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Automation Test Engineers re-enforcing 2 tier engineers

Before I begin, I have spent several years as a software engineer and was decent enough at it. As part of this I would write my own automated tests. Since switching to test, I’ve developed a host of handy test tools, developed simulators and even made my own automation tool that used our SDKs to test stability through a huge range if activities.

My point is, this is coming from someone who has experience of automation, even if I consider myself as a manual tester.

Anyway, the point…

The job market in my city is predominantly junior test engineers or senior automation test engineers. Companies are desperate to hire people who can write and execute automated tests. I would like to ask these companies, why get a dedicated person in to do this?

It might seem a little wild, but why do you need to hire someone for this role? Are these companies not writing automated tests? Or are the developers writing them?

You can probably see where I’m going here. Developers are more than capable of writing automated tests and when surely if a company is trying to follow good working practices like scrum, LeSS, ATTD, BDD, TDD and buzz word driven development, then surely the developers are writing the automated tests as part of the DoD for a PBI/story to move to dev done?

Having now made the case for automated tests to be in the ownership of developers, I now want to talk about why being an automation test engineer is regressive.

There has long been the concern or battle as to whether test engineers are second class engineers. I’m not entirely sure that picking up bits of work that software engineers often dislike or see as beneath them is helping to further the value of dedicated testers.

I’ve definitely felt like my skills and role as a test engineer has been most valued when embedded within the feature team, mostly picking up stories in dev done & awaiting testing. However seeing people taking up roles where they act as the safety net in a separate test group where work is lobbed over the partition kind of saddens me.

People who have invested lots of time, effort and maybe even money into learning automation may be scoffing at me right now. I’m not saying it is wasted effort. Far from it. If you enjoy it, rather than being an automation engineer, what about just being an engineer picking up any PBI like the rest of the team?

If you do love your testing and want to keep testing, like myself, there is plenty work to do. Use programming skills that you’ve learnt to automate some of your tests. For example creating a script to further load the system or maybe to help parse results from log files. How about pairing with a developer so they write the functionality whilst you write tests.

Even without the coding, a tester’s skillset is still massively valuable. Get yourself involved in backlog refinement. Go larvae hunting. Coach your team. Get involved in security. Help your team shift left.

Going forward, rather than replacing a team of manual testers with a team of automation testers, let’s use our skillset to identify risks, bugs and possible UX concerns as early as possible.

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