. None of the exploratory testers I interviewed showed me any links to previous work; now this does not necessarily make those testers better or worse of course. However, as Rob Lambert has talked in his recent series of blog posts and e-book about ‘Remaining Relevant’, as a candidate, you need to stand out, and having a body of work can really help.

For testing it’s a bit different.

So this got me thinking – why is it that testers don’t traditionally have a portfolio?

Is it because more testers are 9-5’ers?

There could be an element of truth here, perhaps there are more testers who are less motivated by their work, with testing being a job they have fallen into rather than a career. If one is not motivated by a job then one is far less likely to want to do whatever is required to remain in that career area.

Are developers more motivated to share their work?

Perhaps there’s a bit of pride in sharing something that one has created that testers don’t have so much. For testers involved in automation, particularly framework design, then there’s something to share, but this isn’t the more general case.

Do they have more to share?

I’d wouldn’t say so, it’s just what is shared is different.

Is it more difficult to build and maintain a body of work as a tester?

I think it is. Since testing is much less about creation then it does make things more difficult. But it’s far from impossible.

What could you do if you want a portfolio of work?

Myself and Dan Ashby touched upon the idea of a testers portfolio in the recent two episodes of Testing In the Pub, where we talked about recruitment. The idea is that, as a tester, you have this body of work, either built up through your day-to-day work, or from experiences in the wider testing community, that can really help you to stand out from your peers, and help when you want to make your next career move.

You may be able to directly share what you are working on at work, but this is frequently not the case. Getting involved outside of work can instead be one key way of building up a portfolio. For example you could consider:

Writing for Blogs and Magazines

Maybe your company has a tech blog. Why not write for that? Or magazines, whether printed or online are always looking for articles. Don’t think that you have nothing to write about – all experience is relevant and there’s some great people in the testing community who will help you edit an article. You just need the idea, and an ability to type 🙂

Starting Your Own Blog

Sometimes you just want to publish something, or you want to say something that’s free from any editorial tone. Start your own blog, it’s really easy and free if you use something like Blogger or WordPress. It’s also great for raising your visibility, especially if you get your blog featured on sites like Software Testing Club or Test Huddle. Add it to the directories.

Talking At Conferences and Meet-ups

Have an idea, submit a proposal, get it accepted and then panic 🙂 But seriously, talking at a conference is a great way of sharing your knowledge, raising your profile, and getting noticed. It’s daunting at first, slightly daunting even when you’ve done it before, but also really rewarding. Conference speaking looks great in a portfolio.

Sharing Your Presentations On Slideshare

Whenever you talk, take time to upload your slides to a sharing site like Slideshare. This makes them available to all and makes you far more visible to search engines like Google. Which it turn helps you build a portfolio of work.

Pulling It Altogether

Pulling it altogether means that you build up a single portfolio. This can take place on your own website or blog and these are easy and free to put together. If you don’t mind a few advertisments then a free WordPress site is a great way to start and you can easily use a theme which makes it look more like a website than a blog.

I have also found that about.me is a good place to consolidate your information together and is widely known. Let’s also not forget about LinkedIn, although I find that it’s better to keep my body of knowledge linked to LinkedIn rather than on the site itself, which allows for more flexibility.

Having a personal brand is an often overlooked but very important differentiator when looking for a new role. It won’t make up for a lack of relevant technical or social skills, but it will help you to stand out from other, similar, candidates.

So think about your portfolio. What would you include?

—-

Update

Thanks everyone who has commented, either here or on Twitter. There have been some great suggestions on other ways you can form a portfolio as a tester. For example:

  • Use Github to store useful resources. It doesn’t have to be code. Thanks to Alan Richardson for the link to this pentest example.
  • Test an OS project that is stored on Github – thanks Michael Bolton, and also @xrisfg.
  • Taking part in activities such as Weekend Testing, podcasting, etc – thanks Dan Billing.

And thanks to everyone who commented below. I’m glad people found the article useful.

18 thoughts on “A Testers Portfolio”

  1. Thanks for sharing! In my opinion one important ‘product’ of software testers is a bug report. Now, many companies don’t fancy publishing bug reports and in a way I can understand that.

    However there are so many Open Source projects providing very widely used software. And their bug tracking systems in fact are public. So, finding and reporting bugs in Open Source systems is a way to produce a list of publicly visible work.

  2. I’ve always wondered why many testers I’ve interviewed, when I asked what they do for professional development, had nothing to say. One theory (I think Brian Marick suggested it) is that managers often don’t understand testing, and manual testers can get away with not updating their skills. Whereas if you want a cutting edge job as a programmer, you better have the most popular new languages in your toolbox. I think that is part of it. It is easier to get by without much in the way of accomplishments in the testing world – which is sad.

  3. Great article Stephen!

    For the exploratory testers, I often ask if they do testing outside of work and I expect to hear uTest, or other crowd sourcing websites and being well read in the classics, such as Crispin, Bach, Hendrickson, and Bolton to name but a few!!
    It shows me, for them, that testing is a life style and not just 9-5. I moved into testing 3 years ago and and discovered that testing is a movement and not just a career. I recently discovered somebody who had said she’s been testing for 15 years, and never heard of uTest, BugFinders, weekend testing. If I was employing her, she wouldn’t get past the door!

