In recent years, I’ve settled into a QA Automation Engineer position. I’m currently working for my third employer, having studied Electronic Engineering. I’ve previously worked as a Software Test Engineer, System Test Engineer, Developer, QA Engineer, and now I’m in a solid QA Automation Engineer position. Having seen a variety of work places, I can honestly say if I had to choose a job from the tech area, QA Automation Engineer would be my preferred role.
Perhaps everyone won’t experience this, but from my experience, automation engineers are highly appreciated. I get genuinely thanked on a regular basis from various members of staff – both from my managers, and my peers. Not only does the work I do save the company time, money, and improve the quality of the product – it also means that other people don’t have to do manual testing (though there should always be a degree of manual testing). Manual testing can be very, very tedious – so when I automate a task that someone previously had to spend 4 days doing, they thank me, and they really mean it. It’s not that I need gratitude for an ego boost or anything, it’s just deeply nice to know that your work is truly appreciated and it actually helps people, not just the company. I think this is quite unique to QA Automation.
People might initially think writing tests is boring… it’s the same thing every day! I get that frame, but it’s not like that in reality. The product my employer sells is a web application, so the automation code I’m writing is in C sharp, and uses Specflow, NUnit, Selenium, etc. Even in these 4 items there’s so much to learn – even if the technologies used were limited to that it would take years to truly master. However, there’s much more. There’s performance testing, and there’s security testing. Those are two huge areas in their own right. Not only that but I also deal with databases, file handling, timings, complex logic, generating reports, Jenkins, Octopus, and more. Every day I learn many new things, and I also am lucky enough where my employer supports me supplementing my on-the-job learning with online courses.
Following on from the last point – if you’re familiar with the above items, then you can easily transfer that knowledge to a developer role, database admin role, security specialist, dev ops, software architect, etc. These skills aren’t limited to the QA team. What’s more – I think developers should be encouraged to develop a QA mindset – so they keep quality high on their priorities. So, having a QA background can be a considerable advantage. As an Automation Engineer, you will probably have some influence on what you learn and specialize in – so you can push things in the direction you want to go.
Naturally everyone can find some form of satisfaction in their job. I find writing tests very satisfying, it’s just a nice feeling of accomplishment when you can say – “Yes, I ran the 250 test cases, 5 failed” without even clicking a button (Jenkins schedule). The code I write does tasks that a human otherwise does – it’s depended upon, trusted, and appreciated in its own right. Satisfaction also comes from the thanks I receive, and from learning every day.
For some reason, QA Automation Engineers are in short supply – at least here in Ireland. The salary is very comparable to a developer – even better in some cases I believe. Check this out – €50,000 is standard for an automation engineer with say 1 year experience. If you have 3 years experience you can expect €65k – €75k. Contracting is another option – of course experience of 3+ years would be essential, but you’d be looking at €80k+. That’s a pretty good incentive to stay in the automation game. The funny thing – is that most developers could do what automation engineers do – but they choose not to. I believe the reason for this is – sweeping statement coming – some developers look down on testers. I have seen this in the past, and thankfully don’t see it in my current workplace which is great. More on this later.
Yeah, so am I. There’s 5 solid reasons which you can take or leave. I’ve about 4 years professional experience in this area so for me, there’s no question about the above points. Sure – I have worked for places where they might not be as forthcoming as I describe, but the same goes for other techies in that company. For instance – if I don’t receive any appreciation from managers, then chances are the developers don’t either. Thankfully I’m working for a company now where the above are true for me. If you continuously improve yourself, and leave workplaces that are significantly lacking in any area you need to stay happy/focused/satisfied/etc. you will end up in a great position. Best of luck to you.