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?
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.