    For automation, which I do, I had never thought of using GIT hub, but I assume that would only be used for existing websites, surely.

    Right, I’m off to write my portfolio!

    1. Thanks for commenting. For testers writing tools and frameworks then sharing the source via Github can be a great way of raising profile. Obviously it depends what can be shared from a company.

    2. I feel like, so many potentially talented people are being left behind because they have not have had the chance to learn about such technologies. It just feels like people are a number and are no longer cultivated to enhance companies. We are in the era of I want everything right now and that is the sad reality of where we are now. A little training will go along way.

  4. What about creating awesome software testing videos? 😉

    I like to see people active within their community and this is probably a big way testers can contribute towards their portfolio…by leaving a trail of activity, enthusiasm, ideas, etc.

    This can be done through alot of social tools. Going to meetups via meetup.com leaves a trail. As do tweets. As do blog posts and articles. As do taking photos and publishing them. Keeping track of what you do and where you go and publishing it somewhere, your LinkedIn profile is probably the easiest.

    All of these things show that ‘you care’ as a tester. I think more testers practice many of these things than we realise, but often they are not very good at communicating it. I often find it hard to find out who is an author behind a blog, let alone what kind of things they get up to our inspire them.

  5. Hi Stephen,

    thanks for writing this post. When I interview possible new software testers, I always ask a question about how they improve their testing skills or what was the last book/ magazine/ blog they have read to get a feeling about the passion of their craft. Another nice question I ask is, what was the best bug you have found (or the bug you are most proud of). It is always nice to see the face of the candidate when asking this question 🙂 in an interview.
    I also like the idea of Stephan to add public bug reports from open source software.

    Have a great day.

    Greets,
    Daniel

  6. Hi Stephen,

    great article.

    1.) I totally agree to all the other comments, but – and I am sure you will think “What the hell? This guy is crazy!” – I am also thinking that testing certificates like ISTQB, CMAP… should be part of a testers portfolio.

    I have written an article* (Hey, thats part of my portfolio. Only in German but I think you know how to use Google Translate 😉 regarding this topic (Certificates vs Agile). In my opinion the certificate shows me**, that my interview partner knows the testing basics (Foundation Level), advanced testing technics (Advanced.- and Expert Level). It shows me that he has worked on this topic.

    I am always concerned to hear statements like “We perform only agile testing and testautomation”. In my opinion, agile testing is a mindset and not a method set. If I execute exploratory testing then it is a huge advantage to know about testdesign with equivalence partitioning & Co. If you are a testautomation engineer you should know how many test cases you should write to verify a date field.

    Last year at the Mobile Quality Night Vienna we had a fishbowl discussion regarding the topic test certificates. And there was a statement: “Testing certificates are embarrassed…” – Hmm…. what should I say?

    Ok, I know that I a lot of the agile testers will hate me. Sorry guys, it is not personal.

    2.) One of my favorite interview question is: “Who testers from the global testing circus do you know?”

    Rudolf

    * http://www.sigs-datacom.de/fachzeitschriften/objektspektrum/archiv/artikelansicht.html?tx_mwjournals_pi1%5Bpointer%5D=0&tx_mwjournals_pi1%5Bmode%5D=1&tx_mwjournals_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=7687
    ** I am not a trainings provider

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for commenting and apologies about the delay in replying.

      My take on certifications are that they add some value if one wishes to use the training courses to improve skills. It’s unfortunate that a lot of what the ISTQB teach is old and out of date with current development and delivery methodologies, but there is some value to parts of the course content. If one has taken them then adding them to a portfolio is ok.

      Where I have a problem with them is if they are used as a blocker to someone getting a role simply because they don’t have the tick in the certification box. Too many training providers teach the courses just so people can pass the exams and get that tick. That’s not adding value.

      I’ve written about this in the past – http://stephenjanaway.co.uk/stephenjanaway/blog/certification-new-job/

  7. Thank you, Stephen!
    I am a Junior QA with passed EPAM’s courses “Introduction to Software Testing”. Your recommendations are very useful for me because I want to change my profession now and to enter IT-company (EPAM or Google).
    Some days ago I wrote a list “The Plan How to achieve my Goal” , today I make some new notes in it.
    Thank you a lot!

  8. Thanks Stephen…
    I am a QA, and want to make a career in this field only. I gone through article and comments below written it. My work is to maintain life balance in between assurance and quality of product.
    @Daniel Knott- I will give your questions ans…
    To improve testing skills I will thoroughly study the requirement and I write a notes based on integration part in the requirement “Where developers do mistakes here only”. Second thing I read like this articles to learn from there mistakes. I practise writing skills which will help me in the documentation of requirement also the bug reporting . One of the most learning stage is communicating with client and attending meeting calls, will help me “what they expecting, suggestions and missing features in documentation. Because of this I will get a chance to suggest them process modification.

    If u r developer then you should make a note of this answer on bugggg. I always found a bug in the integral module and database designs and there mathematical calculations applied. hats off them who makes a mistakes in this fields and makes my all posted best bugs.

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