If you’re a manual tester working for a software company, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get the
source code of the main product/application onto your work computer. Familiarisiong yourself with this code
is a good way to become familiar with code, and gain a deeper understanding of the product you are testing. This will help you in a number of ways.

Appreciation of the Product

If you can, get the source code of the application (product) you’re testing on your PC, and look through it. Chances are the application will be complex, so you won’t understand it immediately. However, looking through it can give you a good appreciation of what a real world software project looks like: size, complexity, structure. Looking through the code can also get you familiar with the programming language itself – and typically within an organisation, the automation tests will be written in the same language as the product itself.

Familiarisation with code

As stated above, typically automation frameworks will use the same language as the product is coded in. So, as you become familiar with the product code – the syntax, the layout, the constructs, the structure – you’ll find it easier to create or contribute to an automation project – especially if it’s written in the same language. Any exposure to code you can get will do you good and increase your profeciency.

Debugging the Code

Building on the previous point, you may be in a situation whereby you as a software tester will be able to step through the code while reproducing errors to figure out exactly where the issue lies. I had this oppurtunity during my first job, – stepping through a C library in order to locate issues. I learned so much from this experience, coupled with a great mentor (senior developer). Doing this I became very familiar with the code and really started understanding it thoroughly. This experience stands by me today because as you test other peoples code and figure the exact mistake or oversight they made, you’ll learn from that, learning what not to do and what to watch out for if you start developing yourself at a later stage. You’ll likely also come up with ideas of what could be added to the code in order to make it more testable – an understanding that any good developer should have.

Getting Buy-in From Management

I would recommend not spending days and days looking through the code – afterall you should be doing some testing. But, looking at the code during some less busy hours is a reasonable thing to do. If your manager or anyone else asks, you can simply say your trying to learn more about the product, so that you can write better tests for it. Showing that level of interest and initiative will not go unnoticed, and will help plant the seed it the minds of others that you have an interest in code and automation.

Take Action Today

If you’re looking to step into the world of automation, then you can take one small step of action today to help achieve that. Ask a developer how to get the product code onto your machine because you want to understand the code better and write better tests. Let your manager know in a subtle way, this shows great initiative and keenness on improving your knowledge and I believe a good manager will notice this and be more helpful in accomodating a change into automation role in the future.